Maxim has been a central figure in The Prodigy for over thirty years. The band took on the world in the late 90’s and cemented a legacy that is still growing. Outside of music, Maxim is a keen artist. He has exhibited his work several times and he has recently collaborated with Dan Pearce on an exhibit called Hope.
We spoke to Maxim about the collaborative project with Dan Pearce and how it all came together, as well as speaking about music, his previous art pieces, presentation aesthetics and a little about The Prodigy.
Congratulations on the exhibition with Dan Pearce. The Hope sculpture is amazing. Completely evocative. How did you get involved with the project?
Obviously, I do art, and I’ve done sculptures before. I met Dan through exhibitions, and I went to one of his exhibitions in Essex, in Epping. He came over to mine and we started chatting about art and we talked about doing a collaboration on a sculpture or something like that. It was quite organic. He came with some ideas and I wasn’t sure, and he came back with more ideas and I still wasn’t sure. We got to a point, back and forth, where I thought ‘that’s good’ and we modified it. It went from there.
The organic nature of projects is important. You don’t want things to feel forced or contrived.
No. I hate things like that. I hate things, like you say, that are contrived and don’t have any sense of realism to them. That’s just not me. I don’t like to force things. If things dont work naturally or its a stolen idea it’s like…what? It’s just not me.
That’s important for your identity and credo as well I guess?
Exactly that. It’s built on the band ethics that I’ve grown up on. I grew up on The Specials, and the Two-Tone movement, and reggae sound systems. The bottom line of everything was originaltiy and being yourself; stepping out and being yourself. Those ethics have followed me through the band and into my art. It’s the foundation of everyrgin.
There are a lot of different aspects to the exhibition with the sculptures, the film, the music. Has that all come about through that organic process, or was that the vision at the start?
It did happen organically but it’s just how I work. The film came out of sheer luck. It just so happened that one of Dan’s clients was a film maker. They asked if I’d like to be in a film and it’s sheer coincidence that it touched on mental health, homelessness and the NHS. When I do sculptures and when I do art, the first exhibition that I did in London in 2012 was an immersive exhibition. I’m not really just about putting paintings on walls. I want to go deeper.
I got The Prodigy road crew to build a house room inside a room. It was an immersive room. You stepped out of this stark white room and walked into another room that was warmer, had a sound and a scent and was carpeted. It affected all your senses as you walked into the room. That was where I hung the paintings. I did that in 2012.
This is kinda like the next level.
Buying a bit of art should be an experience When you buy the Hope sculpture it comes in flight case. It comes with a credit card style memory card with the tracklisting and white gloves to handle it. When I go to buy a bit of art in a gallery, you see a piece, ask for the price….’It’s £80,000.’ ‘I’ll take it…’ and they wrap it in some bubblewrap with sellotape and that’s it.
Bit of a buzzkill?
That’s exactly it. For me it’s a whole process. You come to 99 Projects and you see the sculpture. It’s rotating on the platform; the whole experience and presentation of the sculpture. It’s the same thing if you go shopping and you go to Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Everything comes in nice presentation boxes and bag. It’s not like going to Tesco’s. That’s what I brought to Hope.
The aesthetic side?
Yeah. And the film and what it touched upon revealed themselves as time went on.
It’s a visceral way to present the art isn’t it? Opening up your senses…
Yeah. I’m working on another sculpture at the moment called Balaclava Ballerina. It’s a ballerina and she has two M16’s as she’s pirouetting. I’m going to make a short film with that where she’s shooting rose petal’s at the police as they are coming towards her with a negative attitude, but she’s spreading love. This one is also going to come in a flight case. There are going to be ten white sculptures and each sculpture has a different name after a different star. One of them is named after Haida. Each sculpture has it’s own musical track. So when you buy the sculptures, you get your own track for that sculpture. What I’ll do in six months time is release those ten tracks as an album.
Music is such an easy thing to consume these days. It can be so throwaway.
Having that aura and mystique in music is something that resonates. It gives it more value too.
Exactly. When I create a piece of art, I like to give a little bit more. Try and think outside the box and do something a little bit different rather than a sculpture in a carrier bag!
The EP is pretty dark on the whole. It feels like there is a juxtaposition there with the sound and the title that’s quite challenging. Is that intentional or is that just what came out from the process?
It has a mood. I didn’t want to make it too sombre. They’re not totally dark in terms of doom and gloom. There is a track on there with a singer called Milly.
Yes. Whilst the music is quite dark, the lyrical content is really positive and Milly’s voice suits the lyrics perfectly and really bring a heightened emotion.
Yes. The lyrics are of falling down and not giving up. Everyone has been through it this past year/eighteen months. Everyone has the ups and downs and negativity around us in life but we do come back.
That shows in the film. It’s Dan Pearce’s son in the video and he is superb.
He is. That’s the first thing he’s ever done!
Amazing. The film really shows the resilience of people.
