Mike Tilka (Max Webster) Interview

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Mike Tilka
November 10, 2017
E-Interview by Celtic Bob

Start off with the new boxed set: THE PARTY that just came out if that is OK?

I was somewhat unfamiliar with the Max catalog outside of the “Best Of” CD that I owned for years. I bought the Martin Popoff book and then I ordered the reissued debut LP a couple years ago (that was perfectly done) and hoped that the remainder of the catalog would be repressed so the announcement that The Party was coming out was great news. Why now after all these years?

I believe it had to do with Anthem selling off all their label masters to ole Media a while ago and crew at ole deciding they needed a plan to get their new investments working for them. The timing certainly seems to have worked because the response has been fabulous

Did that reissued LP, Rock Candy’s CD reissue’s and Martin Popoff’s informative book help renew interest in the band?

Yes! I think it all helped fuel a renewed interest in Max Webster. The internet in general has also helped because the old fans communicate on Facebook etc and then new fans are created. As well, Kim still performs quite a bit and features Max tunes all the time. Terry & I both still play gigs and that helps keep the fans interested in our music

How involved were you and the band in this set?

Kim and Andy Curran, at ole Media, made most of the choices re the material. I was lucky enough to do a mix of a live version of “Let Go The Line” from a Max reunion ten years ago for the “Bootleg” record. I did the mix with Kim & Adam Fair. I also provided a couple pictures I found in some storage boxes I had put away.

Did you go back to the original Master Tapes and cut it from that or did you use digital files?

All the re-released vinyl records and CDs were re-mastered from the original Master Tapes but no re-mixes. The new live stuff was mixed from digital location recordings.

Is there anything in The Vault that could come out down the road? Any video footage that could come out on Blu-Ray?

I have all the digital location recordings, both audio and video, from the Max reunion ten years ago. Andy said there is a good chance that we can mix and release this material next fall assuming the interest in Max continues to grow.

The plan would be to do the audio in 5.1 for the video release.

Apart from interviews, will there be shows in the new year to promote it and for those of us that never had the opportunity to see you on the first time around? Could we see a Cross Canada Tour ’18 and a new site with a store where fans can buy shirts, mugs…etc to support the band?

Terry asked me about that just last week and a radio station in Winnipeg is starting a campaign to get Max to perform some dates in their part of the Great White North. I would be in to playing live if I was asked, but I really don’t know if there is a chance of another live reunion gig or tour. Kim would be the one with the answers.

In terms of a web-site, I attempted to do that a few years back but it was a no-go. The domain name was not available in the “dot-com” world. There is a fan-based “dot-ca” site but they don’t own the licensing on the name etc. Again, Kim would be the one to ask.

Are you in contact with Kim and the other guys?

I talked to Gary a couple times in the last month. He sounds good but he doesn’t really leave Sarnia these days.

I see Kim regularly. We had lunch with Terry a couple weeks ago.

You were there at the beginning. What is one of your fondest memories from that time?

The excitement of moving to a new city, Toronto, and the challenge of putting a new band together with a guy I just met. I didn’t know Kim at all at the time, but we were both willing to take a chance and provide the sweat-equity it took to succeed. You don’t get to take that kind of risk too many times in your life – if ever. It proved to be one of the best of my life.

Some labelled the band as ‘Baby Rush’. Did that help or hinder the band?

Can’t recall I ever heard that exact label before but at the time any press would have been good press. Opening for Rush certainly helped us in many, many ways.

Was it a lot to live up too?

You bet! Rush had a big, loud, loyal audience show-up for their shows. It certainly was humbling for us, but I think we generally rose to the challenge.

I hear a bit of a Zappa in the music in places. Was Frank an influence on you?

Yes! We loved Zappa. His edge – his musicianship – his creativity. In the early bar days, we used to open with “Peaches En Regalia”. One night we played if five times in a row, for a laugh – we only got half-way through the sixth time because we were laughing so hard!

What do you listen to nowadays?

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.

In addition to these, lately I have been listening to: Jeff Beck’s “LIVE+”, “Hamilton”, “Drug Plan”, Avishai Cohan’s CD “Continuo”. I just got a copy of Gregg Allman’s “Southern Blood” – amazing! The list never ends!

Do you listen digitally or old school and still spin the LP’s, like myself?

I should get my turntable re-patch and happening (I still have lots of records) but I am not part of the vinyl thing that is going on – too much surface noise and rumble for me. I did get my old reel-to-reel serviced recently – I love clean analog Masters as a music source – not everyone is lucky enough to have that indulgence.

However, most of my listening is on my iPhone — usually full wave files — through a wide variety of headphones while I walk every day.

Are you still actively involved in music now, and to what extent?

Still playing bass, both upright & electric. Still learning songs and doing gigs. I love it!

I have a great band “Odd Clue” with guitarist Shane Cloutier, a fabulous singer/songwriter.

It is a full-time deal.

Any release you are working on that you would like to promote?

A new self-titled Odd Cue CD is our latest project. We plan to release it sometime in the next few months, so watch for it. Exciting stuff.

Anything you would like to say to the readers and fans out there?

Take advantage of all the wonderful music out there – both new & old.

It will keep you young!

Thanks for your time and all the best.

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