EMQ’s With Max Blansjaar

EMQ’s With Max Blansjaar

Hi everyone! Welcome to another EMQs interview, this time with UK based, Amsterdam born Solo Grunge Rock Artist, Mac Blansjaar. Huge thanks to him for taking part. 

What is your name, what do you play and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?

My name’s Max Blansjaar. I’m from Amsterdam, but I’m based in the UK now. I started off playing piano — classical music was my first thing. Actually, there’s a video of me on YouTube as a ten-year-old boy performing my piano composition at some theatre in London. I’m wearing a bowtie in it, if you want to see that. Then I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was about fourteen, so that’d be around 2016. I recorded my first EP in the computer room at my school, which the indie label Beanie Tapes released on cassette in 2018. It was a pretty grungey lo-fi thing. Since then, I’ve been gigging, writing, recording, just sort of tinkering about the place. My debut album’s coming out this year.

How did you come up with your band name?

I think it was one of my sisters who came up with the name Max a little while after I was born. My parents couldn’t agree on what to call me. Sometimes I regret using my real surname for music because it’s kind of difficult for English people to spell. The double ‘a’ makes them confused. There’s one other Max Blansjaar on this planet and he’s a little bit older than me so he took the good social media handles before I could get them.

What Country / Region are you from and what is the Metal / Rock scene like there?›

Like I say, I’m from Amsterdam, but I’ve lived the UK for a long time now. I live in Oxford. Obviously, there’s a lot of history — Radiohead, Supergrass, Foals, Glass Animals, all those bands came out of Oxford. So the scene here is sort of set against that backdrop. We’ve had a tough few years with venue closures and stuff, but people keep persevering, putting on shows where they can, helping each other. There’s a promoter here called Divine Schism who are really carrying it — they’re putting on a show a week, sometimes more. There used to be lots of different pockets within the scene, even just within the rock scene. Grunge, metal, indie. Nowadays it’s all sort of blended into one. I guess we’re dealing with the same issues that other music scenes in the UK are dealing with — high costs, no protection for venues… but we’ll be okay. I do believe that.

What is your latest release?

My latest release is a single called ‘Anna Madonna’, which I recorded in Brooklyn with Katie von Schleicher and Nate Mendelsohn last year. It’s a fun one, I think. Digestible. It’s about what you do when the world seems like it’s conspiring against you. It’s off my new album False Comforts, which comes out on 21st June. 

Who have been your greatest influences?

There’s so many. People like Daniel Johnston, Jeffrey Lewis, Elephant 6, that kind of lo-fi sensibility I owe a lot to. The Velvet Underground, obviously. I listened to a lot of indie rock growing up, from all over the place: Franz Ferdinand, Courtney Barnett, LCD Soundsystem. I think of music production like making a collage, which I think I owe to Beck and Tune-Yards, mainly.

What first got you into music?

We moved to the UK from Amsterdam when I was three years old, and I was really homesick. Like, just sitting in the corner of the room, moping. My mum thought it might help me make friends if I started taking group music lessons. So, then I did. And it helped. I took those music lessons for, like, twelve years. I feel like everything came from there — at least in a technical sense, anyway. Everything I know about how to write and play music technically came from those lessons. My taste in music developed mainly through my family—I’m the youngest of three—and a guy back in Holland who would illegally copy CD’s, shoplift the cases, and send them to us in the post. He introduced me to a hell of a lot of music that way.

If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?

I think I could make a great record with Sparks. I feel like I really get what they do. And they keep knocking it out of the park… I mean, how old are they? Like, seventy-five? Maybe they’d appreciate a Gen-Z take on things. I think it’d be a fruitful collaboration.

If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?

Playing festivals has totally ruined going to festivals in any other capacity for me. Once you get access to a shower in those places there is literally no going back. That said, I went to Green Man Festival in Wales once and had a great time, even though I wasn’t playing. They had showers for everyone. Great line-up, lovely people. Everyone seemed to be there for the music, rather than to get really fucked up in a field. So I think that’d be my kind of festival to play at. I’m not really a party band, I don’t think.

What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?

Not exactly a gift, but I did once get a bra thrown onto the stage while I was performing. I think I just left it there.

If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?

I guess it’d just be thanks for listening. Please don’t be mad at me!

