Maximo Park

Lost In the Supermarket

Well, it’s a shopping centre, to be fair. “Where the bloody hell am I?” says Maximo Park’s frontman to me over his barely audible mobile phone. Paul Smith is having what is called around these parts “a bit of a ‘mare”. He’s in a busy, noisy shopping centre and this is being made ten times worse, apparently, by Whitney Houston being inflicted on all the shoppers over the tanoy system. “Ah, this looks like the exit” he says happily, “I’ll just go through here and I’ll be out and ready to answer your questions in no time…aaaaghh! It’s not the way out at all – I seem to be in a dark, underground car park now! Oh sod it, I’ll do it here!”

I have no idea whether he actually found his way out or not eventually, but still, here is the interview I conducted with him anyway. Who knows? Maybe it was his last!

AD: Your rise to fame would appear from the outside to be a rather rapid one. None of us, or at least very few of us, had even HEARD of you before 2005…

PS: I can understand why people think it’s been an overnight success story. That’s just the way things work in people’s minds, but we have been working on the album since last October and we’ve been putting a heck of a lot of effort into promoting ourselves in other ways before we put a record out properly. We decided that we had to get through to everyone on a live stage and spread the word that way. That’s one of the things I’m most pleased about – “Apply Some Pressure” got into the top 20 with hardly any radio airplay, so the people who bought it had almost certainly been to see us live. That makes Maximo Park an “organic” band rather than an artificial one, and I find that greatly satisfying.

AD: That must have been a major highlight admittedly. Has anything surpassed that where career pinnacles are concerned?

PS: That’s a really tough one to answer, because so much has been happening. We’ve visited all these tremendous places – one minute we’re in New York, the next we’re in LA and the next we’re in Tokyo. And I just keep thinking “I’m here just because I joined this band!” – it’s incredible and really it’s beyond my capacity of thought. I mean, I’ve bypassed half the world and seen more places in the last six months than I have in my whole life.
Top of the Pops was an amazing experience too. We were appearing alongside Oasis and Amerie, and we were competing with them! These artists that have major record companies pushing them and an enormous fanbase, and then there’s US in competition. But that’s the way it SHOULD be. The charts should be totally about choice, and I think we offer something different to the rest.

AD: But have you been surprised at how successful you’ve already been?

PS: Not really, because we never really had any expectations. We just thought it would be interesting to see how far we could take it. That’s the really good thing about this band – we all have a real direct purpose in life to just make great records. We don’t set goals. I suppose then, in that sense, it IS a surprise. Saying it wasn’t probably comes across as being a bit arrogant but I’m not saying “Hey, we’re all great individuals”, but when the sum of the parts is put together, we know we can make quality music that is very accessible and of the moment.

AD: A big fuss was made about that bag that went missing of yours. Apparently it had your entire life in it. Did you ever get it back?

PS: I did, yeah! It was missing for about a week and a half, and the most worrying thing was that it had house keys and things like that in it. It really bothered me that there were really personal things that I’d written in there as well. It made me feel very uncomfortable knowing that ANYONE could have been reading things that were very personal to me…actually it’s probably a good thing that I HAVE got it back, otherwise I’d have been sobbing the rest of my replies to your questions down the phone at you…

AD: Good point, I hadn’t thought of that! Something else that must have made you feel a little uncomfortable was being the last member of the band to join. How did you feel at the audition?

PS: It wasn’t too bad, because I already knew Tom (drums). The most bizarre thing about it was that I’d never actually sung before. I hummed a bit on the way there in the car but that was about the extent of my vocal efforts! You see, I’d always been quite a “safe” person before and not taken risks, so this was an exciting challenge for me.
When I got there, they gave me some words and asked me to sing. I was thinking “These words I can forge into my own lyrics” and I just tried not to deliver them in a dishonest way. They thought it was fresh and original and it was apparent to the guys that this was something that they’d never really heard before (NB Paul sings pretty much the same way that he talks). After that it was a natural process – they wanted me back and I came back. There was definitely a spark there – not necessarily as people straight away but the music was strong…probably because we’re all very different characters with VERY different tastes – and it was all so powerful that it was almost like an impulse to sing my own lyrics in the way that I did.

AD: Would you say those lyrics are very personal to you?

PS: Oh, they’re ALL very personal lyrics. I wanted to look inwards and not be at all objective. Everything you hear on the album is completely about me. I see expressing myself as a good thing AND a bad thing; even though I really put myself “out there”, and even if people listen and realize I did – or said – some bad things, a lot of people can relate to those things and they can make a connection with it. That’s one of the reasons I think our music is so accessible.

AD: Obviously you titled the album “A Certain Trigger” after a line in “Once, a Glimpse”, but what made you decide to use that?

PS: Just the fact that it became something that was applicable to everything. Everything is a trigger that can be switched on and off just like that. Drinks trigger off an emotion, someone can SAY something that triggers off anger in another person; everything has “a certain trigger”. Sometimes it’s more veiled in the songs, but the whole album’s very emotional. Every line in every song is triggered off by something else, and the same goes for the instruments too.

AD: I’m going to go against my normal policy of not asking where the band name came from here. It’s a crap, boring question I know, and one which you’re probably going to be asked about at least three times a week for the rest of your career, but on this occasion, I really do want to know!

PS: That came from when Duncan (guitar) saw a documentary about Havana, Cuba on the TV. There were a lot of old people sitting around playing dominoes calmly and in the background there was a park with a sign on it, and it was called Maximo Park, which was named after the famous revolutionary Maximo Gomez. At that time, Duncan was in a band that suffered from a clash of egos, so when this one was formed, we thought the name Maximo Park perfectly reflected a group which had very equal input. We ARE that group of men playing dominoes!

AD: Nice analogy! Ok, so if you had to explain to someone who’s never heard the band, in no more than ten words, why they should buy the album, what would you say?

PS: Because it’s full of energetic, emotionally led, unruly pop songs!

And he’s right you know! Fingers crossed he eventually escaped from screaming Whitney and the creepy Shopping Mall Dungeons. After all, we want another album!

Maximo Park release the third single proper, “Going Missing” from their debut album on 18th July. The latter long player, “A Certain Trigger” is available practically everywhere. Hell, they’ve probably even got it in Bejam (bloody hell, now I’m showing my age!)

Interview - Tone E



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