Once Upon a Time
In a world before driverless cars and Netflix, when going on the internet involved a spine-tingling dial-up, and artificial intelligence was what went into a Dodgy Dossier, two young lovers surrendered to desire. Nine months later, Max Wildwood emerged into the spotlight for the first time.
To begin with, he was like any other toddler, until he discovered the quickest way down a flight of steps was on his head. It was an efficient mode of transport but poorly suited to a spiral staircase. Some say it all went downstairs from there.
Max started playing guitar at four. His dad not amused: he had to get up for work at six. With endless patience, Max’s father tried to teach him the basic chords, but even the simplest D shape was too much of a stretch for Max’s little fingers. “I can’t play dat chord,” little Max would protest. But he could strum the heck out of dis-chord.
Persistence won the day, and eventually Max began to play all the right notes partly in the right order. In time, harmony was restored.
Fast forward three or four years and Max began speaking to a little girl with an Australian accent. This was a feat in itself, as he’d never attempted to speak in an Australian accent before. The little girl’s name was Amanda and her father was called Tommy, who said simply that he was “a musician.”
The young friends bonded through ping-pong in the village hall and a shared love of cats and Inspector Morse - Amanda for the whodunnits, and Max for the Jag. Max was soon invited to dinner with the family, and then to a concert Tommy was performing at The Stables in Milton Keynes.
A life-size poster in the foyer with “TOMMY EMMANUEL” plastered across it was the first clue that he wasn’t second marimba player in the Walkabout Creek Philharmonic.
8 year old Max watched the concert from the sound control booth. He was given the special job of adjusting Tommy’s microphone level under the supervision of legendary sound engineer, Neil Segrott. Meanwhile Tommy played guitar like he was Johnny B Goode.
This was a defining moment for young Max, who suddenly knew what he wanted to do when he grew up, or better still, this minute.
A year later, Max, now demonically flicking arpeggios up and down the fretboard of his three-quarter size guitar, was having an impromptu lesson with his neighbourly guitar hero. Just before leaving on a world tour, Tommy suggested it was time for Max to move up to a full-size instrument. The next day he called by on his way to the airport, guitar case in hand. “You can borrow this one,” he said. “Don’t break it.”
It was a unique, priceless guitar, hand-made by Jean Larivée himself, with a mother-of-pearl angel inlaid in the headstock by the luthier’s wife. It was a few years before Tommy returned to collect the treasure. In lieu, he gave Max a Mini Maton all of his own. To this day it is Max’s most prized possession.
Since then, Max has practised tirelessly to hone his craft. He performs live at every opportunity, whether in a village pub on a winter Wednesday to the landlord, the barmaid, a sole customer and a wet dog, or a stadium of 10,000 noisy stock car fans.
He’s played at weddings in castles, dinners on country estates, and seen in the New Year beside a pool of Nile crocodiles. He has performed at festivals across East Anglia, supported acts like The Willows, and impressed some of the world’s most accomplished songwriters with his pen.
Max has built his own recording studio where he produces, engineers, mixes and masters music for himself and any friends who ask nicely. Along the way, he’s taught himself to play many other instruments. He can play some things with strings, most things with keys, and anything that makes a noise when hit. He’s not so hot where the task involves blowing and fingering holes, but he does his best.
As a songwriter, any incident can provide inspiration, and his life is unusually full of incident. He’s been attacked by a shark while innocently paddling an inflatable boat, boxed by a kangaroo, and defecated upon by a guinea pig. He’s been bitten by a black widow, and also a spider. Contrary to rumour, however, he was not responsible for the escape of the crocodiles.
His relationship with a formerly nice girl ended when she broke up with him via social media. He was heartbroken, desolate for at least ten minutes. Then he wrote ‘Dumped on Facebook,’ his debut single, released during Covid in January 2021. The song got airplay on local radio, and is a favourite at Max’s gigs.
Since Covid had led to lockdowns and isolation, the video for ‘Dumped on Facebook’ had to be made remotely. Friends and fans sent pictures and content, and the wonderfully talented singer Lulu Rose Hensley dropped in as the heartless girlfriend. Max played all the instruments, and the big rhythm guitar sound comes from the amazing Mini Maton.
Max has a growing collection of guitars of various shapes, sizes and colours. He will frazzle through a set of strings in three hours, thanks to his firebrand style of playing. He buys plectrums and thumb picks by the shipload, as they catch light and burn up during solos.
Turn up at a Max Wildwood gig and you may hear one of his custom PAs in action, built to feed his insatiable lust for power and volume.
Max has been humming since before he could talk and singing ever since. He was once the youngest member of, and ambassador for, Trianon Music Group, a choir and orchestra with over 170 members. In addition to his long neck (he stands six foot four first thing in the afternoon) he has - according to his dentist - an unusually wide tongue. This may explain many things, not least how he can sing ‘Oh Yeah’ by Yellow, and ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’ by The Darkness. And The Chipmunks.
When Max isn’t singing, playing, making videos or rebuilding the many instruments he has a knack for wearing out, he likes to work on machinery. He can expertly dissemble an engine and sometimes put it back together again.
He still owns his first car, a 1971 Reliant Scimitar GTE, which he bought when he was only 14. The only thing most people know about these rare, hand-built English sports cars, is that Princess Anne had one. Few know that Max’s grandad had one too. Max himself now has a small but growing collection of classic cars.
Max has owned several motorcycles, including a “Hardly Davidson” chopper which he used to ride on farm tracks before he was old enough to legally hog the tarmac.
One of his favourite toys was a 49cc motorised skateboard, which he rode at high speed around offroad (ill-advisedly). His skateboarding days stopped when he hit a tree stump hidden in the grass. The skateboard also stopped. Max didn’t. He flew on at 40mph, startling a family of ducks as he belly-flopped into the pond.
Flying is of course one of Max’s other hobbies, though he usually does it in an aeroplane. In fact, he can drive, ride or fly almost anything with an engine. He has vivid - though possibly imaginary - memories of driving a steam train at age 4, a steam roller at age 6, and an army tank age 9. He learnt to fly before he had a driving licence. He can drive any tractor from a vintage grey Fergie to state-of-the art giant Fendt or John Deere. He can also operate a digger, tele-handler, fork-lift, combine harvester and crane. He learnt most of these skills growing up on a farm and spending his summer holidays harvesting. As for the crane, Max says you just pick things up as you go.
You may be coming to the conclusion that Max is highly intelligent but let’s not jump to any hasty conclusions. Despite his reputed IQ of 167, he’s managed to shoot himself. Twice. On separate occasions. And he hasn’t quite figured out how to finish an album.
Max has been recording his debut album for some time. Stevie Wonder took three years to record ‘Songs in The Key of Life.’ Michaelangelo took four years to paint the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. Construction of the cathedral of Notre Dame took two hundred years but that’s the French for you.
Archeological artefacts suggest that Max started work on his album in the Neolithic, possibly before Brexit. In fact some of the Strepsils in his bathroom cabinet predate Dr Fauci.
This is partly due to his studio having no fixed abode. He’s moved his set-up time and again between friends who have run out of food and patrons who have run out of patience. Some of the songs were recorded in a portrait artist’s mediaeval barn, a folk musician’s drawing room, a number-one selling pop star’s Dutch barge, and an engineer’s Portacabin on the edge of an industrial estate.
While each of these unique locations have added their own ambience to the sound, as well as the odd chirrup of birdsong, rumble of V8, and roar of freight train, his album remains incomplete.
Max insists it will be finished “soon.”