Multi-platinum recording artist, MAX, has caught the attention of many worldwide with a number of high-profile music releases like "Missed Calls" featuring Hayley Kiyoko, "Love Me Less" featuring Quin XCII, and "Checklist" featuring Chromeo, just to name a few. MAX is back at the forefront of both the Western and Eastern music industry after having collaborated with BTS's Suga, also known as Agust D, on his newest mixtape, D-2.
Following the drop of MAX and Agust D's track, "Burn It," allkpop sat down to ask MAX about how the song and friendship all came to fruition. Keep reading for an exclusive interview with MAX on "Burn It," BTS's Yoongi, and upcoming projects to keep an eye out for!
allkpop: You're fresh off your first South Korean tour from earlier this year, and you've garnered a huge amount of notables as fans of your music (including BTS, Seventeen and Day6 just to name a few). As you share more of your music to an overseas audience, share with us how foreign music has widened your own perspective and understanding of music.
MAX: Wonderful question. Getting to feel the potent and magical energy in person in a place like Seoul is the most inspiring for my own music. Seeing the discipline and attention to detail so many Korean and K-pop artists give to their art just adds to my own creative fuel to make sure every music video, every song, and every show is cohesive and all contributes to a story that’s important to tell.
akp: ARMY worldwide have been tantalized by your persistent social media posts and the internet blew up when you posted photos of you hanging out with BTS Min Yoongi! Share with us a little on how you two met and started talks of working with one another!
MAX: ARMY have been incredibly welcoming and kind to me. I’ve been so grateful for how the fan base has been so accepting and complimentary of my collaboration with Yoongi. Yoongi and Jungkook have both been posting about my music the last few years in different playlists and during their V lives. I’ve always posted my gratitude and so us meeting when I was in Seoul for the first time felt like a long time coming. We met up at the Big Hit offices and truthfully, I thought it would be very brief, a few photos and some thank you's. We ended up bonding immediately over our love for basketball and music. Mid-way through the conversation Suga said something to his translator and the next words I hear are, “Suga has a song he would love to collaborate with you on,” which was such an amazing surprise for me to hear. I brought him to his first ever basketball game in LA a few weeks later, which happened to be the tribute game to Kobe Bryant. It was so special to share that experience with him. He was so excited during every moment of the game that I felt like I was also watching my first live basketball game.
akp: So- who won that Lakers game?
MAX: They ended up losing, but it was still incredible for us to watch Lebron James play in person. About a week after the game I started the process of writing the chorus of “Burn It.”
akp: Some artists who collaborate with BTS do so only through web-based means, however we've seen both photos of you and Yoongi in LA and in Seoul! Share with us the songwriting process and in-studio workflow. Who had a hand in what? Was there outside help from songwriters or producers?
MAX: The songwriting process for “Burn It” was really unique for me. Yoongi had most of the song written, but the chorus was just a melody. We ended up doing everything in our own studios, so even though we’ve hung out in person, the songwriting process was all separate. Since all of the song was in Korean, Yoongi asked if I could use the melody he sung, but write my own English lyrics with the theme of what he had established with his Korean lyrics in the song. So I called upon a frequent collaborator of mine “AM!R” and we wrote the chorus in my apartment in New York. Over the next few months Yoongi, his team, and I went back and forth on different notes, and by the end I had sang the chorus in 4 different keys so the song as you hear it now is much higher than it originally was.
akp: Did you find that having met up in person beforehand gave way to a better result for "Burn It"?
MAX: I’m really happy Suga and I got to know each other in person both in Seoul and in LA because I always find the music you make together ends up being so much more connected when you know the person and their energy.
akp: Was there any language or cultural hurdles to navigate when you wrote the song together?
MAX: The language barrier was a very interesting challenge. Yoongi works with some incredible A&R music experts who also help translate our conversations about everything that has to do with the music very well. I give his team so much credit for helping me through the process and even help me learn the right pronunciation of some Korean lyrics so I could sing background vocals in Korean during some of Suga’s verses.
akp: Given your collaboration with Yoongi on "Burn It" was with "Agust D," not "BTS Suga" did you find there was less external forces (from the industry, label, outside opinions, etc.) at play?
MAX: Everything was very respectful and direct, which I personally love no matter the collaboration. If they felt like I would sound better 3 keys up, I sang it 3 keys up. If they felt they wanted some specific ad libs that repeated lines in the chorus, I recorded those to see how they sounded. It was truly a pleasure to work with them through the entire process. I’m not sure if it would have been different if it were on a different project. It felt like they are very honest and direct with any project they do, which I appreciated.
akp: Share with us a little about the song "Burn It" itself. What makes the song a must-listen?
MAX: It’s a powerful and unique message. Even the sound of the record is unlike most music I’ve ever released, so for me it definitely is a very rare expression in its tone.
akp: How many passes and refinement sessions did you two do on the track?
MAX: We spent about 3 months going back and forth with different refinements. One of the first impressions I got from Yoongi was that he appreciated my attention to detail with my own music, like “Love Me Less” and “Checklist,” and I gave that mutual admiration to him, so going in on all of the tiny details was something we both felt was important to get the song right.
akp: What do you and Yoongi hope fans can take from the song?
MAX: I hope people are drawn to the vulnerability and honesty that Yoongi brings. My role was just to help express his message with my own voice. When I first read his translated lyrics, I felt so connected with him for being that raw and real.
akp: When was the track actually written and created? How long were you two sitting on the track prior to actual release?
MAX: We met up for the first time and talked about the collaboration in January 2020, started the process of the track February 2020 and it just released end of May 2020. The final adjustments happened the first few weeks of May so truly the final product wasn’t finished and mastered until a week before release. I’ve been mostly recording during quarantine, so we were able to really dive in on everything and focus on the track much more easily than if we were both touring at the same time.
akp: Aside from K-Pop, you've done numerous other collaborations with artists of all types of focuses and calibers. Are there any K-artists that are on your wishlist to work with? Whether it's producers, songwriters, singers, or groups- anyone's sound stand out to you?
MAX: It’s been a dream to collaborate with Suga and work together on music. Of course, Jungkook has been another supporter of my music for so long so getting to sing with him and do a song would also be incredible. I’ve had some wonderful other artists give love to my music like Joshua from Seventeen, Jae and Young K from Day6, Eric Nam, Zico. I love collaborating with people who have mutual respect for each other’s work, so it would be really cool to do something with someone I’ve developed that mutual respect relationship with.
akp: Many Korean artists frequently cover Western artists, if you could cover a track from any Korean artist, what would it be?
MAX: “Fake Love” by BTS, with a cool mashup would be amazing. I’ve just always loved that song by them. I’ve been LOVING “Daechwita” off of the Agust D mixtape. Not sure how I’d cover it but we’ll see – I better get to work on mastering Korean!
akp: I hear that you also have an album around the corner entitled, "Colour Vision" set to release on September 18. What can fans expect from "Colour Vision" and MAX in the near future?
MAX: Indeed. Colour Vision is coming and I’m so ecstatic about it finally being released. It’s got “Love Me Less,” “Acid Dreams” and a few more of my favorite songs I’ve already released on it. More importantly though the music on it that hasn’t been released yet might be my favorite of the entire record that we’ve been saving, including a very special collaboration I think fans will be extremely happy with. My biggest announcements this year haven’t even scratched the surface, so I welcome all of the new fans and old school fans alike along for a very colourful and exciting ride for the rest of 2020! ;)
Be sure to follow MAX on his Twitter and Instagram and continue to stream "Burn It" on all major streaming platforms. Don't forget to mark your calendars for Colour Vision dropping September 18, 2020.