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Musician and Artist Maxim On Christmas Positivity

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Season’s cheer

Musician and artist Maxim on bringing positive vibes this Christmas, heading out on tour with The Prodigy and why he has taken Essex to heart

The date is etched in my memory: 10 August, 1996. It was the day that my life truly veered off in a whole new direction. The location was Knebworth Park in Stevenage, I was 17 and was one of the lucky ones to snag a ticket to see Oasis live in what was, at the time, the most attended gig ever, a mere 250,000 people (half a million if you include the Sunday gig too). I was a proper indie kid, caught up in the Oasis v Blur debates – and then The Prodigy took to the stage and blew my mind.

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“With Oasis?” Maxim asks almost nonchalantly after I have breathlessly spent five minutes explaining how the band changed my life (dance took over my life, new clubs, new friends, I became a Prodigy fanatic, you get the picture). “That was amazing. I was so buzzed up for that show. My theory is when you are in a band, you are the best band in the world. If you don’t believe that then you shouldn’t be in that band. Oasis thought they were the best band in the world, we thought we were the best band in the world, Chemical Brothers [who also wowed me on the day] thought they were… You have that feeling that what you bring is unique. I was so excited about that, I just knew it would be kick arse that night. Oasis fans are cool and they have got their style, but I just thought we were bringing something totally different. I thrive off The Prodigy music, it’s holding your head up high, I know what we have got nobody else has. The Prodigy is a unique sound that Liam [Howlett] brings, it’s a unique performance. And there is only one Prodigy and I love that buzz.”

keith

The Prodigy’s story goes hand in hand with Essex. The band were formed in Braintree in 1990 when Liam Howlett, the creator of the iconic sound, formed a band with Keith Flint and Leeroy Thornhill, with Maxim showing up for their first ever gig in 1991 to MC. The rest, as they say, is history: The Prodigy are now one of the most successful electronic groups of all time, selling an estimated 25 million records worldwide including nearly 5 million albums in the UK. They have scored seven consecutive UK number one albums along the way too.

But there is another side to Maxim, one I literally stumbled across a couple of years ago. I have often covered artists and exhibitions at one of Clarendon Fine Art’s many galleries, and came across a sculpture called Rebel With The Paws – of a cat holding a gun – and realised it was the same Maxim I have idolised for almost 30 years.

His association with art, though, goes back much further. “Probably about 16 years ago now,” he says about when he started making art. “It kind of just started basically because I needed some art for my house. I went to an Affordable Art Fair [in Battersea] and, you know, it was good art down there, but I looked at some of it and thought maybe I could do something similar to that. I couldn’t – but in my head I could!

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Maxim – Future Therapy

“I didn’t buy any art, I went home and bought some canvases, bought some paints and I literally did some colour washes and put them on the wall and I was happy. That was how I started. From there, a few friends saw it and asked where did you get that painting? I said I did it myself, and they asked if I could do them one. Yeah I will do you one… so I did a few, gave them out.

“It just progressed from there,” he says, “I just enjoyed doing it. It’s something I never realised I was into. A friend of mine was an art collector in New York, and she took me around to see artists’ work and different techniques. In my head art was always portraits, something exact like drawing someone’s face. Then I saw all these techniques like stencilling, you can cut up a picture and stick it down, and it just blew my mind. In some respects, things I used to learn at school, but there was no encouragement at school. When I came home off tour I got quite excited and started mixing imagery in my art, it opened my mind to art in a different way. Now, I love creating art, it’s something I found that I didn’t realise I had. A release of energy and that passion for art, that creativity, I didn’t realise it was inside of me. I just thought I loved writing music and performing, but I found something else, another outlet, which I just enjoy.”

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Maxim – Good & Looking (Blue)

In mid-November, a couple of weeks after this interview, a new series of work is set to go on show at Clarendon in Mayfair. I bring up Rebel With The Paws as my way into his work and wonder how he would sum up his style. “My art is quite surreal,” he says. “I like to play with imagery and take it out of the context and make it something else. There’s always positivity in my art, there’s nothing negative in my art. People might look at it and think it’s a negative image – no it’s not, it’s always about positivity and love. There’s no time for negativity. I have a mantra that I really believe in, you give out positivity and you get positivity back. That’s how I live my life.”

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Maxim – If In Doubt

Of the new work itself, what can we expect? “It’s various new works, experimenting with colours. If you saw my work literally three or four years ago, it was totally different to what it is now. I am trying to experiment with brighter colours. I never used to use reds, yellows, luminous green, blues, pinks… I always used to use purple, black and grey. Those were my colours.

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Maxim – Love Bomb

“Now I am trying to experiment with brighter colours, to move my art on. A lot of it is taking imagery and flipping it on its head and showing it in a positive way. Bright flowers, cheerful, happy, loving environment. The very first exhibition I did was like an immersive exhibition. That was in 2012 in London. I hired a white room and I got a couple of the stage crew from the band to build another room inside that room, and I put carpet in there, made it warmer, made it darker, I put sound in there, I put scent in there, so when you came from a stark white room with wooden floors, you went into the room and it messed with all your senses. I just want to bring art a bit further than just what people see. I like to make it more immersive, I want to bring something extra. I like people to leave the exhibition and think, wow. If people leave and talk about having a curry or the latest football score, I don’t think my art has done its work.”

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Maxim – Kara Skull

The show opens on 15 November and the very next day Maxim is off on tour with The Prodigy. “I can’t wait, it’s going to be amazing,” he grins. It’s the band’s second main tour since the passing of Keith Flint in 2019. I say, when the news broke about Keith, that I couldn’t see The Prodigy continuing without him. “It was never a discussion,” Maxim says after a momentary pause. “When the band started we didn’t think we would be going for six months. People always say to me, oh when you rehearse… we never rehearse. The band started without rehearsing. I literally met everybody at the first show we ever did, I spoke to Liam and Keith on the phone, we went on stage and freestyled and it rocked. We did it again the week after. There was a time when we thought we should rehearse. We all went round Keith’s house and sat down, and we didn’t know what to do – we just sat down drinking tea! We never thought we would be going this long. We lived for the moment and we still do.”

maxim on stage

On The Prodigy’s new album, all Maxim will say is “it’s coming”, so we move on to talking about Essex. “I am from Peterborough originally, then I moved to London for a short while, but the guys in the band were from Braintree, so I moved out to Essex 27 years ago. I am an Essex lad now! My kids were born in Essex.

“I like it here,” he adds. “In Essex, it’s countryside. I am a country guy, I was brought up in Peterborough where there were fields and parks around me. I lived in London, but I am not really a city guy, I like grass, fields, I like to put my feet into the soil. In the summer I like to sit in a hammock in a field, my dogs running around me, that’s heaven. Being in The Prodigy is quite fast and furious, so I love coming back and being in the country. I really believe that in life it’s yin and yang. You can’t be doing something full on, you have to have an off switch. That’s probably why I am still here and why I haven’t got any wrinkles in my face!”

Will he be home for Christmas? “I will be at home,” he nods. “I love being at home for Christmas, I love being with the family. We go on the tour, UK and Europe, we finish on 11 December and then I am back home. I like Christmas, I like the vibe of being with friends and family, putting the fire on… Life is good.”

theprodigy.com

clarendonfineart.com/collections/maxim

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