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Dave Jenkins

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B2B Interview: Mefjus vs Maksim

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B2B Interview: Mefjus vs Maksim

Interviews are great and all, but it’s also nice to put your feet up and listen to two artists ask each other the questions. Especially when they have a rapport, history and connection like Mefjus and MC Maksim.

The main voice who guides the ravers through the head-melting chaos of a Mefjus set, and the most consistent voice on some of the Austrian headliner’s most important and game-changing records, Maksim has been working with Mefjus for exactly 10 years this year.

To mark this anniversary, and in their shared spirit of forever levelling up, the pair have a whole barrage of new music primed for us. Including, with any luck, a whole hip-hop album. Plenty of D&B collabs are in the pipeline, too. It starts with Twist ‘Em…

We wanted to find out more so we gave them both a shout and asked them to interview each other… 

UKF: Before you start throwing round questions, how did you both link up? 

Mefus: Max sent me a message in 2011/2012 with a link to his hip-hop project because he knew I loved hip-hop. I loved it. Then he sent me some electronic stuff he’d done with Culprate which was wicked so we started from there. The first thing we did together was Struggle & Pain on Breed 12 Inches and it developed from there. I love having him on special tracks. He did the opening track on Emulation and the opening verse for Manifest and we’ve been touring regularly since 2016. 

Maksim: I’ve always been very understanding of Martin because he’s an artist in his own right. He doesn’t need a vocalist. But we’ve worked together when the time is right, we’ve previously developed our live show with lots of hip-hop edits and it feels like the right time to have more drum & bass material that people can recognise and sing a long to at the show. 

UKF: How did Twist ‘Em come about? 

Mefus: I sketched a demo of the tune as an idea. It wasn’t long after Manifest, maybe around half a year after that. I sent it over to Max and he had an idea for a vocal. The vibe was simplicity. This track is intentionally designed to be a dancefloor tune, but I knew it needed vocals to make it recognisable. What Max sent over helped me arrange the song as well. Sonically and lyrically, it made a lot of sense.

Maksim: Martin often comes to me with a crazy noise or phrase or a 16 bar idea of something he’s working on. The main thing was that twisted reese. As soon as I heard that I thought, ‘This has to be something that shakes people up and twists them.’ It didn’t need a deep vocal, just something to complement the first hit of the drop. Then after that Martin put the twist ‘em theme throughout the track.

UKF: So it’s very a back-and-forth, natural creative process…

Maksim: It’s totally like that. It’s never like, ‘Here’s a finished tune, give me a vocal’. We’re working together to make something that makes sense within the context of the song. That’s Martin’s doing.

Mefjus: It takes off the pressure too. It’s more collaborative and inspiring. It creates more of a connection between us as we’ve developed each track. We’ve got a lot of things in process, and we want more things to have ready for our shows and to manifest ourselves more as a duo. Next to that we also have a hip- hop project on the side.

UKF: Hello!

Maksim: I think we started it around five years ago and we’ve got an album body of work ready to go now. We won’t give too much away now. But, in terms of the way we work, it’s very similar; Martin sends over sketches, I’ll send back audio with some lyrical themes and he’ll work the theme and accentuate it through the tune. Then, on the D&B side, we’ve got more finished tunes and more we’re working on.

UKF: Can’t wait to hear it. But let’s hear you interview each other. Who’s kicking off?

Maksim: I will as it’s in light of what we were just talking about… So I know we’ve got tracks which are ready. And we’ve also got tunes which are nearing completion. But Martin, how many collaborations do you actually have on the go right now with everyone in total? 

Mefjus: Oh wow! I don’t want to think about them all at once or I’ll have an anxiety attack but with all the things we have on the go, and the stuff I do with Markus and Reini, and other things I’m working on. Then at least 30-35. 

Maksim: Specifically in drum & bass? 

Mefjus: Yeah. I do have a lot of things happening with old friends, new friends, people from here in Austria, people from UK. Obviously I’m never working on them all at the same time but… 

Maksim: You’re keeping busy! 

Mefjus: Yes, you might say that haha. So a question from me, I’ll keep it serious on this one… If you could give upcoming vocalists and MCs one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Maksim: I’m working with a younger vocalist and giving him a hand and I think it’s so important to do in order for us to keep the fire burning. And the one piece of advice I’ve given him is that you have to be comfortable holding and recording on that mic.

People who are not MCs will say, ‘I don’t know how you have the confidence to do that.’ It’s literally a case of repetition. If you’re just going to spit bars to yourself in your room then it will never translate to the mic. So the advice is to get a shitty mic, a shitty interface and some basic recording software and record your arse off.

Do it until you’re sick and do it more again. Do it until you’re so comfortable with that mic you could kiss it and put a great vocal out.

Mefjus: How about on the writing side?

Maksim: On the writing side, maintain integrity! There’s nothing worse than an MC or singer chatting shit. I know I’ve done it in the past and it’s something I’ve worked very hard on personally. The realer you are, the more natural you can sound and the better it will come across. People will feel that.

Mefjus: Definitely. That’s great advice man.

Maksim: Back to me now… I was going to ask about touring. We’ve just started travelling to shows together again now, post-pandemic. How are you finding it? 

Mefjus: I was scared before we went, I have to say. I was up in my own head for a few weeks and very anxious about those first shows we did. It had been two years without the routine of touring so felt very alien. But, after those shows, there was such a big release of feelings it’s insane. I feel so much more confident now. It’s a big weight off my shoulders. It went well, we had a blast, people loved the music. It’s crazy; I played No Tomorrow for only the sixth time and it felt like a new tune even though it’s 18 months old now. So that’s a great feeling. And things like how everyone knows the lyrics to Sientelo and things like that. 

