Maximo Park - Photo by Steve Gullick

Photo by Steve Gullick

Sometimes it’s really scary how fast time passes. Is it already 2014, has it already been ten years since the hot British inde-rock wave shook the musical landscape of Europe and possibly the world? It really is, indeed. FRANZ FERDINAND‘s debut is celebrating its tenth anniversary these days and the same goes for Newcastle-based MAXIMO PARK. The upcoming album Too Much Information – out on February the 4th – is the fifth album of the band around charismatic bowler hat-fan and singer Paul Smith. Most bands don’t even make it this far. And as the band once said it in their debut single: “The coast is always changing…”

Just in time for the new album NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION got the chance to ask keyboard player Lukas Wooller a few questions about the current state of MAXIMO PARK, the shadow of the past and beauty of not knowing what the future brings.


“Too Much Information” is released less than 2 years after “The National Health.” Pretty fast, even for your usual pace. Any reasons for this?
After taking a break between Quicken The Heart and The National Health our 3rd and 4th albums, once we reconvened we found it took some time for the writing process to run smoothly again. So while touring The National Health we decided to try and keep the momentum going and keep writing together. We had some time in December 2012 between tours so we booked two weeks to record 5 tracks with our friends Peter and David Brewis (from the band FIELD MUSIC) which we planned to release as an EP in the spring of 2014. However, we were so happy with the results and the speed with which we worked, we thought we would continue to write and complete a whole album.


You added a few sound aspects in your sound. Some dark electronica as well as some 80s wave influences. These are not entire new things for your music (remembering “Acrobat” from your debut) – but not as consequent as on the new album. Why now?
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We always try different ways of writing on each record. On The National Health we spent a lot of time together in a room, and I think there was decision to do something different this time, and a lot of the new material was written by us separately in our own homes, often on laptops using electronic sounds and software. We also produced this album ourselves, and we didn’t want to restrict our sound in any way, or worry if each song seemed to sound different from the next. In fact we embraced the weirdness of the sounds we were creating and used them to give this record it’s own character.


The albums seems a bit more laid back and reduced  in general. Would you agree on this? It also seems to be your most diversified album so far.
One reason was that was never a point where we sat down to make an album knowing that we had the task ahead of us of writing at least 10 songs to fill make an album. That pressure was never felt, as the first five songs were written with an EP in mind and during that time we felt like we could relax and be more experimental. So we only started to think about an album with five songs already written. At that time we were also building the studio in which we now record, and having that set up in the spring of 2013 made us excited to produce our album on our own terms. Having recorded our previous albums in professional studios where time was money, having the freedom to try different techniques and sounds was really liberating.


MAXIMO PARK: “It feels like we have at least another album left in us”

This year marks in some way the tenth anniversary of the New British Indie Wave. You released your first single “The Coast Is Always Changing” back in 2004. What memory do you have of this time?
It was a really exciting time of which I have fond memories. 2004 was an especially crazy year. I remember moving to London in late 2003 to try and get a better job and also try and make some contacts in the music industry. And in July 2004 we signed a record deal and I resigned from my job! It was a time of firsts: hearing our song on national radio; being on a tour bus with beds in; getting lots of free Warp Records. Good times.

How did the music industry changed in these past ten years in your understanding?
Like most things in the world, it has become more polarised, as there is less money in the industry. There is a thriving underground and lots of potential break through acts, while at the other extreme there are lots of well known, very mainstream acts who have very large audiences. However, it seems to me that it’s becoming harder for new acts to move from building a small fan base independently to creating a more sustainable career that will allow them to develop as artists.

The hype that later came with “A Certain Trigger” – was it a burden or a blessing? Especially in relation to the following records?
Its funny but as far as we were concerned there’s never been hype about any of our albums! At the time we released our first album there were several bands also releasing first albums, and some had much more hype than we did. We always felt that we never fitted into any pigeon holes people tried to put us in and that there was depth to our music and lyrics that sometimes was overlooked. We’ve always felt like underdogs. If people are hyping our first album now, then frankly they are a little late!


Does “Too Much Information” marks an attempt to swim yourself free from all the “hype” and the expectations by basically just saying “Fuck it”?
It’s just another MAXIMO PARK album. We never have a set agenda with any record, we just allow the creativity and composition to dictate how the record sounds. I think maybe as we get older and more confident in ourselves and our abilities, especially now we have our own studio and can do whatever we want, lends a certain rawness and sense of fun to our music.


What helps you to keep the spark within the band alive? You know, instead of doing ‘business as usual’ in the studio?
The feeling we get when we write a new song, the excitement and thrill of creating something new and fresh, that’s a feeling we never get tired of. That’s what drives us in everything we do. The recording process and playing live are extremely enjoyable too. And we try not to repeat ourselves. Sometimes touring can feel like being on a treadmill, but maybe resurrecting an old song, or playing a new venue or visiting a new city or country, this all keeps us engaged and focussed.


What’s in our eyes the most underrated MAXIMO PARK song of all time. A hidden gem everybody should know? Personally, I think “Sandblasted And Set Free” from 2007 is one of your best kept secrets…
(laughs) Everyone has a personal favourite – we’ve been asked for every single song over the years, people begging us to play a certain album track or b-side and not being able to understand that we can’t play every song – we simply have too many now! At the moment we have been discussing what old songs to re-introduce to the set, and Sandblasted was mentioned – it’s grunge-tastic! I’m also really proud of some of our b-sides – we have a new one called A Vague Implication which will be out with Leave This Island on January 27th, which I think is really great. Or maybe an older one – That Beating Heart.

So the first decade is done… Where to you see yourself as a band in ten years? Are you even aiming to make it that far?
Another ten years seems a long time! Never say never, but I admit it’s hard to say what exactly we will be doing. I think when we signed out first record deal, we did maybe dare to imagine that we might do five albums or even more. And we’ve achieved that. And it feels like we have at least another album left in us. But when I don’t know – and after that, I don’t know either. We only ever wanted to produce a body of work that would stand the test of time, that people would go back to and still find meaning and relevance in the music, even though their lives might have radically changed since they first heard our music, and it seems that we have done that, as people still want to hear what new music we produce, and still want to come to our shows after ten years.


Hope and Passion are our motor. What is yours to keep MAXIMO PARK running?
Essentially the joy of creating and playing music is why we were all drawn together in the first place, when we were living in Newcastle and looking for an outlet to express ourselves. Getting a record deal was a bonus and has allowed us concentrate full time on our passion for music. But we always knew we had something unique and special and releasing a record by ourselves was always our plan originally. We were quite happy to be a DIY band, and organise our own gigs and releases.

When is the passion most visible in the band? When you play live or when you realize you wrote a ‘hit’ in the studio?
Passion can take hold at any time – sometimes when you least expect it: maybe during a rehearsal, which can be mind numbing, and suddenly you realise that the songs you are playing are your own and there some people elsewhere who have tickets and are excited to see the songs performed, and the songs sound great and the people you are playing with are excellent musicians – then it’s very easy to be passionate!