Mike Rimmer conducts the most in depth interview the American singer, songwriter and poet KEVIN MAX has ever undertaken.
Continued from page 1
There is no doubt when you chat to Kevin Max for any length of time that he is a deeply romantic person. His poetry and song lyrics are testament to this fact. He has a romantic soul and an appreciation of beauty. So perhaps the story he tells about how he met his new wife Amanda shouldn't surprise me. Picture the scene, Max returns to his hometown of Grand Rapids to sing at the wedding of a family friend. Afterwards he crosses the street with the wedding party to a piano bar where everybody is unwinding and Kevin stands watching two piano players playing Radiohead's "Karma Police". Kevin remembers, "It was really interesting and it was intriguing me. I was standing around, looking around after a few drinks, and I saw this woman and she just caught my eye. I made my way over to her section of the club. She kind of noticed me and we started walking closer together.and I know this is going to sound absolutely absurd.but we didn't really even talk that much. We kissed right on the spot! Had a nice.you know.kissing session in front of her friends. Which was REALLY strange for me because I didn't know her at all. I just felt this ultimate attraction to her. We giggled about it afterwards. Actually after the place closed down we went back and were talking for fours hours, into the wee small hours of the morning. I just recognised, this woman had a special place in my heart, immediately. It wasn't a hook-up. It wasn't just like this kind of animal attraction thing. It was much deeper. After that conversation we started dating. She would fly out to LA and I would come into Grand Rapids, where she was living at the time. Then we decided that we were going to make it happen. So we did the ultimate 'rockstar wedding' and ran off to Vegas and had a Vegas wedding."
Knowing Kevin's passion for all things Elvis, I was disappointed to discover that Elvis did not officiate at the wedding. "You know, I wanted him to," he admits, "and she shut me down real quick on that one! She wasn't really hip to the idea. I actually looked into the original hotel that Elvis was married in, which I think is an older hotel and theirs was of course the most over-the-top package and I really wanted it. But she was just not for the Elvis. Instead, we opted for the Chapel of Flowers, where the very, very famous one-night wedding ceremony of Britney Spears happened. We are actually having our honeymoon this year after the Greenbelt show in England. We're going to go into the countryside and hang out for a couple of weeks. So we're really excited about that."
The couple were officially married in Vegas in April of 2005 and their daughter London was born in October. This has also caused rumours because on the surface it looks as though their daughter was conceived out of wedlock. Having been through enough public scrutiny of his private life, Max is understandably reluctant to allow too much prying into this area of his life, rightly preferring to protect his new bride and baby daughter. After some pressing, he admits, "We had a secret wedding and marriage vows were spoken and we had binding agreement together in front of a spiritual leader. But we decided to go with the public ceremony a little bit later. We actually were going to have a bigger ceremony, then we decided to opt for the small, very, very, intimate wedding with two friends on either side. Hence the Vegas trip."
Amanda and Kevin are both fans of the British capital city so named their daughter London Ava Kay Max and her birth has changed Kevin. "I think being a daddy is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me because I've come full circle. I was adopted as a baby and always felt a little sense of abandonment. Like, why did that happen? Why did my mother choose to give me up? And I realised that as I grew older I really felt like it was God's provident hand that put me with my adoptive parents. They actually were wonderful people; very caring, very giving, very generous, very loving."
The singer explains some more about the circumstances of his birth and
adoption. "My birth parents never got together. My dad was a rock and
roll musician and met my mother at a show. I guess you could call me
the bastard son of rock and roll. There's a lot of us out there I
think. But the adoption process was something that I didn't really
grasp until I was a little bit older and I started realising that God
put me with these people. Before my first marriage it was a conscious
decision between Alayna and I to find my birth parents because she
thought it would answer a lot of things in me, and it did. Meeting my
birth parents really gave me a full picture of who I was."
When Max tracked down his birth parents through the adoption agency, he met up with his mother. Amazingly his mother had heard of him! He explains, "My mother had seen me at a dc Talk show." That's pretty amazing but the story takes on an even more surreal edge when you discover that Kevin Max's birth father was a singer in a band! Kevin shares, "When he listened to my music and listened to my voice he was just taken aback because we do sound kind of similar. So he's very proud of what I do and what I've accomplished."
Back in the '60s his father had been in a Minnesota band called The Bad Omens who later became the band Zarathustra. His father is still making music in a local group outside Minneapolis. Kevin comments, "It's kind of an interesting deal to see his music and listen to it and know that's where my stuff came from. So the daughter being born - I'm looking at my blood now, my bloodline, going, 'This is truly me and no matter what happens between Amanda and I or anyone else, nothing can separate me from you.' So I give her all the love that's possible and I'm very proud and very happy that God has blessed me with her."
So when you met Amanda in the piano bar, had she heard of Kevin Max? "Absolutely," he affirms. "She grew up in Ohio and that's a hotbed of Christian music in America." So maybe that explains why she came over and kissed him! Max chuckles, "You know what's funny is, she told me she didn't know who I was when we first immediately met. She was probably lying through her teeth, huh?!" Hmmm. well it does throw some interesting possibilities in the realm of "Oh there's Kevin Max over there! I think I'll go and give him a snog!" Kevin laughs, "Absolutely!! I can see the makings of this interview already man!"
