Max Jackson’s excellent adventure
By Andrew Firestone
There are entertainers, and then there are real musicians. If ever there was a clear example of this, it would be Somerville artist Max Jackson. Jackson is a minstrel. A wandering troubadour. Armed with only his musical skills, and the long, hollow log they call a diggeridoo, Jackson walks the streets of Somerville spreading his unique, enrapturing sound in pursuit of the ultimate ideal: inspiration.
“I hope that other people feel the same way I do which is inspired to bring more the next time,” he said. “That’s as much as I can hope.”
Recently returned from San Francisco, Jackson regaled a reporter with tales of performing his patented diggeridoo on the street with a Scottish bag pipes player. “I made, like $40 in an hour,” he said. “It was most likely because he was dressed in a kilt, had all the get-up, though.”
Growing up in East Somerville, the son of Blue Devils drummer Tim Jackson, Max’s fondest memories are of the annual Halloween egg fight at Glenn Park near his home. “It was a freaking mess by the end of the day,” Jackson said. “The next morning was just disgusting. People were just causing a ruckus.”
Perhaps it was this brand of excitement that formed the backbone of Jackson’s music. His sound, accompanied often by a combination of the vocal percussion inside of the diggeridoo, moves in and out of coalescing and often completely opposite rhythms. Methodical, yet swerving, and weaving, Jackson’s great claim is his ability to absolutely entrance you with his sound.
“Playing a diggeridoo has taken a lot of patience,” he said, noting the ten-year process it took to master the difficult circular breathing technique. “Playing has allowed me to hear the space between the note, and the more I focus on letting that space move naturally as opposed to talking or singing within it, the more it develops a rhythm of its own, and if I let that continue, then interesting things come out of that.”
He was introduced to music at the age of four, when, after he performed a spirited rendition of the classic “Inspector Gadget” theme, his parents bought him a keyboard. This provided him the opportunity to immerse himself in the “constant musical exploration,” which he strives for today.
While influenced by cult alternative rockers Aphex and Morphine, Jackson says he also ponders pop music often, and he tries to take what he can from it. “I don’t like most pop music,” he said. “It kills me to hear something like Lady Gaga, which is just so well produced but… pop music so filtered down into what is successful and dropped out into this holy thing that sounds like everything that came before it.”
However, the techno-laden drivel coming through our radio airwaves does have one advantage, says Jackson. “It’s easy to get lost in,” he said. “I want to make that music, but I don’t want to make it so simple. Pop music can be beyond physical, it can be thought provoking.”
In developing his own music, the 26-year-old Jackson works on his own style of musical productions, developing a live show that combines live and pre-recorded beats. Fusing the earthy sound of his diggeridoo with the quirky chimes of video-game music might sound odd, but Jackson wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I come up with motifs that I go into, and let them go wherever it seems best to let them go,” he said. “I just try to not get in the way and come up with too many ideas honestly.”
Max Jackson plays next at the End of the World Tavern just over the city border in Charlestown on February 19. You can find his music on soundcloud.com/moncrey.