54- 46 caught up with Max Hicks, bassist for Totem Terrors… Talking South Wales music scene, mix tape songs for lovers and his own musical influences.
How is the band doing? Everything Okay? Anything in the pipeline?
The band’s going great. We’ve been playing a bunch of shows lately, and we’re planning to record our second album in the next few weeks. It’s due out in Spring 2015.
Describe your musical backgrounds and how you have got to where you are now.
We’ve both been in bands since we were 16 or so, though we hadn’t met until I started this one. I started out as a ‘singer’ that was too scared to sing, then I switched to bass because nobody played bass and one of my sister’s friends was a bass player. He was a cool guy – he was older and respected among the youths of our community. He looked out for me a few times when I was being given a hard time for skateboarding, and I looked up to him, so it made sense I’d end up playing bass like he did. After a while, I got a chance to sing in a band – this time I wasn’t scared – and soon after that I played regular guitar whilst singing. Fast forward a couple of bands, and I found myself drawn back to bass, which is where I am now – and I still sing.
Rosie is a really good piano player on the quiet – that’s how she started – but she’s also been playing classical guitar since she was a kid. She joined this band as a drummer first. After a while, our first guitar player left, so Rosie switched to guitar, and that’s the way things have stayed.
For those yet to experience Totem Terrors, how would you best describe what you do?
Well, we’re an ‘indie rock’ band with our roots in post-punk, although we’ve progressed beyond that niche. We’re a two-piece – I play bass and sing, Rosie plays guitar and sings – but we use a drum machine, so we’re functionally a three.
Best gig you’ve ever done?
Hard to say. Probably when we played IndieTracks festival in summer 2014. It’s a small indie festival based in an old railway station. We got to play in the station church, which is like a 1940’s Southern American tin shack type of affair. It was a great show – we played well, and we had a full house. Watching all those guys sitting on the pews was neat. And it was a Sunday – our own Sunday service!
How would you rate the health of the current South Wales music scene?
It’s really good for up-and-coming bands, but the lack of an independent mid-sized venue in Cardiff is hurting the scene. No mid-size venue means no middle-weight bands playing Cardiff on their tours. That means less support opportunities for locals bands, less industry presence and less buzz in general. Touring bands come as far as Bristol, so Bristol gets all the action whilst Cardiff starves. It’s a shame, because at the street level there are dozens of amazing bands here (I appreciate Cardiff isn’t all of South Wales, but it is the capital and in my experience the majority of bands from other parts of Wales eventually end up here, at least for a little while).
I don’t really have one. I’m fond of certain places – Roll For The Soul in Bristol, or Brixton Windmill for example – but from a playing stand-point, there’s nowhere that’s obviously better than anywhere else. From a watching stand-point, I like non-standard venues. Theatres, churches, boats, that kind of thing. I think it keeps a well-worn idea (i.e. playing live gigs) fresh.
Who would you site as your biggest influences musically?
There’d be such a list! Plus, a lot of the time, your favourite bands aren’t necessarily the ones that have influenced you, only you might not realise that. Off the top of my head, I’d say PiL, Wire, Pixies, Talking Heads, Thee Oh Sees, Big Black, Pere Ubu. Rosie has a completely different list, needless to say.
If you could augment your band with the addition of any musician and instrument – what would you choose and why?
Well, a drummer is the obvious. We originally had a human drummer to go with the drum machine, so we’d get that double-drummers thing but with a small difference. After Rosie switched to guitar, we couldn’t find a permanent drummer, and we eventually settled as a two-piece. Outside of that, I’d go for a Martin Swope / Brian Eno sound and tape manipulator type of person, or a Bob Nastanovich percussionist / general mayhem generator. Fun people.
Favourite band of 2014?
Trust Fund. Or Nehruvian Doom, if that counts as a band.
Vinyl, MP3, CD or other?
If you made a 5 song mix tape to impress a lover, what would you put on it?
I’d write her five songs and put those on there*. Either that or just put ‘Love Serenade’ by Barry White five times in a row because it’s hilarious. And sexy.
Favourite musical decade?
I think of decades in terms of ‘x5-‘x5, because I think it’s more accurate, at least stylistically. In which case mine would be ’75-’85.
Outside of Music, what are your passions?
Football, though I hate it sometimes. Writing. Skateboard art. Shoes. Girls. Can I say girls?
* I totally wouldn’t but the idea’s pretty good, right? (Very romantic – Thom)
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