He’s played in Ministry, and has worked as a multi-instrumentalist and producer with members of some of your favorite underground bands (do the names Scratch Acid, Big Boys and Butthole Surfers ring a bell, anyone?). Now, Max Brody is one-half of the psycho-experi-metal-hillbilly-punk band, TEST APES, (along with ex-Bad Livers frontman Danny Barnes). TEST APES only released one of the best albums of 2016, REMOTES, in case you hadn’t heard, and you probably haven’t. ‘Remotes’ is the 4th Studio release by Test Apes, and it continues in their own tradition of breaking and reconfiguring traditional music. I wanted to find out what’s behind Max Brody, and why is he choosing to release all his music himself rather than through a label.
AN: Hey Max, thanks for chatting… Max: Pfft! Thank you for caring!
AN: How has the TEST APES been received so far?
Max: Well, it’s pretty hard not to like Danny. In this setting he is free to explore more genres than normal, which some people are very excited to see. “Psycho-experi-metal-hillbilly-punk”… That pretty much covers it.
At our last show someone came up and thanked me for not just playing our songs but improvising on them, “something they don’t see much anymore”. I thanked him, happy, because I think that that is indeed part of what Test Apes is going for. I mean, we don’t want to be like a Grateful-Dead-Style-Jam-Band or something, but we DO want some improvisation to bring extra interest as well as to promote playing instruments–as opposed to samples or DJing or even strict arrangements. I mean no offense to DJs or their fans, and I LOVE SAMPLES, but if you are one of the many lamenting the fact that we lost a bunch of “Iconic” artists in 2016, do you think it’s going to get better any time soon? HOPE WE REPLACE THOSE GREAT ARTISTS WITH OTHER YOUNG ONES…
AN: Listening to the TEST APES, it seems like such an amalgam of different styles and genres, is there a philosophy behind that?
Max:I think the main thing is just that we both have eclectic tastes and come from different musical backgrounds– with a lot of mutual respect for one another. Our bottom line is to have fun. I reckon our philosophy is that from fun everything else will follow.
AN: Would you explain how you and Danny Barnes met? Were you a big Bad Livers fan?…
Max: Isn’t everybody? They have a wide appeal and are classic Austin.
In 2013, a year after moving back up to WA, I was invited to a Melvins/Honky show in Seattle by Pinkus who had become the Melvins bass player. He is the founder of Honky- but, I had been in something called Areola 51 with him. So, we were getting a chance to catch up. Turned out Danny was sitting in with Honky for a couple tunes so he was backstage, too. Next thing I know, Pinkus is tellin me I need to jam with Danny, and he’s tellin Danny that he needs to jam with me, and Danny and I are just lookin at each other, like…ok…shrugging shoulders. Fortunately, since the night sold out, the club booked a second night as well. I went down there with a CD that had 3 recent songs and my number. I got a call back a few weeks later and we dug in.
AN: All of the music you’ve released has been via download directly through Bandcamp; is there a reason you’ve decided this outlet rather than releasing material through a more traditional label?
Max: Bandcamp.com takes 10%, and Paypal takes 5%. 15% is a way better deal than any label I’ve heard of. The orders I get for CDs, I manufacture myself in small batches and sell directly. There is very little inventory to store. I sell less & we keep everything after manufacture cost. THAT is a functioning scenario for this broke-ass niche artist’s budget. I don’t expect to sell a ton. But I do expect to able to blow a limited number of minds with my own little scene. I’m ok with that. I have no delusions of attaining stardom. I would cross that bridge if I came upon it. I care about finishing stuff being happy with the result. I make music to please myself. If you like it though that’s cool, and it makes me happy when someone likes it. I just don’t feel like I need validation from someone else’s approval. I do enjoy feedback; I think every artist does. Making music is just what I do. I live in an apartment with my daughter and my bedroom is a recording studio. I run my label out of the same space. Its all very compact. Like the L7 song–I’m livin’ large in my own little way!
AN: You relocated from Austin, TX to the Seattle area, can you explain what drove you to the Pacific Northwest and how the music scene differs from that in Texas?
Max: The move back to WA from TX was a family matter. I just knew it was the right thing. Both my parents, my brother and aunt are up here and I have the ONLY grand-kid. My parents are getting old and starting to get various surgeries and selling their house to move into an old folks community. I wanted to help them move and give all of us more time while everyone is still healthy. I had been away for 18 years.
To answer the second part of your question: The Austin scene was family. Heck, I just walked up to Jeff Pinkus and started a conversation, and a whole lot followed from that. I don’t think that would happen in Seattle. Maybe, but probably not. People are cliquish and guard their networks up in Seattle. Austin was wide open and goofy.
AN: Aside from Test Apes, you released several of your own projects over the last few years, Goobersmoochers, Pink Anvil, Naugahyde Dream Sequence; Suffer Robot, Shit Sherlock… geez…maybe even a few more…can you tell me a little bit about how these projects have come about?
Max: Um, well, I have been involved with many bands and projects and each and every one of them is different. Its hard to generalize. More details are on my website. I can say, that even though great musicians are generally too busy to start another BAND, they may be interested in doing a RECORDING PROJECT and try something different. I’ve had some luck just getting to be able to start to work with some artists that way.
AN: I can’t think of any other art form that everyone expects they should be able to get for free. With the ability to find full albums on YOUTUBE and internet radio stations and the like, is it even possible to make a living from making music today?
Max: Dunno, but I’m tryin. But, c’mon, I picked the worst career if I was focused just on money! TO BE CREATING MUSIC; pursuing that– and raising a kid, can’t forget her– is what keeps me going. When I’m working on music and I’m into it, it can be the best feeling EVER. I am perpetually chasing that dragon. So, since anyone can record a song or a video and RELEASE it easier today than ever before, that’s making living at least EASIER for me! I would have an ulcer and quit if it was just for money.
AN: Do you see touring with Test Apes in the future, or is this more something you’re doing for fun at this point?
Max: We want to tour, but it’s tough. Danny is on the road a lot, but the main problem is me, because I am a single parent. But yes, we will tour when we can make it work. In fact, Danny tells me he has arranged for us to play a festival this summer in Oregon. I am looking into the idea of livestreaming concerts online as well.
AN: Anything in the world of Max Brody and\or the TEST APES coming down the pike that we should know about?
Max: HA! Yes, of course: Test Apes is in the middle of making another LP, and T-shirts. Masquerade As Angels-with John from Crust-is fixin’ to release a sweet debut single. I just posted a mini-series video blog thing I filmed during 2006-2008. It’s on my Youtube channel, MAXBRODYWORLD TV. The Soundtrack, too, is now up on Bandcamp: 37 songs, 8 bands-$9! & I am finishing up an homage to 70‘s Progressive Rock. It’s another solo LP, “High Strangeness in Stereoscopic Sound”. Out, 1st quarter of 2017.
AN: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me Max…
Max: Thanks for helping me spread the word.
You can check out the wonderful world of Max Brody on his websites, here: