Each artist I meet I try and take away something from them to do a better job in the future, but also to change my perspective and appreciation of art, design and creativity. My interview with Max was something unique and special for me. His perspective on life and art really resonated with me as a brother, father and husband especially his pieces featuring the games we play as youth, trampolines specifically. He was also one of the first to say my aesthetic question was a great question – one which he crushed.
AJK: All right. So, welcome everyone to another addition of the 16oz Canvas. Once again per usual I am your host AJ Keirans and on this week’s episode I am proud to introduce Max Toth joining us from Connecticut. So, Max thank you so much for making the time.
Max: Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be here.
AJK: Yeah. Max is world famous for his work at Black Hog here located in Connecticut so it’s really close to where I live. I’m down the road in Shelton so I was really even more excited to have you to be part of the endeavor here so thanks so much for making the time today Max.
Max: My pleasure. I like what you guys are doing. I’m happy to be here.
AJK: Excellent. Yeah so — so, basically like I said, you know, we’ve talked about, we’re just trying to learn a little bit more about you as an artist. Obviously, you know, we can touch on the work you’ve done with the brewery but the cool part if you go to Max’s website, you know, Max is kind of doing artwork in different mediums and it’s really interesting maxtoth.com. So, yeah Max, give us a little overview of yourself, you know, how did you, you know, start, you know, your art career or just kind of your love of art? And then we’ll kind of just take it from there.
Max: So, I’ve always been oriented towards the arts and from a pretty young age drawn my entire life and started painting a little bit later. And I moved to Connecticut for a massive program and graduated with a relationship with a great artist — with a great gallery in New York and so I’ve been working professional artist since 2005 or ‘06. Graduated in 2006 but we were actually — we were very lucky. At the time there was a big bubble for art, collectors were really focusing on emerging artists out of — right out of grad school and so I was able to — I benefitted from that. In fact a gallerist, a really well known and well respected gallerist just passed away I think three days ago named Jack Tilton, who was the guy who really gave a lot of us our first shot and there’s been a lot of people from that class have gone on to do great things, they’re still kicking ass in their career and he put us in a show called School Days which is something like an — open studios but in a gallery which was not typical at that time and so with that nod it really helped a lot of us. And so we — a lot of us graduated in a good position and have been showing since then with the fine art.
I grew up in advertising and a graphic design family. My father owned and ran his own design firm and so I knew just enough Photoshop to kind of get myself in trouble and I was mostly just using it to help create reference images for paintings and drawings and I decided to stay in New Haven after graduating because I already had the relationship to galleries so I didn’t need to go to New York to kind of hunt that up and I was making really large paintings at the time, like eight foot squares was very normal and they would go up to twelve to 15 feet wide and actually at first I had no sense of reality and so we hadn’t even thought about go-aways and things which then became something I was more aware of later so some were even bigger. And New Haven allowed me a studio that I could afford and that would make — I can make multiples of those paintings at one time which is usually how I like to work is kind of bouncing from one to the other in case you hit a say, you know, you get a block on one where you keep messing it up or can’t figure out — a way out, work on something else and come back to it fresh. So, that’s what kind of kept me in New Haven and once I was staying in New Haven, Jason Sobocinski was moving back to New Haven around then. He was born I believe in New Haven or at least raised in New Haven area here in County and he’d gone up to BU to get a degree, I think at Providence first and he was finishing his post-grad degree at BU and he came back to New Haven to his home to open a cheese shop and a restaurant that I believe is part of the business plan to make that cheese shop work which has since become one of the best restaurants in all of New Haven or even anywhere near New Haven so one of my favorite places to be in.
So, when he was moving back, a high school buddy of his, he went to — also went to undergrad with him was a friend of mine here. We worked together on a part-time job and he told me that he thought I would love Jason, that both of us really loved food. It was kind of where a majority of our spending money went. Anytime I got a little, you know, made a sale on a painting we’d often go out to try to experiment or go to some good restaurant that we couldn’t afford normally. I really like to eat a lot and so — so does Jason, a similar approach to things. And so we were introduced when he was opening his restaurant and we would go there on the pretense of helping because he was doing a lot of it himself as far as standing down and building out the space, converting it from what it had been before and I think we rarely actually did any help. We would often drink whatever samples he had, dropped off as he was trying to figure out the menu and eat whatever he was practicing with and it was a great time and so we became really good friends and that helped a ton because that was sort of the bond where I don’t really do — at this point I am — I don’t consider myself a commercial artist, I still do the fine art work and that’s still where a lot of my focus is but I do projects with Jason.
I think that his approach to food and restaurants or business in general is something that I wholeheartedly believe in. I mean like he doesn’t do any advertising, he just does charity work. He knows they’ll get some kind of press then he can actually use that time to help and use that press to benefit somebody else and I’ve never seen him, you know, shirk a plate or a menu or any type thing with quality just to try to make a couple of extra dollars and he is just such a student of doing it in, you know, the best way and understands that food I think is actually really important, food for a lot of us come together and so it’s the — it’s a centerpiece of the thing that brings a lot of us together and beer does the same thing and that’s — I think it’s part of the reason it’s a great success of this, you know, craft beer explosion that we’re in. It’s not just — it’s, you know, a couple of us can get together at the end of the night and have a beer but then with all these different breweries popping up is becoming a great talking point, and creating point and, you know, have you tried so and so or have you seen this other can? It’s a lot of fun to get together over.
So, Jason and I did a couple of different things. I did a logo or two for him because it was something kind of easy for me to sketch up and then when Black Hog was — so that was a while ago, and then when Black Hog was launching he and his brother Tommy and Tyler are the heart of Black Hog and then they have Justin who’s this incredible young ex-army ranger who was a brewer at the brewery that they ended up buying and taking over and they kept him on and he’s a huge part of it as well, he’s really wonderful and all those guys were really great and they all know their side of the world really well. Like Jason is amazing at business and great relationships with farmers that get us great quality, farm fresh ingredients from as close as we can get or wherever we can get them and Tommy is great with all the books and all the computers and really he seems to never get tired no matter how much work they put on him and Tyler obviously came from Smuttynose and knows his shit man, he’s a ton of fun. He makes it seem so accessible, he is a complete pleasure to be around especially because I didn’t come in having a ton of beer — I mean I drank beer and worked at bars like sold beer but I didn’t know about a lot about the chemical, the chemistry of it and science, the makeup and so he is able to make that really accessible and fun and I think he makes really delicious beer.
And then like I said Justin was this addition and I think was kind of luck and he is now part of that core crew and now we have — we’ve started to get other people who are becoming equally important, Marissa has been really great and so — but in the beginning stage a lot of those guys they do what they do and they do it really well and none of them are aesthetic guys. Like they are — they all have good taste and they all have their taste but — so they offered me some ownership shares to be — to do the logo and the core few cans and I don’t know I think at the beginning I thought that was going to be it and, you know, maybe a thing here and there and it’s turned out that I’m doing Black Hog work almost every week and kind of happily. I mean, you know, sometimes not a ton and sometimes I’m, you know, full whole on the laptop even when I’m traveling for other work just sitting there. Was in Atlanta recently and I would come home from wherever else I had to do and I would just try to do, we’re doing a collaboration a 16oz can and so that had to get done and it was a blast to do. So, that’s what brought me to this point and so now I’m just — I’m in and it’s nice to be working with guys who believe equally and I completely believe in them and so it’s been a blast. They throw different challenges at me or whatever and we get it done.
AJK: That’s great. I mean I couldn’t ask for a better — an amazing way you just told the whole story and how it all came together. I was on edge. It was good. Yeah, I appreciate it. That’s really exciting, because I was trying to figure out — that’s always my favorite part or one of them is, is the how, like how did you come together, and it’s — everyone’s been different, this friend of a friend, this person hit me up on social, I ran to this guy, I was a doing a sketch. I mean it’s been great and so I was definitely — was really curious especially, given the artistic, you know, of the cans and the art, knowing your background and yeah, I was going to say if you go to maxtoth.com and you compare it to the can it’s very different, so the fact that you said you don’t really do commercial work that was definitely of curiosity to me and I was wondering, I wasn’t sure then you said you were part owner, you now have ownership stake so that — I was like oh, is this going to be you just wanted to do a few of these cans because I was, you know, the Hog Water and a few other ones I was going to — I was curious about. They look very similar, you know, have that — a little more artistic vibe to them so I was excited to — a very happy ending to the story, at least the chapter because the story is not a wrap up.
Max: Yeah totally and so I try to be very aware of not — I tempted to not cross the brands. I try to be aware of kind of my line quality and compositional choices that have been in the fine art world and not to just go one-to-one with the cans. I mean you kind of can’t anyway. It’s such a different medium and the object that the work comes out very different but I’ve tried to talk with the guys and get input and see what they do like and work through ideas. I think that some obviously like relational aesthetics or aesthetic whatever relations exist and that’s obviously — it’s still my sensibility so I think that there will be some overlap. But yeah, I’ve tried to keep those two things sort of separate and to problem solve each can in a way that makes it, you know, we’ve often come up with an idea that seems the most logical for a can and then upon working with it it’s not actually what I think the most dynamic option is and so I’ll usually give them a couple and almost every time they’re willing to go with whatever I think is right.
I mean they have input, they’re not just passively saying go for it without looking but there’s a lot of faith I think that goes both ways. The same way that I’m always confident that the hooch they’re putting in the cans is going to be incredible. So, it ends up being a really easy conversation sort of between us and Jason, because we do work so closely together, and have over different projects and different things it’s more kind of acutely aware to — it’s a really easy conversation with him so. Yeah.
AJK: Well great. Now given your background, I ask this question every time and I think at first when I was coming up with the questions I think it was more me trying to, I definitely will be open that my background is not in art and I just — this is something I just found — I thought was really important and really interesting but the aesthetic question how would you describe your aesthetic, your fine art aesthetic versus your — I guess your commercial aesthetic? It’s a terrible —
Max: That’s a very good question. It’s absolutely a good question.
AJK: I think it’s a terrible question because it’s always awkward.
Max: It’s changing. So, my fine artwork has been changing and pretty heavily over the last couple of years. So, originally I would do — the basis board is still the same. My investigation that really motivates me is I really love coming of age right throughout cultures and how that reflects ideas of both masculinity and the culture in the games that children come up with to sort of test bravery and loyalty and the things that they engage with that create that travel bonding and create an idea of what masculinity or manhood might be and I really like how — than just opposing different cultures and how they either relate or don’t. And so that’s the subject matter of the fine artwork and then aesthetically traditionally has been a lot of images of youth at play, it’s usually with some level of danger but not often actually that dangerous. A lot of, you know, fine artworks and the stuff that kids get up — get into and it’s usually around becoming a moment of ideas or age where physicality starts to become very different, you’re starting to become strong and fill out a little bit and see your own strengths and challenge rules a little bit.
And so for me that has really worked well with moments of abstraction contained by some moments of reality and I have very particular line work. I realized in school a big moment for me was when I realized I think in line and not in color, and so not that I’m color blind, I don’t think in color, but that I don’t think about like light versus dark making the line which I think is how a really great painter often thinks. They’re creating their lines through the plains of the objects or whatever they’re dealing with and I take in almost like outlined or, you know, in really linear and so when that realization hit and I freed myself from painting more traditionally my work started to get much, much, much better. And that came a little bit later. It came actually in the very beginning thankfully with grad school and once that happened I was sort of off the races as far as creating the bodies of work that you would see when you look anything up.
For the cans we’re still playing and the guys have been really great too about being flexible in working with — like we don’t have a completely rigid, you know, have to have this, this and this and obviously we have the hog and the pig references that come from the fact that we use our spent grain to feed local farm pigs and then the farmers give us two pigs to roast every year and their pigs are often black and they’re, you know, supposedly some of — they’re most delicious and so that’s where the Black Hog name came from in this, you know, Jason, when he started like I said he had these relations with these farmers through his restaurant already and he — really was important to him to have this be something that, you know, verging sustainable and interacting with the community and so — but that being said we didn’t really want to become just the pig brand. I mean we accept that this is what we named ourselves and therefore we are okay with it being on there, you know, even when it’s not an outright pig on the can we do often try to make some sort of, you know, subtle reference or we’ll hide things — Ghost Rye’ Da brewery release, a 16oz that came out recently that had these little pigs, you know, kind of hidden throughout the flaming head that was ode to a couple of us are comic book nerds, I mean that’s where I learned to draw.
And so for hogs — so yeah, for the Black Hog I try to approach each can, and like I said, so it’s making it as dynamic as possible I think about what would I want, what would be attractive to me, what speaks to — what’s in the can so like what kind of Ale are they doing and what are they putting in there? Recently more working, you know, right now I think we just approved yesterday, I don’t know when it would be out, probably a month or so a passion fruit New England IPA and so trying to pick the passion fruit ended up being a lot harder than I thought. The flower is super intricate; the fruit itself is actually disgustingly mucousy if you look in it which is not really easy to graphic, you know, and since the original cans I, you know, like I said that we’ve talked about this is not something that I’ve done before and even doing commercial work is not something that I’m savvy about and so there’s been a lot of learning on the job. And so those initial cans were almost all — so if you look at the Easy Rye’ Da, the Ginga Ninja, the Granola Brown and then even actually the S.W.A.G. was done at the same time though it didn’t get released at the same time.
There’s a lot of water color involved. It was a way for me to paint smaller. I tend to, you know, in my own paintings I work much larger and so I, you know, I do a lot of oil paint, I really like working with oil and what that gives me as far as characteristics of the oil and being able to, you know, layer and play with colors and play with texture and I couldn’t do that. It wasn’t — it made no sense for me to take that much time to do something that would be so small but water color I really love. I love that it is delicate and it is pretty, you can make it kind of gross and you can do — I really like that it’s a little bit outside of your control at least the way that I like to do it where you get things bleeding into one another and I think that you get an aesthetic that I really enjoy out of the lack of control and playing with that line of control and lack of control.
So, those original cans were all water color and Paul has done a really great job of being able to print those, but it was a bit of a bear and we went through a lot, you know, we flew out to Denver to proof the cans, it was a two day process and we went through a lot and these guys were great. I mean they really like to work and so they were super supportive and helps troubleshoot, I didn’t even know what was possible so there were times where I was kind of willing to, you know, stop, that’s the best they could do and take it and they weren’t and that was often to work with and so we got those cans styled in. But after that process I realized it’s not cost effective for us especially for smaller runs and so I’ve been trying to — I don’t know if we’ll be doing that much more water color, I kind of doubt it. I’ve also been able to find other ways to do it and so my line work comes in again but I use the line kind of differently.
On a large scale you can ungulate your line thickness and sort of where it disappears I find more and so I like that play of — in the fine art where on the smaller cans partially because of having space and then partially because of the graphic nature of the work. If you don’t want something — you want it to be attractive, and this is true for both, you want it to be attractive from far away and up close and something I’ve found in the fine art world is that you want — I actually think it’s three viewing differences; there’s far away so if you’re like walking past the room and it’s on the other side of the room that you’re walking past and you just catch it out of the corner of your eye you want someone — you want it to catch that person’s eye and that’s actually the same viewing distance as representation. So, if it’s printed, you know, really small it can be kind of the same thing, you want them — just to catch their attention. Middle ground is sort of your normal viewing distance, I would say, you know, six feet or so, five feet, you’re able to take the whole piece in, seep clearly what it is or at least what’s being presented, it maybe needs a little bit more inspection and then up close which is, you know, that’s where — from me I try to hide all this little detail in there in the fine art work to pay off somebody who takes that much time because a lot of time in the art world you people are just blown by things. I mean you can only get one shot, you’re not going to get someone who usually didn’t spend that much time with it.
And I think that’s true of a lot of, you know, artistic creation is just so much out there that it’s very hard to give that much time to everything. So, in the can it’s kind of similar I mean, you know, you have to — you have them in the liquor store around all these other cans so you need to have that quick grab, you know, something that stands out, something that’s different and then I’m not quite sure, maybe you don’t have a middle section but then you want the can in somebody’s hand to continue to pay off and continue to be exciting and to be eyed kind of towards Black Hog. And one of the things that we’ve kind of all sat back and trust in is that as long as I keep this being sort of a singular vision behind it all for now they’ll — that’s kind of — kind of look like they all belong together hopefully but that’s something that I’m still learning and hoping to figure out and we try to get better with each sort of round of cans that we design.
AJK: Yeah. I think — yeah, I think with the can the payoff right, I think the fact that it’s cylindrical and so you have to — the view, take the time to make it so it’s not just a front facing image, like with the Easy Rye’ Da right, you have the bike on the front but then you have the, you know, the bike around the back like, you know, that’s an extra layer of detail that makes that full you know. A lot of folks say that because of the can and how the layout is and a lot of it, a lot of the things you’ll see is — with the cans is when folks are, you know, in the age of Instagram and just kind of trying to take photos to share is that a lot of time you get to line up two or sometimes three cans to fully show the whole piece and it’s that do I go with the wrap or do I try to make it front facing in that area and so I think that’s an interesting choice and when — what I noticed that it’s more than just that one panel so to speak in the front. It’s definitely a nice pay off.
Max: Yeah, I mean — yeah, yeah. I — yes, I think you’re exactly correct and so what I was trying to learn how to do is make that front panel really pop but then I can’t live with letting everything else just fall away. So, I always play with the whole thing but I am trying to learn how to create that front pop as well.
AJK: Yeah, and I really — yeah, when you said about the up close and kind of like the payoff I think that’s a really, you know, great way to look at it. At least I mean obviously for me has me interested and especially looking at your work on the site going back to what you were saying before about the children and the coming of age and, the different games they play, as a father, you know, the pieces that sit out most to me were the trampoline pieces. Obviously, you know, I don’t know all of your work but we previously had a trampoline in our backyard so that — those pieces are very relatable for me, a little stressful and so you’re talking about adventure I was like yeah, we had it, it was gifted to us by somebody who was moving and it was the massive one so it’s comparable to the — might actually be a little larger if you were to take your trampoline to scale or just scale it down because it’s a massive piece but it was one of the most stressful things. Like I’m not very conservative, I’m pretty laid back and — but one of those kids who were on the trampoline is one of the most exciting slash stressful things of my day.
Max: Oh yeah. I mean as kids we had one too growing up and there’s four of us, I’m the oldest and my brother — we have sisters that are in the middle, they’re twins and then my brother is six years younger than me and we would play a game where he would get dressed in his full hockey gear minus the skates and come onto the trampoline and we would see who could knock each other off like 15 times in a row or something or like best of 20. It was like some game and some number chosen where you essentially just pummeled each other and catapulted each other off of the trampoline, essentially you were exhausted because there was no way to reach the number that we had to get for what would be a win. And it would just be like grabbing face mats with him in midair and watching him off and double kick to the chest, it was a lot of fun but it was totally insane.
