Guitarist Max Zaska is a hard man to put in a nice, easy-to-grasp box. A brilliant guitarist and adventurous songwriter, he eschews genre convention, preferring to flit between funk and R&B, pop and soul. The result if often bright, bubbly and bouncy.
His approach to performing is similarly atypical. Zaska’s forthcoming debut album hosts something of a who’s who of Ireland’s more interesting musical fringes: BARQ, Come On Live Long, Little Green Cars, Super Silly, Loah and Wyvern Lingo all have members who have chipped in on vocals or instruments, taking roles that Max himself jokingly says he’s utterly unable to fill himself.
It’s hard to peg precisely what Zaska is, then, apart from a project led by a man who’s clearly not short on vision, or on friends (Hozier has also been a regular feature in his career). The inventive musician finds his finest moments is big, bold, diverse collaboration.
“The album title, ‘It Takes A Village’, comes from the way this album was put together, both with all the collaborations and with the FundIt [crowdfunding] campaign that’s supported it,” Zaska told the Gazette of his debut.
“I’ve been working on it since 2015, and the €14.5k people contributed to my FundIt has kept it going right up until now. I’ll just be pushing into my own finances for the first time with some of the promo stuff, so I’m so blessed. It’s been a lot of work. I almost died from exhaustion, but the support has kept me afloat.”
The result is brave and bold. Zaska’s new single is a swipe at Dublin’s increasingly prominent housing crisis. In the imagery around ‘It’s Ridiculous’, you can see the songwriter perched outside the Central Bank in a cardboard box labeled ‘two-bedroom apartment’, grimacing and clutching another piece of cardboard with the song title penned on it in marker.
Vocalist Louise Gaffney, of Dublin act Come On Live Long, delivers a sunny vocal over a bouncing, funky guitar track and plenty of brass, and on the video, members of Wyvern Lingo pull out choreographed dance moves on the streets of Dublin.
While he’s dreaming big in his productions, though, Zaska takes more of a balanced approach to music’s part in his life as a whole. “I’m not looking to take over the world,” he laughs. “I’d like to play a few shows outside Ireland, and I really hope the album goes well, but I like to have time for my family, too, and to live a bit. This isn’t everything. Really, I just want to be able to do this full time.”
Things are crazy for the songwriter in the lead up to his album launch, however. “I just sent emails at the moment, I don’t have time to write a lot of music,” he jokes of the preparation for the launch gig, which will feature and 11 or 12 piece backing band and at least another 7 or 8 guest featured artists.
“This is a bit of a one off, for most of the shows I’ll probably just bring a band and a couple of vocalists,” he tells us. “For this, we have a really good set planned. It’s like a massive puzzle piece, but it’s coming together.”
Zaska’s debut album ‘It Takes A Village’ is out in early February. He’ll launch the album at the Button Factory on February 8, with tickets priced at €15.
This article is one of my weekly music columns for the Dublin Gazette, reproduced here with permission. Note: this column is published in the Dublin Gazette several days ahead of on this website. The Gazette is a freesheet paper available across Dublin, published on a Thursday. Pick up copies at these locations.
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