1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?
As a drummer I am not so much of a knob guy, but right now I always enjoy dialing in the amount of distortion with my newly acquired Dirtbox from Dr Alien Smith.
And then there is that light switch in my studio which powers up everything with just one touch. Very satisfying!
2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?
I think that would be my two Sebatron VMP4000e tube preamps. They are tubey but fast and make me sound better without having to practice, haha! However I wished for a more relaxed output dial knob. You need a calm hand to use them, because it quickly jumps from not enough to way too hot output, at least with loud sources like drums. But that’s a minor issue, I really love these units.
3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?
Generally I like compact setups. The stuff I bring depends on the music, but it is basically my 20“ aluminum bassdrum, two shallow snares, a cymbal and a floortom. Then an array of sizzlers and dampeners and maybe a sample pad for sounds that are hard to reproduce mechanically in a live setting.
4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?
Never really thought about that. My tracking room has all the tactile stuff like drums, cymbals and analog gear, whereas my mixing space is at home and strictly software. Perhaps some of the elaborate software I use would be more fun, if it was hardware. But I don’t care because I could not afford it anyway.
5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?
In today’s used gear internet cycle, it’s easy to sell and rebuy stuff. However, I really regret selling a Noble&Cooley Piccolo Maple snare drum I bought used for cheap. I sold it for another snare and since then I ask myself: Why? Then there was this big Sonor SQ2 high end kit I ordered when that line was first released. It was a great sounding instrument, however the wait was really long and during that time I began switching to smaller kits, so when it finally arrived it felt massively oversized.
Things got even worse, because when I tried to cut the air vent into the resonant head of the bass drum, I slipped off and cut my thumb so badly that I had to drive to the hospital. So I had a brand new, oversized kit, that I could not even play for three weeks.
But I have a story with a happy end, too! A few years ago I regret selling my Pearl Masters drumkit I bought new when I was 16. I contacted the guy who bought it from me back then and he agreed to sell it back to me. After 18 years. That kit sounds so good and I still use it regularly.
6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?
That’s a tough question. There certainly is some piece of gear I produced the most beats, with but that might not necessarily be the one that inspires me the most. However there are things that are part of my setup almost all the time. For example that quirky single tension pancake aluminum drum from Sugar Percussion. That’s a funky piece of gear with a stunningly versatile sound – at least for my stuff. Recently I found out that a broken IKEA lamp I accidentally killed with one bash, gives me a lot of inspiration. And that’s true for both the intact and broken condition.
7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?
I would probably treat my room with acoustic elements.
8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?
It’s soft mallets, no matter which brand. I love the broad sound and the tamed transients, but the way I use them (hard hits on cymbals, rimshots etc.) they never hold up well for longer than a few weeks. That’s really annoying…and expensive. But I simply cannot live without them.
9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?
I once discovered that plastic bottles and metal nut cans are not only great for carrying around water and nuts, but also act as great sound bending tools. Another cool discovery was the doorway to my studio. I found out that it doesn’t only act as a decent doorway, but a very exciting and dirty (and cheap!) reverb device. Pretty cool!
Artist or Band name?
Electro pop, hiphop, experimental, industrial, remote work for basically every genre
Where are you from?
I am from Bremen, Germany.
How did you get into music?
My parents are both music lovers. When I was a kid my dad played the saxophone in a bebop band. He regularly „ordered“ me in front of my parent’s stereo to listen to Charlie Parker, Don Ellis, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, my mom also played classical music to me. Then at age 13, I visited my cousin, whose brother had a drumkit. Although he was not at home at the time my aunt allowed me to try it out. The rest of my stay must have been a nightmare for everyone except for me, because it was impossible to make me stop banging on those drums. After I got home my parents had no choice, I had to have my own kit. It was a beat up Gretsch from the 70s.
What still drives you to make music?
How do you most often start a new track?
I modify parts of my kit until I „hear“ something exciting. Or create something from my little instrument collection. Many drummers play the best when their kits are set up exactly the way they are used to. But at some point I found out that it pushes me when the drums and cymbals are set up somehow weird or odd. This approach is certainly not the best when you have to play a certain routine, but for my work mode it’s great. Sometimes it feels natural from the get go, but often enough I have to really learn my „inventions“. You don’t see it in the videos, but almost any horizontal motion interferes with the physical playing balance because it messes with gravity. The same goes for let’s say a bottle on a bass drum beater. It looks easy, but it changes the feel drastically to the point where my stuff is almost unplayable. These breaking points are where I become creative.
How do you know when a track is finished?
My mix place is at my appartement. At some point I turn up the volume, go to the kitchen and if it still feels good while hearing it from the coffeemaker I know it’s finished.
Show us your current studio
Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?
Be fearless! Sounds easy, but it took me years to listen to my inner voices and apply what they say to what I am doing. Another great advice came from drummer Jojo Mayer who said something like: „don’t aim for perfection, but instead for clarity“. I don’t know if that’s an original quote, but it is powerful.
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[Editor: Max also have a lovely Instagram chock full of weird beats and odd noises. Check it out instagram.com/maxbeatwerk]