territory: Europa (except UK)
agent: Michael Thiesen
line-up: Wil Ray (Frontman), Chris Gilbert (Guitarist), Matt Stevenson (Bass Player), Pete Reisner (Drummer)
media: press downloads


Life in a small town can make or break you. For rising UK punk outfit Max Raptor, it looks like it’s formed the essence of who they are. Frontman Wil Ray, guitarist Chris Gilbert, bass player Matt Stevenson and drummer Pete Reisner fell together towards the end of the last decade, gigging hard and honing their sound in a selection of small towns and smaller venues, often venues without proper ceilings. But while that is the experience of many bands, for this lot, hailing from Burton-On-Trent, the experience of life outside the fast lane has become the core of their being.

As Matt explains; “Where we’re from, everyone is very stuck in their ways. It’s an old brewing town. That can also be amazing, as there are so many towns that have got such spirit behind them that kind of gets lost in a lot of big cities. That’s what those early gigs were all about, the spirit of a town.”

That in turn inspired the 2011 mini-album ‘Portraits’, a series of punk-charged snapshots of life in small-town Britain. That alone marked them out as one of the more formidable forces in the UK rock underground. But now, with their harder-edged and angrier full-length debut ‘Mother’s Ruin’, they look like being the next to break badder, and bigger.

Surveying the world around him, Wil can see the potential for disaster. “I think we’re all living by the skin of our teeth. You see a country that looks incredibly stable from the outside, where people play cricket and drink Pimms around village greens, but it’s not stable at all. And when a few hundred or thousand people say they’re not happy with something, it sets the ball rolling for more and more people to join in and you see what people’s deep rooted feelings are.”

“Even in a country like the UK, there are so many extreme views in such a small space and everyone’s fighting for their place, but everyone’s also trying to make a story for themselves. Especially people who live in cities, where some people think they’ve been forgotten about and they want to make a noise.”

But this band is not as simple as being a straightforward group of protest punks, as Wil explains. “There’s this huge clash of loads of different views, which is a really good thing in some ways, because that’s what we fought to get. But at the same time it’s incredibly unstable. A lot of these songs try to seek out the root causes of these things, not to justify anything but at least say there must be a cause as to why people think these things.”

And so lead track, the frenetic, rabble-rousing ‘Breakers’ finds the band trying to make sense of the constant stream of 24-hour news, information that can threaten to overwhelm a mind. “People don’t have so much time, so you’ll pick up some of what is thrown at you and that almost forms your opinion in that split second for the next six months until someone tells you different.”

Meanwhile, the agitated ‘England Breaths’ tackles immigration, noting that a country that is literally shaped like a lung has always operated based on a stream of people coming and going in both directions. “People are going on about the past and how it used to be, complaining, and all these clichés like ‘oh our jobs have been taken’ and all that stuff. But the song is about that’s the way it happens in England, that’s just how it is. ‘Get over it, England breathes as it does', it’s a lung with people moving in and out.”

Meanwhile, the acoustic slowie ‘Heavy Hearts’ is a moment of more personal reflection looking back at mistakes in the life of an individual, while the incendiary ‘Must Work Harder’ even dares to try and look into the shocking practise on honour killing. “We’ve never been ashamed as a band to write songs about things that people would normally shy away from,” says Matt. “It’s there and it happens so much like again, we never want to write a song about how hard it is being on tour. What don’t people have choices about? What do they get forced into?”

A running theme, then, is the things that go on behind closed doors. “Wherever you’re from there’s always something going on, a family secret or stuff going on that only the family knows about. It’s always the case, there’s always something and class or colour doesn’t come into it.

“The fact it’s called Mother’s Ruin, the ten tracks are like the ten mistakes, the ten headlines as to why this mother is ruined completely. Going back to that maternal instinct and thinking what the mother would think about what has happened. There are loads of different characters in each of the songs, but it sort of ties together with this idea of a mother, looking down on it all.”

If the record shines a light on some of the difficult realities of life in small-town Britain, then it doesn’t claim straightaway to provide answers. “I think solving these problems is almost an impossible task, because of the competitive nature of people that causes it, and then the ingrained nature of the class system in this country that causes it,” says Wil. “If I were in charge… you just have to be as fair as possible to your fellow man or woman, because that’s the only way you can look in the mirror.”

Are the band then, offering, ‘The Bill And Ted Solution’, being simply: be excellent to each other’? “That’s the most simple of things,” he nods, “and everyone overlooks that, everyone looks to the past for answers, or looks to forthcoming bad stuff that could be about to happen. And governments don’t want to answer for anything.”

Max Raptor spread this message, and interrogate the politics of small-town life through a frenetic blend of melodic punk and high-density rock. While their early musical lives came from the sharper end of nu-metal, like System Of A Down, they carved out their space in the world with cues from the singalong might of Billy Talent, and as they matured, a respect and understanding of more classic songwriting traditions. Having served their apprenticeship on the road, and through the lessons of ‘Portraits’, the new record, recorded with producer Dan Weller at Chapel Studios, a converted Methodist Church in Lincolnshire, sees them arrive at their ideal sound.

A heroic modern British rock album, with the grit and soul of Queens Of The Stone Age, the athletics of modern punk, and the angular shapes of British new wave, they emerge as one of the most unique rock bands in the UK. In the end, Mother will probably be impressed.