With a unique insight into electronica, Max Tundra speaks to Lisa Lavelle about music he loves, music he hates, and music that shits from a great height.
Ben Jacobs, aka Max Tundra, has been creating his own brand of energetic electronica since the Nineties. With the release of his third album, Parallax Error Beheads You, on 20th October, Max has become critically acclaimed and, dare I suggest it, trendy. “I hope so,” he laughs “I’ve always wanted to be trendy.”
Although he has a wide range of influences, his music is undoubtedly unique and his tracks are recognised for their intricate, sometimes dizzying, melodies. He is, trendiness aside, an antidote to the repetitive indie rock that has become the staple for 2008.
“If I hear a track with really boring clichéd lyrics and like, three chords, I think, ‘Right, that gets me really annoyed”
Max’s first album, Some Best Friend You Turned Out to Be, was intense instrumental electro. His subsequent two albums both have vocals and he explains that, “Vocals have become an intrinsic part of the Max Tundra sound”.
His musical influences have noticeably changed over the course of these three albums. His new album, which has been in the making for six years, shows, among other things, the influence of American prog rock. However, it is still very much in his own electro idiom.
When asked about the differences between the second and third albums, he muses, “I think the third one is more polished… I spent more time on the production. The second album, I’m very proud of it… but I think this new one shits all over it from a great height, basically.” This unflinching self-appraisal may be a little exaggerated, but the new album is certainly much more accomplished in many ways.
His new single, ‘Will Get Fooled Again’ describes the battle against ‘catchy’ tunes that get under our skin. Max affirms that nowadays we are “bombarded with really dull music” wherever we go. “The music we hear throughout the day is pretty uninspiring”, he complains. However, he seems to be able to glean influences from anywhere. “I’m definitely influenced by music I hate, as well as music I love,” he says. “If I hear a track with really boring, clichéd lyrics and like, three chords, I think, ‘Right, that gets me really annoyed, I need to do something with six hundred chords in it.’”
However, Max has done remixes for bands such as Franz Ferdinand and the Pet Shop Boys. He is also a favourite of indie magazine NME, who described his music as “a shot in the arm and a slap round the head.” Max isn’t too concerned about his music being associated with the indie music scene. “People will draw their own conclusions and connect the dots in whatever way they want. I think the thing with my music is when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really sound like many things.”
Max’s vast number of influences range from the Fiery Furnaces to Basement Jaxx to Kate Bush, as well as the occasional surprise act such as Destiny’s Child. “Yeah, when I mention a pop act like Destiny’s Child it might not be all their stuff, it might just be one track I love, or one melody or one sound about it,” he says. “Cross Destiny’s Child with the Fiery Furnaces and you come partway to discovering the amazing imaginary bands in my head that I wish existed.”
He continues, “A lot of these pop bands, there’s just one thing going on in their music and it’s pretty cool, but I think people are too afraid to take risks”. Somehow this sums up Max Tundra’s musical philosophy perfectly.