Last year was dreadful. Whether we admit it or not, it wasn’t the year that we all expected it to be. But if you’re reading this, that means you’ve survived and you continue to do so. Same with pop singer MAX (Schneider) who, like most of us, just about had it with the pandemic but would rather be appreciative with all the love that surrounds him rather than sulk. The 28-year-old is also grateful for being able to keep on creating music, as well as release his second album entitled Colour Vision September of last year. Colour Vision took him four years to produce, a follow-up from his 2016 release Hell’s Kitchen Angel. “I had more of a decisive vision overall for this new album. With Hell’s Kitchen Angel I just kept putting out singles and eventually it all came together but with Colour Vision I really wanted to make sure start to finish there was a clear world, arc, and storyline with all of the songs and videos,” shares MAX about the 12-tracked album. The album is unapologetically pop—uncomplicated and likeable. Something that we all need at this moment. “I was coming out of a bit of a trauma in my life and felt like I really had a whole new perspective on my life and my music. That’s really what the album is about. Having an entirely new way of seeing your life and deciding to reclaim it,” says MAX when asked about the inspiration of the album as a whole. Prior to producing the album, MAX suffered from polyp on his vocal cords that had to be removed that left him with cancelled shows and vocally impaired for months. But it was a challenge that he made sure he overcome and fast-forward to the present wherein he’s balancing life being a husband, father, and spreading his music as much as he can. Consisting of mostly bops, some of the tracks in Colour Vision MAX was able to collaborate with stellar artists such as Hayley Kiyoko, Chromeo, Quinn XCII, and SUGA from BTS. MAX first worked together with SUGA on a track that appeared in D-2, a mixed tape that the K-Pop idol released last year under his other stage name Agust D.
I had the pleasure of interviewing MAX for abookof.us and here’s an excerpt of that Q&A with him.
Can you say that you’ve develop a lot as a musician from your 2016 release to now? What improvement as a lyricists and singer have you noticed that you applied on this current release?
Yeah, I think I have. Sometimes you just catch magic like with “Lights Down Low” and I think all artists and writers both learn so much as they go but also try to keep that wonderment and magic from the start. The best songs take a lot of development of your craft but more importantly, a special spark that you just can’t train. It comes or it doesn’t. I think I’ve just started to learn how to be set up to utilize the spark when it happens like with “Love Me Less” or “Blueberry Eyes.” You feel it and you make sure it doesn’t go to waste in those hours when you have the magic moment.
You’ve collaborated with awesome talents on this album again, as you have on your first record. What’s your most favorite thing about working with other creative minds on your music?
I just love that when you work with brilliant creatives, they bring something out in a song that you would have never found on your own. It becomes something entirely new and beautiful. It’s like having a baby with someone. Sure, my daughter Edie would probably still have some of my features but she definitely wouldn’t have her big blue eyes without her beautiful mom’s genes. You’re mixing your DNA together when you collaborate
Seeing that we’re still in a state of pandemic and everything seem a bit more difficult than usual. How do you cope with it and how do you keep yourself happy?
It sucks. But we’re all going through it. I try to just be appreciative of the love I have, the privilege I have to create music and hopefully have it bring joy to people’s lives in this time, and my health. Some smiles from my daughter definitely help too
You released your album in a time wherein physical promotion is close to if not impossible as of the moment. How do you make sure that your music gets listened to by your fans and future supporters?
You just hustle and stay creative. There’s always something in the world that will be a challenge. I just try to embrace it. I’ve had more opportunities to create cool content now that I’m not on the road and write more music so there’s definitely positive things about being locked down to be creative. Creating different live versions of songs since I’m locked down with my band. Just trying to bring new life to the album
Last year, you were featured on SUGA a.k.a. Agust D’s mixtape, specifically on his track “Burn It”. Can you give us a brief story on how that happened and how was the back and forth like with him to produce this song?