AJK: Right, exactly. Yeah, the kid version of like American Gladiator. It’s — yeah, just —
Max: Yeah, exactly.
AJK: — and my kids weren’t strong enough to — they hadn’t fully figured out the double bounce yet like where you can springboard and I — but I just knew the second that that was discovered that I was just going to be hearing like gut wrenching screams.
Max: Definitely. And then when you realize how you could also not just double bounce but that you could steal their balance so their legs just go out from them and —
AJK: Right. Yeah, like — yeah or blow out a knee like one of the knee buckles in like my entire childhood was like the rare — like if something was going to — like found a skateboard in the garage trying to teach my brother, I was just trying to look cool, was the big brother and so I was like oh, this is what you do and it was like a big — one of the big fatter like 90s skateboards and, you know, I fell off and I just like — I completely broke my ankle like just not — like just and it was just like engulfed in pain and I was like — and so I just — I really like the thing that could go wrong like, you know, would go wrong. In university I had friends, you know, and we were in the quad and they’re like — their room was facing out and so there was like an apple tree or some odd fruit and I was just like, you know, we always just like throw it out to kind of get their attention, what do you know, I throw it and it shatters it straight through the window like it was just like so — so I just knew like the universe was going to be like — because I came out one time my son was like — his leg was like hanging through a spring like if he had been an inch or two the other way he would have fallen right on his face so I was like oh, so I just stealthy put it on craigslist, one day when I knew — and just kind of they came home one day and he was like where is it and I was like oh, it’s the winter time, you know, we put it away and I still get like a couple sad moments of daddy, you took that from us but, you know, I can go — I can take them to the gymnastics place and they can do where if they fall it’s a soft cushion.
Max: Right. Yeah, I’ve heard about these places. It’s incredible and it just is kind of exhausting but yes.
AJK: Yeah. They’re — it’s tough because you’re torn like you know you’re not there for yourself but you’re like oh, you know, I can, you know, you kind of justify like your kind of parenting while you’re there but you really just kind of like wanting to bounce just as much as the kid — so it’s a lot of fun.
Max: Yeah. So, that’s the stuff that I love. I love the stories and I think that, we all have them and I think that they — what I really think is I think they’re much richer than we think. I mean we’d see them as like anecdotes so they have a lot of lessons involved. I mean even just pain tolerance right from that stuff and you learn that you’re going to be all right, you can live with that kind of thing, you know, and so that — and you’re going to work again, in parts you’re going to work again and there’s like a way to take care of it and the thresholds to be like all right, this is something we need to address and this is something we don’t need to address and even brother stuff like your brother realizes you don’t know everything, like that’s an important lesson for younger people, you know, and just more of the younger people need to realize that about themselves too and so — I mean a lot of these moments have those important little seeds in them which is why I find them so fascinating.
AJK: And I — yeah, and it’s interesting because just the way you were speaking on it when, you know, as I was just listening it was very, you know, it did make me think a lot, you know, kind of those rights of passage moments and to your point like if I — like now my ankles aren’t like 100% but like I’m an adult so just very few things that impacts but like if I roll an ankle it’s like oh okay, like it just always seem to calibrates that level of pain. It’s like oh that’s only like a two, like I’ve had like a nine, you know, where, you know —
Max: Right, exactly.
AJK: — I’m crying and so it’s like all right, you know, and everyone’s like are you okay, I’m like no but like I’m going to be okay, and like that’s going to work itself out.
Max: Right, right.
AJK: Yeah. And what I really like about — again, I keep focusing on these trampoline ones but I really like just because the way you’re describing your lines.
Max: Yeah, I mean that speaks to you directly so.
AJK: Yeah, it just, you know, but it also like the family like they’re not silhouettes but like they’re not so descript that, you know, they could be anybody which I really like too. I think that kind of plays on the kind of the memory, kind of kick starter so I do, I do see that.
AJK: Awesome. And then to your other point about the cans and then I do like the fact that it’s not like just 100% like all pigs all the time, like I think that’s really, I think that’s really good. I think that there’s — like there’s two styles like I think that there’s this subtle — subtly using of pigs, like I keep going back like I really like the Hog Water like that’s not with your water colors, that’s done differently than the other ones?
Max: Yeah. That ones — but I’ve also — so I finally — I’ve realized like I said so I can do enough Photoshop to get myself in trouble right and I can bang out something that would look like what I wanted it to look like but it wasn’t that helpful and so for the beginning of it there was a saint, this guy Noah that was working with us, a good friend of Tommy’s that I think he actually even more than I’ve ever been told so this is a little bit my guess, I think that he was having to reconstruct almost everything I made in Illustrator so it was actually a useable vector. And so I then taught myself Illustrator since then which is also a whole mind blowing moment of like oh, holy shit, this is so much better, like this is absolutely made for what I’ve been doing instead of manhandling this other tool to do what I’ve been trying to do, you know. It’s like opening a bottle with like a shovel versus actually having a bottle opener. Like oh right, this is meant to do this and it takes very little effort and it was all great so that’s been a huge help and so that’s actually helped me also execute some of these ideas quicker and like a little better turnaround, a little better ability to experiment without it being kind of exhausting or labor intensive and so the Hog Water, I also don’t have the best memory ever and it’s a couple of rounds ago so I’m trying to remember but it is — I remember —
AJK: It’s almost like warthog, it’s like a war — yeah, it’s like warthog ask with — almost, I think — I want to say have floaties and it’s like in a very light pink.
Max: — but that was something where we wanted — Tyler has a really kind of fun and slightly biting, which I find very fun, sense of humor and he has some strong opinions on beers which I’m sure most of your listeners probably do too and most even drinkers, kind of everyone probably. But he doesn’t — there have been some beers that have been highly touted that he — that are just sort of watered down and so he wanted to make a fully — a full flavored easy drinking beer that was kind of his take on that without it being compromising the quality of the brew. And so Hog Water was his tongue and cheek name to kind of poke fun at that and so we — I — so I, you know, I know that coming in and I don’t need to make that a one-to-one for people but I want to make Tyler happy and I want to make him laugh or whatever when he sees it so yeah. So, we went definitely with like instead of a cute pig, a warthog, like a very kind of hairy verging on wild hog and then sort of make it more accessible, accessible is the wrong word, but make it more approachable or whatever, more playful with the swimmies and then I — I mean I — this is actually something that does transfer from my paintings to the cans. I love the bifurcation of image that happens when you’re dealing with above and below water or ground or anything else. I mean water especially because it has that little bit of distortion and discolor and aesthetically I don’t know why but I find that immensely pleasurable even though I often — I don’t really like that and I think that I could probably make up reasons of — for it but I don’t know, full — like I don’t have it fully pinned down but I really like it.
