Interview, Maximo Park

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the band’s debut album, we caught up with Maximo Park’s Paul Smith to discuss decade-spanning developments in music, his solo work and what fans should expect from their visit to Glasgow ‘s legendary Barrowland tonight (Nov 20).

15 years is a long time for any group to stay in the spotlight. It’s even longer for any group to maintain the kind of respect Warp Records’ finest purveyors of alternative indie rock have. Hats off for the achievement then.

Since releasing critically-acclaimed debut album A Certain Trigger in 2005, Maximo Park haven’t looked back, largely because they haven’t had a chance. A decade on, and four more albums into their career, the outfit are arguably at the top of their game, with last year’s record, Too Much Information, widely regarded as another milestone, at once indicative of the sound fans know and love, and yet telling of an ongoing desire to experiment and break new ground.

This autumn, the troupe in question hit the road again to play a series of very special shows, celebrating the decade since that inaugural long form effort arrived, with the contents therein due to be played in their entirety. To mark the occasion we gave frontman Paul Smith a call to talk about staying relevant, avoiding repetition, and, of course, the British gigs.

  • max2Hi Paul, how are you today? What’s been happening?

“Good, thanks, my solo album with The Intimations has just been released, and as Maximo Park we’ve just started to put some ideas together for a new album, which is still in the very early stages but we’re working on it.”

  • How did your new solo album, Contradictions, come about?

“Well, I put a record out in 2010 called Margins. It developed out of that. I took Andrew Hodgson, the drummer on that record and co-producer with me, out on tour. He’s in a krautrock duo called Warm Digits. He’s a mainstay of what I do because he can record everything at home and he’s a really good engineer.

“David Brewis, from Field Music, played the bass on that, but couldn’t come on tour. So we found Claire Adams – she plays with a DIY post-punk band called Beards, and is part of the DIY scene in Leeds. So we went out and played that record and during the tour started to put some ideas down for another record. After that Maximo Park started to get busy again, so all the solo stuff went on the backburner. But on the days when I wasn’t on tour or working with the band I’d go over to Andy’s in Manchester and we’d maybe lay down another guitar track or some vocals, and eventually, four years later, we had an album. I think it’s more personal than some of Maximo’s stuff, and is quite different from the last record of mine- more eclectic and upbeat, although still quite introspective.”

  • In terms of Maximo Park, then, how has the band changed in terms of songwriting over the years?

“We’re still kind of rooted in the same principles we always have been really. We always come back to writing a great alternative pop song. That idea of bonding with people over a good melody resonates massively.

“Although we have changed in so far as sonic palettes go, incrementally over the albums, you can still hear that it’s us. We are all interested in different kinds of music, different styles, but I think we always come back to this idea of the perfect pop music. On our last album we had a song called Brain Cells, that was very electronic but still fundamentally Maximo Park. It sounded like it was us, even though the sound had kind of changed.”

“That idea of bonding

with people over

a good melody

resonates massively”

  • Do you still use the same processes in order to realise ideas for songs?

“Not really. These days we may not spend as much time in the studio jamming, as we’re based in different places. If someone has an idea they’re more likely to email it.”

  • max3Has that changed the dynamic?

“Yeah, and I think there are pros and cons to that. The fact an idea can gestate and become fully formed into something you think the other guys will love is obviously a massive advantage. We’ve got technology in our homes now that means we can record things much better than we ever could before. On the last album some of the stuff we recorded individually at home wound up on the record because it sounded so good.

“On the other hand, there’s a risk that whilst you are developing ideas on your own you can wind up with something very different to what the others are hoping for. And not always in a good way! ‘Yeah I want this to sound like Kate Bush mixed with Fugazi’… and everyone else is like ‘What are you on about?’ If an idea does break down, though, we’ll discuss it properly and find a middle ground.”

  • Finally, in terms of the anniversary shows, what should we be expecting?

“For me it was just kind of like a birthday party, or a couple of birthday parties. So we could either play live or DJ. But then with it being ten years since the first record I thought ‘why don’t we play the first record- all of it.’

“But then it’s not all about that record. So you start thinking it would be nice to also maybe play some B-sides, or tracks people always ask us to play live. Maybe now is the right time to fulfil some of those fan dreams. So people should expect obviously the first album in full, but also things that will make it interesting and surprising for us and them.

“It will be fun to rattle through A Certain Trigger, and it will bring back a lot of memories for everyone. We still play a few tracks from that record live, so actually playing them is no problem, and it will be nice to present it in its entirety. But then we are proud of everything we have done, so we’ll be picking a few from the other albums, plus rarities, and making it into a great retrospective show.”

From time to time, AAA Edinburgh like to bring our readers news of the best events outside of the city – especially when it’s just a short train ride away, like tonight’s gig at Barrowland in Glasgow

Maximo Park play the following dates

Nov 20th GLASGOW Barrowland sold out

Dec 12th HARTLEPOOL Borough Hall

Dec 15th NOTTINGHAM Rock City

Dec 17th BIRMINGHAM Institute

Dec 18th LONDON Roundhouse

Dec 19th MANCHESTER Albert Hall