Interview: Max Rafferty
Published on November 9th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
Formerly bassist of The Kooks, Max Rafferty made headlines recently when he described as “a load of arse” front man Luke Pritchard’s claim that he left the Brighton-based band as a result of excessive drug use, adding that he “didn’t think [The Kooks’ second album] Konk was very good”.
For what it’s worth as a case study of media sensationalism, Rocksucker found Max to be an affable and mild-mannered sort of chap, and his new solo venture to be tremendously promising judging by what’s already out there.
Check out his barnstorming single “Lonely Town” (video below), the two delightful, bordering-on-psych-pop nuggets available on his MySpace (namely, in recognition of potential future content changes, “Dangerous” and “Sleep Easy”) and the swaggering “Always Lately” on his Facebook…and see for yourself.
His debut album, recorded with The Darkness guitarist Dan Hawkins, will see the light of day next year and it could well end up making quite a splash if it turns out to be as good as evidence thus far suggests it will be…
Apparently, you spent the last few years “in the wilderness travelling”. Whereabouts have you been and what do you think you got out of it?
Well, I don’t know about “wilderness”! I went to Morocco for quite a few months just to get away, write songs and, to be honest, just chill out. Then I went and travelled around Germany, France, Spain and Italy quite a bit. So it was mainly just around Europe. I wasn’t on safari or anything like that.
Was much of your forthcoming album written during this time, or had they been written already?
To be honest, a lot of them were written years and years ago. I’ve just been sitting on them for a long time because I haven’t had a chance to put them out. But there are some new ones as well and they’ll be coming out on the next one.
When do you think it might see the light of day?
I’m hoping to put it out early next year but, as these things go, it depends what happens.
How did you come to work with Dan Hawkins on the album?
I’d bumped into him a few times just from being on tour and stuff. We always got on really well and we had mutual friends in Brighton, where I lived at the time. I spoke to him on the phone to see if he’d be up for doing something and he was. It’s the second time I’ve worked with him, actually – we did something not long after I’d left The Kooks. Then I went travelling for a while, then came back and did the album with him this time. We’re really good friends.
Were you not concerned that he might nudge the songs in overtly histrionic directions?
No, not at all. Dan’s got a great ear for songs and melody, and he can play different instruments so he’s really good to work with.
How much of the album’s instrumentation was performed by yourself?
I played everything except the drums. I just went in with one drummer and did it.
That tallies with my impression of you as having been one of those bassists who wasn’t really a specialist bassist but got stuck on it as a result of being able to play everything.
I started playing guitar when I was about 16, mainly acoustic. I just fell into playing bass. It just sort of happened at the time.
So, when can we expect the album? And what can we expect from it? Will it be mostly quite rocky, like “Lonely Town”, or more sunny ’60s pop like “Dangerous” and “Sleep Easy”?
“Lonely Town” isn’t the heaviest song on the album. It’s a real blend of stuff – there’s still a lot of pop in the melodies but it is heavier, yeah, and some of it’s quite punky as well.
How long have you been writing songs for?
Since I was about 16 or 17.
Do any of the songs on the album date back that for?
Not quite that far! (Laughs) But there were a couple of ideas I’d had knocking around for a long time that I’d put to bed for a while.
Who’s in your live band?
It’s a three-piece: me, Steve Wellbelove on drums and Ben Hatwell on bass.
What made you choose Steve and Ben?
They’re two of my oldest friends. They’re really trustworthy and they’re great players.
Do you stand by your recent comments to the Daily Star? Were they at all sensationalised?
Well, things do get a bit misconstrued in interviews but I don’t feel any negativity towards the guys. They’re great people and great friends. When people ask you questions, your answers always get moved around a little bit and don’t always come out how they’re meant to sound. Basically, we’re still mates and we had a really good time playing in a band. It’s a new thing I’m doing now and I just want to move forward.
Have you heard Junk of the Heart?
I haven’t heard it yet, no. I live in the middle of nowhere – we pretty much don’t have internet, TV or radio so it’s been impossible to catch up with things.
So what do you think went wrong with Konk?
I think that there was a lot going on. I had some time off from the band for various reasons, we came back together and I think we sat on it for a long time and we didn’t write the album all together. It wasn’t written in the same was [as the first album] so there wasn’t the same vibe about it. We just didn’t collaborate on the songs in the same way as we did on the first one.
Are there any up-and-coming and/or obscure acts that you’d like to recommend or give a shout out to?
Yeah, there’s someone that I’ve been working with for a while, a songwriter called Jessica Bishop who’s fantastic. I’m working on an album with her which is going to come out next year.
Finally, could you name – as of right now, off the top of your head – your top three albums of all time?
(Laughs) Brilliant! Okay…I love Desire by Bob Dylan, Babylon by Bus by Bob Marley and Motor Booty Affair by Parliament.
Max, thank you.
“Lonely Town” will be released on November 22nd by One Little Indian Records.