So, we — I am trying to keep colors to a manageable number knowing that we’re dealing with, you know, this is where — the commercial side of things. I’m not trying to make things difficult for the company and I want to make — and I like — actually I really enjoy restrictions. If you tell me it has to be this size and, you know, this many colors and this then that also it races for me. I mean if — a blank canvas is great, I got no problem with that, it doesn’t intimidate me but restrictions I do find to be a lot of fun. It’s almost — kind of goes to the gaming thing too. It’s like this is the game, here are the rules. How do you win? So, I’ve been trying to keep colors to an affordable, you know, we have — here’s the pricing how do we make these cans something that we’re going to make sure the company’s still making money and yet it still speaks a high quality to — like it speaks to the high quality of Black Hog. So, I think I was working with color restrictions at that point and so that’s where some of the color palette came from and then I wanted to — the initial idea actually was to break up the pig not linearly but top and bottom so we were going to try — I was going to try do this thing which might actually — so somebody tried to pull off which was we’re going to make the snout and the above water portions of the pig at the bottom of one can and then the hooves and the belly and anything under water at the top of the other can so that when —
AJK: Oh, you stacked them.
Max: — they were stacked it would have been — the line between the cans would have been the water line and so love the idea but it was just pointed out that that’s a way that we see the cans a lot in the brewery but it’s not a way that a lot of consumers are going to see the can so that they might not end up reading right, it just didn’t feel like the most direct way to get the image that we were playing with across. And I think something, like I said, might still be if we find the right pattern some way of doing something but like you were talking about with the Instagram you’re thinking about these cans and how they’re going to be seen and I think that the whole being able to line them up in a row and see the full image is really cool and so how do you, you know, play with these different ways of seeing the can and the way that people are interacting with the can but, you know, like it was pointed out to me several times. Very few people are going to buy multiple six packs and have them stacked on top of each other and so that payoff wasn’t I think going to be worth it for me and us at that time, like that wasn’t a disappointment to me, that was a reality that I think was well played and I think I can come up with something down the line where it’ll function both non-stacked and stacked equally and then we can maybe try it then.
AJK: Well, I just like that you’re — yeah, you’re pushing the dimensions of that constraint, you know, you’re saying you like rules and, you know, whatever the limits or, you know, color restrictions but then you’re still kind of pushing that, you know, with making it to a different dimension so I love to see that. I think that’s really cool. Even then you going back to Instagram one of the things I noticed which I really like about your Instagram and what — maybe get a tutorial is the six pane picture which I just think is really — I think it looks really slick. I mean if you go check out Max on Instagram, you know, it’s one picture but there’s six — he uses the three across and makes one image with the, you know, a three by two and it just really — it’s really slick.
Max: Yeah. I think — thank you. I mean I’ve seen people who do it really well, I’ve seen some accounts that strictly do that and there’s some that are really, really good. I think that like you’re saying I mean like certain restrictions are just certain restrictions and that — it’s only a couple of things. Like it’s so many other ways to look at something that you’re still bound with — so if you’re looking to pay — if you’re willing to pay attention to, you know, if you’re — you can think either that you want this post to be beautiful and that can be the end of your thought and those — and that poses in your feed, will probably also be beautiful because you have a whole bunch of beautiful images that are most likely going to be curated by you. So, if they have a similar aesthetic likely you’re going to have a certain kind of feel for what your light source is. So, it’s going to have most likely a uniform look, it’ll be great. Or you can go and continue to push and so each one is hopefully great but then you go to the feed and the feed is also curated to be a different experience when you get there and like you’re saying with the cans like there is mobile out there. We do want when one is lined up or you find this to happen like it’s not a ton of Trickery or Trompe L’oeil happening yet, is not good enough yet but we’ll figure that out maybe down the line but I do want — I do like playing with how I can engage the can beyond the rules I’m given.
AJK: Yeah. I think that the can is — so that’s why — that was kind of the epiphany of this whole thing was just canning in general is pretty new to the level right now because with technology, simple technology of mobile canning or just canning being so much more affordable and environmentally friendly these are distributed like in a lot of ways the —
Max: Better for the beer a lot of the time.
AJK: — right, in many ways. The fact that there’s more cans now it’s because it’s just you can fit more in the truck, it’s cheaper, it’s better for the beer, it’s not like a dislike of glass, I mean it’s a bottom line thing and so if you can do that and it’s just, you know, so that to me was like wow okay, crowlers were coming out and it wasn’t like, there’s always been canned beer, it was just like okay, now someone realizes that instead of putting this in a glass I can put it in a can and I can now mobily do that and, you know, I still don’t have to have a huge setup. So, yeah, it’s everything is about, kind of the reinventing everything which, you know, the Netflix to the blockbuster, the Uber to the taxicab like there’s still — you’re still watching a movie, you’re still getting from point A to point B it’s just done in a totally different way which is great.
Max: Completely agree. Yeah, I agree.
AJK: Yeah, I’m excited so it’s a great period of time. Now just from a nerd perspective how do you — what is your kind of when you’re doing that with the cuts do you have a template that you use, are you — How are you making those cuts for the three by twos or the — you even have a few three by threes up there?
Max: Oh, on Instagram?
Max: Oh yeah, this is an app. Are you kidding me? There’s an app for that. Initially, one of the — I think if you go down to my feed like almost towards the bottom there is a — there’s one nine pane square from a trip in Japan where I was doing my best superman impression over some hotel bed. And that one I completely laboriously like brought into Photoshop, cut down, exported as JPEG, put it on my phone. I’ve seen it done by people before and at that point I didn’t — I couldn’t find an app that would actually do it but now there’s an app. I mean I don’t know these people, I have no inter connection like advertising for them but just for the fact if anyone looking to do this there’s an app called Giant Square I believe it’s called and it makes it dumb easy. Like you can choose whatever orientation you want, like —
AJK: Oh man, that’s great.
