Max P (High Wolf / Black Myth Zone Chant) “I wouldn’t be satisfied, as a performer, with an audience of people like me.”

If you’re suggesting your music is unconscious and post-analyzed, how did you come about buying the instruments you use to make it? OR, did you start out as a musician that planned out certain sounds/genres/songs, and then it evolved into something more improvisational?

I come from 100 percent improvised music. Because I was very attracted to it as a listener and I didn’t know how to do anything, so it was the best way to start. What can you do when you like challenging/authentic music and don’t play an instrument or don’t know any theory? You plug pedals with each other, you crate feedback or drone or whatever, you mess with the knobs, you try things. Then you feel, “I’d like to add percussion to this.” So you buy percussion. And you experiment with it. And then you will feel the need for something else, and something else, and so on. It’s one of those intuitions I was mentioning before.

Instrumentation is a step in the construction of a certain sound you want to build, whether you want this sound for a song, a live set, or an album. And you’re right, seeing someone or hearing someone is part of it, in like, “Wow this is exactly what I am looking for right now.” I am influenced by my fellow musicians. Of course. I don’t want to copy anyone though, for many reasons (including ego).

Maybe I’m wrong, but I hear deep raga and riddim influences throughout your time-line as High Wolf. Do you find inspiration through these mediums and/or see one has an influence more-so than the other?

Influence is very relevant to my process. I listen to a lot of different styles for my pleasure, and somehow my unconscious retains fractions of influential elements and ideas I hear, and they will come back in my music. Though, it’s never pre-determinated. To be fair I think raga might be more influential than riddims because I listen to it more. Aesthetic — same as the concept — never comes first with me. I start by improvising, searching for something, and when I find it, I can think about it and conceptualize it a bit more, or at least try to define aesthetics. That’s what happened with Growing Wild. I made a few pieces that were very African-influenced, and it seemed coherent to build the full record around this vibe.

Beyond just the process of skilled music-making, do you feel like there’s a specific internal visual processes you could describe about making your music?

It’s not a visual process, or at least not strictly visual. It has a lot to do with “Intuition” in a philosophical sense, the way Bergson or Schopenhauer talk about it. There is this instant of clear vision, breaching through illusion to see a hint of pure reality (or a breach through reality to reach pure idea if you’re transcendentalist, I think it’s just the same), it’s a completely sensitive process — sixth sense-style — that gives the fundamental note (metaphorically speaking) of the aesthetics you are looking for. To put it simply, there is this light in your mind, and you are like, “That’s it!” But it’s a sensation more than an intellectual idea, so then the hard work begins: trying to keep this intuition alive and try to convert it through your art.

There is this instant of clear vision, breaching through illusion to see a hint of pure reality (or a breach through reality to reach pure idea if you’re transcendentalist, I think it’s just the same), it’s a completely sensitive process — sixth sense-style — that gives the fundamental note (metaphorically speaking) of the aesthetics you are looking for.

There are several levels of intuition, to my experience, big intuitions for big pieces of work (intuition for an album, intuition for a new project/band), and smaller intuition, of the same nature, but of different degree, that will lead you to a breakthrough within a piece/song. And to join with what I said before, those intuitions are, for me, messages sent from my subconscious to conscious, subconscious slowly cook things, all those musics heard, all those life experiences, mix them with my deep-personality/mind-patterns/neurosis, and when it adds up, my mind sends a message.

But consciousness and subconsciousness talk different languages so you have to interpret the message. And subconscious is somehow out of time, so a flash of information can be the equivalent of a 300-page book of precise conceptual and aesthetic development information.

Who mastered Growing Wild?

Matthew mastered Growing Wild. His mastering gave it a lot clarity in terms of fidelity, obviously. Though, while making this album, I started to get new gear that sounds better. Like, a proper sound card for instance. Always neglected to buy music gear that wasn’t playful, but I felt like it was time to start to slowly, but surely, find a way to get a better sound.

I never listen to my music when it’s released — maybe I will 10 years later — but once in a while if I heard my music in a DJ set, for instance, I always felt that sound was crappy and very flat opposed to all the other records the DJ would play, so I really wanted to change that because I think it was deserving the music, and was unfair, considering the amount of effort I was putting in it.

