MAKS’ Journey With Music

We peppered him with questions because we wanted to know how he started, why he started, why he stopped and how he got back into it.  Not only that, we were intrigued by the idea that he wanted to make his own CD and learned how to play all of the instrumentation himself.  It’s interesting to note also that he said years ago he wished he was playing the guitar rather than the drums, and now he is!  From the Netherlands – we bring you MAKS.

 

 

At what age did you actually start playing drums and what inspired you to learn how to play?

I think I was 13 or 14 when I actually saw a real, shiny drum kit from up close: an uncle of mine played the drums in a soul band in Rotterdam and he kept his kit at home. I was allowed to play on it every now and then, trying to keep the beat with the music of the likes of Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears. I guess I then learned which hand and which foot to use for which part of the rhythm.

The “real thing” came when I was about 17 years old. I sort of bragged at school that I could play the drums. The unexpected result was that I was asked by two schoolmates to play the drums in their band, which consisted only of themselves. There was a drum kit available in the garage where they practised. So, I had to put my money where my mouth was. We played some Steve Miller songs. To my surprise my two new band mates liked what I did… Well, they actually told me I was way better than the boy that played with them recently. Great! There was only one problem: the drumkit was his :) So, I had to buy my own kit. From that moment I was a drummer, I guess. Although I would have loved to play the guitar :)

You played in bands in high school and for several years afterward.  Then, you took a break from the music to focus on your education and then work. A lot of musicians do this for various reasons. Why did you stop playing?

I guess I have always had this “problem” that after some time I want to direct a band in a certain musical direction: MY direction, that is. In most cases the drummer in the band loses this battle, and sometimes even leaves the band. So, when this happened in 1983 for the 3rd time in a row, I called it quits and sold my drumkit, with no intention at all to ever play in a band again.  I had no plan for music and the next few years I spent my days following
classes at Art School, walking the dog and enjoying Rotterdam nightlife :)

You went to art school.  What was your main focus in school?

Yes, I did. The classes I followed were called “Visual Communication”, so a lot of drawing, painting and making photographs and films was involved. I know I was pretty good at that. Mind you, this was way before computers made life so much easier for designers and artists. I followed classes in Art School for about three years and did rather well. Then I just quit, disappointed as I was in the rather elite attitude and mentality of (most of) the teachers and students.

Are you a visual artist also?

If you mean painter, sculptor or photographer: No, I am not, but I could probably do a pretty mean job pretending to be one, I know the drill, hahaha!

Were you able to apply your art education to your employment?   If so, what did you do?

No, it had nothing to do with my professional occupation after 1988, though I always kept a keen interest in graphical matters.

Did you feel like something was missing from your life when you stepped back from the music?

Not really, no.  I was too occupied with all the new aspects of my “new” life. Of course I was still very much interested in music, but more as a listener… There were loads of great bands emerging in that period (Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Magazine etc. etc)

In 2007 you kicked off a rock band. Did you initiate this?

No, it came rather unexpected: in September 2007 my former schoolmate Peter – the guitar player – rang me up and told me that our favorite rock band, The Meteors (not the rockabilly Meteors), from the late 1980s was reunited and played some gigs. He had already convinced my other former schoolmate Ron – the bass player – to come and see this band. Of course I agreed to come as well.  It was an excellent night, The Meteors played better than ever before and during that gig we looked at each other and knew we were going to make some noise again. Three weeks later we were rehearsing.

What was the appeal?

To see if we could still “do it”, I suppose… And of course having a reason to spend one evening a week having a good glass of beer and repeating the sentence “Remember when we…” over and over again. It was great fun.

How did it come together and how did it work out?

What started off as a fun thing, became a rather bumpy ride. Some months later Ron, the bass player, passed away in an hospital in Germany, which of course set the band back for a while. This was followed by some personnel changes, which is always a difficult aspect to deal with.

In 2010 the band made a promotional CD, which was fun to do, but soon after that ego’s reared their ugly heads. It was the beginning of the end in 2012. So, no, it did not work out as it probably should have. But at least I knew what to do next.

You had been off the music scene for more than a decade.  Was it difficult to go back?

No, not really… When old friendships and shared interests do not die, some things happen naturally. This is a perfect example of such an occasion. Sometimes friends do not see each other for years and when they meet again, they just pick up where they left off :)

When you decided to return to music, did you have to work hard to get your skills back up to par or had you been practicing all along?

This was in September 2007, I think… At the first rehearsal I spent nearly an hour franticly unpacking and setting up my new drum kit, which had only arrived the day before. I felt a “tiny bit” of pressure, since I really had not played the drums for 10 years. Fortunately this was also the case for the guitar player and the bass player. The bass player was even amazed that his bass guitar was still working.  By the way, these two were the two former schoolmates I started a band with in 1976.  I had also joined them 10 years earlier, in 1997, forming a cover band with
a female singer and a keyboard player. This was good fun, but only lasted for about a year.

So, yes it took some time to get my skills back. But when the skills returned, I found out that I was better than ever and improving every rehearsal and gig.

You said that this new endeavor with your friends and the rock band came to an end in 2012.  You said “this experiment came to an end in 2012.”  Why did you refer to it as an “experiment” and what made you and
the guys decide to move on?