Yeah, it was wonderful. We met when I went to Korea for the first time. He was working on the mixtape and at the end of our first time hanging out he asked me to be on one of the songs, which was a total surprise. I was honored and got right to work. He sent me the song and basically asked me to create a short English chorus to his already established theme of “Burn It.” After singing it in I think 3 different keys to get the sound right he laid his rap down and the song was born. Even though the back and forth was from different countries across the world it all was relatively easy and really great working with him and his team on it.
With that, you also featured SUGA on your single “Blueberry Eyes.” How did that collaboration happen? Given that BTS is probably the busiest group of men during that time, up until now, how were you able to make it work?
Well after I started working on “Burn It” I told him I’d be honored if he would do a feature on my album as well and he was gracious enough to do so. The timing just worked out with them being off the road and him putting the finishing touches on his mixtape. I’m really grateful he and his team took the time to make it happen and be so kind.
“Blueberry Eyes” is undeniably a well-produced track but were you surprised with the amount of support that ARMY has given this song / you because of SUGA’s participation in it?
I’m definitely grateful for all of the support from ARMY and my fans of course too. The collaboration of the two fanbases to bring this song to places I never thought it would go has been humbling. I appreciate the patience always when you’re really promoting a song for a long time to bring it to it’s true potential. It took me two years to promote “Lights Down Low” which was crazy so five months into “Blueberry Eyes” the fact that the fans are still being patient and understanding of the process is really incredible. I appreciate them immensely.
You also released a remixed track of the song with Steve Aoki. How was it working with him and how did that collaboration come about? In the music video, Suga was represented as a cat (haha), were you aware that he’s being compared to the animal and that you were going to do it? Any feedback from him?
I’ve been friends with Steve for years because of my other act “Party Pupils” which has toured with Steve and we’ve hung out a bunch. I knew he was a natural collaborator and fan of BTS so having him be a part of the remix felt like a no brainer. The cat part was definitely for the fans knowing that’s a representation some give him. I wanted his spirit to always be present in a subtle way.
You also released a version of the song with up-and-coming musicians Lil Mosey and Olivia O’Brien. How did this collaboration happen?
The final remix I was inspired by Jack Harlow when he put out the big remix of “What’s Poppin.” This song has just been so fun. I asked Big Hit and Yoongi if they’d be open to one final big version of it and they said yes. They’ve been so supportive and very detail oriented with the process knowing that the song keeps building and like with “Dynamite” where they’ve done many versions, realize more versions often keeps the story of the song growing in different places. With Lil Mosey he had this massive song “Blueberry Faygo” so it felt too perfect not to combine forces with our blueberry songs. He’s a great guy, was very kind and also a big basketball fan like me and SUGA. With Olivia I just wanted a female voice on the song and wow did she nail it. We’ve been friends for years after meeting during “Lights Down Low” since she had her song “i hate u, i love u” with gnash. She sounded so incredible when we cut her vocal in the studio, I was blown away by how well the song fit her voice. Grateful for all of these artists for joining the big final version
Speaking of music videos, who conceptualizes your monochromatic themed videos and how is the creative process behind them?
It’s always me in collaboration with the directors I’m working with. The process is beautiful and intense. For “Blueberry Eyes” Andy DeLuca and Sarah Eiseman and I would be sitting in my kitchen at all hours of the night tweaking the edit, adding notes, tweaking the coloring. It’s a fruitful creative process when you’re working with people you love and respect.
Congratulations on becoming a father. How has fatherhood been treating you? What’s the best thing about being a dad to Edie?
It’s been the best. Less sleep of course as the cliche goes but when she gives me a big smile it melts my heart like nothing else. I just love watching her develop her little personality. I’ve always been the guy on stage, now I get to be the biggest fan and favorite audience member to watch her little world unfold.
Any new talent or skill that you learned during this pandemic?
A lot of artists have been doing online performances. Are you planning to also do one in the near future? If yes, what can we expect from it?
I’ve got lots of surprises for the fans this year for online performances. Trying to make sure they are magnificent spectacles for the fans to enjoy wherever they are.
What’s your message to all your fans in the Philippines?
Salamat for all of the love on Colour Vision. I can’t wait to finally come back to the Philippines to play live for all of my Filipino fans when it’s safe.