Max Wonders is one of Chicago’s best-kept-secrets.
Name: Max Wonders
Hometown: South Side, Chicago
When did you get into music?
It’s hard to say exactly what year, but I started off playing the violin and I was in the children’s choir at church when I was very young, so it started all the way back then. As far as my contemporary form, I started getting into that when I was 14, seriously at 15/16 and then it just kept going from there.
You were playing music at four and five years old and then you started rapping at 14?
I started getting into trying to hear myself on tape and stuff when I was age 12. Actually, it was a little before that. Brother Mike from Chicago, rest his soul, he showed me how to record in Garage Band when I was younger so that’s how it started for me; just being able to hear myself back. I would just burn myself on a CD like “ahh man I can’t wait to hear myself freestyle over this,” or whatever. So that’s how I started out, but as far as rapping, I was about 14.
How do you feel like your sound has changed from then to now?
Maturity. It’s all in growth, you know? I feel like knowing myself better and knowing what I’m capable of, knowing what my weak points are so I can make them my new strong points. Um, figuring out where the equilibrium lies in everything, understanding how to do that. Understanding how to make sure that everything has a balance; and that’s just something that came with time and continues to come with time. I always look at it like I’m only at 1% no matter how far I get, I want to keep jumping higher and higher and no matter what I always say I’m at 1% or something or the sort, because it keeps me diligent and wanting to grow and find the equilibrium even more, understanding how to be diligent in any circumstance. So, it’s all in maturity.
I was listening to ‘Hues to Blame,’ and it sounds very balanced. How would you describe that sound?
Um, as far as Hues to Blame, I can’t really speak on my sound currently because it’s completely different, I would just describe the sound that I’ve had so far.. . um I mean it’s just its own sound so I can’t really give it a description but I would say somewhere along hip-hop, there’s some R&B in there, there’s some.. Um I don’t even like to do that. You know?
So how does that work for you, is it usually that easy for you to write because that’s really good for only 20 minutes, well in general, but definitely for 20 minutes.
Um, it really just depends honestly. I don’t like to say general statements like that because it’s very douche but nah it just really depends. At that moment, I was really feeling it; my best friend Sowle gave me a beat and I liked it and I wanted to rap on it and I was actually in the middle of another session––I was like nah Imma switch over and do this. So yea, I feel like it varies. Some songs it takes me two or three weeks to write.
If you’re writing a song and then you get writer’s block, you don’t throw the song away? You keep it and then come back to it?
You know, sometimes it’s that. Some times it’s the fact that I think the instrumental is very captivating and I wanna utilize it in a different way now, like I said the number one asset to growth of the music is maturity because now with my more mature ear I hear a different flow or a different or more instruments that can be included or more vocals that can be implemented, different things I can hear now that I couldn’t hear in my more naive ear, it’s just all that. Sometimes I’ll come back and it’ll be like seven months later and now I think “you know what if someone comes and sings at this exact part just for these four bars this will sound way better.”
In ‘Hues to Blame,’ you’re talking about being a teenager and figuring things out and I thought that must’ve been therapeutic for you to make that project and get all your thoughts and emotions out.
Definitely, it was very nice because I feel like, especially at the time, I had such a great grasp on it–– and that’s what’s most important to me. It’s like “where do I stand in life and how do I get a great grasp on what that is”? So if I’m a teenager, and I’m an African-American, and I’m a son–– and I’m a boyfriend–– and best friend–– and this that and the third, and then also having empathetic views where I can say who is this person and what is their role in life and how can I describe them best and how can I do them the most justice and in that time and place I feel like I don’t even know how to not include something that’s not autobiographical because at that moment it’s just what is the most able to be described and specified in that manner.
It’s just something that can be so close to me and real especially if I’m living it out, I want to write about it. I want to see what makes it tick and you know at the same time when I’m younger I only know like… like that was my level of understanding, at that time and how could I best utilize my voice and my skills to make that album but now my skill set and my mindset is different so I just know how to do a couple more things and you know that’s just how maturity goes and again that’s why I said it’s the most important part for me, as far as the growth.
I feel like you’re answering all my questions before I even get to ask them
No, this is good. I was going to ask if you believe finding your sound is an ongoing process?
Yea, finding your sound is definitely an ongoing process because you’re constantly finding yourself. So, the newest updated version you 1.0 is gonna have a different mindset compared to you.
So as time goes on you’re just always finding a new sound because it’s like what entertains my ear today might not have entertained it yesterday and for bad reason. Maybe yesterday I just didn’t have this level of understanding.
Jay-Z said something that was very interesting, he said ” I learned a lot from the guys in my neighborhood, it wasn’t like they didn’t teach a lot, it was just they could only teach me to their level of understanding .” So it’s like, the music I made before isn’t bad to me, I mean I can only entertain that so much because I’m working on what I’m working on now, it’s just what I could do at that time, and it was just from my level of understanding at that time.
Because if I had understood a better taste level or had a better understanding of the music I was writing at the time, I would have made better music. That’s just the fact of the matter.
Did you already name your up and coming project?
Yea, but I’m not gonna disclose it yet.
You’re making this project in L.A. right?
Yea in L.A. and I have a spot in an unnamed place that we rented out over a year ago. We’ve been out here making this album because we wanted to be secluded. So yea, between here, L.A. and Chicago.
How does making music on the West Coast differ from making music back home in Chicago?
Actually, correct that, I made all of You Will Never Find in Chicago. I wrote all of that there. I wrote the starters of Hues to Blame in Chicago as well, so actually you were right. I recorded it out on the West Coast though.
But it differs because, if I’m answering your question correctly, change of scenery, no matter where it is, is going to differ something. When you turn a small knob it’s going to do something even if you don’t notice the effect right away.
So if I can go to Chicago and have certain interactions that I know I can’t get anywhere else, I’ll probably want to go there at certain times because I’m learning other people differently, I’m learning myself. I’m understanding myself differently. I’m understanding the world and how it moves differently and also different scenery is just cool. When I’m home in Chicago I get a whole different feeling that I can’t get anywhere else.
How was being from Chicago influenced how you make music?
Um, because I wanna do the city justice and it’s in the fiber of what I create. You know, every time I make a song I think about the essence of Chicago. I think about the essence of every place I’ve ever been in Chicago. You know, riding the red line train all the way to the last stop on 95th, ‘cause that’s where I use to stay, for me that’s still my home, the place where my great-granny stays.
So for me I know.. I just know the essence and I have to implement it, just like how I’d like to implement being in Montreal and going there for the first time and performing and having certain interactions with people walking up to me and telling me things I would have never been able to hear if I hadn’t traveled over there.
Certain things that make you who you are come from the city that you’re from, so it’s so important to me, that every time I ate Harold’s, every interaction I had with the cashier it’s just so important to me and it’s the base of who I and I carry it so proudly, every where I go.
It must feel good when you see so many Chicago rappers getting recognition.
Definitely, especially when I see like positive things being written about them. When I see positive things being written about them I think “wow you know what, we’re making the face of Chicago, and everything starts with the face.”