HHV interviews Maxmillion Dunbar
31 December 2010
Als Teil der Beautiful Swimmers mit "Big Coast" gerade unsere kleine Redaktionsjury völlig geplättet, als Maxmillion Dunbar für eines der Alben des Jahres verantwortlich, mussten wir den O-Ton, den uns Andrew Field-Pickering im Rahmen eines Gesprächs für das letzte HHV Mag geliefert hatte zum Jahresausklang einfach noch nachliefern. Das Beste: der Typ kann nicht nur Musik, sondern auch ist auch eines der dankbarsten Interview-Dates, das man haben kann. Auch wenn er zuvor unfreiwillig drei Skype-Verabredungen verpasste...
What´s the story behind the name Max Dunbar? We suppose there's a reference to Ian Dunbar in there, but who’s Max?
Ha I don’t really know who Ian Dunbar is, dude! Dunbar is my middle name, and my parents almost named me Max when I was born, so I just did it like that. Also, Andrew Field-Pickering is relatively unique but I’m not sure how well it rolls off the tongue...
What would you say is the common denominator of all those different projects you’re doing, personally and musically?
One of the common denominators is trying to innovate within a type of music, and even beyond innovate, morph what a genre is supposed to be. Its not really a conscious decision though, but there is a common thread. When I listen back to productions I can always tell that part of me was trying to make unexpected choices that flesh the music out in an innovative way.
Well a big difference is that FFA and Swimmers tracks are collaborative efforts, and for FFA the track work is mostly handled by the illustrious Ricky, who is criminally underrated worldwide right now by people looking for ill beats. I rap in FFA. For Max beats I get to make like every ridiculous choice with a song; its my favorite way to produce.
What kind of producer are you? Lonesome-chamber-type, or the surrounded by people-party-drinks-type?
I wish I could be surrounded by people partying while I produce, I’m definitely deep enough into my own vibe to trust my own decisions, and I’m not very shy or anything when I’m making tunes. Usually I just get a little twisted on weekend mornings and go in on some tunes. I dunno, I try not to think too hard about it.
Listening to your mixes and seeing the stuff you post on FB, it’s obvious you’re deeply rooted in Hip Hop. Is House something you had to grow into and that you only passively absorbed?
I feel that like a lot of other people since the internet blew the world open, I’m deeply rooted in a very personal rap niche that I’ve carved out for myself, or with friends. Like, on paper, there is no super obvious way for me to get into, like, B-Legit. The radio around here was pretty amazing for a long time (still is compared to say NYC radio which is some ass) and I have my own canon of radio hits that were revolutionary for me and others too.
I got into house and stuff like that kind of after my major waves of hip-hop dedication, going back to some of my punk and hardcore roots (DC dude) to find out about like ESG (ha I also love the hip-hop ESG!) and post-punk, getting into dance music from that end at the same time that I was finding hip-hop samples like Taanya Gardner and Gaz and disco shit. I will always fuck with “Kicked Out The House” off De La Soul is Dead, too.
Without turning this into a sociological discussion on gender politics but do you think House nowadays has lost the “fag music”– stigma which has notoriously prevented it from getting more mainstream love in the USA?
I dunno, I mean, Jackmaster Curt or “Short Fat Skinny Tall” by Jodie Finch will always be super obscure cuts, and even like “Strings of Life” hardly tickles the mainstream, but house music has always struck me as getting some mainstream love. I mean, I lived in the fucking woods and they played C+C Music Factory at our school dances, you know? That shit is corny, but ingrained. House is pretty mainstream in a lot of ways. The good shit is just that much better for being underground. And in terms of the “fag music” (cringe) thing, I feel like consciousness on gay issues in general has increased in a positive way, at least in the cities/coasts in the USA. There is still a vast amount of the USA that I can’t fuck with at all, a vast portion of people holding onto ridiculous values and religious bullshit that gets dumber every day. I feel like coming from Germany, y’all might get a funny impression of what its like to be “American”. Like, in my (awesome) part of the USA we’ve been down with house since we heard it and even the most roughneck dudes have a gay cousin who gets down at the family reunions and shit, teaching the straight family members how to dance. I can’t speak for any of that middle part of my country. Doesn’t even feel like my country. DC and Maryland and the East Coast feel like “my country.”
The next question is kind of an inside joke I’ve got going with a fellow author and a now mandatory question in all interviews: WHY IS GERMAN HOUSE SO CLEAN?!? (Usually people blame it on the digital era but since you’re pretty much strictly digital, production-wise, this can’t be an excuse for all these overly polished, sterile tunes with no soul whatsoever.)