Max: — cleaner imaging and, you know, export it right to Instagram if you want. I think you still have to post it but yeah, now it’s just stupid easy.
AJK: All right.
Max: There is — I mean I don’t know how — I haven’t tried it with video but I have seen accounts that it does some really cool things where they also stack their videos and they’ll just choose the right front image so that when you’re going to the feed it also lines up over multiple squares then it actually will be a video when you go there. So, there definitely are other ways to pushing this beyond even — well beyond anything I’m doing at this point.
AJK: Well yeah, I think it’s just amazing you’re able to capture yourself flying, you know, going full superman. I mean I think that should be given more credit necessarily than — yeah.
Max: It’s often talented friends and then even now I mean at the time we’ve done multiple takes and worked so much harder at it and now, you know, iPhone 7 plus is here. It’s the ability to shoot continuously —
AJK: You just hold it down. Yeah, it’s great.
Max: Such a great time right now for like home creators or people just being able to make, you know, we’ve got 4K on our phone, it’s insane.
AJK: It is insane. I think just — yeah, and it’s something that it can’t be done it’s going be — like if people innovate then it just becomes like — it’s amazing, it just becomes like a standard like I’m — like I have like — shitty phones from my — phone pictures from my 2008, 2009 like I, you know, when I was in Europe — and now I’m like — I’m excited. I’m going to go back in a month and I’m like I can like take real pictures that maybe I can frame and like, you know, put in my home, you know, so it’s pretty amazing.
Max: Completely. I mean image what your kids are going to be able to do. I mean they — yeah, how old — I don’t — I old are you?
Max: Right so we’re the same age. First thing is so when we were growing up like in the very beginning I think of us being kids I think a video recorder was still mind blowing right and then those got to be handheld but they’re still expensive so you still have, you know, like in high school was amazing that my school had a couple of them and they’ve let us use them to try to make films and things and so like that was awesome. And back when they have 16 and 8mm film and back to that school senses and there is now no no no film anymore and — but like you know what I mean like it’s just — I’m not saying it clearly, what I mean is —
AJK: No, I know exactly what you mean. It’s like — yeah.
Max: — you know, this doesn’t feel like, you know, the pool of people who have the visibility is just exploding. So, like it went from you needed to know somebody, somebody got a camera and then like all you guys gathered around and like made that shitty horror movies in your garage to, you know, nowadays where you’re kids are going to be able to like make films that’ll blow the quality of most like Indie film when we were kids away like just on their phone. Like edit everything in their phone and I think it’s going to lead to — I mean it is leading to I think just seeing a lot of proliferation of creativity and creation and like just it’s — I think it’s pretty awesome, I think it’s really awesome.
AJK: Yeah. I think that — yeah, I mean just even the fact right I mean I did radio for a while, you know, I did college radio and looked to do it professionally for like over ten years and took a break and that’s why we’re kind of back but even just doing this right. I order myself a nice mic running it through, you know, a Mac, recording it and then producing it all and then it’s out there, you know, it’s — I kind of — as I listen back to each episode or with, you know, as I edit and everything I realize I repeat a few things but just like the distribution model nowadays is just amazing what’s able to be out there and so that’s really — it’s just crazy to me. Even just music-wise right, you know, if you’re trying to make a CD I joked when I had my first Gateway which was like a massive machine, you know, that was like — it was so heavy to carry now I can have like a laptop, you know, iPads, phones, all these devices in my backpack and like not even be like strained, you know, and so if I wanted to download a song it would take three hours and I’d take up the phone line and hope, you know, now I can get it in seconds on my phone on a plane on the way — you know what I mean like it’s just – yeah, it’s mind blowing.
Max: Right, right, right. Totally. Yeah, and I feel like we’re old fucks right now but I — with this stuff. I was just astounded, like astounded but —
AJK: When I was a kid. Yeah, yeah.
Max: — right, exactly. So, when I — but it does, it’s a huge help because it means that I can do — like I don’t do that much creation on my phone, I can still do a lot of it on my laptop but I even had people laughing at me recently because I said — like I said like I’ll just hole up somewhere where I’m at and, you know, bang out something if it needs to get done and so I don’t — I haven’t even gotten into the world of the tablet yet, I mean I’m still working on my track pad creating and it’s doing just fine for me, I have no problem with it. In fact I haven’t even thought about it until some friends were laughing at me recently watching me do it and so — but it is awesome and I can pull up my phone or I can use reference photos from my phone that are incredible right, I mean like even for the — so for the Ginga Ninja I shot my wife because I mean I love the woman but she’s also the woman who’s right here.
And so I was like hey, sit there and just do this and, you know, Ginga Ninja is a beer and it’s highly, you know, one of our — it’s one of our core brands and it’s beer that Tyler actually created for his own wedding and named after his awesome, beautiful wife who is a ginger and we were talking, you know, one of my sisters, one of the twins is like a six foot tall ginger who’s amazing and so we — when we were going through ideas and brainstorming and kind of, you know, sometimes they help with that. Sometimes they’ll just have them talk a lot about the details of the beer so I can see what, you know, instead of putting pressure on anyone to know what might inspire a good image let them just talk and talk and I’ll just take notes and something will click or become visual to me. And something about the Ginga Ninja that we were both really — and it was one of the few — more times where we did talk about the actual image a little bit more and something that we came, you know, kept coming back to is that we wanted a bad ass red headed woman on this can and like not the 80s, 90s but like beer girl object but like this awesome warrior woman.
Someone that would speak in a way that we were proud of to these women in our lives that are important who are both, you know, strong and wonderful and then, you know, had my wife sit grouped her in on that too and she fits there perfectly and we were really excited about it and it came out, we were really happy of how it came out and then it has — like the response to that can has been a really incredible ride for me because it’s a very different response than I get in the fine art world. Like I get a really positive response but there’s a little bit more restrain or sometimes people will be effusive about their care for a piece or how it connects with them but there’s — it’s not sort of the fandom and that there is this — or there’s not — people don’t take it on as their own it’s still sort of, you know, my piece that they have a feeling about where the Ginga Ninja has kind of become public, it’s become public and so people own that for themselves and really love ’em, rocking the shirts and, you know, if it comes up that I did the cans I’ve had a lot of pretty great responses from women being like, you know, about how much they love that Ginga Ninja or love the ninja and that’s been awesome. That’s been something I didn’t really — it wasn’t something I was thinking about or making the can for that, we were making the can like I said to be a strong, awesome woman but I didn’t know that it would go kind of that far. And then we ended up coming in second to Creature Comforts I think two years ago now on the NBC Craft Beer — March Madness Beer Label Competition. I didn’t say that right. Some of those words were out of order but you know what I’m saying.
