circus maximus
Max Tundra

Too Rococo Pop

Espèce de Rémy Bricka mélomane qui aurait oublié ses colombes, Ben Jacobs, alias Max Tundra est un multi-instrumentisme prolixe qui produit une pop radieuse et outrageusement maximaliste. Semblant obsédé par l'esthétique du "trop", Jacobs semble incapable de composer un morceau à base d'une idée unique, et se délecte des multiples rebondissements et tours inattendus qu'il peut faire prendre à ses arcs-en-ciel mélodiques. Autant inspiré par Yes et les Destiny's Child que par Emerson, Lake & Palmer, ce boulimique rigolard a récemment sorti un second album sur Domino. Cette courte interview nous éclaire sur son passé musical, ses influences et les secrets de sa singulière virtuosité.

What first attracted you in music ? Which musics first attracted you ?
When I was a child, I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with a large record collection. This included a bag of 7" singles which I regularly tipped out on the floor of our lounge and slapped on the record player. I used to regularly boogie to these discs of my parents' youth, which included songs by the Beatles, the Platters and Gustav Holst. I guess I first started making music during my boring progressive house phase (everyone has a phase of musical upbringing that they're not proud of), when I used to regularly buy all those 4/4 12"s which polluted record shops in the early nineties. The sounds of these were easy to synthesise on my Amiga 500 (which I still use today for all my sequencing requirements) and I just went from there, injecting more ideas over the years, until my music was peculiar enough to release.

What is your musical training ? Are you a multi-instrumentist ?
I was forced by my parents to have piano lessons from a very early age. I used to hate going along to these and quit them shortly afterwards. Eventually I found a small toy guitar in a dustbin at school. I put some strings on it and taught myself to play. Since then I have taught myself the drums, trumpet, bass guitar, banjo, violin, cello and various other odds and ends. I can play some of these things quite well - others will require more practice.

You first issued a record on Warp and then moved to Domino ... Which of these two "schools" do you feel closer ? If ever you believe in the idea of "school" ? Or maybe you feel better in the vague musical terrains of Lo Recordings or Tigerbeat6 ?
I am happiest recording music for nice people. I try not to fit into any particular scene. People tend to follow labels obsessively, particularly something like Warp, which is why Children at Play, which is why that single sold so well. All the labels I have ever recorded for feature a couple of things I like, but a lot of the time I am fairly unimpressed by what other people consider worth releasing. Inevitably, I shall start my own record label one day, so that I can inflict my tastes on the public. At the moment I mainly listen to Steely Dan, so I'm quite out of the electronic loop!

Your new album sounds like a revisited catalogue of a whole series of musical styles (from Piano Bar moods to R'n'B). Do you feel close to Kid 606 (& friends) critical recycling of Soul and R'n'B "classics" or ... ?
I will always try and produce music which sounds like nobody else, but it's very difficult not to be influenced by the music you love. Obviously I am a big fan of stuff like Brandy, Kelis and Destiny's Child, but I also really enjoy Ben Folds Five, My Bloody Valentine, Yes, Gentle Giant, Ruins and Emerson Lake & Palmer. These artistes will often hint themselves in my music, no matter how hard I try to be original...

"Mastered ... " might be your most "pop" work to date. At the same time it contains pervert (!) and unpop programmings. How do you build your songs ?
It's a secret! Let me tell you that I NEVER use laptops though. And I try and play as many real instruments as possible.

Any new release to come ?
Cabasa will be the second single from the album, which is coming out early next year. There are a couple of remixes I did, of The Strokes and Turin Brakes, so look out for these. Eventually I'll start recording my third album.

(Christophe Taupin)
Interview réalisée par e-mail en octobre 2002.

Max Tundra Children At Play Ep (Warp)
Max Tundra Some Best Friend You Turned Out To Be (Domino)
Max Tundra Mastered By Guy At The Exchange (Domino)