MAXMas V: The Search for MAXMas IV

An interview with the team behind MAXMas, the Madison Area Christmas Compilation
by Mike Huberty
December 2014

Dan-o Stoffels, MAXMas Producer and Party Guy - photo by Eric Winegarner

Dan-o Stoffels, MAXMas Producer and Party Guy
photo by Eric Winegarner

The Madison Area Christmas Compilation or MAXMas as it’s abbreviated, is irreverent, non-traditional, ridiculously vulgar, often offensive, and completely awesome. It’s a Madison music scene spin on Christmas and a total artistic triumph that they’ve pulled together an album four out of the past five years. Herding a group of Madison bands together to write, record, and produce an album in a span of two months and then holding a big release party with almost all of those bands participating is a recording engineer and stage manager’s worst nightmare. Somehow, though, the guys who lead Kuhler Music and producer Dan-o Stoffels have pulled off a memorable album and ridiculous party every time. It’s a goddamn Christmas miracle. They’re even putting out a sexy MAXMas 2015 Calendar this year. We talked to Jon Kussow and Jeremy Gehler (who’s helping commandeer the operation from his new home in southern California) from Kuhler, along with Dan-o and calendar coordinator Audrey Martinovich, about what inspired them to bring back the Holiday hijinks for this year’s Maxmas V: The Search for MAXMas IV, to be released at the Frequency with a pair of wild parties.

Maximum Ink: What was the inspiration to bring MAXMas back after taking the year off?
Dan-o: The dreary, frigid, depressing winter last year. Everyone was affected by it and I know I’m not alone when I say we all could’ve used some MAXMAS last winter.
Jeremy: There were challenges in having part of the team living in a different state but decided screw it, let’s make another album. 
Jon: Plain and simple – we missed it. We missed the hellish fun working with so damn many people in such a small window of time.?

MI: What’s the biggest challenge about putting the compilation together, isn’t this fucking exhausting?
Dan-o: Staying sober during production. (Laughs) Just kidding. My biggest challenge is motivating everyone involved, including myself, to hit the deadlines, because we inevitably end up with our backs to the wall at crunch time.
Jon: Not for me, no. I, Jon Kussow, have about zero knowledge of recording, mixing, mastering, or graphic arts. I guess the most exhausting part for me is convincing the bands to keep on it and actually get their songs written. I’m looking at you, Government Zero.
Audrey: It is exhausting, but seeing everything come together makes it worth it. The biggest challenge is coming up with streamlined ways to accomplish what we need to do and make sure that everyone knows what their part is and when they need to get it done. Keeping communication easy is important.?

MI:What was your favorite moment in the studio this year?
Dan-o: This is the first time recruiting Sexy Ester into the mix and we just had an all around blast on a Sunday afternoon. We enjoyed a merry Schlitz-mas, Blatz-mas, and Hamm’s-mas before we ended up ear-to-ear at the Green Lantern, which I paid for the following day at work.

MI: Calendar? What’s that all about? Where did you find the people to pose, what was the inspiration behind that?
Jeremy: Combining sexy ladies with MAXMAS felt natural and it will help keep peoples minds on MAXMAS all year. Audrey and myself began to set up shoots with willing ladies and put it together. It has been a blast and just another awesome thing for fans of MAXMAS to look forward to! Also a great place to show off our photo skills!
Audrey: We came up with the idea in a meeting when talking about potential merch ideas and what is popular around the holidays. We toyed around with making an advent calendar, but decided to go with a full-year instead. I used to do some modeling for Suicide Girls before becoming a photographer and owner of the Wisconsin group so that’s where most of the models came from. June features Donyx Suicide who was a canvas on the last season of Ink Master over the summer. This calendar is full of gorgeous tattooed ladies (and tattoo virgins!) with a special sexy surprise for December.

MI: Give us a preview of a couple of the tracks, which ones do you think are the wildest?
Dan-o: Heh, well Government Zero never fails to deliver. This year they cranked out a hit with a hook: “This is the last Christmas song, we’ll ever write.” I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next year for MAXMAS VI. Annabel Lee is another first for MAXMAS and she straight up brung that shit in the studio. She showed up with her father and cut her vocals in under 30 minutes! Her song is called Sugar Daddy, about convincing Santa to be her sugar daddy, so she can fly around the world in his sleigh; a sassy little number. Beka Killjoe’s (yet another newcomer) “Christmas On The Isthmus” sings about the happy moments surrounding Christmas and winter. A little wintery beacon of light while most of us prefer to piss and moan about the cold and the traffic jams.?
Jon:  Several of the tracks reference previous MAXmas albums, and all of the tracks freakin’ rock. Newcomers to the album such as Something to Do, Beka Killjoe, Sexy Ester, and Sparklefuck definitely surpassed my expectations. I suppose that could be because they weren’t trying to top what they recorded last year.?
Audrey: One of my favorites so far is the track by One Last Run which is really about the spirit of the holiday season and accepting that your new dad might be the guy who dresses up like Santa at the mall. ?

MI: It seems like the Madison music community has gotten really behind the compilation, were you expecting that reaction?
Dan-o: This year we’ve teamed up with more bands than ever before, 22 bands in total. We had a long list of interested bands back in September, and I didn’t expect the list to remain as long as it did. Madison, you proved me wrong.?
Jeremy: At first we thought it would be hard to get people on board because it is a commitment from a band to write songs for another purpose than their own album. We have so much fun each year I think bands just want to be a part of it and join us in the crazy fun.
Jon: Yes and no. It’s reaction we had all hoped for, but certainly couldn’t expect. I mean, its Christmas music so I could see how some folks may not enjoy it. But this is OUR Christmas music – Christmas music for the people!

MI: Any last words?
Jon: Bring in non-perishable food items to donate to our Second Harvest food drive, and we will give you free drink tickets to Karben4 Brewery, One Barrel Brewing Company, or House of Brews! Free beer for helping a good cause? Hell yeah. Also, Saturday night starting at 6 there is a free keg of Penguin American Pale Ale donated by One Barrel Brewing company! Show up early, and thirsty! And… Boobs!

The party is at The Frequency on Friday December 12th and Saturday the 13th with “Ghosts of MAXMAS Past Happy Hour” kicking off the party at 6pm both nights. Bands performing will be I Am Dragon, Sunspot, EME, The 4 AM, Not Dead Yet, Sexy Ester, 626, The Faith Hills Have Eyes, Something To Do, Annabel Lee, One Last Run, Beka Killjoe, Mr Fist, Kill Junior, Eddie Ate Dynamite, Dr. Noise, Government Zero, and Lot 74. On Saturday, One Barrel Brewing is sponsoring one barrel of beer free of charge!

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MAXMas V: The Search for MAXMas IV
CD: MAXMas V: The Search for MAXMas IV Record Label: Kuhler Music