Faithless/Maxi Jazz

Meeting in the Orchid Room

In the October of 1998, I had the opportunity of talking with the man self dubbed "The Grand Oral Disseminator " Maxi Jazz, but I had a problem with this title. Ideas of grandeur, was this man referring to himself as God? Of course he was, afterall we were told on the second Faithless album that 'God Is A DJ', why was I getting so uptight? But on the level, this man was most likely only doing as the verb suggests; to disseminate or to spread the word, lyrically or as the band were responsible for, musically and this has seen 5 albums to date.

So with this new album 'To All New Arrivals' released in November last year, through subsequent plays it was plain to hear Maxi's faith and views stamped clearly throughout this work. As both a person and artist Maxi found his path in Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, but it wasn't always like this, Maxi explains...

I was a very arrogant person, I figured that what I'd read about Buddhism I'd already worked out for myself, like, "I've worked this out without Buddha thank you very much, I think I'll carry on as I am". But then I was reading passages about compassion and I was very impressed, but also a bit shocked that I really didn't appear to have any! You'd die for your friends, but everyone else can fuck off, you know. I quickly realised that I didn't value myself, or the band and I had to take action...

Earlier on in his career he had found hip-hop and founded "The Soul Food Cafe System", DJ'ing to spread the vibe. Reinventing this for the radio on LWR, "The Soul Food Cafe Show" came about in 1987, some 3 years after the "System" had first breathed life. So now it was time to realise "The Soul Food Cafe Band", an outfit that was at first picked up by Savage Records dance wing, Tam Tam Records and later enjoyed a spell at Acid Jazz.

...The first thing I did was to refuse all gigs under a grand and sure enough two weeks later the phone started to ring. It was people offering work, proper work. And so over the period of about 2 years I started to get more work, better work. People were calling me to do sessions and paying me very well for it. Over this time I went to Brazil with Jason Revelle and earned quite a lot of money and thought that when I get back I'm going to buy that RS2000 that I've always wanted. I was overjoyed, my dream for the past 10 years was to be a professional musician, to run my RS2000, a mobile phone and buy records every week. Now, that was exactly the position I was in.

So with work, proper work now high on his list, Maxi first met with Rollo in the studio prior to the forming of the band that has made both these 'names' recognisable and complete with Jamie Catto and Sister Bliss the recipe was almost achieved. But Maxi was set on adding one final ingredient...

Lyrically, I was going to make sure that all of my songs came from the perspective of a Buddhist. It was while I was chanting that I made this realisation, that I was going to pass on the message. Not to be a "preachy old cunt, but try to be as interesting as I could and get the message across to as many people as I could... and BAM!!! Faithless had a hit! About a month later the record was flying up the charts and you're thinking... "this is very strange, isn't it?" The Universe rewards those who take risks on its behalf. Faithless becoming madly successful was my reward.

So this was the music taken care of, but Maxi was more than just the jazz, what about the other side? Cars. And not just 'Biscuit' the "street name" for his RS (and that's not the half of it, her buddah name is 'The Orchid Room' - bear with me here), a car which has featured in his song writing, or maybe it's the test drive offered by Damon Hill at Silverstone - so impressed was the racing driver of their debut album 'Reverence' - no that's just the start of it, I'll let Maxi take up the story...

Ah, yeah, this really is a passion, if I had more time I'd be more involved. I got my Ford Escort and it's gorgeous. So I'm driving it around and thinking to myself, "I can't be driving just to the studio and the chip shop and back, it's gonna get battered, so I'll have to get myself another car to run around in and keep this for Sundays." My first thoughts were, "well I'll just buy anything and then I thought to myself, Max you can't do that, you cannot just go and buy anything 'cos you'll totally upset your day if you've got to spend so much time in the car, you're not gonna like it." I only like a few cars, so that was 98% gone and to cut a long story short, I bought a Sierra Sapphire 'RS Cosworth'. I bought it off this old racing driver Dave Brodie. He's got this race engine building concern down near Silverstone. He completely rebuilds the engine, so this one's got 370 bhp, you put your foot down and fire comes out of the exhaust!

I should just mention that this whole dialogue had taken place while Maxi had communicated with me over his 'hands free', while travelling in 'Biscuit' and while Maxi had buried his foot in the plush carpet, my thoughts had turned to just how this band had been members of the un-beaten generation and still with 9 or so years to look back on, Faithless had been even more so.

First draft of this interview published in Hype Magazine (issue #26, October 1998)

Interview: Nick James

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