If you want a tongue-in-cheek (but kind of true) answer to this question, it’s probably for the same reasons that all your trains are precisely on time and everything is efficient as fuck there from like, shoelaces to weapons. I can see traces of Bauhaus brutalist vibes in the kick drums of minimal house. But, for me, its the dirtier, more out-there tracks that get me. Like Substance, of course Basic Channel, Shed.
I mean, I dunno what zee Mnml Germans think they are exporting culturally, but the impression I get is of this masterfully clean studio and like, surgical attention given to rim shot sounds. I can’t hang with that, its just not my vibe. Y’all (mnml house making Germans) don’t even usually open your hi-hats! I’m playin...
You’re on Ramp, a very forward-thinking, distinctly British label. I recently read you praising some of the Eglo stuff but how aware are you of the notoriously fast British bass music scene? Is all this Post-Everything-Garage/Step- business an influence on you?
I mean that shit is hard to keep up with, but I have reverence for a core group of labels and producers that I go back too. Sometimes with funky house et al I sort of lose my attention span, but labels like Werk, Night Slugs, Lone’s self-released stuff, the new R&S, Eglo; I’m fuckin with all of them right now. Everything is always an influence!
Why did you go with Ramp instead of Future Times for the album?
Its nice to have someone else handle your business once in awhile! Plus, Ramp have been good to me and super into all my shit from the get-go, it felt right to do a big project with them. They were down for the wild artwork double-pack style too, which is maybe beyond FT’s means at the moment. We’ve been focusing on 12s. In the near future I hope to drop a 12 on FT, maybe in Spring ‘11 or something.
Who did the great artwork? Can you elaborate on the concept a little bit?
My mainest man Shaun Flynn from Baltimore hooked up the drawing. Its a drawing incorporating me into the house I grew up in, which for me and mine has turned into a bit of a party spot every summer. A lot of people around me identify with that place as a mind-opening spot and I wanted the sort of woods and water vibe to be there for the artwork. Also, my dad built the house and I’m proud to have that linked up in the artwork. Its an homage to him, he’s always been supportive of all my moves.
Favorite tracks/albums at the moment: at home, in the whip, on the dancefloor?
Hmmmmmm shit changes everyday dude. That Lone “Once In Awhile” is a fucking champion song. The new Lukid too. I feel like I sweat Werk’s balls sometimes, but they do it up so right its hard not to. The new Future Times releases that are coming up (by Slava and Protect-U) are getting a lot of headphone time. Same with this dude Simoncino from Italy. Anything by PUDGE I’m fuckin with; I really like the Chris Brown “Deuces” remix, especially the Andre 3000 verse. Fuck Chris Brown though. I’m diggin most Trey Songz jams on the radio around here. Gucci. Been really into the Cocteau Twins, especially their collab LP with Harold Budd, “The Moon And The Melodies.” Another big album for me right now is this kraut masterpiece by Adelbert Von Deyen & Dieter Schütz called “Inventions”, that shit is sick. The new DJ Nature 12 on Gold Channel is great, and I love Golf Channel in general too.
Favorite food? At home and on tour.
Vietnamese Food all day baby! Or Peruvian/South American style chicken places, of which we have MANY around here. If you ever come I gotta show you what’s up. So good. I dig a lot of salad too, trying to keep it relatively healthy.
Nicest and most fucked up experience on tour?
Once in Barcelona about five years ago we (FFA) saw a group of women get ROLLED ON by another group of women, like this sliding door just opened up and this one team of women starting hitting the other with planks of wood and shit. That was wild. The nicest time was maybe when we hung for three days with Herr Irmler from Faust. I’m about to get my Max touring on (Nov 17-21 in London, check for that) so I’ll have some new times to speak of shortly.
Have you ever considered going for it and doing music full-time?
There are already some months every year where I make as much money from tunes as from my day job. I might have to go for it real hard soon. I’m gonna take it as it comes though.
Which recent Studio 1 (small 2nd Hand record store in Constance, where they found one of the main samples for "Big Coast") find can we expect to hear on the next Beautiful Swimmers track?
HA! No for real that record store is outstanding. We didn’t get anything that we’re gonna sample this last trip, but we did find half of the Chili Peppers Blood Sugar Sex Magic LP.
Interview: Daniel Von Der Vring & Florian Aigner
Photo: Daniel Von Der Vring
Maxmillion Dunbar @ HHV
Future Times @ HHV