May 22, 2024

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Interview with Max Wolff։ I have always felt deep love for The Blues

Interview with Blues Danish guitarist Max Wolff. An interview by email in writing.

Dear readers, get to know more about our US/EU Jazz – Blues Festivals and the activities of our US/EU Jazz – Blues Association in the capitals of Europe, we will soon publish program for 2024, enjoy in the July – August – Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Sofia, new addreses this year, also in Amsterdam, Budapest and Liverpool.

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Max Wolff։ – I am born and raised in the south of Jutland in Denmark, about 7 miles from the city of Tønder, which is widely known for the Tonder Festival. As a teenager in the mid 70’s I got my first guitar-lessons from a guy who opened my ears and eyes to folk music and acoustic guitar picking. I swapped my first Spanish guitar to a nice steel string Japanese copy of a Martin dreadnaught, and I went quickly on to electric guitars also. In the beginning it was just fascination, fun and friends, trying to play songs with friends after school. But something happened when I watched really great musicians perform and play at the festival in 1978. I can’t explain that in other words, than “ wauw, that’s great – I wanna be like that” I soon played electric guitar in a band, and began singing.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2024

However, I was attending High School, following an apprenticeship and was finally finishing an education, ready to enter an adult world of work, career, money, marriage etc. That was in 1984. I had just found a very nice old original Fender Telecaster guitar, and I was now playing local gigs with friends in a band. We did original stuff, pretty much inspired by Santana, Clapton, Dire Straits and Fleetwood Mac, etc.

In the summer of 1984 I went to Los Angeles (Santa Monica) for 1 year, working as a house painter, making enough money to travel from coast to coast – and to get myself a real original 1963 Fender Stratocaster. I knew what I wanted, and found a truly great original one, which I have played ever since, and still own today. Spending time in the US in the mid eighties, has meant a lot to my attention to music, and especially my interest in American music in general. Coming back to Denmark in the summer of 1985, I attended a music school for 7 months, along with fellow musical friends. I was now getting ambitious, and ready to learn more. I was getting a lot into The Blues.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

One year later, when moving to the city Aarhus, I finally decided to learn more songs, building more repertoire in order to play gigs on a professional basis, singing and picking acoustic and electric guitar. This was in 1988.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

MW: – In the late eighties , I was very much attracted to the sound of Robert Cray, Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan, when it comes playing the electric guitar. That thing showed me the way to other blues guys, and finally I quit using pedals. That means working with a sound, playing the electrified guitar straight into the amp. In the mid nineties, I was focused on playing solo, which can be quite a challenge. I was learning/practicing right hand fingerstyle blues picking, and I was listening a lot to people like Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, Taj Mahal and of course Ry Cooder. A significant change to me happened, when I read a Guitar Player Magazine article featuring Ry Cooder’s music, his technique and his thoughts of being a musician. That was also the time when began playing slide, got into open tunings. As well as getting into and collecting nice acoustic guitars, flat tops as well as arch tops.

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

MW: – Actually, I like practicing early in the morning. An hour or two if possible. I keep my guitars around in my room, always ready to play. One is tuned in an open D, one in open G and anothers are tuned standard. I always keep practicing the art of grabbing chords, jazz chords. I am not a solo-plectrum player and I don’t do fast speedy stuff. I am into chord progressions, -themes, and -sequences and I always keep my smartphone around in case of something nice sounding might come up…

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

MW: – I have always felt deep love for The Blues, and for some years I was into country music as well. I think getting older has done something, and especially the change of my gigs I think. Today I am 100% into fingerstyle blues picking with a taste and touch of folk, jazz, world and roots. Actually I do a lot of gigs, that have a some kind of a lounge character, I think, even when its played on a guitar.

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JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

MW: – I am mostly self taught, and I have to rely on my temper and my mood. Therefore I play a lot how I feel.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

MW: – Yes and no.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

MW: – I think a good live performance never goes out of style. You gotta play the best You can, with attention to details, every time and always! Most human beings feel it when it’s real.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

MW: – By removing complex stuff, and using simplicity. Music is communication as well, and I believe working with phrasing is good for every performer. Lately I think a lot about breath, pulse and of course tempo.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

MW: – Turning of the power (electricity), having people getting together again, being together with one another under totally acoustic conditions.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

MW: – I am listening to guitarist Kenny Burell.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Association 2023

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

MW: – I would like to go back to the mid 70’s in Denmark, because society and life in the cities back then would be appreciating the stuff I play now – I think…

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

MW: – OK here is one: Live venues and places in public to play the music live, are getting fewer. In order to make a living playing music, what kind of advice would You give young players today?

JBN: – Be intellectual, understand what the interview is about, first read all the questions, understand their interrelationship, what are the main questions, what are the questions with which the Jazz Expert checks who you really are, in mind, intelligence, intellect and soul, what this is a website, why does it organize so many views and so many festivals, in the end, how to make it work for you, your musician, otherwise those who answer these questions with mind, soul and intellect, when they read this nonsense, they will laugh, because the most important thing is the question was not understood by you, unfortunately, because you did not understand what the interview was about. This is what I would teach young people so that they don’t grow up stupid and that the music they play is meaningful.

 

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Interview by Emmanuel Bolton

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