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Infidel Interview #128: Maxwell Powers

First off, just want to thank you for participating in this edition of Infidel Interviews. Could you start off by giving a little information about you to the audience? Whatever you feel comfortable with, but name, age, and where you live would be pretty standard?

Oh hi, I didn’t see you there. I’m Maxwell Powers, currently residing and making stuff in lovely Oakland California.

What would you say are your biggest influences when it comes to art and music? Are there any bands that you would say struck you with the chord that inspired you to peruse your current path of musical aspirations?

When the project began, I was inspired by bands that were combining great songwriting with electronic instrumentation. Postal Service or Miike Snow to name a couple.

Now that “everything is more-or-less EDM” that’s less interesting to me. Recently I’ve found the neo psychedelic bands (eg Tame Impala) doing some amazing stuff. It’s reminiscent of the 60s, but it’s actually a very new sound. I’m inspired by stuff that combines guitars, synthesizers, and effects in an organic way.

What do you see in the near, and far, future for your creative output?

Short term: new singles coming this year!

Further future: world tour, giant bottles of champagne, money fights, yada yada.

Interview continues after this video an all further streaming content...

When it comes to composing music, do you approach things with a clear vision in mind, or do you prefer to let songs feel themselves out? Do you have any particular techniques or tricks you use to keep yourself creative and consistent?

I think every song I’ve ever written has started as a little gem coming from that magical muse in the sky. Could be a chorus or a verse or a single phrase. I try to let that gem be whatever it wants to be. And then the hard work starts: making the rest of the song.

I’ll share 3 tricks that have helped me when feeling blocked

  • When searching for the perfect lyric or part: instead of trying to come up with 1 part, come up with 10. Don’t worry about them being good, just get some shit down. Quality comes from quantity.

  • Listen to other music, especially instrumental music. It can inspire melodies and rhythms, and what you create will likely not sound anything like the original source.

  • Mary Jane can be a fantastic muse (if legal in your part of the multi-verse, of course)

Musical composition nowadays can be aided by so many different tools and devices. Do you favor a complex approach of using lots of different instruments, or are you in the keep it simple until you have to boat of refining certain elements to their maximum potential? Or would you say your philosophy lays in between?

I generally keep adding stuff until it feels like there is too much, and then start carving away until there is only what needs to be there. Most songs I produce have 20+ tracks in the scrap pile that didn’t make it.

So essentially the Middle Way. But you only know what the middle is when you have tried both extremes of minimal and maximal.

Do you ever find it difficult to balance the creative and technical aspects of musical creation? How do you strike the balance for the need to craft and tweak your effects and sounds, in contrast to actually just getting the song itself created with structure and melody? What sort of element of creation do you prefer, the sonic shaping or the song creation?

Creative and technical balance is difficult for sure! When I started making music, it felt a lot more like playing a guitar. Now it feels a lot more like computer programming. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with computer programming.

At the core I still subscribe to an “essentialist” view of songwriting. Which is to say: when stripped down to a voice and a guitar (or piano), the song might not be as shiny, but it should still be a good song.

Do you spend a lot of time crafting your own sounds? What's your relationships with presets? When you make music are you primarily a hardware or software oriented musician? Or do you do a fusion of both? Are there any particular instruments, programs, or effects that you would say are vital to you making music?

Presets are a great start for roughing in a sound. They save a ton of time, and can a good source of inspiration. But if you just make music with presets, you’re going to end up with preset music. And what’s the fun in that?

In terms of hardware and software, I like a fused approach. When every single sound comes from “the box” it usually sounds like a box.

But that being said there are some amazing audio plugins out there that do sound quite organic. I’m very into the modular synthesis plugin Aalto by Madrona Labs. For a free synthesizer plugin, I’d recommend TAL noisemaker.

Would you say that your choice to pursue music has changed your life since you started? Would you say that creativity has evolved you spiritually, emotionally, or logically?

Music changes life, and life changes music.

A music career is a microcosm of life: The music itself teaches creativity and spirituality, the band teaches relationships, and building a following teaches business and marketing. And of course failure is the greatest teacher. I don’t know of many things in which one fails more often then in making music.

Would you consider yourself to be an overall political or spiritual individual? If so, if how what would you say are your strongest/most important views and/or causes?

Aren’t these the questions you’re not supposed to ask at a dinner party?

I think the best music is inherently Spiritual, regardless of genre. The songs that really get to us do so because they bypass our rational brains and speak directly to our hearts.

I’ve written my share of songs about chasing women, to be sure, but I’m mostly interested is in expressing and reaching the inner humanity through music.

Playing live shows, recording new tracks, attempting to go live the life that gives you the experiences that inspires it all... it can be difficult to balance the time. Do you have any particular methods that you use to keep yourself focused or balanced in your direction?

You said it! Balance is difficult. Especially when trying to record, play live, and have a day job and/or life at the same time.

Advice I’d give my younger self: you don’t have to do everything at once. Take the long view. It’s fine to take time focusing on just writing, or just perfecting a live show.

One method/hack for fellow artists who have trouble finishing things: set reasonable goals, and start talking about them publically. Social pressure is a great motivator to finally hit that “bounce” button.

When it comes to non-musical media, what do you find yourself most inspired by, and what about it draws you to it as a source of inspiration? Do you participate in the gaming world? Avid reader perhaps? Maybe cinema fan? Combination of some lol?

Audiobooks and podcasts…because words can be music too. My biggest inspiration on that front the past year has been Alan Watts. If you’ve never listened recordings of him speak, go find some on YouTube or Audible.

Thank you so much for participating in this episode of Infidel Interview. Any parting words for your fans, or my audience?

To you: thank you for the thoughtful questions.

To your beautiful audience: keep making things, and keep working together. Say hi on Soundcloud. And if you want to attempt a remix, hit me up!

Follow his latest activities on his social networking platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter:

Stream his music on Spotify & Soundcloud:

Purchase his music on iTunes for digital download:

Watch his video content on his official YouTube channel:

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