If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?

If I was being selfish, I’d probably say Lou Reed — but would he actually want that? I feel like he’d be mad that I woke him up. This is such a complicated game…maybe I’ll bring back Amy Winehouse and not tell the press. She can live in peace for a while.

What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?

I think my favourite things are what I see as, like, the beginning and the end of the whole process. First there’s getting the idea for a song in my head, before I’ve fleshed it all out or turned it into any real sound, and it’s just the most perfect little thing ever — that’s a beautiful moment. Then my other favourite thing is performing. Because you just get one go, and you have to land it, and everyone’s watching…it’s like how I imagine skydiving or something to be. What do I hate? I guess coiling my cables. I don’t believe in it.

If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

It’s a pretty basic one, but I’d probably change the way streaming works. I mean, the whole project of music streaming as it’s been realised by Spotify and others is just ruinous. Financially, but also philosophically, mainly in the sense that it’s normalised the idea that all music should be available for free in perpetuity, which is a truly sinister mindset. Obviously, we shouldn’t be overly romantic about the pre-streaming era, which was unfair and bad in its own ways. But I’d love to just flick a switch and make it that the main way people consume music nowadays doesn’t drive musicians themselves into artistic and financial poverty.

Name one of your all-time favourite albums?

“Odelay” by Beck is definitely one of the most important ones for me. It just completely changed the way I thought about song writing, lyrics, sampling, everything. What even is it? It’s so surreal, in terms of the lyricism and the production and stuff, but it all makes a whole world of sense somehow. Beck can make nonsense make sense in that way. Mellow Gold and Mutations especially feel like that, too. He’s like Dalì or something.

What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?

So obviously, cassettes come first. Cheap, svelte, portable, sturdy, stylish. Then it’s probably CD’s next — I kinda have a soft spot for them, just because I use my iPod a lot and the way I get music on there is by uploading CD’s to iTunes and copying the music library to my iPod. Vinyl is definitely the prettiest of the four, but I don’t own very many just because they’re so expensive, and so large. So, they come third. There are definitely a couple of albums I’d love to have on vinyl though, just for the sake of owning those objects. Downloads come last because I see them ultimately as stand-ins for the other three. Useful, but like… you know.

What’s the best gig that you have played to date?

Damn. I played a show in Oxford last year with another Dutch band called Personal Trainer which is definitely up there. The venue was totally packed out. It was the same venue where I once supported a DEVO tribute band and played to about six people. That was also a good gig, I guess, but in a different way. You learn to take something from every show.

If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?

I came close to studying economics at university. I was pretty good at it. I was never gonna work at a bank or anything, and I’m too risk-averse to be a venture capitalist — but I do love to speculate. I’m a gossip, I guess. In music as in economics, I want to figure out how things relate to each other, patterns. And I like writing. So, I’d probably be studying economics, and writing annoying pieces of student journalism. But I’d be sincere about it, I promise.

Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?

There’s a lot of people out there who I want to speak to, but I’ve got to consider the overall dynamics of the dinner party… like, will everyone get on? I’m better in one-on-one situations than in these kinds of settings, to be honest, especially if I’m hosting. It’s too political. I’d rather just have some friends round.

What’s next for the band?

My album’s coming out via Beanie Tapes on 21st June, and I’ll play a release show here in Oxford then — I’ll do some shows in other places too, but that’s all to be announced. Then maybe a Nightcore version of one of the singles will go viral on TikTok and I’ll use my many pennies in royalties to make another record.

What Social Media / Website links do you use to get your music out to people?

I’m an Instagram guy, mainly, so I use https://www.instagram.com/maxblansjaarmusic. I’m on Twitter, too, at https://twitter.com/mblansjaarmusic. I also have Facebook and Threads. But what’s the point?

Time for a very British question now. As an alternative to the humble sandwich, is the correct name for a round piece of bread common in the UK either a Bap, a Barm (or Barm Cake), a Batch, a Bun, a Cob, a Muffin, a Roll or a Tea Cake?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a bap or a bun. I’d probably lean towards bap just because a bun can be something else, too. There is nothing else a bap can be. I’m sure this is an insensitive thing to say but a cob, a muffin, and a tea cake seem like different things entirely.

Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Don’t think so! Thanks for the chat. Lots to think about.

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