He’s a face and personality anyone who follows Shogun Audio will be familiar with. As Friction’s trusty front man (a role he’s been championing for eight years), Linguistics has built a name for himself as a much-loved MC hosting stages across the world.
But he aspires to be seen as much more. He wants to be a drum and bass recording artist. It’s an ambition that has been burning away inside of the artist for some time, and 2021 was the year when Linguistics took the leap to start releasing his own D&B productions.
You could call it the beginning of a new chapter for an artist that has been writing entries into the D&B annuals for years. Considering he’s been an integral part of the Shogun family over the last decade, we wanted to catch up with Max to learn more about the new chapter he’s embarking on as a drum and bass artist – a venture that saw him release five singles in 2021 with producers including Monrroe, GLXY, Document One, Dogger and Mindstate.
How good did it feel to get back on the road playing shows again last year?
Amazing. It was a crazy year where myself and many others missed shows massively, so being able to do them again felt really good. When they first returned, the nerves were there much stronger than before because I hadn’t played a show in ages. I was like – can I still do this? Do I know what I’m doing? I haven’t experienced nerves like that in a long time! After a month or so, I got back into the swing of things and it has been great ever since.
While 2021 was a frustrating year, it seems like it was a breakthrough one for you musically.
It was a great year for me musically. A lot of the music I released was created during lockdown. It has been a long time coming. In drum and bass, I’ve only ever really done features before. I’ve always wanted to do more vocal-led D&B tunes under my own name, and lockdown allowed me the time to do exactly that.
Over the years, you’ve been vocal about the way you’ve never been consistent enough with your music, but last year was different.
Definitely. I’ve always felt like I’ve lacked consistency with my releases, so being able to release a tune every couple of months has been great. I love releasing music. It’s a scary but fun thing to do. Being able to put my own art out into the world is incredible.
Is it right to say you’re embarking on a new chapter in your music career?
Definitely in the D&B space. It has cemented me as a music artist in my own right, rather than just being viewed as Friction’s MC. As lucky as I am to have travelled all over the world with Friction, it feels like I’m finally building my career as a D&B artist. Friction has been hugely supportive of the music I’ve released, so having his backing is great. He produced one of the tunes I released this year called Think Too Much.
Speaking of your tunes, it was an awesome moment when you performed a live PA of Change at Intrigue X Shogun Thekla.
That was special in multiple ways because it was my first event back after lockdown and the tune came out that day. Monrroe played it at the end of his set and I jumped on for a live PA. That’s the first live D&B PA I’ve ever done. It felt wicked.
It’s crazy to think that was your first, considering all of your years in the scene…
Just a bit! I’ve done hip-hop shows before, but I’ve never performed a D&B tune live. It was a great feeling getting to do that at the first show back from lockdown with all the Shogun family in attendance.
Especially over the last year or two, we’ve seen many lyricists taking centre stage with releases and live performances. Do you think there has been a significant shift?
For a long time, MCs were just side acts to DJs. Especially in the hosting side of the MC world where I’ve been operating. But over the last few years there has been a big shift. DRS has been doing it for ages, and he has been a massive inspiration, but in the last few years there has been an abundance of new MC talent coming through writing their own music and getting followings. You see it on the event billings especially. There are now more MCs being billed alongside DJs rather than in tiny writing at the bottom of the flyer.
It’s very positive!
For sure. That’s where I’m setting my sights in terms of where I want to get to. Slowly but surely, we’re getting to a place where people respect the craft of an MC a little bit more in D&B. People like Duskee and Degs are doing big things for the scene. I feel like if you’re an MC in D&B now then you need to be releasing music. It’s hard to have a career as an MC just doing live shows. You need to be getting on tunes, which is good, as it pushes people to up their levels.
Are you one of those people?
Definitely. Other MCs stepping up their levels is giving me the drive to do more with my career. It’s great people are now going to shows to see MCs as well as the DJs. I think the next two years are going to be interesting. If I was a young MC looking to get into the scene, then now would be a great time to get involved.
You’re not that old Max…
I’m getting there mate! I started very young.
You did. We’re sure many people aren’t aware you had a run of hip-hop releases in the early days. Your Ups & Downs EP in 2013 was awesome.
2013… wow! That was released just before I started working with Friction, which must be eight years ago now. Mad! I was working on a hip-hop project with my mate Charlie Perry, who’s a really talented producer. He’s the first person I ever got in a studio with. We released an EP years before that called Free Speech, which is somewhere on the internet, but Ups & Downs was where it all started for me in terms of releasing music.
Listening to those early releases, it’s interesting to hear how your music has always carried a sense of honesty in terms of the lyrics you write.
For sure. I’ve always said music is my form of expression. Getting thoughts out of my head and onto a page keeps me sane. A lot of the music I release is quite personal. I’ve always been open about my experiences with anxiety and mental health, and I’ve always wanted to put it out there because I believe talking about things saves lives. That motivation is a staple of my music.
That’s one of the reasons why it’s great more MCs are writing tunes, because it’s bringing an abundance of meaningful lyricism to the genre.
Definitely. I get a lot of messages from people saying my tunes have helped them in different ways, which is amazing. Music has always been a massive help to me, so being able to impact other people’s lives with mine makes me feel very lucky.
So why do you think it has taken you so long to start releasing your own D&B productions?
Oh mate, I don’t know! I feel like I should’ve done it a long time ago now. I think I was a little nervous about releasing D&B in the past. But now there are more MCs releasing tunes it has given me the kick I needed. I realised you can’t keep coasting as a host MC, you’ve got to keep up with the times.
It comes back to how the perception of MCs has changed. It wasn’t always acceptable for MCs to lead D&B productions.
You’re right. And to be honest, I was just happy doing what I was doing. Back then, I didn’t have the desire to release my own tunes. I was happy releasing hip-hop and hosting for Friction. I didn’t used to have the hunger to push myself as an artist, but now I do. Especially with the pandemic, having the time to slow down, collect my thoughts and look at where I’m going has allowed me to work out what I want to do musically.
So out of your 2021 single releases, are there any that are particularly meaningful to you?
Of course they all mean something to me, but Think Too Much is super personal. It says it all in the name. I’ve always been an overthinker. The lyrics in that track are the ones rooted to me more than any other release.
It was wicked to see you link up with Charlie Perry on Searching For with GLXY, especially considering he was an important part of your productions in the early days.
It was great being able to link up with him again. I always like working with people who have been a part of my journey. It’s the same with Document One. I used to host their dubstep sets years ago, so getting on a tune with them was a long time coming.
We doubt many people knew you used to do that…
I actually started hosting dubstep before D&B. It was a different experience with the slower tempo as I didn’t need many bars. The dubstep crowd weren’t really down with them.
You’ll have to pull out a nostalgic dubstep show with Document One at some point!
I’d love to do that! One day…
So looking ahead, will we see more Linguistics releases?
Absolutely. For the moment, I’m going to continue releasing singles. There is the potential for an album at some point, but right now, I’m just enjoying releasing a constant stream of music and being able to connect with people through it.
Maybe we will see a Linguistics Live in future too?
Once I’ve got a catalogue of tunes behind me I’d love to. Seeing what Degs, DRS, Inja and Duskee are doing is providing me with the drive to step my levels up to theirs. I’m certain Linguistics Live is something people will be seeing in the future.
You can check out all of Linguistics' 2021 singles on the Shogun store.