By: Sun Noor
Cut Worms is the monicker used by the Brooklyn-based musician and visual artist, Max Clarke for his musical projects. On May 4th, Clarke released his debut record Hollow Ground with JagJagwuar Records, which marked the first complete musical body of work that became available since his first EP “Alien Sunset” which was essentially made up of old lo-fi demos and was released last fall. For Hollow Ground, Clarke worked with producers Jonathan Rado and Jason Finkel, while also recording the majority of the instrumentation himself. The record is comprised of poetic songs and ballads written in the form stories with a heightened sense of self-awareness. Some of the tracks contain a slightly melancholic aura as well. When it comes to inspiration, Clarke lists filmmaker David Lynch as one of his main creative pillars. The album is quite guitar driven, melodic and contains a prominent influence of doo-wop music from the 50s and 60s. I sat down with Clarke before his headlining set at L’Escogriffe in order to discuss the creative process behind Hollow Ground and touring.
You’ve been touring with King Tuff while also playing a few headlining shows like the one at L’Esco tonight, how the road been treating you?
Max: It’s been great, the headlining sets have been pretty good. There was a night where one of the shows with King Tuff got cancelled and we managed to put on a last minute set which went pretty well. You know there are ups and downs to touring but it’s going great.
How does it feel to have finally released your debut record two weeks ago?
Max: I’m relieved that it’s out. It’s kind of taken a long time the process took about three years to put everything together and record it and find a label to put it out and you know the whole process from the time I signed to the label, to when it came out was a like a year so it’s really just been a process.
Now take me through the creative process of the record. What usually comes first for you when going back to your starting point, the instrumentation or the lyrics?
Max: I usually just kind of play guitar and try to come up with a good chord progressing of something or a good piece of something then usually I try to come up with a melody. I’ll try to use words that I’ve already written to try to phrases I’ve written down or something. Sometimes the melody will suggest something but its It’s kind of like a puzzle, putting a puzzle together.
Have you always been interested in art, whether that be visual art of music?
Max: yes I’ve always drawn since I was a little kid, I was never really that seriously into it until high school and going in to college I decided that I want to go to art school it seemed like the only thing that made sense to me I didn’t want to do anything else. I mainly wanted to play music but I didn’t want to go to school for music because I thought it would kill my love for it and so I did art and music on the side.
Would you say that your admiration for visual art impacts your music somehow?
Max: Yes definitely.
Why did you choose to release your music under the moniker “Cut Worms”?
Max: it’s lifted from a William Blake proverb “The cutworm forgives the plow,” which is imagery that I like. Hopefully it’s not too pretentious.
Who were your main musical influences growing up?
Max: I mainly listened to like classic rock radio, or when I was younger I mainly listened to was what was on the radio like soft rock, I liked The Backstreet Boys and like Britney Spears any kind of pop music I really liked. I mean I have like probably what people think are embarrassing things. I kind of still do but usually if it’s a good melody, I like it. I usually can shine through even if it’s a corny thing some other ways like aesthetically.
Lastly, What are your current favourite records?
Max: I like a Record by this guy named Michael Rault who just came out with a new record (Its A New Day Tonight ), I met home while I was down in Austin briefly and he seemed like a really nice guy too. Mostly the only contemporary bands I listen to are kind of like people I’m friends with. Most of the stuff I listen to is a lot older.
Watch the video for Cash For Gold below: