We had the pleasure to catch up with Maxi Jazz, one half of the legendary dance group Faithless. Playing on 31st May at The Electric Brixton it will see the pair’s first UK show since 2011. With not being afraid to take risks and challenges with his music along with the talent of Sister Bliss they have gone on to sell over 15 million records worldwide and put on iconic live shows around the world.
So, you're in Jamaica at the moment aren't you?
Yeah, at my mum’s house!
Do you miss London at all?
Yeah of course I miss my mates and that, but it’s great over here at the moment because apart from the weather being really nice, I’ve got a studio in the basement and they’ve just finished it so I’ve been happily thrashing out on the drum kit!
Nice! So you guys were awarded the PRS for Music Heritage Award last year at the Jazz Café, must have been a big achievement?
Yeah! I was properly touched, I still am quite shocked about it every time it's brought up. Every single band that has ever been in the Britain has played at the Jazz Café at least once, and for them to choose us as their musical heritage was just an incredible honour for me.
That’s where it all kicked off for you wasn’t it as you played your first gig there?
Absolutely yeah. We had no idea that any of the subsequent 16-17 years was going to happen, it was just our little thing as it were. It was very shambolic, I think that’s an understatement!.
So you just announced your latest show at the The Electric Brixton on 31st May. It will be the first time you both have performed in Brixton since your last sell out show back in 2011. So you must be excited for this?
I am yeah! We have this special guy at Crystal Palace football club, a fund-raiser there called Garry, it’s kind of his job to get acts together and stuff so we kind of roped him in. He did a fantastic job with the line-up and I think it’s going to be the only time that Blissy and I are going to be playing together in London this year. It's my hometown!
Your shows are renowned to hold such high energy and amazing vibes, what is the secret do you think behind putting on a good performance?
That’s a good question, I think essentially you have to be mindful of the fact that you are not the important one on the stage. Its the 200, 2,000 or 20,000 or however many people in front of you, their the important ones. You could be the greatest musician in the world but if there is nobody in front of you then you don’t amount to very much at all. As long as you bare that in mind and do the show for them, you're not just being the artist inviting them along to watch, your inviting them into your show. People want to be given something for their money, that’s your job.
You're very open minded when it comes to music. Rapping on a dance record, was that a new thing for you?
Oh my goodness! You're right, I am quite open minded, I’ve got a very eclectic taste. But I must say sharply that when it comes to The Summer of Love in 1988, I was really upset as this is when everyone was out clubbing every night and I was staying home with my mates, complaining. In London in my town pre 1988, whatever type of music you wanted to listen to there would be a club playing it. After The Summer of Love everybody was playing acid house...everybody, everybody, EVERYBODY. So if you didn’t like acid house, you had to stay at home. Which is exactly what I did for about 6 years! I kind of went off dance music quite heavily at that point, so for me to become even slightly where I am sort of being on a dance hit, it still rocks my world to this day.
So what came first for you then, rap or dance music?
Absolutely rap music. Rap was the reason I got back involved with music, I used to be a drummer back in school in various school rock and roll bands – great fun, but then I discovered hip hop and I realised WOW I don’t need to be in a band. I'm looking at my record collection thinking I've got some of the best bands in the world on vinyl, I can use them! I can remember thinking to myself man, this is the best thing ever.
What are your views on rap music today, any new artists that you're into?
That’s a tough one. When I got into hip hop and I'm an old man you couldn’t make a bean from making hip hop. Nobody was into it, you walked around Brixton and it’s dance coming out of peoples cars, no hip hop at all. Back then people were making it because they loved it, they had to make it. But now you can make a small fortune being a rapper or a producer, so naturally as happened with house music as it surfaces from the underground and becomes mainstream the quality goes down rapidly. So there are many many hip hop artists out there but you won't necessarily hear too many amazing ones.
Do you think that your beliefs as a Buddhist has had a big influence on your music and your lyrics?
It’s had a huge influence on the lyrics because Faithless has always been like that, people were always intrigued of the fact that I was a Buddhist and a rapper which always encouraged me to write along the Buddhist lines – and that was really my intent anyway.
Interacting with the crowd with your lyrics must be an amazing feeling, how important is it for you to capture that moment with them?
It is so important, there have been some amazing moments on stage when like your trying to say something and it’s getting across, people are half getting to it so it’s quite incredible. And also when you go to places as we have in the past when conflict has been quite recent or sometimes even ongoing places like Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, you have young people pressing themselves at the front singing your lyrics back at you, and you see their desire for peace and you just want to say... “Can we please just stop this now?” That’s very moving, and sometimes quite hard to deal with.
You have made some classic tunes, but how did the track “Insomnia” come about, where did the inspiration come from?
We'd finished the album and we were in the studio compiling it deciding which track was going first and second etcetera, and I had this idle thought that we were not compiling for a CD, we were compiling for an album which consisted of an A and a B side and we should have had a dance track on both sides but only had one at the time. This was quite late Sunday night and we thought right lets come to the studio tomorrow morning to make another dance track. They rang me Monday night and told me they had done another one and they were going to call it “Insomnia” because they were having trouble getting kip. So I got some words down that night after I put the phone down for about 15 minutes and went to the studio the next night – the Tuesday, I was in the studio 45 minutes and I went home, that was that. It was a complete afterthought, I stuck it on the album and put it out as a single.
You guys have always taken some risks with your music, do you think that pays off?
Yes, I do. I don’t think that playing safe is the way to go in life, in music, or in anyway. The way to go is the way you feel – if people come with you then great, if they don’t then great. You have to follow your heart, you can’t make music for your fans you have to make music for yourself and hope that your fans come with you and appreciate the direction you are going. If they don’t, if they like the old stuff the old stuff is fine, that’s how it is. As a person you develop, or your suppose to at least, and I think as an artist you should too and take the occasional difficult door, challenging door rather than the easy route.
You have been in the game now over 15 – 16 years, what would you say the key to your success is remaining current in an ever- changing industry?
I think that’s definitely down to Sister Bliss being an amazing composer. Being able to create emotion to what she plays, nobody can do that. But she can, and I think that she has a special talent. She’s always up to date, she’s a working house music DJ and well respected house music DJ, you gotta be up to date.
What’s the best thing about working with her?
Getting off the tour bus and going home! Nahh, the best thing about working with her is that she's a perfectionist. It’s very difficult to do a half bad show with her around, she’s always going to make sure all exits are covered and all stones unturned to make sure that the show is as good as it can be.
Have you got a favourite song to perform?
Yeah ‘Crazy English Summer’ I think is our favourite one that we ever did. Because it’s beautiful, every time we did it on tour I would go off stage and listen from the side and I would cry every night, it was just stunning such as beautiful song, I’ve never heard anyone else’s voice like it.
I could go on forever! But thanks so much for your time and we look forward to the show.
Faithless perform at The Electric Brixton on 31st May.
For tickets go to: http://electricbrixton.com/events.php?kind=1
More information check out: www.faithless.co.uk // @faithless