Won’t Get Fooled Again
originally appeared in the Event Guide
By Aoife Barry
Ben Jacobs AKA Max Tundra is a UK-based musician who specialises in eclectic electronic that’s performed live completely solo by the talented multi-instrumentalist .Jacobs has just released his third album, Parallax Error Beheads You and is currently on tour with Hot Chip. He’ll be playing support to Clinic as part of the Heineken Green Synergy event this week.
Hi Ben, can you tell me a bit about your live show?
It’s quite different to the records. The live shows are all about me singing and dancing around and trying to play lots of instruments at once. It’s me on my own trying to control everything.
Do you like having that control when you’re performing – that you’re not relying on other people?
Yeah, certainly when I’m recording my stuff at home I record all the instruments and I don’t work with other musicians, because I was in lots of crap bands when I left school and I just prefer to do it all myself. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Certainly with the live thing, it’s mostly me running around.
Would you describe yourself as a perfectionist?
Yeah, just because it takes me so long to do records, usually – yeah. There’s stuff in the mix really low that people probably won’t even notice, that I’ve spent four weeks doing. [And it’s] probably about four seconds. All through the album there’s loads and loads going on. It’s a very sort of shiny-sounding record as a result.
I think that’s the thing about your sound – there’s always so much going on, but it doesn’t sound too dense. Yet at the same time, something will come and surprise you.
It’s just about making sort of catchy melodies really, but then also trying to make it sound original and not ripping anyone off. Part of making my stuff original is I try to make the song progressive – even a minute in it might start sounding like different piece of music, or a different musician. I think a lot of the time when bands want to be original they might have a song that sounds like nobody else but with my music I try to have the first 20 seconds sound like nobody else and the next 20 seconds completely different. So as you go along it progresses within a track rather just within an album.
Were you pleased with the reaction to ‘Parallax Error Beheads You’?
I still feel like I’m waiting for the world to react to it, to be honest. There’s been a few reviews here and there, but it’s not set the world alight like I imagined it might. The thing with my music is it takes a while to sink in. I think only now people are getting their heads around the second album. I’m getting lots of things on forums about album number two, and I’m thinking ‘that’s six years old, that record’.
So is it a word of mouth thing?
Yeah that seems to be the main portion of it. Which shouldn’t be the case really, but that seems to be the way it goes. I mean most of the time when I play concerts, most people have never heard of me or never seen me before, so I’m constantly playing to new people unless it’s a Max Tundra headline. It’s amazing how many people haven’t heard of me even though I’ve been making music for ten years.
Is that challenging for you to get your head around, or how do you feel about it?
I can be quite philosophical about it because I’ve been doing it for so long, it’s just one of those things, it just takes time. If you were a young pop artist and you’d sort of sold out your store before you had your first single out, there’s harder to fall, but because I’ve really, really worked hard for so many years just slowly building up my fanbase, it’s so much more rewarding when you play these really big busy shows.
Do you think if it ever got to the stage where you felt things were moving fast in bringing you to the public eye, would that scare you or is it something you would welcome?
Oh no man – bring it on! I’ve been waiting for it for ages! It just sort of seems to be coming in dribs and drabs, what I’d see as a handful of reviews, and then you get these really big successful albums by people like, I dunno, Metronomy where you read a review of a Metronomy record and you see these massive fly posters and you think, hang on, this journalist sounds like the record he’s looking for is my album…but he hasn’t heard my one – he’s heard this guy’s one so that’s why this guy’s getting all the press. I’m not slagging him off, but there’s just certain bands which exist as more easily digestible versions of more adventurous music. I think it’s these pop versions of bands that get really big, but if people do their searching they can find much more rewarding, interesting music.
Do you think there’s a sense of if people get a huge amount of press when they first come out, that they’re quite easily disposable – that they might not have the longevity someone like you might have?
You probably feel a bit spoiled as well, and when it gets to the second album and the same press isn’t there anymore, it must be a bit frustrating. But because I’ve never had that, I just feel I’m making music for a bunch of people who are very obsessed with it, and then people who encounter it along the way. Almost by chance, not in people’s faces – you really have to look to find my stuff.
Do you find you have a broad range of fans – people who are into a number of different genres?
My potential fanbase is extremely wide – at the moment I’m halfway through playing a tour supporting Hot Chip around the UK. I’m playing these stupidly large venues and I had no idea how well my music would go down – but you’ve got these 16 or 17 year old kids going crazy, and you get home and there’s tons of myspace messages from people who were at the gig, and it’s really exciting. Because people have never sort of marketed my music in that way to that audience before, they never took that risk. They didn’t realise it would work with those kids. But I think kids and young people are really patronised – programmes like Popworld are really bland music.
Was the tour with Hot Chip what you expected?
It’s worked out quite nicely, I always sort of knew something would happen with Hot Chip because I’ve known Alexis in the band for a number of years and he’s always been a fan of my stuff and I’ve known him since Hot Chip didn’t have a record out. He’s always said we should do something at some point and I’m grateful that he’s waited this long for me to support them on a tour – even last year they weren’t as big as they are now. It’s just really exciting and it’s all sort of timed nicely with the album because the album came out on Monday the 20th and the tour started three or four days later, so there’s all these people hearing this brand new album. Last time I toured with an album I was playing much, much smaller venues, which I’m going to go back to in a headline capacity, but then hopefully along the way I’ll gather a few more fans.