Max Lord is a percussionist and electronic musician. On the drum kit, he is an explosive player. He’s been active in the Boston noise and experimental music scenes since the mid-nineties, when he played drums with the band Bitchbiker and in the noise duo Lord and Karlheinz. In his electronic work, Max works with an esoteric collection of analog synthesizers (including the unusual Buchla Marimba Lumina) to create dense, improvised pieces—you can hear examples of these on his self-releasedGhost Grass cassettes.
Max Lord performs live on Rare Frequency on Thursday, March 25, 2010. In the week prior to the show, he answered a few questions about his music by email.
When did you first start making music? What was your first instrument/music-making device?
I was quite horrible at the saxophone in middle school. Though I loved music, I hated school band, which I basically viewed as a fascist youth group. I had better luck writing beeping DOS programs on my little pc at home.
“Real” music making started for me in college, when I picked up the drum set and, like many people at that time, discovered the life-changing power of the cassette four-track. I went deep into noise after that.
What do you find most interesting about working with electronic musical instruments?
A lot of music making can be a solitary activity, and I guess electronic instruments always seemed more like a collaborative partner to me. Anyone who has worked with synthesizers of any complexity is familiar with the phenomenon where they kind of take on a life of their own. And, I’ve always had the urge to design and build things, and been interested in the ways that electronic instruments can be customized to your individual purpose in music making. Building a small modular synthesizer is quite trivial compared to making something like a violin or a brass instrument.
There is also something quite exhilarating about unleashing the power hiding in an electronic instrument. I remember a show on a pretty large stage where the sound check got kind of screwed up for some reason, and the monitors and everything were way up. We punched play on a drum machine and it was like the whole stage just exploded. An absolutely wonderful thing. Disastrous show otherwise.
When did you become interested in more abstract/experimental music?
I am still kind of a bad fan of recorded experimental music. At home I have almost nothing but reggae, soul, and afro-beat records. A bit of 60s electronic music. Now I love records, but I rarely find truly transformative sound in the grooves.
My genuine love for abstract sound comes from hearing/seeing it performed. Boston has been home to an astonishing group of musicians for the last 18 years I’ve lived here, and I don’t feel like I’ve missed any extreme the musical world has to offer. I wouldn’t have been able to make any kind of sensible work without having been exposed to all the people and the music here. I just never would have gotten it from records.
What is your favorite musical instrument?
That’s an interesting question, since I do tend to jump around on instruments a lot. That said, the Buchla Electric Music Box is just about the strangest, most wonderful, rewarding and yet infuriating device I’ve ever played. I have only been performing with it for about 2 years, and I still have so much to learn about playing it. When I’m really connecting with it, it feels like you can set the air molecules in the room vibrating individually. It’s like you can pick them out with a laser. I don’t know how to describe it better.
In some ways, it’s limiting compared to the array of stuff in a full drum set, where you’re using all 4 limbs and dozens of different surfaces. But when I could start to let some of that stuff go, and focus on what it was meant to do, it just really opened up some new territory. Using it in a relatively fast-moving improv context is still quite a challenge though. But that’s the goal—something to keep working on.
My least favorite musical instrument is a computer.
What was your favorite record/music as a child? What’s your current favorite?
The Police were my favorite band in elementary school. Currently…all I can say is the 1970s African crate-digging/reissue revival phenomenon has been a total revelation.
Is there any musician or other creative artist whose work particularly inspires you?
Musically, most of my real-time inspiration comes from these people who tromped through here over the last few years: http://www.rarefrequency.com/music/. Sounds funny, but true.
More recently, I’ve been part of the Mobius Artist Group for the last few months, and I’ve been inspired by two dozen completely individual approaches to art-making. The movement artists that I collaborate with are also a continual source of inspiration, especially of the bodily-sensory-awareness variety.
What upcoming projects, releases, and/or concerts do you have in the works?
Friday night I’ll be at the Advent Church in an improv night organized by Matt Samolis. A very cool (and large) bill. (http://shoebei.wordpress.com/).
Then, I’m working on an audio installation for one of Liz Roncka’s pieces at Mobius that starts April 9. That’s an extension of something I’ve done a bit in the past, where I try to synthesize various psuedo-natural sounds on the Buchla like insects and weather and such. We’ll try to stitch all that into some kind of multi-channel install for a durational dance performance.
I see you recently founded a cocktail blog. Is there a current favorite cocktail you’d like to share with RF readers?
It’s funny how that came about. I made a non-serious survey about what I should blog about and it turned out that the unanimous response was cocktails. So I just started a little place where I could publish the recipes I invented. (http://electriccocktaillife.blogspot.com)
I’m a little obsessed with fresh ginger cocktails, so that’s all I have up so far. The “Ginger Baker” is like making fresh lemon ginger tea and then adding whiskey. It’s delicious. Yea, I wish I was a little less busy and I could spend more time dreaming up cocktail recipes.
Max Lord’s website: wiresounds.com
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