Oscar and the Wolf. By now, any introduction is superfluous. Platinum record and 3 Music Industry Awards under the belt, Max Colombie is the singer and soul of Belgium’s hottest band of the hour. With Entity, Oscar and the Wolf reached such deep, subtle and intoxicating sounds that I can’t seem to stop the record from looping in my car. Over and over, the tantalising music rips me open, soothes and overpowers me. Entity is such a beautiful album. Hard to describe with the usual music jargon. If I tried, I guess it would be something like ‘Indie meets electro dream pop’. Max’s voice is lazy, overwhelming and unmistakeable. His sleepy slur cradles and unnerves you. It’s languorous but rousing. Sexual and mysterious. Song after song, you’re a guest in Max Colombie’s universe. An invited voyeur to his tortured heart and his desire. Luminous and oh so dark.
I had the chance to meet Max in Luxembourg after his concert at Atelier end of April and pop the questions that had been boiling in my head. Haunted as I am by this incredible artist, I am super excited to share this interview with you.
A: I hear you have a special creative process. First you compose the music, then the voice in a “fake English” and only then do you come up with the actual lyrics, to match the sounds. What was the weirdest creative process for a song you composed?
M: There’s this one track in the album called ‘under the skin’. I made a ‘floor to the floor’ kick and I put a chord scheme synth on it and then I improvised with another synthesiser. Then I took the best pieces out of that and copy-pasted it manually. So in the beginning I thought that wasn’t an “honest” way to make music because I placed the rhythm manually so melodically speaking it didn’t come out of me. But in the end I accepted it and it’s actually my favourite track in the album.
A: Oscar and the Wolf is a very rich image. There’s a duality representing two sides of the same coin. Sheer light on the one hand and fierce darkness on the other. So you’re Oscar. But you’re also a wolf. How do you think that duality is reflected on your music?
M: I always intent to create something that has an exact balance between darkness and light. I want to create music where you cannot decide whether it’s sad or happy. It’s quite tricky because it also depends on where you are. If you’re listening to a dark song surrounded with sunlight, you’ll feel it lighter.
A: Throughout the Entity album, there is a very palpable sexual tension. That desire is almost inextricably connected with a want, a lack of something, a void to be filled. Would you say that when you’re “Freed from desire” the muse is killed and the inspiration dead?
M: When you’re freed from desire, you’re just dead.
A: You’ve been constantly expanding your artistic palette…from painting and drawing to composing, singing and creating videos… Now I hear you are even designing your clothes for the upcoming shows… can you tell us more about that fashion creation process?
M: I draw the outfits and work with designer friends I got to know over the years. For example there’s this girl who teaches patterns in the Antwerp academy. She’s really good. She made me a silver hoodie. It’s really nice to be able to do this with artists.
A: You like to play with your music and videos, making a sort of collage. Like you did with your cover of Freed from Desire and bits from Lars Van Trier’s Melancholia (click on the image below to watch). Do you see yourself exploring your cinema skills someday?
M: I started writing songs for scenes I like from movies because I get inspired and I just know where the climax has to be. I work a lot with footage. There’s also a piece from Warpaint where the bass player is dancing. I put it in loop and in slow motion and as I was creating music on this loop, it looked like she was dancing to what I was writing. But I wouldn’t see myself exploring cinema. I would like to create video art but movies or series are super slow media; It’s too time consuming and I just want to work ‘instantly’. Video, music and painting are the three things I like doing the most.
A: A year ago in a JIM interview, you were asked whether like Ariel – your favorite Disney Princess, you would give up your voice for love. And you said, ask me again next year. Well, we are next year and as far as I can hear, you’re still singing…
M: I would totally give up my voice for love. This album was written out of heartbreak. So I was narcissistically longing for recognition in music to be able to heal. I was working to get my confidence back. But when the bottle was empty (figure from the Little Mermaid), half of me was wishing I would receive love again while the other half wished to succeed in music. And now I have both. So I’m not going to give up my voice any time soon but I don’t think I’ll be making music for the next twenty years. I would like to retire to some quiet place and maybe write music for other people. But performing is so demanding. It’s one of the nicest things to do but every time I perform on a huge scene, it’s like ten years from my life have just passed.
A: So….Brusselsprouts…. How do you eat yours?
M: Probably with a fork.
(All Pictures of Max Colombie are mine and should be properly credited if used elsewhere. thanks.)