A Q&A with Operation Offbeat

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Ska ‘n’ roll, rebooted and ready to go – here’s Max Beeger from Operation Offbeat…

How did you get the title of your latest album Your Idea of Luck, and what does it mean to you?
‘Fortune in life’ being a multifaceted concept has gotten me in trouble much more than once in my life. Obviously, if what your parents and teachers think of as your road to happiness isn’t for you; but more seriously in relationships – and bands. And I was in more bands than relationships. By the time I wrote that song, I neither knew it was going to be the title track of the album, nor that it would have a rather personal note attached to it in hindsight. I was just joking about a simple mind, who’d pretend to be happy about the little things, for the sake of not stressing himself out. But when it turned out, that most of my then-bandmates’ idea of luck was different from mine, I’ve made it the album title – show me your idea of luck, in this case, means ‘was it worth it?’.

What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
We’ve got the deal for the album after gigging as much as we could for roughly two years; all across London, and southern England, but also a few times in Germany. And I, living the stereotype, thought of an album as the reward for the work that went ahead. It was simply what I had commuted to the UK for. However; a few of my bandmates rather thought of a studio session coming up as stressful and downright scary, which seemed absurd to me anyway, but I later heard that while they told me they weren’t ready yet, they had formed another band behind my back. They said the music was easier to play. So I left them and formed a new line up of Operation Offbeat. That one went down well for a while, but then played one single gig that was so terrible I gave up, and moved the band back to Hamburg, so at least I wouldn’t have to do the commute anymore – the strain had given me health issues anyway. I had recorded the strings, keys and vocals for the album in London already, and then we finalised it in Hamburg with the band that is still in existence now, but obviously caged by Corona. Long story short, that was the hardest part. It lasted roughly two years.

Who produced the release, and how would you say they helped shape it?
The Animal Farm produced it; lovely little London music company run by Ville Leppanen and his brother Mat, both being tour-proven rock fanatics themselves, and therefore showing some understanding for my situation. They gave me the time to sort things out. I remember one sentence from our discussions, I’m not saying who exactly it was about, but the sentence was “If they don’t want to play, I don’t care about them.” That was some sort of self esteem I had missed until that point; I was always grateful for anyone who was willing to play with me at all, especially in the UK, but I fell for big gobs much too often. But it’s that easy – if you get aggressive about the idea of creating music together, you’re in the wrong game. We have an album, they don’t. And I assure you no one got hurt recording it. No reason to be scared at all. Which – I almost forgot – is partly down to Jamie Dodd from TAF, who engineered the album. A delightful man.

What do you want the listener to take away from hearing your music?
A positive attitude overcomes. I don’t mean that in a romantic way; it’s a simple fact. When someone wants to run you down, they will, there’s no arguing. But my answer to that are songs in a major key. And if you enjoy them, that’s the happy ending to a nerve-wrecking prehistory!

How does a track normally come together for the band? Can you tell us a bit about that process?
I usually start with a riff, a melody snippet, a hook, something like that. Almost never with words, I don’t know why… Anyway; whenever there’s an idea banging on my head, I try to sing or whistle it, using my mobile to track it down. Then follows a home studio session, where I build up on it, adding beats, horns, guitars, whatever. I screw around on it and send it to my bandmates, who then decide whether they want to give it a try or not – obviously, homemade MIDI-versions lack a proper spirit, and only the band can make the songs live. If even that doesn’t work, my bad!

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“Unique and inspiring”

How would you say that the sound of your band has changed over the last year?
Wow! Ok. I’d say the energy is there, but it’s hiding more than usual. We need more time at a practice to go full blast. I blame that on the lack of shows. No matter in which line up, OO has always been a live band in the first place, gigs have always been the mutual goal, and when you’re excited to hit the road pretty soon that’s audible. So we’re in a lower gear for longer parts of the road now. Maybe that’s good, maybe not, but the main goal now is to stay together, and be ready for the shows to come back, so I personally can easily compromise. On the bright side, there’s more time for writing and developing new tunes, we can give them the extra attention now, so maybe the lockdown will change the band a bit for the better!

What bands/artists have influenced you the most since you started your own band/project, and why?
The best Ska show I have ever seen were The Toasters, in the line up with Larry Snell and Jack Ruby Jr.; the best show I have ever seen at all were Jason and the Scorchers in Hamburg. Sadly the place where they played is about to shut down now, guess why… I also had my first ‘real’ gig in there, and countless great nights out, gigging myself or watching others. The Logo. The Logo in Hamburg, I just wished them a miracle on Facebook this morning. (And before you ask: They have the positive attitude, but that won’t pay the bills.) My personal, most wholesome band ever award goes to the E-Street-Band though. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen about ten times now, and the joy and the energy they spark on stage is unique and inspiring. I dream of that. A 3-hour show that would drive people nuts with euphoria!

operation offbeat interview ska

When the world is back to normal, where would you really like to tour, and why?
In the states! A gig in New York is my personal life goal – musically – and I can’t wait since I was on vacation there as a teenager. ‘Back to Normal’ obviously refers to Covid in this case, but is  also true for the November election. I know it hasn’t got too much to do with reality, but the kid inside of me wants back what I thought of as America. And travel it with the band.

If you could only pick one track for our reader to listen to, to get a taste of your music, which one would you go for, and why?
‘Fire’. It’s the most spontaneously written song we’ve got. It was basically just a microphone test when I started it – and it’s also the first unironically happy song I’ve ever written. Stress on ‘the first’! I like singing harsh lines with beautiful melodies, also I like weird chords sometimes and an edge here and there, but ‘Fire’ is the in-your-face rock song that reminds me of what’s important when we do it.

Where do you see your band in five years’ time?
We’ll be doing a tour in spring and fall each, plus as much as we can from the festival season. There’ll be frequent releases until then, the longer lockdown will go on, the more -– and plenty more  – videos, as music videos are some sort of hobby! The band will obviously be different from now; if I had any idea in which way though, that would possibly be the time to stop. I don’t want to know. I hope and think that some of today’s line up will be the same by then though!

For more info visit: facebook.com/londonskapunk
images: Ashley Greb Photography


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