Maxim of the Prodigy Won’t Be Trapped – Sets Fire with Cianna Blaze
Maxim Reality, or just simply Maxim, has been playing dressing room DJ at the Prodigy’s gigs for many years now but had never really considered pursuing it outside of that sphere. He began MCing around the early age of fourteen, and after making a move to London, a friend’s introduction landed him an invitation to join the Prodigy in the early 90s. He is featured on many of the band’s popular hits like “Poison” off their second album Music for the Jilted Generation and “Breathe” off the Grammy-nominated release The Fat of the Land. When the band took a break from their grueling touring schedule, Maxim found time to work on his production and DJ skills but was unsure where it would take him.
Then he met Cianna Blaze. A mutual friend introduced them, and Maxim took it from there. “When I met her, I think her name was Chronzed. I changed her name to Cianna Blaze…Her hair was red, and her middle name is Cian. It just kind of made sense.” The two had only a few test runs before recognizing the natural synergy that existed between them.
BR: What can you tell us about the Animal Anger EP?
Maxim: I’ve got a female MC, Cianna, and the EP features her on all of the tracks. She’s a really good MC, so it’s not really going into full detail of what she’s all about yet. It’s just an introduction of what she can do. She’s my main focus at the moment. She’s my main project. She’s so good.
BR: How did the two of you link up?
Maxim: From a friend. When I started to DJ, I thought it’d be good if could get a good female MC. I didn’t really want to go for the typical male MC. I just don’t want to do what every DJ does, standing behind the decks. It’s not really that interesting, so it’d be good to have a female MC for people to focus on as a bit of a performance.
Her performance wasn’t 100%. I’m a performer. I pride myself on performance, so I gave her a few guidelines and had a friend show her some of my performances to let her see how I performed on stage as well. There’s more than just an MC on a mic with ten friends behind them. After a few rehearsals, I saw the potential of her being a really good MC. She’s a beautiful girl. I just thought, “Wow, you’re a beautiful girl and a really good MC.” One of the key things is that she’s got a good voice. A lot of female MCs, they could be good MCs, but they’ve got a really high-pitched [tone], and after a while, it’s just doing my ears in. She’s got a strong voice, and it’s so crucial. And it developed in her freestyling.
So we figured, instead of playing other people’s music, why don’t we just write some music of our own? You perform it, and in some respect, that is a performance – you performing your own music. So that’s kind of where it all started. Now it’s really the time to put out the tracks that she’s been doing. And I will put out other tracks – Trap tracks. I kind of created my own kind of genre and understanding what I’m trying to do…it’s kind of industrial trap. When I say industrial trap, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s kind of in that genre, but I’m making it a bit dirtier. I don’t want to put myself in the genre of Trap, and then that’s what I do.
BR: And then get trapped in the Trap.
Maxim: Yeah, I don’t want to get trapped in the Trap! Because it’s not that. It’s just Maxim music.
BR: You don’t have to put a label on it.
Maxim: It’s just my music, but it fits in the Trap scene. I could play you some tracks, and you’d think, “That doesn’t fit in with Trap.” This is a track called “Phase Me.” Cianna wrote it, and she introduced me to one of her friends called D-Dark. He’s an up and coming MC in London, so I thought, “Let’s do a track.” There was a sample on it that I took off, so I thought we best get a dancehall MC to do the lyrics and to fill in the gaps.
[Maxim plays a few bars from “Phase Me”]
It’s a bit more commercial sounding, but it’s probably the most vocal track. She’s got melody, but she’s not a singer. I think you need to do one or the other. You can’t be a jack of all trades. It’s you’re a good MC or a good singer. And she’s a good MC, so I always tell her to focus on that. This is another track. This one goes down when we play live. It’s got attitude.
[Maxim plays a few bars from “Lucky Bitch”]
So that’s more…it’s quite raw. She’s got attitude when you see her perform it. I’ll play you “808,” which is on the EP as well.
[Maxim plays a few bars from “808”]
BR: The bass line in all your tracks is so good. I think that’s what all the other Trap songs lack that yours have. You don’t even expect it. Then it drops in, and it’s so good.
Maxim: Yeah, thanks. Now I’m going to play you the other side of it, which is kind of even harder. If anything, it kind of seems like trap music meets Rage Against the Machine.
[Maxim plays a few bars from “Pull It Up”]
BR: I love that one. That would be so good in a live setting.
Maxim: Yeah, it’s just energy. I’m bringing the mosh pit.
BR: Yeah you are.
Maxim: Trying to. This one’s called “Breaking Out.”
[Maxim plays a few bars from “Breaking Out”]
I mean, is there any female artist doing this? Do you know what I mean? There isn’t. I just think, “Wow. Nobody is doing this hard music.” I think this is the outlet for her. She’s just really good. I’m excited for her.
BR: I’m excited for both of you.
Maxim: Oh, thanks. But I’m more excited for her than myself because I feel like I stumbled across somebody with potential. I want to help her get herself out there. She’s really excited.
BR: How old is she?
Maxim: She’s 24.
BR: Okay, so she’s still young.
Maxim: She just wants to be in the music business, even just the few times being in L.A. We did a few days back in November [of 2013], and she was like, “I just want to do this. I just want to do this with my life.” And I was like, “I’ll try to help you. No guarantee.” [Laughs]
BR: After almost twenty-five years with the Prodigy, what led you to pursue this side project?
Maxim: I’ve done two previous albums. I kind of said to myself after the last album, “I don’t want to do another album.” It just wasn’t in me to do a third solo album. I just wasn’t interested. I just stumbled across this. It’s just different energy. I stumbled across it from DJing.
