From dcTalk to Solo Strides
By Andy Argyrakis, senior music editor, gmclife.com
As one of the most talented, colorful and outspoken figures in Christian music, Kevin Max is never at a loss for words. He's also constantly reinventing himself. From co-frontman of dcTalk through a variety of solo periods that range from alternative rock to old-time gospel to poetry and now electronica music, a new individual remix album, Cotes d'Armor, is on the docket. As if that weren't enough, an upcoming novel is keeping Christian music's favorite chameleon busy. He recently gave gmclife.com a revealing update including observations of the past and an even more intriguing future.
gmclife.com: Where does Cotes d'Armor fit into your solo catalogue from both a musical and lyrical perspective?
Max: Cotes was a definite "concept project" from the very beginning. When I sat down to create Crashing Gates at a friend's studio in Nashville, I had no budget or record label to aid in the process. So we put it together in a flurry of invention and fun without any outside help...Then came dPulse and Dean Capone, offering us the opportunity of putting out through dPulse America online and getting their partner INgrooves to release it through the Universal umbrella.
I felt that [my last EP] Crashing Gates was a bit unfinished and messy and my answer to actually releasing it into the mainstream was to remix the songs and add a couple more. So what came out of it was a concept project involving Pop Will Eat Itself from the UK and 3Kstatic, two electronica bands remixing the songs. I had a few songs that were not used during the Crashing Gates time period and I decided to record them with my friends Tedd T [Mute Math] and Lynn Nichols [Delirious, Phil Keaggy, Amy Grant] of Lyntt productions. "On Yer Bike!," "Walking Through Walls (Just to Get to You)" and "Unholy Triad" were added to Cotes as new songs and I feel that they offer a nice contrast to the more electronic sides.
gmclife.com: What did Tedd T and Lynn Nichols bring to the production table?
Max: Tedd and Lynn are obviously very accomplished at what they do and both of them are friends of mine, so we got along quite well with exploring the new songs. Of the three tunes I picked for them to work on, two were actually seen all the way through. They are quite a busy little factory over there. Tedd really brought a complexity to the tracks and Lynn an artistic flair and both of them produced a sound that was very different from the expected electronic direction.
gmclife.com: All of your albums have some sort of conceptual undertone. What do you feel that would be on this upcoming album?
Max: The idea of mixing electronica with the songs already produced on Crashing Gates lead to me further exploring apocalyptic themes. I wrote a poem called Cotes d'Armor initially and it eluded to an "end of the world" scenery where an individual is left alone to confront his past demons. PWEI and Graham Crabb did an amazing job of correlating the feeling of the apocalypse in some of these remixes. There is fury in keyboards as well as in guitars and drums.
gmclife.com: How does it feel to be in a position of calling your own shots in the indie label/mainstream world as opposed to your time on Forefront?
Max: Very comfortable, as Forefront gave me no artistic direction or input whatsoever as a solo artist. Dave Bach, who was A&R for the Stereotype Be record, admitted that he was pretty much on the sidelines enjoying the view, even though he was a great friend and musical compadre.
gmclife.com: What is your fondest memory of the dcTalk days and is there anything you'd change from that era?
Max: Probably the Jesus Freak tour and the Supernatural recording process. As for changing anything, it would most likely include a gallery of outfits and label-oriented decisions from the first album Free At Last.
gmclife.com: What's your opinion of Michael Tait joining newsboys?
Max: I have been quite outspoken about my thoughts on Michael and the newsboys. The newsboys were touring allies of ours in the beginning and we aided them in finding an amount of their crowd in the early years. I considered them friends as we had lots of great memories on the road and felt that they had a lot of potential in the marketplace. Watching them grow into their own successful band over the years was amazing and I think that the integrity of the outfit reached new levels when Steve Taylor was ushered in as lyricist and producer. Now with Peter [Furler] gone, there isn't one original member left and it makes me wonder if they shouldn't have just changed the name and started fresh. But I guess when it comes to the industry and the machine, people need to continue the brand. I think the world of Michael and his ability to perform and create. I wish him the best and he is a great frontman as I can attest, as his singing partner for over 15 years.
gmclife.com: How about your take on TobyMac's new Tonight album?
Max: I have only heard a couple of songs but from what I have heard he seems to be constantly refreshing his own sound and satisfying his crowd of listeners. It's undeniable that he has taken the position of pioneer within the Christian industry, and in my mind, he deserves it as he is hard-working and a very detailed artist. I am happy for both of the guys and their own careers, but I do believe that the dcTalk legacy and the band that we created and worked together for years in building has suffered from disregard. I am probably equally to blame for this, as the initial push for my own solo project started at the Intermission period. But I thought we all held in the back of our minds the chance and inspiration to create music together again at some other juncture. I guess we will have to wait and see how the others members feel about that now.
gmclife.com: How would you describe your audience these days and who do you hope will embrace these new songs?
Max: My audience is the greatest group of free thinkers and music lovers. I am fortunate to create projects for such an inspiring lot. As my shows are more intimate than the arena shows of the past, I get the opportunity to meet a great number of the crowd that I write for. Also my accessibility through the net has something I have always pushed from the beginning. My first website was designed and created by Jeremy Cowart and Jeremy Pinnix to communicate with my audience on many different levels. With the birth of Facebook and Twitter, that communication has not subsided but only gotten more interesting. I look forward to really getting more involved with video and expressing myself through that medium.
gmclife.com: What are your upcoming creative goals beyond this album?
Max: I am working on a novel titled Fiefdom of Angels, which tells the story of the origin of angels and the inevitable fall of Lucifer and the great change. In conjunction with the novel, I am working on a graphic novel with illustrator Juan Baez and also working on a soundtrack and consequential iPhone apps and video gaming. Music projects this year include a duo record with David Larring titled The Bad Omens and a Christmas vocal project with Jonathan Macintosh and Sara Macintosh of Chasing Furies.
About the Writer
Andy Argyrakis is a Chicago-based entertainment writer/photographer who appears in the Chicago Tribune, Illinois Entertainer, Daily Journal, Concert Livewire, Hear/Say Magazine and Image Chicago (to name few). His record label writing credits include Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Curb, EMI and Universal, with additional photo credits for Fuse TV, Live Nation, Nikon, Pollstar, Celebrity Access, Paste Magazine, MTV.com and Vibe.com. He's also the author/narrator of "Access Matthews" (an audio CD tracing the career of Dave Matthews Band) and spends considerable time on tour, including outings with Arlo Guthrie, The Guess Who, Madina Lake (on Linkin Park's Projekt Revolution) and Gospel Music Channel's very own "Gospel Dream" (where he served as season one judge).
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