Do you prefer to release music on vinyl, cassette, CD, or digital?

I think vinyl is my favorite, but I also have a thing with tapes. I did a lot of those and I will keep doing them. Now, I see tapes as a good format for different exercises and experimentations. I never did a digital-only release, but I am not against it, I think it can be a different way to do things, with the advantage to be immediately out there. I will probably try it sometime soon. Generally, format has an influence on the music. Some people say they don’t care which format, but I know if I make a vinyl or a tape or a CD, it won’t be the same music. It’s part of the identity of the release.

So listeners can expect more Freedom or Death-type releases on tape than say Know Thy Self?

Definitely, but not only. Improvisation edits like Freedom or Death, definitely. But also more conceptual stuff — kinda style exercises — like I want to make a beat-only (drum machine and percussion) tape, or digital. And same for Black Myth Zone Chant. But if it comes out it has to be good enough. It’s not like, “It’s a tape, who cares?”

I think my goal is to find this middle way between evolution and repetition, and also between order and chaos. A subtle balance. Keep the groove and the hypnotism of repetition, food for your subconscious, and at the same time stimulating your consciousness with variations, breaks, scale changes, whatever.

Say a label contacts you about releasing something of yours ONLY on LP, does this notion stir more within your conscious musical mind-set while bringing forth the light of your subconscious?

Well, labels usually get in touch with a specific format in mind, for sure. But it’s not a big issue because you are currently working on something, or about to, with an idea in your mind.

I remember reading something about this constant presence of a third party in your mind in the creation process. It was about writing and how you have this reader constantly there when you write, something like that. Well there are some conscious “pollutions” when you create. And labels can be one of those; you can be influenced going one way or another just by the mental presence of this label. That’s why I prefer to send a finished thing, the way it was with Growing Wild through Leaving Recordings. I think this “reader presence” — that you feel when you create a live piece for instance — is some kind of desperate try to judge your output as if you were someone else. It can be something else than “art corruption,” decision you’d do to please someone or to succeed.

If you could obtain a “target audience,” specifically an audience that could practically never obtain your music — in your wildest imagination — who would it be and WHY?

Hmmmm…Well obviously African music is very influential on my work of the past couple of years, but somehow I would be kind of intimidated to perform in Africa. It’s a matter of self-confidence, but I feel like I’m not good enough, BECAUSE African musicians are so good at what they do. But if I get rid of this mental obstacle, I’d say I’d love to perform with Dogon Masks dancers in Mali, even though it’s not my primary musical influence in this country, it is a longtime fascination regarding rituals.

Black Myth Zone Chant’s atmosphere is different than High Wolf’s atmosphere, so their results are different, but the process (except this guitar thing) was similar.

Can you best describe your thought process in switching between High Wolf and Black Myth Zone Chant?

Both entities are living and evolving, so the frontier between them is constantly fluctuating. It’s also based on intuition: some things are High Wolf and others are Black Myth Zone Chant. I just know it. It’s clear to me. It’s not the same vibe, not the same problematics. But High Wolf from five years ago is probably as different from High Wolf now than Black Myth Zone Chant is different from High Wolf today. I’m not interested in getting stuck with any project. When I feel that is the case, I leave the project behind, temporarily or definitely.

I’m excited about getting new information, learning, reading new authors, discovering new bands, it’s a very strong aspect of my self, therefore I want my projects to try new things as well. It’s some kind of silver lining; a never-ending quest. I’m a full time musician, meaning I don’t have another job, and I am still excited and motivated to make music in an almost daily basis, and it’s only with new perspectives, new challenges, new ideas, that I can keep this “fire” alive to keep creating. I hope this feeling will last for a long, long time.

Would you say the general LIVE difference between both projects is one is more performance than the other is a presentation?

They’re not so different in the process. The music is different, but the live exercise is seen in the same way. It’s in both cases a matter of balancing many parameters . It has to be faithful to the project aesthetics, but also be new and surprising. I only play new and unreleased music; all my sets are entirely created for live performances. I create live music especially for a live performance and if it has to be released later on a record, then it’d be in a different way.

