Meet Kevin Max
“I think it’s different than anything out there. I wanted to do a record that pushed music – period.” “On everyone’s personal journey they’ve got to get to the truth,” says Kevin Max. “Without that, they’re living a lie. It’s getting outside the box, stepping outside our comfort zone when we really start to live.”
Moving outside of his comfort zone, Kevin Max calls his long-awaited solo debut, Stereotype Be, “a universal record.” “I want this record to appeal to a wide audience. I wanted a universal record that talks about love, death, social relevance and my faith—it’s a lot to chew on.” Stereotype Be represents a break from—but not the break up of multi-platinum group, dc talk. It’s an effort that’s eclectic, poetic, and surprising at every turn.
Kevin says the songs from Stereotype Be, all of which he wrote or co-wrote, describe life as he’s experienced it. “My music is about real, flawed people who mess up, who wear their flaws on their sleeve. Real people asking ‘is there a God? Will He listen to me?’ It’s more of a question record than an answer record; it pushes people to an understanding of what truth is.”
Kevin also asserts that he has not shied away from discussing his faith. “When you want to reach a wide audience, you have to approach spirituality as a unifying thing, not a segregating thing. It is possible to do that, but you have to come at it from a different direction—from the direction of [presenting] truth.”
That’s the reason behind Stereotype Be’s title—breaking down stereotypes of what faith is about while challenging listeners to seek the truth. “I think by making a record honestly and not making a record worrying about market shares or how it’s gonna hit this person or that person. It’s a heart record; it’s not a head record,” he says.
“I wanted a feel that was cohesive -- almost a concept record. The record opens with ‘Return of the Singer,’ which is an intro to what I do as a performer/musician. ‘Existence’ follows it up musically and is about living in today’s society and the struggles therein. ‘Be’ answers the questions proposed in ‘Existence’ by offering and encouraging listeners to just be themselves. ‘Angel Without Wings’ details a not-so-simple relationship where opposites attract. ‘Shaping Space’ talks about a relationship that’ll last, one that’s forged on things that are good. There’s a light and dark thing happening on the whole record.”
“I wanted to start out kind of mod and deconstruct the whole record down to the basics. I also wanted to put a current music sound up front because I wanted something familiar to the listener,” Kevin says, explaining that there are strong but more complex songs (“Blind” and “Her Game”) towards the disc’s end.
Although Kevin has enlisted unparalleled talent in the production of Stereotype Be, one of the greatest presences on the album is the inspiration of his wife of four years, Alayna. A driving force behind the creation of Stereotype Be, as well as other projects Kevin has undertaken, Alayna continually encourages Kevin to live out his creativity – “be everything you were created to be so you can experience creativity in life and in art.” As a tribute to his relationship with Alayna, which he calls his “muse,” Kevin co-wrote the song “On and On.”
Stereotype Be also serves as a showcase for Kevin’s musical influences and interests. They include the Beatles and John Lennon, Queen’s The Game and Roxy Music’s Avalon, ‘the Smiths and Echo and the Bunnymen, Radiohead, Muse, and Bjork. “I’m also fascinated with what George Harrison and Ravi Shankar did,” referring to the Indian influence which appear on Kevin’s record. “I wanted a world music feel; I didn’t want a Brit rock record.” The result is a successful musical fusion that parallels the multi-faceted, mature pop of Sting’s Brand New Day and Moby’s Play.
To help realize his musical vision, Kevin collaborated with a dynamic group of musicians. He co-produced the record with King Crimson’s Adrian Belew (who produced Jars of Clay’s “Flood”). Bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel), drummer Matt Chamberlain (Tori Amos), guitarist Owsley (the band Owsley, Amy Grant), multi-instrumentalist John Painter (Fleming & John, dc talk), and programmer Cinco Townsend form an impressively credentialed list of players.
“I put my heart and soul into this. I think people will hear that. That’s all I care about at the end of the day, that I put my best foot forward,” says Kevin. “It’s not something I did in a week. I’ve had this record in mind for years. I’m just happy to step back from dc talk and create an album that is all my influence. Hopefully this music will bring people forward and help them appreciate other kinds of music. Then I’ve accomplished something.”
As Kevin explores the ability to “be yourself” through his solo release, he has also penned the book, “Unfinished Work,” an autobiographical account of his struggle to examine his life and become who God has called him to be. This book, due out in Fall 2001, is a compilation of personal stories that Kevin feels has molded him into the person he has become. Through the writings in this book, Kevin hopes to provide inspiration to readers by speaking candidly about mistakes he has made, personal feelings of insecurity and times of struggle with his faith.
Everyone spends a great deal of their lives searching for the truth; searching for who they are beyond stereotypes, or conformity. When Kevin Max set out on his journey of self-discovery, he allowed his writing to translate into word, through music, poetry and literature, the feelings and emotions he struggled with over time, which ultimately led him to be the person he is today.