BR: Do you feel like the new sound that’s out now has helped?
Maxim: Yeah. I DJed a couple of times before when I did my second solo album, and the record label asked me to do a few shows. And it was alright. I was DJing in the dressing rooms. We would always play music in the Prodigy’s dressing rooms, and I was always the one to start putting music on. I stumbled across tracks, and one of the first tracks I stumbled across was Zeds Dead – the collaboration with Mavado. And it was so different. Even though it was dubstep – part dubstep. I liked the first part of the tune when Mavado was doing “Undah Yuh Skirt” lyrics. I just loved it. It just opened up something fresh for me.
BR: You were inspired.
Maxim: Yeah, I was inspired. I picked up all these tracks. I started DJing. Then it made me look back to my past where I grew up in the reggae scene. So I’ve got all these dubplates. It just made me think, bringing all these reggae artists from the past into now were what inspired me when I was younger. I’ve got Courtney Melody, Freddie McGurgins dubplate, Johnny Osbourne, Little John, Bunny Whaler – just got loads. Stylo G, Gappy Ranks. All these MCs and singers, and I get dubplates done all the time.
I got hooked up with a friend of mine, Blaze Billions, who’s producing stuff with me. So even now, when I’m here, he’s in the studio working on stuff. And when I go back, we get together and change whatever. I get a couple of my ideas on my computer and send it to him and vice versa. It’s just a good working environment. It’s so creative, and it’s so easy to create, whereas sometimes when you’re writing an album, you’re bogged down, and it can be quite daunting at times. Where this is, “Oh, let’s write a track. That sounds good. I’m going to play that this weekend.”
BR: With an album, there’s expectations.
Maxim: Exactly. Expectations. A release date. This is literally writing a track, playing it the same night, putting it out. The freedom of it is so liberating. I can just put it out digitally on iTunes, Beatport. I love that.
BR: How are DJ gigs different between now and 2005 when you started?
Maxim: What? DJing? Well, technology’s changed, hasn’t it?
BR: What do you think about the move from vinyl to digital?
Maxim: It’s fine. Why not? There are purists out there, and I know loads of purists. But you have Serato now where DJs can use Serato, but I just memory sticks. You can still scratch. I learned to scratch with memory sticks. I still do exactly the same thing. I think technology can make you lazy, make DJs lazy, but then I think to myself, “What are you doing?” When people are DJing, what are they doing? They’re supposed to be entertaining people.
BR: You as an entertainer would probably never become lazy as DJ.
Maxim: No. I like to do something. That’s why I had my friend teach me how to scratch and mix. I have seen DJs go up there with a computer and press play. I’m sure a lot of people have looked around and looked at their computer, and they’re buying stuff on eBay: “Hmmm…..let me see what kind Christmas presents I should buy this year.”
BR: “Oh, I should probably change the song, so they think I’m doing something.”
Maxim: “Oh! The song! Oh, I’m just on Amazon.” [Laughs] To me, they’re not DJs. Well, they are DJs, but to me, they’re not entertaining. I want to be entertained. How are you going to entertain me? That’s why, behind the decks, for me, isn’t enough. That’s why I got Cianna.
BR: What can you tell Brooklyn Radio readers about We Are Noize?
Maxim: I’ve kind of changed the whole approach on We Are Noize now because it was a bit of a hard sell for people to understand. They’d say, “Oh yeah, that’s Maxim. But who are We Are Noize?” Well, I was trying to say I was part of this collective We Are Noize, and that’s what it was. “Yeah, but you’re Maxim DJ.”
So I’ve kind of re-rooted everything, and basically I’m using We Are Noize as the label, which I record stuff underneath. I still collaborate with Blaze and a couple other producers….The other producers seem to be doing their own thing. Right now, it’s just me and Blaze, and Cianna does the vocals. I’ve got a million and one friends and vocalists around me who’d love to do other tracks. I have done other tracks with singers and vocalists, but the focus right now is trying to push Cianna through.
BR: Why did you choose “Wolf” as the lead single?
Maxim: It’s a good introduction. I think “Lucky Bitch” is a bit too hard. “Phase Me” is a bit too lyrical. “Wolf” is a crisp-sounding tune, and it’s very different. And it’s just enough of Cianna to make people think, “Who is this?”
BR: What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
Maxim: Just to be in the studio. As soon as I get home from here, I’ve got a couple of DJ shows in Europe. I’ve got one more Prodigy show in Ibiza next weekend. And then, Liam’s in the studio at the moment mixing and recording the new Prodigy album. I will go back home and write more tracks with Cianna and tracks of my own and keep putting music out. And hopefully, next year we’ll be touring Prodigy.
BR: Are there plans for a Prodigy tour, and will you do more dates with Cianna?
Maxim: The focus is always the Prodigy – the Prodigy’s up there, and me DJing is here. So DJing fits around the Prodigy touring and whatever happens. Cianna sort of fits around that as well. The focus is eventually to get Cianna to a level where she can go and tour on her own, and she won’t need me to DJ.
BR: Is there anything else you’d like to share or promote?
Maxim: Promote? I’m always promoting. Sell, sell, sell! Check me out on Instagram. I’m Instagram mad! @Maxim on Instagram and @Maxim on Twitter. A lot of people are trying to buy @Maxim. Check this out, I actually get different models always tweeting me pictures of them in their bikinis because they think they’re sending them to Maxim Magazine, which is quite entertaining.