Album review: Max Creeps – Nein
Legendary but mysterious proto-punk band Max Creeps reform after the world’s shortest split, and release their first-ever album…
Who the fuck are Max Creeps? Forgotten revolutionaries? Shameless charlatans? Something in-between? It’s the mystery that’s left much of the rock world scratching their heads since the ‘seminal’ punk progenitors announced their break-up in April, to an outpouring of online grief from the likes of Henry Rollins and Randy Blythe, Billie Joe Armstrong and Laura Jane Grace.
Over the weeks since, a hodgepodge picture has come together, of two Seattle-born hellraisers who met at David Bowie’s legendary 1973 London Hammersmith Odeon show – the last of the Ziggy Stardust era – before returning to America’s West Coast to lay the groundwork for the punk-rock revolution. Having shunned the idea of actually committing their songs to any ‘recording format du jour’, however, then finding themselves committed to the Betty Ford Clinic just as they were on the brink of superstardom, their work was wickedly hijacked by many of the bands who’d go on to be punk icons. Cue a messy, decades-long legal battle over those original hits that’s kept them out of the spotlight (but close to your favourite musicians’ hearts) ever since.
That all sound a little far-fetched? Maybe. But with founding duo Max Blastic and P.C. Bullshit having promptly set aside the quarrel that broke them up (a 30-year-old, $226 heating bill) and cobbled together nine new tracks for their “debut second LP” Nein, we couldn’t resist the chance to sit down with them to find out where they’ve been, what’s fuelled their unlikely comeback, and whether such a notoriously volatile duo can really keep it together long enough to take advantage of this serendipitous second chance…
Having been out of the limelight for over four decades, how does it feel to be back?
P.C.: “The way I see it, we’ve never gone away. Max Creeps is a way of thinking; it’s a way of living; it’s a way of rolling. There have been ups and downs, trials and tribulations. The high seas, going around the cape. The mad winds of the roaring thirties. Anyhow, I digress. We’re back together – and it’s great!”
So, where the hell have you been for all these years?
Max: “People were jealous of a lot of the early attention that we got, and they tried to snuff us out. Whether that was the people booking the shows, or the people writing the cheques – we’ll just call them ‘The Man’ – they weren’t on our side. We were playing a show in the Los Angeles in 1975 are and just got loaded onto this bus. We thought it was going to a Hollywood party, but it was actually headed for the BFC – the Betty Ford rehab clinic – where we were basically held under duress for three years on the pretence that we needed to be there. I think it was more to keep us out of the music scene during what would’ve been our most important and productive period!”
You’ve accused a whole generation of bands of stealing your material, but wasn’t the reason you weren’t able to assert your rights to the music that you’d never actually recorded any material? How did your ideas get pinched by so many bands from all around the world?
Max: “Someone told us that there was a bootleg LP made of one of our early shows in Los Angeles that they got at Tower Records in LA at some point. It was from a soundboard tape – a cassette – and that’s how people, many of whom weren’t at those shows, got the songs and ran rampant with the material while we were ensconced in the BFC... Oh, I’m gonna write that down. That’s a new song title for Max Creeps: ‘Ensconsed In The BFC!’”
What kept you from playing your music – or telling your story – after you got out of the clinic?
P.C.: “A lot of lawsuits. A lot of legal things with the lawyers. We were losing probably hundreds of dollars to these bands who’ve been putting out their versions of our songs: all these bands like U.K. Subs, Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, The Germs, Circle Jerks, Cockney Rejects. You know that Angelic Upstarts song Never Had Nothing? Well, we had a song called Haven’t Had Anything. And that’s just an example. They were calling this new thing ‘Punk Rock’. We just called it our thing.”
Max: “Somebody called it a ‘gag order’. Like, if we went ahead and played our song Holidays Are For Fun then the Sex Pistols could come after us and say that’s their song Holidays In The Sun. If we played virtually any of our old songs, we would surrender the rights in per-pet-u-ity. So we just played the waiting game instead.”
How vindicating was it, all these years later, to see the outpouring of support from the cast of punk luminaries who expressed their sadness that you were finally calling it a day?
Max: “Well, the outcrying of the luminaries was something that we took to heart. Up until then, there was no outcrying of the luminaries. There was no outcrying of sub-luminaries. There weren’t even any subliminal sub-luminaries. So, for us to have any outcrying at all – even the tiniest bit – was great. People were paying attention, we just didn’t know. I mean, how could we know. Nobody could get a hold of us...”
P.C.: “We may have shed a tear or two. But then we stood up and put our heads back and chests out, cleared those couple of tears away and said, ‘We shall continue!’”
True to that, Nein is a hell of a “debut second album”, combining old-school punk attitude with contemporary outrage. What’s fuelling that?
Max: “There’s contemporary rage, but there’s also a core of vintage rage that’s always been there.”