Having negotiated our way through the challenge of Nashville traffic we arrive early at the airport ahead of the rest of Kevin's band. We pull up at the drop off zone and continue chatting in the rental car. When Kevin heads off to his flight a record company guy will drive me back to the hotel.
Finally, we talk poetry with the publication of his 'PO.ET.RY' book. Since the publication of At The Foot Of Heaven at the peak of his popularity in dc Talk, Kevin has self-published a number of small collections and made them available via his website. He describes the latest book, "Basically it's a brand new work compiled together with two previous works. So I've condensed all three miniature books into one. One of the last books that I've actually put out on my own publishing imprint was called The Detritus Of Dorian Gray. I've included this in this book. And also a book that was going to come out and never quite did which is called Divine Erotica. The third segment is a brand new piece called Old Dragons And Young Maidens. That's, to me, the most interesting section of the book because I was trying really hard at a concept of coming up with Biblical characters put into a different time period. I really wished that I could have spent a little bit more time on it but I wanted to get this book out there while I was on tour, to offer it to the fans. We're probably going for a publishing deal with this at some point. Put a hard cover on it and make it seem a little bit more serious! We'll see."
The problem, of course, is that generally poetry doesn't sell very well in the 21st century as any contemporary poet eking out a living penning verse in his eyrie will tell you. "It's horrible," admits Kevin, "it doesn't sell at all. It's kind of why I do it myself these days. I think in order for me to get a big advance and get a big publishing deal, I would have to really sell them on the idea that it's Kevin Max, and I've got this nine million-plus crowd out there that's going to go running to the stalls to buy the book. And it's not really true."
Well, at least it's not true anymore! He continues, "I could really lie through my teeth and try to make that happen, which a lot of people do. But I'm more interested in getting to the crowd, finding that niche crowd, that are really going to appreciate it. If they can get it, then great."
This is where things definitely get a little surreal! I am parked up in a no waiting zone outside Nashville airport with an excitable Kevin Max who is reading me a poem from the new collection called Princess Of Snakes. A poem about Herodias's daughter who danced to get the head of John the Baptist served up on a plate. His use of language and image and the very fact that he's choosing poetry as a form of expression probably isn't appreciated by the majority of people who bought his music when he was in dc Talk but there's something very apt about Max's poetry as he luxuriates in emotion, romantic vision and language.
"You lived in the temple devoid of all light,
Except for the lanterns that burned through the night,
You fashioned your bedroom with bones made of pillows,
You ransacked the countryside for pitiful fellows,
But everyone called you to dance at their parties,
For you had the movement of ancient love stories,
The snakes were your partner as you moved as their sister,
And even the king would give what you wished for,
And when they did serve you the head on a plate,
You smiled with a forked tongue, O princess of snakes."
His reading is interrupted by the airport security lady intent on moving us on. We're still parked in a no waiting area. Kevin laughs, "She's a princess of snakes!" We drive off to do another circuit of the airport and wait for the band to arrive. In the meantime, Kevin confesses, "My heroes were Shakespeare and William Blake. My heroes were people that took the conventional and made it unconventional. Even the great artists of the world - Michelangelo - would create things that would get the Church all boiled up and bloodied. We're in a place now I feel that I constantly go back to the book Francis Schaeffer wrote, How Should We Then Live?, as a blueprint to what I do. I mean, we should be stirring things up. We should be the ones progressing culture as believers because we understand that there are absolutes and there are truths that set us free actually; that don't bind us but set us free."
He continues, "And so as an artist, I'm free. I'm not trying to offend anyone. I'm not trying to shock anyone. I'm trying to be honest about who I am. And when I write a book called Divine Erotica, I truly believe that that's what it is. God has created sex. God has created romance. God has created these feelings between male and female as something very beautiful. I hold that very dear in my own marriage. It's really important that my wife and I have a really amazing sex life. It's really important that we have a very romantic relationship. It safeguards everything when it's going good, you know? But Divine Erotica was just a title and people got really bent out of shape with it. I thought it was a great title. Actually the title came to me.if you want me to be totally honest.the perpetrator, or the instigator was Martha Belew - Adrian Belew's wife. She came up with the title Biblical Erotica and I thought, 'Uh, that's a little much.' I brought that to my friend Dave Perkins, who then gave me the idea that we should term it something different but still use the word 'erotica'. That's how we came up with Divine Erotica, which I think is an interesting title. But we didn't want to call the whole book that because I didn't want people thinking that it was all about that because it's a small part of it just as sex is a small part of our relationships. It's not THE biggest part of our relationship. Love is the biggest part of our relationship."
And once again we draw up to the drop off area at Nashville airport and this time around the band arrive and everybody starts to unload the gear. The airport security woman hovers around wanting us to do everything more quickly. As a parting gift, Kevin gives me the Burberry hat that he wore on the cover of 'Stereotype B', says goodbye and heads for check in. I fend off the airport security woman who wants me to move the car that isn't mine as I wait for the record company guy to return and drive me back to downtown Nashville.
While I wait, I try on the hat. And there's one thing that I can categorically confirm. Despite everything you may have read about Kevin and whatever rumours you may have heard, one thing is for certain. You may be surprised to find, he doesn't have a big head!
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