Max: And that was awesome. I mean Comforts is — was at that point was so much — had such a wider range than we did and I think we lost by less than 100 votes out of 3300 on I think both sides or something like that. Like we had an incredible showing of a sport from fans and people who liked it and it was — it felt — it was like as an artist who does a lot of shit on my own and I mean I got — Tommy and the guys but like as far as creation goes it’s me and headphones and a computer most of the time. And so that was the closest I ever felt just like being on a sport team like there, you know, constant chatter throughout the day on social media and everything else, total support, all these people going out and hitting the street and sharing it and moving forward and getting these calls from people being like we voted and like we got all of our friends and all these, you know, it was a really, really — I don’t actually know the right words but it was beyond awesome, it’s beyond like just warming, it wasn’t just warming like I didn’t realize that that community existed until that all happened.
And then when it did it was just like kind of inspiring or it really made me take a step back and be — and I was really grateful like to all these people and how much they actually care and to see like what — this is what I can do, you know, and this goes back to something we spoke about with that I’ve always felt is important understanding between Jason and myself is that food is important. Like these things are — this stuff is important, this is not just — it’s not just food, it’s not just beer, it’s not — this is what we — this is where we break bread and this is what — this is where relationships and things come from. And so different in saying beers where babies come from which is I think also possibly an accurate statement at times —
AJK: Yeah. It’s like dessert. It’s afterwards.
Max: You know so that — that really was special.
AJK: Yeah. I think that’s really great and that’s — I mean I have always enjoyed beer I guess I mean I just — not the quality I do now but when I — I had friends who — from around the country and we trade beer or just kind of — or I’ll pick up stuff locally and share with them and they’ll do the same and so that — in that way it’s a great way to keep in touch but just, I have a cellar — like people would cellar their wine, I have a cellar in the basement and I keep beers that are bigger, you know, whether it be alcohol, you know, level and, you know, I know I can’t drink it myself so for — to — for me to reiterate or kind of build upon what you’re saying for me it’s a very much a communal aspect of it. It’s not about this, you know, there are some aspects of the beer community where it’s, you know, whether it’s just kind of like competition which it’s weird like you’re trying to have who has the best beer, you know, or whatever but that’s not really what it is for me.
AJK: You know whether it’s sharing with, you know, my brother in law, you know, I see who’s going through, you know, grad school and, you know, like he couldn’t maybe afford, you know, this beer and — or just, you know — or whatever and, you know, I had that ability and so for me to share it’s always like when people are over it’s like you want to try this and it’s very, you know, for the Super Bowl every year, you know, break out a bunch of stuff and we have folks who are beer folks and not beer folks and try to, you know, introduce them or talk to them about it with my limited knowledge. And so for me it’s — I couldn’t agree more, it’s very much a communal aspect of my interest in this whole community which is it is that. It’s not necessarily like oh, this beer is so tasty let me have eight of these tonight, that’s not where it works for me, you know, occasionally that — those are fun nights too, you know, but, you know —
AJK: — but yeah. So, it’s been — it’s really interesting and I’ve really been enjoying talking to you. I think that your perspective and just the way that you, you know, expand upon some of these things that I felt, you know, and just put them in a different light has been really, really interesting.
Max: Well, thanks man. I love that your research and your — you’re just pushing forward with all this stuff. I do think that looking at — I think it’s looking at a perspective that will hopefully do that to — for all of us like often you know. I mean I think it’s a lot of people talking to breweries and they should continue to do that. I am by no means saying that but like I think talking to the people who are doing art to try to interpret and put that forward is always often going to be a different view, you know, we have a lot of meetings with the brewes and, you know, if you can ever get a hold of Tyler go to that one, don’t let the fatigue of brewers get you — Tyler is awesome but yeah, I think that your project and your inspection and research is pretty awesome.
AJK: Well, yeah thanks. Now I have to ask — I have a couple more but just if you go to your Instagram and even if you’re looking at the coffee milk stout it kind of has that, where this is going to lead. You have a — you seem to have an interest in paintball and maybe shooting your friends is there — yeah, I don’t want to leave this interview that, you know, you’re Mr. Fine Art and, you know, with your pipe and, you know, with your smoking jacket if you go there I think maybe that’s part of your —
Max: Oh no, no, no.
AJK: — your paint threshold series but yeah, I was definitely curious about that.
Max: Yeah. So, I do think about the work that I’m making whether it be Black Hog or fine art a lot and so I do try — do my best to be able to be articulate about what I’m into and then also being able to say I don’t know right now. So, that may come off as heady but yeah, if you go look at the work, the Instagram and the work most of that work comes from — I’ll go out and shoot these things like reference photo these things as kind of — like a lot of work is just an excuse for me to blow shit up. Like I still love doing this shit but I’m a grown man and it doesn’t look as cute sometimes on a grown man but if I think it’s for art then I get away with a lot of stuff. So, I have — well I try to have access to fireworks as often as possible and then yeah, lately there I wanted to do a series of water colors that will eventually look like very delicate beautiful abstractions but the theory — there’s no actual theory but like the hypothesis or whatever is can we shoot each other with paintballs and then use the photos of the bruises to make said delicate water colors? So, we actually — as I’m sitting here right now I have probably 14 relatively fresh as of last night paintball shots on my body and there’s a group of great guys and girls who thankfully find this shit fun too and so it’s not, you know, so just I — please excuse me, paintball culture because I don’t know that much about it —
AJK: I don’t either.
Max: To any listeners out there I sadly — I know very little about the fun that can exist out on like the actual competition and look forward to actually opening, you know, we’ve got guns now for this whole purpose so now I’m like we’ll try to do that but sort of like we were speaking about the tolerance, the paint tolerance and then the tribal bonding it’s like, you know, the rush that comes even from a non-lethal or non, you know, mostly non-bloody participation. Like the group is a blast. And these guys have been — this is the — so the first round we went way too masculine like pride and then we went skins and we got a very few bruises because it’s broke skin mostly.
AJK: Yeah, I was going to say — yeah, you need like a shirt or something.
