Maxim is best known as the MC from The Prodigy, probably still the biggest and most dangerous electronic act on the goddamn planet. He's the vocalist on Prodigy classics like 'Breathe' and 'Poison', and still does approximately 100 shows a year with Liam, Keith and co. Apparently there's another Prodigy album out later this year...
Before joining The Prodigy, Maxim started out with reggae soundsystems and he's released a couple of solo albums in the past, 'Hell's Kitchen' in 2000 and 'Fallen Angel' in 2005. More recently, he's found time to make some music with some other pals under the We Are Noize banner — “I just wanted to bring some noise into dance music on a different level” — and learned to DJ himself, after being inspired by trap music. There's now We Are Noize releases, videos and the odd show when he's not busy with The Prodigy. “It’s just writing music and loving writing music and putting it out — there’s no big plan,” he tells DJ Mag. “I’m busy and I’m happy.”
Tell us a bit about your We Are Noize project...
“It’s just a way of getting music out there, really. It all kind of started from me DJing — getting into DJing through the whole trap scene. I kinda got into trap music, started DJing with a bit of hip-hop and trap, and then moved over to trap — or just hard music.
Similar to what The Prodigy are doing but more in a club environment. Sometimes it’s hard to find those tracks to play, cos I’m always searching for the bomb tracks.
I’m into hard music with beats, as long as it moves you, that’s what I’m into.
“So yeah, it kinda started out from that, and — as you know — most DJs nowadays write their own tunes. But I didn’t really want to be just playing my own tunes, so I brought in a couple of friends who produce and we started writing tracks. I didn’t want to be doing what everybody else does when I’m DJing, so I got a female MC, Cianna Blaze.
I was getting her more as a hype MC, but she’s actually really good lyrically and as a performer, so she’s kind of taken over the whole show — it’s more about her, with me in the background. That’s cool, it’s not about me being in the limelight. Do I MC at all? Nah, nah, nah.”
What made you want to start DJing?
“I did it in the dressing rooms after Prodigy shows. How I got into DJing was listening to trap music. What was it about trap that got me? The beats, and the similarity… I actually hate house music. Well, that’s a lie, but the monotony of listening to house music does my head in a little bit.
There’s no variation, it’s continuous and monotonous — and I get bored of that really easily and it does my head in. If I’m going out I like to listen to something beat-orientated, and trap has that sound. It has that hip-hop sound, but you still get the hard tracks, y’know?
“At the time I felt the dubstep thing as well, but it’s very monotonous in the same respect sometimes. I was playing things like Zedd tracks in the dressing room after the show, and one of the shows I first DJed at was after a Prodigy show in Brixton. I DJ’d after our show in the bar, and I loved it.”
Did you have any lessons off anyone before you started DJing?
“I actually first DJed about six years ago, before the CDJ-2000 and the syncing up came along. I got into DJing on that kinda level, but then stopped cos I wasn’t really feeling the music that I was playing — hip-hop, Blondie, I was mixing so many different tracks all together, I wasn’t that into what I was doing. But when I did get some decks, two-and-a-half years ago, I got my friend Devious D — an old drum & bass DJ and a DMC DJ — to come round, and he taught me how to scratch.
I don’t class myself as a DJ like Grandmaster Flash — I’m a vocalist with The Prodigy, that’s what I do — but if I’m gonna DJ, I’m gonna do it properly, I’m not gonna cut corners and just sync it up and not do anything. So I learned to scratch and beat-match — proper mixing. It gives you something to do onstage. There are DJs I’ve seen play where it looks like they’re shopping on eBay on their computer. But each to their own, I suppose.”
You actually started out with a reggae soundsystem in Peterborough, didn’t you?
“Yeah, I did, yeah.”
When you first joined The Prodigy as an MC, how long did you think it would last?
“We thought it was gonna last two shows. That’s exactly it. I started out on soundsystems, not many people know that, I was writing music before The Prodigy. There’s nothing else as big as Prodigy as a band, but I’ve always been writing music. I was MCing on a soundsystem, I was doing hip-hop before The Prodigy, and that’s my foundation.
Soundsystems are my foundation, so this project for me is quite liberating in some respects, cos what I’m doing is going back to my old soundsystem roots. I’ve done a dubplate with Johnny Osbourne, Courtney Melody, Little John, Freddie McGregor — these are old singers which I grew up on, old dancehall MCs, and I’m gonna go back and do more tracks with these artists that I’ve grown up with. Like what I was saying about cross-pollinating — these MCs with today’s music, it’s bringing them into the forefront.
“I’ve done a trap-style track with Stylo G and Gappy Ranks, if you look on MaximDJ SoundCloud there’s tracks on there which I’ve done with those artists. They’re just dubplates which I play out live, they aren’t tracks I release, they’re kinda name-checking me and bigging me up or whatever. It’s back to my roots in some respects.
“But going back to your question about The Prodigy, we thought it was gonna last two shows, cos the promoter said ‘Come back next week and do another show’. The last band got bottled off, so we thought ‘OK, well let’s go back’, and it just went on from there. We never thought it would last this long. We lived from show to show, basically, back in the day.”
When you look back at some of the old photos from the early days — the rave tracksuits and all that — do you laugh at some of the outfits?
“Of course. I look at some of the outfits I was wearing when I was a little boy, or even some of the clothes I was wearing two or three years ago — hahaha. It’s all a learning curve and getting older, everybody can look back at something and think, ‘What…?’. Y’know?”
Why do you think The Prodigy have endured?
“Originality, creativity and staying true. We haven’t sold out, we don’t sell out, and we stay true to ourselves and what we believe in. That’s the key. We’re not chasing anything, we’re just doing what we’re into.
We built a foundation, touring touring touring year after year after year. A lot of people think we just turned up in ’97 when ‘Firestarter’ was released, but we were touring for seven years before that. We played some shit-holes throughout the world for seven years straight. Driving in the back of an Escort, staying in shitty hotels, but we loved it — we loved touring and doing our shows.
We played all the raves throughout the world and throughout the UK, that’s where we came from. That’s our foundation, we stayed true to that, we didn’t change. We haven’t appeared overnight, and I think that’s what having longevity is — having a foundation, doing shows and building something. Today there are certain artists that are here today and gone tomorrow, cos they haven’t got a foundation.”
There’s always been space in The Prodigy for people to do other things, hasn’t there?
“There’s space for everybody to do other things. Life is about living and enjoying and expressing and challenging yourself, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m not sitting around, I’m experimenting and challenging myself — being creative. Regardless of what it is, I like creating — whether it’s music, painting, making things, writing. I like creating and that’s what I’ll always do.”