Interview: Nathen Maxwell

Interview: Nathen Maxwell

On a warm July evening in Denver, The Pier was invited to an exclusive performance at the Marquis Theater featuring Nathen Maxwell and The Original Bunny Gang. After their performance, Nathen grabbed a 6 pack of Guinness and invited The Pier back stage to discuss how The Bunny Gang came to fruition and what it’s like to be a part of the biggest Celtic punk rock band in the world, Flogging Molly. His father later joined us and gave us some insight to how it all started. Enjoy!…

The Pier: You are a well known and established musician playing in the ever so popular Celtic punk rock band “Flogging Molly”. What brought you to the point to change things up a little bit and to do something a little different with “OBG”?
Nathen Maxwell: I wouldn’t say that it was just a “decision” I made. I have been evolving this music in my head ever since I was writing songs back in the day with Mike Peralta our bass player. We were doing street punk music and would mix it up with rock steady, just trying to do the music that we love and that saved us. Music is my church and these tattoos on my body are like my trail, my mustard seeds. I have a tattoo of Bob Marley and Black Flag on me as well as other various reggae and punk rock bands.

The Pier: You are from L.A where the music industry thrives. What made you decide to settle down in Denver?
Nathen Maxwell: Family. My first two children were born in L.A and my wife is from the Denver area, so I knew that she would need some support. Money also goes a lot farther in Denver and it’s realistic. I am able to provide a nice lifestyle for my kids and they go to a really nice public school. I definitely miss the ocean and my family and friends but I really believe that Denver is a higher place to be.

The Pier: Literally!
Nathen Maxwell: A mile high (laughs)

The Pier: Coming from the world of punk rock, it’s easy for musicians to gravitate towards playing in a project with you because of your talent and success. How did you assemble and develop guys that wanted to be a part of “OBG” on the other side of the music spectrum?
Nathen Maxwell: Our album “The White Rabbit”, the only album that we have out is originally a collection of songs I have been kicking around for a while now. A lot of times after Flogging Molly show’s some of the guys would go out and play acoustically on the streets for people and for ourselves. I remember sitting in Ireland with our lead singer Dave King and he told me “You know Nate, you really have got your own story. It’s not just this or that song, you have your own vibe.” He told me that he really thought that I should make my own album and tell my story. I took what he told me as a blessing and I decided to run with it. I then decided to call up Ted Hutt who was our first drummer in Flogging Molly, turned music producer and my pops who is an outstanding drummer. I gave them my songs because they were people I really trusted musically and did not really have time to form a band. Later we brought in Matt Hensley to lay down some accordion and the four of us made that record. It was after this record came out that I put the actual band together.

The Pier: Being that the collection of tracks on “The White Rabbit” are a collection of songs written over the past ten years, do you plan on waiting a while before the next album release?
Nathen Maxwell: Absolutely not. 5 of the songs we played tonight are new songs. There is an E.P. right there! The thing is I have been in Flogging Molly for 15 years. I am dedicated to Flogging Molly till death and without a doubt that is my family. Without a compromise, Bunny Gang is my life’s work and that’s it. This is what I do. I don’t want to qualify what Flooging Molly and Bunny Gang is. It’s bigger than I can describe and it’s all that I can dedicate to including my family of course.

The Pier: You are very proud of who you are and who you have become. We know that you do have some of that Irish blood in you but where do the rest of your roots stem from?
Nathen Maxwell: I’m Californian! (Laughs) I remember when I was young, I asked my mom what I am made of and she told me that I am a Heinz 57. One love man, really. My great grandpa Mc Reynolds was a Scottish guy born in Mexico and Spanish was his first language. To identify with a certain nation is beautiful and is part of human culture and should be cherished. It’s beautiful. By the way, say hello to my father Maxwell.

[Nathen’s father and drummer for OBG “Maxwell” walks into the room backstage during our interview and the interview turned to him as well.]

The Pier: Maxwell, Hello! Can we ask you a question?
Papa Maxwell: Hey guys. Go for it!

The Pier: It was you that introduced Nathen to Flogging Molly, Correct?
Papa Maxwell: True! That actually goes back to when it was the Dave King band and Jeff Peters was playing the bass and he was a great bass player. Nathen was 17 at the time and was really showing interest in playing the bass. We were recording a live album and Nathen was allowed in to the place we were recording with the understanding that he was there to check out this bass player. That was it, that’s when Nathen fell in love with the band.

Here is a little story that I do not tell people very often. Back when Nathen first started playing with Dave in the band, I would get phone calls from Dave because he and I were pretty good friends at the time and he would be like “I love your boy man! I was getting ready to give it all up and go back home to Ireland but I love him and I think we can do it!” and then I would hear George and he would be like “We got to try out other guys because he is too young and does not have the experience” Dave would call me back and say “Fuck that! I love your boy”.

The Pier: 15 years later and I think that it’s clear that Dave made the right choice! Nathen, in your song Mijo you write about people striving for a better life and to be free, yet having to depend on the system. Do these lyrics stem from world struggles or something a little more personal?
Nathen Maxwell: It’s definitely a song that is personal to me. It’s a roots song for California and more particularly I’m speaking of my second cousin whom I consider my nephew. It’s about keeping your head above water and not to give in to conforming to gangs and drugs. The song is about positivity and thinking for yourself.

The Pier: What is the most abstract music we would find on your i-Pod?
Nathen Maxwell: Abstract huh…I’d have to go with, Antony and the Johnsons or Amadou & Mariam. If you have not heard of them, you should check them out!

The Pier: Nathen, thank you for your time and the Guiness! Im sure we will come out and see you again real soon.
Nathen Maxwell: One love brother.

Interview by: Chad Hillje
Photos by: Kit Chalberg
Edited by: Kyle Hillje