Interview – Mike Tilka of Max Webster

Max Webster

Max Webster

Max Webster got the royal Box Set treatment with the release of The Party.

The Party (ole Label Group / Anthem Legacy / Universal Music Canada), will feature newly re-mastered albums, exclusive unreleased studio and live songs, the long-out-of print Kim Mitchell self-titled EP and a comprehensive booklet packed with rare photos and memorabilia. The Party is available via Musicvaultz.com

The re-mastered records beautifully present more musical detail for your ears to chew on, as well we unearthed and mixed never heard before songs. You’ll hear different musical approaches/arrangements as we worked it out in the studio and live,” said Kim Mitchell. “We’ve included the warm sound of quality vinyl in the package. I kept thinking ‘where has some of this been for all these years’, we carefully picked moments for the box set where the band proved it was definitely  strapped to a foreign rock ‘n’ roll.

The complete Max Webster vinyl box set includes a thirty-two page booklet, filled with rare photos, quotes and memorabilia, a vintage Max Webster poster, a Universal Juveniles fan club ID card and an introductory foreword by Q107’s John Derringer. The vinyl and CD box sets include the newly re-mastered albums Max Webster, High Class in Borrowed Shoes, Mutiny Up My Sleeve, A Million Vacations, Live Magnetic Air, Universal Juveniles, Kim Mitchell EP and special edition The Bootleg which features unreleased studio and live tracks remixed by Terry Brown and Greg Wells.

We were able to get some questions out to the band’s original bassist Mike Tilka.

Q) Tell us why a definitive box set, and why now?

Tilka: I assume it had to do with Anthem selling off their label masters to ole Media a while ago and the new label deciding they needed a plan to get their new investments working for them. Good timing, because if they had waited any longer we couldn’t do these interviews Andy Curran did a great job keeping the ball rolling on this project.

Q) Will there be any new previously unreleased material? 

Tilka:  There are a bunch of new/old photos and great cover-art – some of these pics I had never seen before. Also, there is a “Bootleg” record with some live tracks (there is a live version of “Let Go The Line” from the Max reunion ten years ago) and demos never released before.

Q) The box set is available both in CD or Vinyl form. I personally believe these gems should be heard with a needle on a record. Do you think there is something more natural with this material in analog format rather than digital format? 

Tilka:  I don’t think there anything for me to discuss on this topic without a bottle of whisky and a bunch of my opinionated “musoid” friends hanging around. Both formats have a distinctive sound and certainly both have unique limitations. I think the 24bit Super CD was the best format to date to listen to music but unfortunately the buying public did not agree – it did not survive. The mp3 format did survive, so that alone tells you a lot about the buying public. The vinyl thing does rate high on the cool factor presently – I still have my turntable.

Q) What have you been up to the last 30 years since the band dissolved?

Tilka:  I worked at SRO/Anthem for almost nine years after Max. Then I was one of the three partners at Westbury National Show Systems, a premier show production supplier here in Toronto, until I retired a few years ago. I also produced live show all over the country for Your Show Productions for many years. During all this time I never really stopped preforming and playing bass. My latest project is a group called “Odd Clue” with a singer/songwriter (and hot guitar player) Shane Cloutier. We just finished a new CD and should have it on the streets in a few weeks. Give me a buzz if you want a link to hear the tracks. I think we really have something here!

Q) What happened with Max Webster? Huge radio play, huge potential and then it stopped. How come? 

Tilka:  Max never had significant radio play anywhere in the states – the best way to “happen” in Canada is to break in the USA! Maybe next time. What happens with any band – potential shifts – members get changed and the chemistry changes – not always for the better! Max stopped because it was no longer a band. Kim always exhibited enormous potential, with or without Max, so he was able to go it alone with that potential.

Max Webster The Party Box Set

Max Webster The Party Box Set

Q) Pye Dubois was an amazing lyricist, can you describe what it was like working with him? 

Tilka:  I cannot answer that question since I never worked on songs with Paul Woods. He was Kim’s guy – he wrote some very cleaver wordscapes, edited by Kim, as a part of Kim’s songwriting process. I was never invited to be part of that deal.

Q) We have seen Terry Watkinson play on different occasions including a very good Pink Floyd tribute band (Floyd Factor) and of course Kim Mitchell is still playing, what about Gary McCracken, is he playing at all? 

Tilka:  I don’t think that Gary plays much at all anymore. I asked him to do some retrospective stuff with me and Terry a few years ago but he was not interested. I believe he used to do one solo concert a year in Sarnia for his local drum students but I do not know if he still does.

Q) What do you listen to these days? Are you into any new rock bands or just a fan of the classics?

Tilka:  I have been listening to “Left” a new CD by Monkey House, Don Breithaupt’s fabulous ode to Steely Dan – great tunes, amazing players, etc… One of my favorite guitar players, Kim Mitchell, is featured on one of the tracks. He does a great job but you will never be able to convince him of that.I got into Ryan Adams recently. His songwriting is wonderfully simple and understated. Nice voice as well. I am going through all his solo and band CD’s.The new self-titled Odd Cue CD is also on my current playlist. As I mentioned before it is my new project with guitarist Shane Cloutier, a fabulous singer/songwriter. We plan to release it soon, so watch for it. In addition to these, lately I have been listening to: Jeff Beck’s “LIVE+” (there is your classis stuff), ”Hamilton” (just amazing), “Drug Plan” (wonderful new stuff), Avishai Cohan’s CD “Continuo” (I still love jazz), and anything Little Feat has ever recorded – the list never ends!

Q) Speaking of which what do you think of the commercial viability of rock these days? How can a young rock band “make it”? 

Tilka:  I really wish I could answer that question! The whole industry has changed a lot in the last fifteen years and it is still a moving target. All I can say is play music because you enjoy it and don’t worry about “making it” — you can’t really control it anyway.

Q) Have to throw out the obvious question, what are the chances of a reunion gig or tour? Would you like that to happen? 

Tilka:  I’m totally in, but I really don’t think there is much chance of another Max live reunion gig. Kim would be the one to ask, but… never say never!

Mike thanks a lot man its an honor to speak to a legend of the Canadian Rock n Roll landscape. We wish you success in all your future endeavors, keep in touch!

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Mike Tilka of Max Webster Interview by Terry Makedon

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