Max: Yeah, we — not intelligent. So, then we troubleshoot, you know, like we are technically troubleshooting our way towards bruises. So, then the next time we’re like all right we’re going to wear shirts and we’ll do it and so then we did that but then we kind of didn’t get a lot of bruises including there’s like a couple of great — like I’m pretty — I got some ginger tendencies, I’m pretty pale but we got a couple of real like wonderful day walkers like super pale and they didn’t even bruise. Like these are people who like touch something and bruise I’m like God dammit. So, last night we — actually I got a new gun and then the theory of last night is we’re going to keep the shirts and sweatshirts on but go for closer range and multiple shots to the same place. And there would be some images coming up soon. It was a great time as usual but it ends up being kind of fun and so trying to figure out ways that this can translate to more than Jackass and not anything wrong with Jackass actually love the show but they’ve already done it and they did that really well. And so how does those super research then become the — or the deeper sort of meanings behind that stuff, how do you make that a little more forward while keeping the fun? So, yeah absolutely.
There we came up with a game that was — we wanted to see if a roman candle had enough mass in its explosion that you could redirect it with a baseball bat so we created roman candle baseball which I think I’ve seen on YouTube now since — and I’m not planning to create it for other people but we definitely created this like out of our own interests and then have seen other people have done the same. And those things come pretty fast so we ended up ditching an actual baseball bat because we even had a couple of pretty good baseball players who couldn’t get it around fast enough so we went with that fat whistle ball like the kids with small bats like with more of a — the odds on our side in making contact and the answer is that there is actually someone you can make contact with, you know, it wasn’t often but every once in a while we were able to, you know, redirect it and knock it in different places. It looked pretty awesome and so right now with the work I’m actually just documenting a lot of stuff and trying to figure out what comes next or how it turns into something amazing hopefully eventually but we’ll see, that might — I guess we’ll get there.
AJK: All right. Well, I’m definitely intrigued. I was going to ask if there’s — is it you have to be shot to shoot is that how it works, is that the give and take of it?
Max: Yeah. In the studio yeah, we try not to have on lookers. Every once in a while I’ll have, you know, it’s not for an audience, it’s not performative, it’s for, you know, for us and so every once in a while there’ll be like one or two people there like my wife will come who does not enjoy — she enjoys being there but does not want to be hit but she’s also great with the camera. So, that is the only kind of caveat we’ll make use for it, if somebody is able to perform a function there, you know, that that’s — that’s leading towards the end then there’ll be, you know, minor forgiveness but last night — yeah, last night everybody and as often as possible everybody’s involved.
AJK: Awesome. Well, I regret saying this but if there’s a shortlist for some odd reason I’m very curious and I would be willing to give and take, I don’t know, and I’m very pale so I’m definitely a bruiser so I don’t know if that ups my stock.
Max: Yeah. It sounds great.
AJK: Yeah. I don’t know.
Max: I will definitely let you know as we go. I think that — yeah, we’re already cooking up some of the next activity so I will definitely keep you in the loop.
AJK: Excellent, excellent. And then lastly you were mentioning, when you’re creating just with your headphones in the studio what are you listening to, what kind of music gets Max in the zone?
Max: It ranges greatly. There’s a couple albums that are always good to me. Like J Roddy Walston and the Business, any of their albums are always great specifically though the first album which has Brave Man’s Death on it, it’s one of my favorite songs and then there was a band that only existed for one album who I love the lead singer’s voice WU LYF was W-U space L-Y-F I really like that album and liked that album a lot and it gets played a lot. Anything by The National I really like. The new Kendrick Lamar is pretty great. I don’t usually like Drake but his new album is really good and it’s also really mellow so it gets seen in the background a lot. There’s a band called Do Make Say Think, they have one called Winter Hymnal that has been — it’s probably the most listened to album on my iPod.
AJK: Even — yeah, even — Max, even that, even you saying your iPod right our kids are going to be like what are you talking about?
Max: Yeah, I know I’m old. I am aware that I — I don’t stream, I can’t figure that out yet, I really like to have access to the music I want. I want the music I want. I want it right at my fingertips and I want to play those things and so —
AJK: Oh, well see, there we go. I might have to get shot. I can have a purpose. I can teach you how to stream music. There we go.
Max: There you go. You may say things that Winter Hymnal album is really great and then Jóhann, Jóhannsonn or something I feel terrible, he’s a great artist I just — I don’t know how to pronounce it correctly but he has an album called Orphée, it’s more recent, O-R-P-H-E-E I think and that one also is — and that one is — that and the Do Make Say Think are really beautiful kind of all orchestral or just sound and they work deeply for me. Like I can just listen to those on repeat without ever noticing that they’re on repeat and I’m just — I can zone out to those. and that’s where sometimes like the Kendrick or certain other things — I love Ben Staples, he’s an amazing rapper and I think he makes great songs and great albums but sometimes I get — the voice and the lyrics can distract me every once in a while. Like it depends on sort of where I’m at in the creation process, and how much I have to focus or if I’m just at that point banging out, you know, like making the vectors or like separating layers or something. If it’s linear work then it doesn’t matter but if I’m still concentrating on creating line work or creating individual things then I often need something that’ll fall behind but still keep a pace for me.
AJK: Yeah. That makes sense because sometimes the lyrics, you get so into them you’re trying to hear them but even you’re allocating extra brain function to something else then it takes you away from where you were.
Max: Yeah. And then I mean even to continue to dig my elderly grave I actually — there is a place where I’m really starting to do well that I just do books on tape or, no they’re not called that anymore, audio books, audible.
AJK: Max this is the — we’ve been doing this now — this is — carry the two, this is like our, I think our 14th of 15th interview and this is the longest it’s gone and it’s been a really natural experience speaking with you. I’m not blowing smoke up your ass I really did enjoy speaking with you, your perspective has enlightened me. Like I said before I’m going to Amsterdam for — actually I got to go for work in a month so a few museums. I think that I’m going to, you know, have a little more appreciation just walking through and checking things out, looking at my, you know, the three different views of everything and so I’ll definitely pick your brain offline on some spots and I think I said I do appreciate it. I mean it’s been a — I hope we can either get a paintball shot in or just have a beer at some point in the future.
Max: I would enjoy that man. I’m grateful to you for your interest and calling us up and what you’re doing here and thank you. This has been a blast.