It does, yeah. You can see that he is stressed out, being shouted at in the streets…one thing that has been missing through the pandemic is the focus on the mental health of children. When your 14-15 going up to 20, that is the prime time in your life. A time to forge friendships, get your social stance in, your foundations…that’s all been disrupted. We know about the amount of children and young teens committing suicide or attempting to. We see the boy buying his mum some breakfast, and the homeless man some sandwiches, that was him getting up, so to speak. Doing something.
Where did the idea for the heart in the hand grenade come from?
It was an idea I thought of a few years ago. A grenade is something destructive. You throw in the directions of something you want to kill or destroy. Something you hate. I thought, if you put a heart in the grenade, it could spread love rather than destruction. When I say that, people always say, ‘What do you mean?! It’s a bit hippy.’ It’s weird. But they’re ok with a grenade being destructive.
I think that again shows your commitment to your own identity and what you want to do?
Yeah. I’m not afraid to do what I want to do. I’ve never been a sheep or bent under peer pressure. I’ve always stood up as an individual. I don’t care what other people think.
That’s true of The Prodigy too. Absolutely uncompromising. Things come with time and they feel right when they’re right, a little like the break between Fat Of The Land and Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned.
That period was more the fact that we toured so heavily for Fat Of The Land We did everything in the space of three/four years. I did a solo album and then we took a couple of years out. We needed our own space because we were in each others faces for so long. The band was never set up in that way. We never toured like a traditional band where they go on a tour for six months. We always toured weekends then a couple of weeks off. That was constant. We are all individuals and we respected each others space but we knew when we needed time out.
It’s a special kinship when you know you can walk away from something so big like that and recognise you need time.
You just touched on your solo album. You had the collaboration with Skin on that. She’s just been awarded an OBE.
Oh, well done!
That single wouldn’t have been the same without her.
There isn’t another Skin. I always look at musicians as individuals. Not as a band. What Skin does and who she is, there isn’t another like her on this planet. I don’t think British people celebrate people like that enough; not like how people celebrate Prince etc. American’s celebrate their musicians a lot better. Skin is up there as one of the best musicians in Britain. She’s an all round performer, she’s not just a singer. She doesn’t get the plaudits she deserves.
She is always fearless and fearsome, taking shows to the people. Parallels with The Prodigy again, really. It’s a rare thing to get those feelings that you create in the live arena.
That’s true. Not every one can do that!
With Hope, would you ever think about performing anything live with it?
I’d never thought about that aspect of it. We think it’s a good film and we feel like it should be shown and shared on a bigger platform! I feel like it should be a short on Channel 4 or something.
Like shown before a film in the cinema?
Yes. I think it needs that. It touches on so many thoughts, feelings and emotions in such a short space of time. You get it straight wawy when you watch it. We’re hoping to get it at some film festivals.
It’s impossible not to have a resonance with it, as everyone has experienced the same thing over the last year regardless of your social or cultural standing. It has been a leveller. This virus doesn’t discriminate.
Exactly. I feel that people need to look after themselves and others a lot more.
Do you see this side of your creativity as more of your primary outlet now? Away from The Prodigy?
It’s another string to my bow so to speak. I’ve been creating art for 18 years now, and I got into it because I needed some paintings for my house. I live in a barn conversion and I went to an affordable art fair. I looked at some of the paintings and thought, ‘They ain’t all that.’ I can do that! That’s how I got into it.
I love writing music and I love what I do. Art is another expression for me. When I’m not doing music, I’m doing art. When I’m not doing art I’m doing music. That’s my life fulfilled.
Art is subjective whether it’s poetry, music or painting.
Exactly. I believed that I could create my own style. Everyone has their own style in them. You shouldn’t be doubting yourself and your abilities. You won’t find your own painting style in a week, or two weeks, or six months. It takes time. You’ll find your own medium whether it’s painting, collaging, sculptures, charcoals…your niche. I believe that in all walks of life. You have to stick to something and you’ll find your own style. I like to try and take things that are negative, or deemed so by society and mesh them with something gentle. Like Rebel With The Paws. My art is a fantasy world I create. It’s not a real world; it’s a fantasy world in my head.
Taking yourself away from the real world is a good thing. Creating your own world is even better.
There is a quote from Bob Ross that goes, ‘It’s Your World!’ Anything can happen in your world. That’s what happens.
Just one last thing…there was a small clip posted from The Prodigy in May showing ‘new beats.’ Are you and Liam back in the studio for a new album?
I think that was Liam just messing around in the studio! All I’ll say is…wait for 2022…
And we will! Our thanks goes to Maxim for taking the time to chat to us. You can buy art from Maxim through his website (below) and you can find out more about 99 Projects here. The next exhibition there comes from Tim Muddiman who we spoke to last month, here.
You can also read our trip into the Time Tunnel which looks back at The Prodigy’s show in Blackpool in 2010, here.
Watch the stark, uplifting and resonant short film, Hope, by Maxim and Dan Pearce.
Dan Pearce: Website / Instagram
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This is a brilliant piece Dom, really interesting to read. I didn’t know anything about Maxim before apart from seeing Prodigy onstage in 2005 and knowing it was something completely unique I was witnessing. What a creative guy!