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Recently the album ‘So True, So Bound’, by Exist saw the light of day. It was their second effort. Quite a bit has happened to singer-guitarist Max Phelps in the years in between the releases, he became the frontman of Cynic and Death To All, the Death tribute band with besides him only members who have been part of the line-up of Death at some point. That experience was not entirely new, since he already played Death covers as a kid. That heritage, plus a very broad array of progressive music styles, clearly resounds in the music of Exist. So it is about time to get a further introduction with Phelps. And there is a small part on the side for a member of the Dutch parliament.

By: Ramon | Archive under prog / sympho metal

Congratulations with the new album. This is not quite giving away all its secret with one spin, is it?
Thanks! I hope not?

Furthermore, you put a lot of emphasis on the audibility of all the instruments, rather than blending all the instrument into one big melting pot of noise, did you?
Yep, well it’s still very dense but we had an amazing mixer (Adam “Nolly” Getgood) and we did everything DI which made it easier to separate the instruments I’m guessing.

Yet as I hear this record, you avoid a lot of clichés, but I also can’t help but feeling that your roots lie heavily buried in extreme metal, am I wrong?
Yes and no. I mean that’s definitely part of it but we are into a TON of stuff. Most of my favorite artists aren’t extreme metal artists, although there are certainly some in there.

What else shaped your musical scope?
Everything from Kurt Rosenwinkel to The Beatles. We’re all teachers and freelance musicians and we play and listen to a whole ton of shit.

When I said I was doing an interview with you, a girl named Lisa Westerveld (Dutch member of parliament) insisted on me saying “hi” to you. Could you tell us how you met?
Lisa met all of us (DTA) when we were doing European festivals. I think in Belgium at a festival called “Alcatraz” if I remember correctly. She was with a mutual friend who I had met previously and they were traveling from festival to festival in a van of his. She ended up coming to a bunch of shows and the whole crew developed a rapport with her.

What do you know of her political background and would you vote for her if you had the right?
Well I honestly don’t know too much about the political landscape in the Netherlands, so I couldn’t completely say. I will say though that just from talking to her, she has a really genuine interest in humanitarianism and seems very passionate about the well-being of others above all else. She strikes me as very sincere in that regard.

How do you look at this system of so many parties, when in the US for instance, there are more parties, but only two fight over the presidency, while we have to make a representation of all interest. Would that work for you?
Sure, I think lots of people here would like that. It’s very hard for any new parties to assume power though especially with how polarized the two sides are right now.

Back to the album it shows a lot of interest in the human psyche and behaviour. Are you always observing?
Ha, yeah absolutely. People are fascinating and life is hilarious.

Your fame rose to new limits when you joined Cynic and even more when you participated in the project Death To ALL (DTA), with ex Death members. Don’t you find it funny that your current bandname is the exact opposite of the name Death?
Yeah, I’ve definitely thought of that. The name Exist pre-dates my involvement with either of those bands, although I was probably listening to them both pretty heavily at the time it was conceived (amongst lots of other music). Ironically, come to think of it, I’m pretty sure the first show we ever played under the name Exist was opening for Cynic about eight years ago. We had been playing shows for a year or two before that but I’m pretty sure that was our first gig after the name change.

Is DTA an ongoing thing, or is there a hold to it now?
Well it’s sort of on a break but I think it will probably resurface because we left off in a happy place. It’s probably more a question of when. Bobby, Steve, Gene and I really enjoy doing it. It’s a good touring situation, everyone gets along really well and the fans are rabid for it since I guess it’s one of the closer things they can get to seeing Death live. I know personally I never had the chance, I was only thirteen when Chuck died.

What have you learned from those endeavours?
Oh tons. It’s been like three years of it so I couldn’t even think of where to begin. My touring experiences have changed me as a person for sure and affected my outlook on the world.

How conceivable is it to think that the music of Exist would be in the region where Chuck Schuldiner would make his music now, as far as your glass bowl is functioning?
Umm, I honestly have no idea. He was gravitating more towards more classic/power metal sort of stuff with Control Denied and SOP…my guess is he would have been doing something pretty different than what we’re doing now. But who really knows?

In what way did their music and their musicians inspire you?
It’s a huge part of the vocabulary, same with Cynic amongst a wealth of other influences from the same point in my life I was listening to that stuff. Chuck was one of the reasons I started screaming after originally just being a guitarist. I played in a few bands in high school that covered Death songs including ‘Symbolic’ and the ‘Philosopher’.

How much sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll is your life as a musician, now that your fame rose (without telling names)?

You worked with Hannes Grossmann on the record, have you already found a drummer to take his stool live?
We just toured with a fantastic drummer named Ashley Maccabee. He’s killing it.

How did you gather the bunch for the recording?
You mean the band line up? Matt, Alex and I have worked together in this band for seven or eight years now. I knew Hannes through touring with him numerous times. He also played on some albums that I adored before I ever met him (Necrophagist’s Epitaph and Obscura’s Cosmogenesis).

Where will this album take you, in terms of promotion?
Well we just got to tour supporting GORGUTS, so at minimum that, which was amazing.

Are you already writing new material, or still working on material that didn’t make the album?
I actually have a huge portion of the next album written. I’m starting to think about refining it and working on the remaining songs…so in short yes.

I thank you for your time. All the best with the album and hope to see you out on the road, with either one of your bands. If will give you the honour to close the interview down.
Thanks for talking! Hope everyone digs the album.

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