Maxim is bringing his art into the home (Picture: Cult Media)
Thirty years ago, in Braintree, Essex, one of the most successful dance acts in music history formed and ripped up the rule books.
The Prodigy – originally made up of Liam Howlett, Maxim, Leeroy Thornhill, Sharky and the late Keith Flint – brought rave to the mainstream and the headlines, had videos banned from MTV and Top Of The Pops, and produced the soundtrack for a generation. Three decades on, the pioneers of the scene are as relevant as ever and still attract headline spots on festival bills. So it may be a surprise that one of its founding members is just as focused on soft furnishings as he is the studio.
‘When it comes to homeware and stuff like that, I’m your ideal shopping partner. I shop with my wife all the time,’ Maxim told Metro.co.uk.
‘I spend so much time in homeware shops. I love things like pots and pans and bedding, I love buying bedding. Blankets, pillowcases, ornaments, tables and vases… that’s just what I like to look at. I’d spend hours in Heal’s, I go and get a coffee and just look around on my own at the soft furnishings and the lamps. I don’t spend my time in trainer shops, I’d rather look around Heal’s all day.’
A Heal’s addiction may not be what you’d expect from the hellraising, snake-eyed, facepaint-wearing MC that has owned every stage he’s stepped on for 30 years. But outside of the studio and the festival fields, Maxim has been cultivating a successful art career that is branching out of the gallery into the home.
The 53-year-old began painting as a means to an end – he didn’t have anything to put up on the walls of his house. ‘I needed some art in my house, the walls were painted white. I went to an art fair in London and saw paintings people were selling down there and thought, I could do that. I was quite passionate about drawing at 14, 15, but drawing then was just copying things and sketching. I bought some canvases and created some washes, and family and friends were coming over and asking, “oh, where’d you get that” and I said, “I did it myself”. I really enjoyed it.’
Maxim presumed that art was ‘acrylics or oils, and that was it’, until he visited New York with a friend and met artists who were expressing themselves through different mediums. ‘Art can be anything, and it opened my eyes. I got back home, and I got so creative, I started using plaster, silicone, paint, charcoal, stencils… I was just using everything.’
MM’s art plays with the surreal (Picture: Cult Media)
His work has been shown in private and public galleries around the world (Picture: Cult Media)
Under the moniker MM, Maxim, real name Keith Andrew Palmer, has carved a successful career as a mixed media artist, using everything from spray paint to blades for his prints and sculptures; he’s even squirrelled away 300 hypodermic needles for a future piece. As Prodigy fans may expect, MM’s art is less beautiful landscapes, more surreal, edgy and dark, with skulls and animal heads flowing through his canvas prints and cats holding guns in sculptures.
‘I describe my art as surreal mixed media art that covers a lot of subjects,’ he explained. ‘I like to create art that is down to the individual to what they get out of it. When I create art, there’s a story behind it, but I do like that it’s interpreted by individuals in their own way.’
His work has sold in excess of £20,000 to collectors, but not wanting to be tethered to canvas, Maxim broke out into ceramics with a collection of china for The New English, with skull-faced butterflies adorning the crockery, and is hoping to expand his art into further collaborations on everything from wallpaper to cushions.
It appears like quite the pivot for Maxim, perhaps one that would fit right in with those much-maligned government retraining ads (‘Maxim’s next job could be in soft furnishings. He just doesn’t know it yet’). But mixed media art is just an extension of the creativity we’ve come to expect from The Prodigy – and by the way, Maxim thinks that retraining quiz was an embarrassment.
‘I don’t think they’ve handled it very well have they?’ Maxim said, when asked about the government’s handling of the affects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the creative industries. ‘The whole retraining saga… I think it’s a bit embarrassing to say that.
‘We forget about the people who are totally being missed – people who do the lighting, people who clean the venues, people who put the barriers up, the catering, people who keep the show going. Whether it’s in theatres or stadiums or concert venues, all the people behind the scenes. They’re creative people, they’re in the creative industry, they’re artists in their own way. The lighting guys, the drum techs, the guitar techs, the sound technicians. But they’re all overlooked.
Maxim’s bandmate Keith died last year (Picture: Bernd Mueller/Redferns)
Maxim doesn’t think The Prodigy’s impact can be replicated (Picture: Cult Media)
‘And they’ve been doing it for 30 years for a career and they’re told, you know what, go and retrain and be a road sweeper? Not that that is a bad job, but you can’t just be told to give up your job of 30 years and go and retrain. And what about people who are 60 years old, are they supposed to go back to college to retrain as a plumber? It’s not that easy to do that. I think it’s insulting, really.’
The pandemic has decimated the live music industry, with festivals and tours cancelled worldwide and a sense of uncertainty surrounding next summer’s plans. The Prodigy had not planned any shows this summer, following the death of their bandmate Keith Flint, aged 49, in March 2019. ‘Due to certain circumstances, and obviously Keith passing away, and that was a year and a half ago now…’ Maxim said, his voice turning sombre. ‘Where we are at the moment, nobody’s doing any shows anyway, so that’s where we are at the moment. Next year? We don’t know what’s going to happen in 2021. Let’s see what the future holds.’
The future will, at least, hold new music. In September, a tweet from The Prodigy’s account confirmed they were back in the studio – something Maxim would not elaborate on. With their last album, 2018’s No Tourists, going to number one, the band’s sixth in a row to do so, expectations will be high, but fans will be ready to welcome them back with open arms after a devastating few years. And in 2020, 30 years after The Prodigy first played together in Dalston, there’s always a gap in the market for their presence.
‘I don’t know any bands who are doing the same thing [as The Prodigy],’ Maxim said. ‘It’s hard to replicate that, it was a totally different time. There wasn’t social media when we started, the audience is completely different. What we put out there wasn’t about posting a video on Facebook or Instagram and getting a following. We turned up and played at raves and people saw us and people gravitated towards us and got into the music, and that’s how we built our following.
‘When Charly was released and it went to number three, and Radio 1 wanted us to come on, Top Of The Pops wanted us, and we were like, nah, we don’t do all of that. They were like, if you don’t come on, we won’t play your song. Well, you have to, it’s number three! We went against the rules.
‘Can that be replicated today? I don’t know, because there are so many rules, so many formulas that people follow, that I don’t know who the rulebreakers are today. They could be out there, but who are the rulebreakers?’
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