P.C.: “I could even add some rage from the Middle Ages and some future rage. We’re wrapping up all the tenses of rage that you could garner into a rage-filled record. I mean, there are party anthems, like Party Anthem and Summer Of Fun, because we like to have fun. But we lay it down on the likes of Citywide Shit and Your Days Are Numbered, too. Then there’s Hung, Drawn, And Quartered (1424), about why you should, for God’s sake, never steal an apple…”
Indeed, Hung, Drawn, And Quartered features some horrific descriptions of medieval torture, but is there some subtext in there about the experience of being in a band in 2022?
Max: “Uh… well… no.”
P.C.: “What’s subtext?”
Dan Jones from British TV show Secrets Of Great British Castles was in the music video. Is he a fan of the band?
P.C.: “That guy?! He just wouldn’t leave us alone. He wrote letters. He emailed. He even tried to do something called What’s App, but we don’t have that. I guess he’s a superfan. We were making the video and I guess he just had some people from [British TV] get him into it. They’re like the cabal!”
Max: “I had an issue with a cable bill, where my cable has been cut off for the last 36 or 37 years, so I haven’t actually seen his show, but I understand that he is a very wonderful man. He seems to be one of us...”
Now that the show is back on the road, is it time to grow that Max Creeps family?
P.C.: “Now everybody wants to be in the band: Henry Rollins, Steve Jones, Paul Cook, Pat Smear, Richard Marx. I could go on… Paul Stanley. Ron Reyes and Keith Morris from Black Flag. But there’s really just the two of us, so I don’t know how we could [have anyone else get involved]. Maybe we could just fake-record their parts: get then in the studio and tell them, ‘You’re rollin’!’ or ‘That’s your guitar on the record!’ when it’s really mine or Max’s…”
But is Max Creeps really in a good place to finally make a go of things? We’ve heard that the reason for breaking up after all this time was a $226 gas heating bill. Surely that can’t be the only reason?
Max: “The gas bill could be thought of as just the icing on the cake. I mean, a gas bill isn’t icing, and a lifetime of frustration, resentment and anger is not a cake. But if you can imagine this cake that is made up of 40-plus years of nobody offering an olive branch, or a gig, or any sort of acknowledgement that we did anything or got anywhere at all, then you float on top of that this gas bill that had been unpaid for 25 or 30 years, accruing interest year after year, decade after decade, you get the picture. One day I just said, ‘Nah-ah, not now, sorry!’, put that gas bill on top of the cake, left it on P.C.’s porch, knocked his door, and ran away…”
P.C., is that how you saw it from your end?
P.C.: “It’s not from my end. It’s about his end. This wasn’t just about the gas that cooked our heat. It was about the stuff coming from his derrière!”
Okay… So, what’s your take on the rumour doing the rounds that Max holds some extra old resentment about the band name Max Creeps being a reference to his creepiness?
Max: “What?! No! I came up with the band name. This is my band, and always has been. He’s just sort of along for the ride. The band name was originally actually Max &The Creeps. And he was one of The Creeps. At some point along the way we were playing a show and somebody got the poster wrong so we just became Max Creeps. People dug it, and we went with it, so that was okay. But he was one of The Creeps because he’s a little creepy!”
P.C.: “We could’ve called the bands P.C. Bullshit and I could’ve done it on my own. I chose to include Max. I mean, Max Blastic – what kind of name is that?!”
What about the other story that P.C. wouldn’t agree to paying half the bill because he wrote all the songs?
Max: “He wrote all the songs?! I would not be overstating the case by saying that all the good songs on Nein are mine! Some of the stupid ones, P.C. might’ve had a hand in, but no-one could question that I am the main songwriter in terms of music and lyrics in Max Creeps!”
P.C. “False! I write all of the good songs and the good lyrics. He writes some of the good songs and some of the good lyrics. Some.”
Max: “One of the reels of tape did get wrecked in a cake-icing accident. There were supposed to be 11 songs, but two of the songs were lost. Thankfully both of those songs were both P.C.’s, so the record is better for it. That’s why it’s Nein rather than Eleven.”
Not to stir the pot, but was it really an accident? Could there have been foul play?
Max: “Come to think of it, I never actually saw how it happened. Maybe it needs to be revisited. Is that icing still out there? Are there fingerprints on it? Are there fingerprints on the reel? We need to figure it out. Is P.C. just another Creep, or is his plan bigger? If he comes out with a solo record with those songs on it, there’s got to be another visit to the lawyers…”
P.C.: “Max can say whatever he wants. It sounds like he is saying whatever he wants. But a guy’s always got to have another plan in his back pocket. Max doesn’t have a plan in his back pocket, but I do. Y’know what? Maybe I do stile have those extra songs. And if they’re gone, that’s okay, because I’ve got plenty more!”
Max: “You know what? Maybe things aren’t so happy and jolly in Max Creeps land. Maybe we need to go through the recycling bin and dig that gas bill out and put it back at the top of the to-do list. There is a lot of vintage anger here and maybe it’s time to take some of it out right now. Maybe Max needs to find some new Creeps…”
Max Creeps’ new album Nein is out now via Velocity Records.