Posted on February 22 th. 2018
Questionnaire by Jason Houston on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Jason: Maxxxwell Carlisle welcome to Metal To Infinity once again and thanks for taking the time out of your very busy schedule to speak with us. 2017 just wrapped up so I’d like to ask you how did you celebrate your New Years Eve and when you look back on 2017 is there an event or memory you have from the last year that really stands out to you?
MC: Sure thing. Well first off, thanks very much for the interview. I always enjoy talking with you. My New Years Eve was great. I spent some time relaxing in Vegas around Christmas and was back in LA for New Years. I’ve gone into 2018 with a great feeling for the year ahead. 2017 was certainly an eventful year, but I can’t say that one single event stands out to me. I’d like to think that there was too much going on for the year to be defined by one single event. That being said, in the past couple of years there has been a fundamental shift in how I approach my music career, and I’ve been happy that things are continuing to change for the better.
Jason: When we last talked you were working on a covers CD. Was that ever released or is that a project you’re still working on as we speak?
MC: I’ll be totally honest. I really lost interest in doing the covers album and because of that, I never finished it. At the time, maybe two years ago, I had a PR guy who was really behind it and pushing for it, but I can’t say that I was ever totally passionate about it. That’s not to take anything away from the handful of single, cover tracks that I put out. I felt then and still feel really good about those, but as for doing an entire album….in some ways it’s a dead format and my heart just wasn’t in it.
Jason: The last few years you have released a Christmas song / video as you just did in December of 2017. Talk a little bit about the song/video you chose to release this year?
MC: Sure. That was really a last minute thing that turned out to be a lot of fun. I hadn’t planned on doing it until late November. Some friends of mine brought it up and that got my creativity going. I put the track together in a couple weeks. I was fortunate enough to work with Ed Polgardy, a great director and producer, and we were able to get the video shot and released in record time.
Jason: A few years back Twisted Sister decided to release a Christmas album and much to their surprise it became a huge hit for them. My question to you Maxxxwell is have you ever given any thought in addition to putting out a Christmas song/video each year if you’d ever consider releasing a Christmas CD of your own?
MC: Yeah, you know…I’ll probably do one each year, for ten or twelve years and then put out an album. But don’t quote me on that…maybe it’ll take twenty years. Those songs are timeless right??
Jason: For many years you’ve been known as a solo artist which I know is something you continue to do but also these days you’re the guitar player for Society 1 so I’d like to ask do you prefer the freedom that comes with being a solo artist or do you prefer being part of a group / a team player such as in Society 1?
MC: Well, there are aspects of each that I enjoy. But you’ve highlighted an important change that I’ve made over the past couple years. I alluded to this earlier. I’ve really de-prioritized my solo work and started trying to do more work behind the scenes or at least out of the spotlight. I’ve really been enjoying it. I’ve been doing photography work and directing for other people, teaching, making backing tracks for other players to use, all kinds of things. My solo work was fun but incredibly challenging and ultimately heartbreaking. It was ruining music for me.
I’ll still do a solo song here and there, but it’s not a make-or-break goal for my like it once was. Now I only do it when I’m feeling really inspired and excited about something. In regards to my other projects, I’ve really enjoyed being in Society 1 and Hellion, where I’m just another member of the band and not directly involved in the management or business side of things. Those situations are much more relaxing for me. And I don’t lose sleep over not always having the artistic control that I did in my solo work. Other people have good ideas too, obviously.
Jason: What is currently going on with Society 1?
MC: Society 1 is a busy band! We’ve got several regional shows coming up, a new album, and several new music videos. We’re always up to something, for better or for worse!
Jason: I also read on your official web site that if people are interested that they can contact you about doing guitar lessons via SKYPE. Talk a little bit about this?
MC: Sure, although I think it’s pretty straight forward…I’ve been doing Skype guitar lesson for the past several years. It’s something I really enjoy and it has not only made me a better player but also changed how I think about what people really want to get out of playing guitar. Not everyone wants to be Steve Vai, and that’s okay.
Jason: Who were the guitar heroes who really influenced you when you were growing up?
MC: All the standard 80’s shred guys, and a few from the earlier years of Metal. Michael Angelo Batio, Tony MacAlpine, Paul Gilbert, Akira Takasaki, Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Eric Johnson, Vinnie Moore, and Jason Becker to name a few. There are also some more contemporary guys I like a lot…Gus G, Ethan Brosh, and Syu from Galneryus… those guys are absolutely burning.
Jason: I was curious if there’s an album in your collection that you can still point to all these years later and say that’s the album, that’s the band that played a major role in me doing what I’m doing today?
MC: It’s hard to pick one single album, although a lot of the Priest albums might fall into that category…like Defenders of the Faith. Also, Pornograffitti by Extreme, which I bought by accident. I was trying to buy a Scorpions CD and the Extreme disc was in the wrong case. That blew my mind.
Jason: Do you remember what was the first song you learned to play on guitar?
MC: Yeah, it was “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen. My dad taught it too me.
Jason: In regards to writing music/coming up with riffs I have to ask if when you write your riffs if you are more trying to come up with a riff that you think might stick in someone’s head or is it more about creating a riff that you can build a song around?
MC: I think that if you nail the first one, the second part of that comes naturally. A great riff that sticks in someone’s head will build into a great song. Sometimes when you find a killer riff, the rest of the song just writes itself.
Jason: I know that Hellion hasn’t been active in a few years and that some of your Hellion band mates will be taking part in The Ronnie James Dio Hologram tour. Is that a show that you might want to catch?
MC: I’d probably catch it just out of curiosity, but like a lot of people, I’m a little uneasy about the whole concept. I just wish there was some way to know if Ronnie would have approved of it. I don’t think anyone can speak for him now. We’ll see how things work out. Maybe it’ll turn out to be a positive thing, but clearly there’s a lot of pushback on that project right now. This is a situation where I really hope the people running that listen to what the fans are saying. Sometimes the perception of something is more important than reality, so I hope they don’t keep forcing a project when it’s not something that people really want. But the jury is still out right now. We’ll know in a few years.
Jason: While I know you’re quite busy these days with Society 1 is there any chance that Hellion might get back together?
MC: Definitely. I’m sure Hellion will be back out on the road again at some point and hopefully even do another album. It’s a great band and I love being a part of it.
Jason: What else can fans expect from Maxxxwell Carlisle in 2018?
MC: Sure. Well, the other big project that I’m involved in is Raptor Command: The Heavy Metal Tribute to Elon Musk. I know…with a name like that it’s easy to think it’s a joke, but we had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year for the debut album and it is now almost finished. That will be released later this year, and it’s a really, really fun band. Also, my YouTube channel has really been growing, so I’ll certainly be doing more of that. For a long time, I didn’t want to be known as a “YouTube Guitarist”, but I think the success of YouTube has really helped to kick that stigma. There are musicians now who are multimillionaires thanks to YouTube.
It’s a legitimate career path for a musician, even more legitimate than a traditional career, in some ways. Of course I’m also staying busy with Society 1, teaching, and photography and video work. So I’ll be doing more of all of that, and just continuing to build up the things that get the best results. I’m having a great time with the things I’m doing now…much more so than two years ago when I was slogging away with my solo band on The Strip in LA. The industry has changed a lot and I feel good that I’ve started to change with it.