Because the context is different, Black Myth Zone Chant live is still very new (started to do it in April), so maybe later the method will differ. But I think a solo live performance based on a multi-layered (loops, sequences) and multi-sources (beats, synth, effects etc.) instrumentation determines a method just by this configuration. If I had a solo trumpet project, then I guess it would be different than what I have done so far. Black Myth Zone Chant and High Wolf share the same methodology.

Do you see Black Myth Zone Chant becoming a frequently released project like High Wolf?

I think so. At least for a while. As long as I will feel I have things to say with that flag. There was one Black Myth Zone Chant tape in 2011, then nothing for four years, but already 2015 has seen a LP and a mixtape (on CD). There will probably be an EP and another LP for sure within the next 12-to-18 months. And we’ll see where it goes from there. Touring with this project is definitely a strong commitment that puts it as a top priority project for me, getting equal to High Wolf probably.

Are you planning on tour as either or both through the U.S. any time soon?

I have the desire, but no solid plan yet. We talked about touring the states as High Wolf supporting the Leaving LP. As said, touring the U.S. is extremely difficult financially, so now, as I did the last two times I’ve been there, I have to wait for a good opportunity (a festival invitation) that pays for the flight and then I can build a tour around it. Simple as that. So if someone invites High Wolf over, there’ll be a High Wolf tour, and if someone invites Black Myth Zone Chant there’ll be a Black Myth Zone Chant tour. And that goes for any other destination in the world.

Have you considered going beyond the musical appearance of your work and incorporating a visual or scented or touch sensation?

Actually, I do use visuals for most of my live performances, but it’s far from being as developed as I would like them to be. I don’t have the skills (nor the time) to do it myself and High Wolf/Black Myth Zone Chant are too small projects to pay someone to do it. I recently saw Le Révélateur in a festival I played as well, and there was live visuals that were absolutely amazing/mind-blowing. I would like to have that kind of possibility.

As for other senses, I have to say I have no clue. Another dimension I would like to develop is writing; I’d like to write something that would be integrated into some records. I have the desire, but never took the time to even try to do it. For instance, I’d like to include some kind of obscure/metaphysical prose poetry for Black Myth Zone Chant in the future.

Considering your newest album is on Leaving Records, do you feel like this may be a new home for the project or do you plan on continuing to jump around labels as a vagabond musician?

I have no idea, we actually never discussed it with the label. We will see what happens, I’m good with both options. What I can say is that Leaving Records has treated me very well so far, and Matthew has been very supportive (like really supportive), inspiring his confidence in my music, and sending very positive energy all through the process of making that record.

There are so many labels out there that I’m very appreciative to be on with other musicians, because it’s important that your music gets a chance, it shows that at least people know it exists and others can listen to it, so they can decide if they like it or not. Great bands miss many potential listeners just because the information doesn’t go through the wall. It really is a tough “competition” out there and I feel lucky that I have listeners.

When can listeners expect a Winged Sun return?

That’s a good question. It’s not really on my agenda. I still have some brief desires sometimes to make a tape batch, but I know it’s a lot of work for me: doing the music and the artwork, printing sleeves, duplicating tapes, selling online, sending packages. I know that I might get sloppy. It’s always tempting to do a million things at the time, but what I learned with experience is that sometimes it’s better to do your best with five things than doing 10 things in a bit of a rush. Now, I have two “very active” projects, both doing live and records, and a new “band” on the way (a duo) and it’s already a lot for me.

Is this new band the next step listeners can expect from you in the near future? Or do you have a Euro tour all planned out? Or both?

Well yeah, it’s this duo with my friend Low Jack. There has been lots and lots of talking and almost NO music done so far, BUT we have our first gig planned for early September, so no choice, we’re gonna have to do something.

I’ll be touring Europe from now until August. I’ll play shows on and off as Black Myth Zone Chant (mostly May) or High Wolf (mostly summer).

[Photo: Kasper Vogelzang]

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