Man, digging up memories of my way-back with Max Unruh is like perusing a treasure chest of relics from my formative years. Every remnant recovered is so much larger, more complex that the sum of its parts.
Max used to play in this hip hop quintet called Pro-L. Here’s how The Indy described them back in ’04:
Pro-L formed in 1998. The Cyborganic hip-hop outfit consists of drummer Nick Whitley, guitarist Viswas Chitnis, bassist Ian Mark Willis and MCs B-Nice and Non P. These members are the founders of Futurock Productions, scheduled to release Pro-L’s Songs about girls, B-Nice’s The B-Nice Mixtape, the Beatgeeks’ Appalindia and Scott Lynx’s The Unusual Suspect by 2005. For Free came out in 2001, and The B-Nice Mindframe came out in 2002.
So, Max (aka Non P) was also The Beatgeek. He produced tracks for Pro-L, delivered svelte Daryl Hall-esque vocals and delivered quippy rhymes with blue-eyed-soul surety. Pro-L and my former band, Mosadi Music gigged together on multiple occasions. One of the most memorable was a Halloween gig where Pro-L, ensembled in camouflage, not only sounded good, but looked pretty dope on stage. Mosadi was a little less invested which means our crew of ragtag outfits were random and mismatched. To the amassed audience of sexy nurses, Rick James lookalikes, and ghoulish party-goers, ours were those costumes that never found a home beyond the racks at the pop-up Halloween stores that, on November 1st, disappeared like ghosts to Ghetto Boyz.
Sidenote: Mosadi’s bassist, Nic Slaton, dressed as ‘dirty laundry,’ hollowing out one of those oval, plastic laundry baskets and wearing it like a kilt. He even stuffed the rims of it with dirty clothes. I thought it was pretty brilliant.
All that to say, I have significant memories of my coming-of-age experiences in Raleigh and Max plays a recurring role in them: Basement rehearsals, bedroom recording sessions, Rickenbacker basses, The Nicky Band, The Corey Parker Band, White Collar Crime, Fat Boy, Eichenberger, that side street next to the Jackpot (whose signage my memory can no longer read) and all the debauchery in between. Fond, creative times.
Max now lives and works in Atlanta as an engineer and producer at Doppler Studios. We recorded vocals for Twilight for Gladys Bentley at this lovely state-of-the art facility where many of Atl’s (and music’s) finest have recorded award-winning, platinum-selling albums.
Max and I reconnected in 2010 when I was seeking vocalists for the Shirlette and The Dynamite Brothers album.
It was then that Max began sending me instrumental tracks, really bountiful beats, robust with polyrhythm, and a truly signature sound. I heard remnants of the Max I used to know but also heard the value of a life lived and the various ways experience rears itself and encourages maturation in one’s art. Max was so gracious in extending his time and attention to T4GB. He hit me up in late June saying something like, ‘Come down to Atl and record. We can knock it out over a weekend.’ And we did. We recorded the body of 10 songs in less than 48 hours. I left Atlanta at around 9pm that Sunday night with a rough demo to bump on the ride. The songs have taken on a much fuller, richer life since that bootleg disc. I’m amazed at this dudes artistic insight, his work and his ethic. I take to heart his process of production, his definitive care for the language of music as he encouraged me toward my best performance.
I remember him asking as we contemplated vocals for Sexy Cerebellum, “What is a fuckable feminist? I mean, what makes a feminist fuckable? And why does it matter?” In hindsight, it was a set up:) He knew that conversation would put me in a necessary head space, conjure the voice that would deliver the lyrics in a way that heightened and championed the desirability of ‘fuckable feminist,’ and in turn, make for a sloppy Bootsy-inspired love song (which features W Ellington Felton, by the way:) I thought about this on the ride from Atl and was rejuvenated when my eyes grew tired.
Max Bedroom, T4GB’s mix master and man of many monikers.