Sitting in Starbucks opposite Central Station, I excitedly waited for one of Newcastle’s most vibrant creative’s to arrive. Lucky enough to work with him briefly during my time at Northern Stage, Max, known by his stage name MXYM, was always someone I loved to see on shift.
His positive energy and sense of humour give him an irresistible charm. He’s a character who’s even lovelier off stage than on. That’s not to downplay his talent, of course. MXYM is a unique and flamboyant performer that emanates a gorgeous stage presence.
He’s just released his latest single San Clemente Syndrome, to add to his already impressive collection of original songs. He also regularly performs with Newcastle’s very own House of Love, who are made up of an ensemble of Newcastle’s brightest up and coming queer artists.
When MXYM arrives, he’s wearing a bright orange jumper with a pumpkin face on it, completely undeterred that Halloween is a long way off. He has his signature cool hair styled and a cheeky smile that lit up the room.
Can You Tell Us A Bit About Your New Single, San Clemente Syndrome?
My new single, San Clemente Syndrome, wow, that’s a big question!
It’s based on a chapter in the book Call Me By Your Name called The San Clemente Syndrome, which is basically a long side track in the story which was totally ignored in the movie, but it’s one of the best parts of the book because it really helps you understand the point of the book and the narrative. So, San Clemente is a church in Rome that was built on top of a church, that was built on top of a church, so when historians were looking at it they just kept discovering more and more churches. In the book, there is a poet that writes a poem called The San Clemente Syndrome and the poem is basically about what it is to be human, in the sense of we’re just layers built on layers, built on layers of history. And that you might look at a picture of yourself in the past and not really recognise that person because it is a different person. You’re the same person in an obvious sense, but through time you’re a completely different person. You might look at someone who you were once in love with, but it was a different you that was in love with them, so those emotions are kind of fractured. So, it’s all about that. It’s a deep dive into a dissection of the human experience through relationships.
And then on a more base line level it’s told through a story of a man discovering the fact that he is in love with another man. He marries a woman but discovers he’s in love with another man, and then it also deals with the idea of he’s fallen in love, and that’s a gorgeous thing, he’s understood who he is, finally. If you look at it on that baseline, that’s really, really lovely and if this was a movie that would be the happy ending. But then you’ve got this woman who’s heartbroken and if love can be so gorgeous to bloom such happiness, how can love also be so hurtful? How can it be one and the same? It’s very deep!
Where Has Your Passion For Music And Performing Come From?
There has never been a moment in my life where I haven’t wanted to perform in some aspect. When I was a kid I used to think that I wanted to be a musical theatre actor, and then I did musical theatre at college and realised that I cannot bare to be with these people any longer! But it’s always been music based, like with musical theatre it wasn’t about the acting, it was about the music, and even before I was doing musical theatre it was a love for music that got me into it. But when I did musical theatre it was a case of I was pushed as ‘the punk one’. If we were doing acting through song lessons I would always be told to ‘do the American Idiot song’ or the, like, rock musical song. So I was always the punk rock guy in an MT college. So, it was always about the music not the musical theatre, and I just always have been performing and outlandish.
My Nanna Dot would always dress me up in costumes, well, I say she would always dress me up but I would dress up and she would happily oblige. And she showed me The Rocky Horror Show when I was 6, and I think that had a big inspiration, and my Mum always tells me the story of when she came to pick me up from my Nanna’s and I was there, at 6 years old, in fishnet tights and full makeup going “Mum I’m Frank N. Furter!” and she was like “… I can see that!”. So yeah, it was just instilled through all the creative people in my life to love music, to love art, to love performance and be performative.
How Would You Describe Yourself As An Artist?
Too in-depth for my own good, see question one, haha! And desperate to have more fun. I think when I started writing it came from a dark place from me trying to understand things about myself and feel happier about it. But now I’m at a point where I wanna have fun, and so as an artist I wanna be a fun artist, I want to be an artist that people can listen to and still deal with the bad things but enjoy dealing with it a bit more.
I’m quite free, I’m a free artist. I just love art, I’m an arts artist. I’m like full art hoe, I just love all aspects of art, everything. Like, I’m a musician but I love photography, I love the imagery, the music videos, the colours, the way the song feels or the textures of the sounds, everything about the art I just eat up. I love it, that’s the artist I am.
Do You Have Plans For A Full Album Any Time Soon?
Not an album, but more of a gallery. If you look at my current releases, all the single covers are portraits of me, and so this year I’m planning to have five new singles out, towards the end of next year I would like to release an Arthouse collection. Which is more of a Wallace collection or something that you’d see at the London Gallery. So, a collection of songs rather than one cohesive album, it’s a gallery. Lots of individual pieces that come together to make up a nice enjoyable walk around.
Who Would Your Dream Artist Be To Collaborate With?
Well, that’s a big question, because, the go to for me would be Marilyn Manson, because he’s my number one. But I don’t think MXYM and Marilyn Manson would make a great pairing. I think we’d be good friends, but I don’t think we’d make good songs together. I think me and Troye Sivan would make a really, really cool song together. Allie X is one of my biggest inspirations, I think we would write something really cool together. I think me and Bjork? Why not? Why not? Erm… Motley Crue. I would love to do a song with Motley Crue. That would be fun!
As An Artist, Where Do You See Yourself In A Years Time?
In years time, well I already know what single I’m releasing next January, but I won’t talk about that yet. In a years time I’d like to be a bit more known. Realistically I’m not going to be major label, in an arena tour, as nice as that would be. But, to be gigging more regularly, having more Spotify listeners, be on Spotify playlists. The nice stuff, that’s where I see myself. Just growing, gradually, like a frog in slowly boiling hot water.
How Has Living In The North East Inspired You As An Artist, And What Opportunities Do You Think That You’ve Found Here That Have Supported Your Growth As A Performer?
I think the creative scene, we obviously have more of a theatre based presence, so the theatre scene has so many cool and fun creative people in it, that are also sweet and kind and supportive and that’s a really, really nice atmosphere to be around. I’m also part of The House Of Love, which is made up of all people who I met from working at Northern Stage and meeting them through the theatre scene. So, through that I think that The House of Love is such a good part of Newcastle’s culture, I know that’s a bit big headed of me as part of it to say that, but last year we did a whole tour of the UK and that tour brings Newcastle’s art to places like London and gives it a stage. But also, when touring, at each show we do we have two guest spots to have local artists, so that builds connections between Newcastle queer art and, say, Derby queer art. This year we’ll be able to give them an opportunity to bring work up North and that’s a really cool thing that’s come out of the North East, just out of young, queer creatives that just want… more, and saw an empty space and took it. Newcastle creative’s are really good at seeing an empty space and going ‘well that doesn’t exist so I’ll make it’. As opposed to going ‘why is this not a thing?’, they’ll just make that thing and I think that’s really cool.
What Are The Biggest Goals That You’d Like To Achieve?
I’d like to win a Grammy. I’d like to have my Star Is Born moment and get a Grammy and pee myself on stage. That would be fun! And that would make a Twitter moment… MXYM in his 12ft gown pee’s himself, haha! I’d like to do that. I’d like to do a show that is in a warehouse, like a full artsy extravaganza with weird performance art happening in every corner and sculptures and visuals, and textures for people to feel just in this big warehouse with neon lights. I’d like that! And that’s achievable within a couple of years. Like, warehouse, Grammy. Solid five year plan there. I’d like to release more music, and you know what, I’m gonna, I’m gonna.