Looking back on it, to me it probably was an experiment. Unwillingly I guess I wanted to see if I could be just a band member, without my urge and drive to try to get the best out of it, musically and creatively. At some point and after some heavy and pointless discussions with two members, I decided this was not what I wanted. I didn’t want to spend time again discussing which songs to play and why we should not write our own songs etc. etc. A good discussion can be useful from time to time, but hey, let’s face it: a band is not a democracy, some people tend to take the lead and others sit back and enjoy the ride…or not :).  If I ever were to play in a band again, it would be MY band with MY songs. Sounds harsh, but that works for me. Input and advice are always welcome, but I decide. But no hard feelings: what’s said is said.

My buddy Peter still works with me on some of my songs, we both enjoy that very much. We will probably keep doing that until one of us drops dead, or both, hahaha!

Talk about the live music scene in the Netherlands.  Are there a lot of places for bands to play?  Blues, rock- what’s the most popular type of live music there?

There are enough venues to play, but the bigger ones (stadiums), are usually filled with events that are commercially a sure hit. Popular music nowadays in the Netherlands is about the same as in the rest of the world, which says enough, I think. Any act – Dutch or foreign – that is not commercially viable, has a hard time finding interesting gigs in the Netherlands. There is a hard rock/metal scene and a blues (rock) scene, but these are really marginal, unfortunately.

If a musician from another country wanted to check out opportunities to play, what would they find?

They would find it hard to actually good gigs, unless this musician has already managed to have some kind of following over here to gain access to, for instance, festivals. Would love to have it differently, but it is what it is in my eyes.

African American hip hop and rap has overtaken the whole planet. Has that music influenced a lot of (it’s usually the younger) musicians and young listeners in the Netherlands?

To my honest opinion, yes, unfortunately it has. I agree that every young(er) generation has a right to its own culture and media, but to me personally nothing interesting has emerged in this hip hop and rap scene since Grandmaster Flash and the Beastie Boys. In the Netherlands there is even a wave of “rappers” that use Dutch to rap. Sounds so silly, these so-called meaningful lyrics in a language that is not equipped for it…

A 3-week tour in the U.S.  You were in Michigan. Did you get to some of the bigger cities like New York, Las Vegas or Los Angeles?

No, if only, hahaha! We did about 8 gigs, of which 3 were more like jam sessions, but good fun. We played the Knucklehead Saloon in Kansas City and the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, which was very cool. Nice
crowd, positive attitude and people actually DANCE to the music! Try to find that in the Netherlands :)

Was there a difference playing in the U.S. versus playing in the Netherlands?  If so, what are some of the differences you found?

Like I mentioned earlier: people in the U.S. – whether they like your music or not – appreciate the fact that you make an effort to make an audience have a good time. It is also very normal that they tip the band on stage. Sometimes the band does not get paid by the club/bar/bbq owner, but gets its money via tips from the audience. The audience is more involved, so to speak… In the Netherlands people stand back, hang around the bar and wait for something very spectacular to happen, in my opinion. In the Dutch “blues rock scene” – which I am pretty familiar with – the audience often tends to be rather timid. It’s more like an image thing, a get-together of people in the same age group in my opinion.

You said this trip/tour opened your eyes and was the catalyst for wanting to create your own music.  How did this revelation come about for you? What was the thing or things that “opened your eyes?”

It opened my eyes in a sense that I experienced how good some of the musicians in the U.S. are and how many of them there actually are. I was present at a jam session afternoon in the Knucklhead Saloon in Kansas City. The stage was filled again and again with non-professional musicians and singers. The level of musical craftsmanship and the enthusiasm were so high, that I could hardly believe my eyes. The audience too had a great time. This more or less inspired me to go and do my own thing. If these people could do it, I was sure to give it a try myself!

It’s very interesting that you made the effort to learn how to play other instruments so you could write, play and record your own music, versus getting other musicians to play.  It’s really admirable.  Talk about the learning process, the struggles, the accomplishments and how you felt along the way.

Struggles… yes there were, not only practically (“What chord is that? And how do I play it?”), but also psychologically. Since I was doing everything really 100% DIY, I came across certain points where I thought I couldn’t do it. Then I had to sit back, take some distance and re-think the whole process. And then start again, 7 days a week, 8 hours a day. It almost became more than a fulltime job, hahaha!  It’s all about “What do I want?” and “How can I do this?”

Congratulations on your first CD.  Want to talk about what inspired you? Is there an overall message?

My main goal was to record and save my tunes to hard disk for myself, so I wouldn’t forget them. But when I realy started to have fun recording, mixing and making music, I decided to try and release a CD. Et voilá!  I guess there is no overall message, it’s all in the CD title: “3Ft No Diving”. I saw that on a poolside at a motel in Kansas City. I translate that as “do not think too seriously about it, it’s not that deep”.

Maks, what’s next on your agenda musical and otherwise?

Next on my agenda is finishing this holiday on the island of La Palma and then crawling back into my home studio in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. Got some pretty fresh ideas and new riffs for songs on my 2nd CD.

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Links:

http://www.maksagency.com
https://www.facebook.com/maks.antraks
https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/maks2
https://www.amazon.com/3ft-No-Diving-Maks/dp/B072KHJHYR
https://maks.hearnow.com
https://soundcloud.com/maksa-1-1
https://show.co/yKxhILr

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