By Josh Robins
Max Bianco looks and sounds like a man born rather in the wrong decade. He seems about 50 years late to the party but always appears to be making the best of what he must assume to be god’s little typo with some humour. The Hartlepool born singer- songwriter, with his huge hair and 70’s New York fashion sense is one of those rare people who can wear sunglasses indoors without looking like they are trying too hard.
The choruses to his tunes are sung in the pubs, clubs and afterparties of the Cambridge music scene, whether he is present or not. Apparently not content with this, Max decided to paint an exhibition’s worth of impressionist and abstract art, for a month-long exhibition in the Six Bells. Late last year, I came to chat to him in his natural habitat, the corner of this ‘musicians pub’ over a pint of Guinness, to find out why he’d made the change from recording artist to, well, regular artist.
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ROBINS: So obviously you’re known musically for the very successful Jar Family and the increasingly successful Max Bianco and the Bluehearts, but it is little known that you’re an actual artist, artist. With an almost sold out art display, is this your first step or have you done this kind of thing before?
BIANCO: Nahh this is the first first FIRST man. See, how it all started, I was busking around Europe recently, and my mate took me to see a Vincent Van Gogh display in Amsterdam. There was this display of his tree’s in bloom, from winter to spring, from when he was in France. This one picture struck me man. I was staring at it for ages, and the fireworks were going off in my head. It was magic man. I found out 10 minutes before I saw this that he’d shot himself. It added to how hard it struck me.
ROBINS: So, from leaving the gallery that you decided- right, from now on, I need to do that, I am an artist.
BIANCO: (laughs) Course not, I had some busking to do. Nah I was always into art; it was the only thing I ever scored at in school. I remember my old art teacher, Sharon, she’d give the class the brief for the day, then after that I’d basically just hang out with her, she showed me the Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, and got me into all the music I’m into now. And I would just doodle something that had nothing to do with class.
ROBINS: So, your musical education came from your art teacher?
BIANCO: Yeah, like the rest of the class are doing 3D sculptures and we’re just talking about how wasted Lou Reed used to get. I was never included in the class and I loved it because it grew me as a person. Her classes were a one-to-one tutoring on growing up, in the right way, finding what you really care about and just going with it. Her classes were the only classes I ever put a hundred percent into, when I did do the work (which wasn’t a lot). Seeing the Van Gogh reminded me of her and made me want to go back to that time, when art was really important to me.
ROBINS: How long would you say you’ve been painting for? Or how long since you started again since your days with your art teacher?
BIANCO: Well I left the country around May and got back in September. Now soon after seeing the Van Gough exhibition, I asked the owner of the Six Bells if I could have the art exhibition. Then I got back and was reminded I’d booked the exhibition for December.
ROBINS: So, when you booked the exhibition, you hadn’t actually made any artwork?
BIANCO: ‘laughs’ That’s pretty much it, yeah, was bit of a shock to come back to. Being reminded that everything was booked and I had two months and no work. Ronnie, a mate of mine who drinks here, gave me the kick up the arse I needed to get it all in on time, he was showing poems, loads of artists I’ve never heard of to get me going, he took me to a few galleries… Then he bought me this set of oil pastels and said- ‘crack on with them man’. And most of the pieces ended up being with them.
ROBINS: How did you find the creative process, was is at easy as writing songs?
BIANCO: Well it’s like when you first start writing, you have all these different idea’s to start that all branch off in different directions, and before you have time to finish that idea you get another idea that you’ll have to start or you’ll lose it, it’s just a mess. You get into this weird mind-set where everything’s on fire all of a sudden, you don’t know what you’re doing yourself. I remember being sat around my place with like, 15 pieces strewn around the floor, I’d be flitting around the room, doing a bit on this one in charcoal and a bit on that one in oil, it was madness to be honest.
ROBINS: Do you find it easy to finish work? As typically songwriters have trouble with that.
BIANCO: Not really man, when it comes to songs, I’ve always been good at concluding stuff, cos I always knew what I wanted to say when I started it. But, as you know, the trick with writing songs is to separate the ones that aren’t really working from the ones that are hard but really worth the effort and the ones you’ve just got to bin. I’m not as experienced in this medium so I found it a little harder to make that distinction.