Maksim: Yeah same here. I was excited to begin with. But, as the shows got closer, I got more and more anxious. I actually called my agent for a little pre-show pep talk. It’s been a long time and to suddenly go out and do that is full-on. But after those shows I’m back on it and really looking forward to next weekend! 

Mefjus: Totally. So… Why are you so much into Arsenal and football? 

Maksim: Haha. That’s a good question but the answer is shit! I have a cousin who loves Arsenal. I looked up to him growing up so I supported them like he did. It’s been a rollercoaster ride as any Arsenal fan will know.

I love watching good football though. When they weren’t doing well I’d prefer to watch other teams and not just watch us get battered every weekend. Now things have picked up, it’s interesting. But either way, it’s intrinsically linked in my brain – if we win, I’m happy. If we lose, I’m sad. I can’t change that, it is what it is. But that’s football. I do prefer playing it to watching it and I’m playing it tonight so I’m happy. Shall I give you a shit question now?

Mefjus: Yes please man

Maksim: Okay… I think it’s time people knew about the Pillow Game account, please explain why it’s such an important source of information and tell the world what it is.

Mefjus: Haha! Okay, it started out a couple of years ago while touring. Well actually – to go back a bit more – I have a weird thing about pillows. They have to be perfect innit. So I started to make a list of the hotel I’d stay in, I’d take a picture of the pillow and rated it on various values like comfort, size and so on.

Max suggested it would be a good Instagram account so I did that (@pillowgame_official) but stopped after a few weekends for some reason. The idea behind it was to remind me of the pillow quality next time I had a show in the same city so I could ask my agent to change the hotel if it was a shitty pillow before. It’s a totally first world problem, of course, but sometimes, after a weekend of touring, you lie there and the pillow is like a stone or unclean… It’s not cool.

Maksim: Or a massive double bed then a tiny little quilt pillow. I’d rather put my head flat on the bed. I was going to make a shower game account for the same reason. 

Mefjus: You should do it! So, I know you play cello and piano, but what other instruments would you like to learn to play? 

Maksim: Oh wow. Drums. I took a couple of grades on the drums when I was younger and I’d have loved to have taken it a lot further. I’d also like to be more confident on the guitar as I play the guitar like a cello where I pluck it and plink it instead of playing chords. But I think drums are the one that I’d love to be at the same level I am on cello and piano. It’s a good question because I’m so classically-based I don’t feel the need to learn certain other instruments like a brass instrument for example, or a woodwind one. 

UKF: No Maksim harmonica solos any time soon then? 

Maksim: Oh I do play that actually! I have one to entertain my niece. But yeah, because everything is based around the instruments I play, I can work my way around a lot of things. For example, I can pick up a violin and play a scale. But with drums you need to have those ragged rhythms so tight! It’s not something you learn from playing keys or having perfect pitch; you have to refunction your brain. So yeah I’d love to advance that a bit. 

Mefjus: Yeah I hear you. It’s a totally different part of the brain. 

Maksim: Everyone knows you used to play the trumpet, but is there an instrument you’d like to play? 

Mefjus: I’d love to play the piano way better. I know the theory a little and can play some chords but to be able to play what comes to mind would be amazing. It’s a big commitment and not something I’d have time for right now. I wish my parents forced me into music school. When I have kids I definitely will!

Maksim: That was my life growing up! My mum would be like ‘you play that cello and you practice every day!’ 

UKF: Reckon we could see you both doing some type of live Mefjus & Maksim orchestra? 

Mefus: Haha. Wow that would be unreal. 

Maksim: Imagine Pivot on the cello.

Mefjus: You’re giving me some ideas! So let me finish this off with this question… How do you approach writing lyrics for a song? 

Maksim: It’s bespoke isn’t it? If a producer says the theme of the song then I’ll explore those words and develop something around the brief. But in general, when you’re sitting down to write lyrics, it’s so mood dependant… If you’re happy, then you’ll write vibing things. If you’re depressed, it’s going to be moody. Very rarely do I write lyrics without a beat or a musical idea to inspire me. So it’s like this creative haze of sharing ideas or reacting to things. Like when you write a tune and you’re playing around with various ideas, I’ll do the same with bars.

Mefjus: It’s quite an analytical process for you isn’t it? 

Maksim: Oh definitely. And if it wasn’t analytical then I’d probably be writing 5000 bar verses! I have to be analytical because I have an issue with cheesiness. I could rap something and 8 out of 10 people wouldn’t even think it’s cheesy. But, if it is for me, than I won’t keep it.

Self-critique is a big thing. probably the same with you writing music, right? You’ve sent me ideas which I’ve gone, ‘Wow this is incredible!’ But you’ve been like, ‘Meh, I don’t like it.’ You have to be happy with what you’re putting out into the world don’t you? But back to the question, I often start playing chords, get a general melody down and then from that I try and get a verse down from that. 

Mefjus: It’s a very musical way of writing… 

Maksim: Definitely. I feel more like a musician than an MC. And that brings us full circle; the whole process is about creating a musical piece. It’s never about slapping a vocal down, it’s about a creative dialogue and that’s how the best things happen.

Mefjus & Maksim – Twist ‘Em is out now on UKF

Follow Mefjus: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud

Follow Maksim: Facebook / Instagram / Soundcloud

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