Bristol, England’s Maximum Joy formed in 1979 blending funk, soul, punk, and reggae into their own unique post-punk sound. We were able to chat with Janine Rainforth about their mysterious break up, unreleased songs, and the post-punk scene in the late 70′s and early 80′s.
s.o.t.r.-For newer fans, Maximum Joy’s break-up is a bit of a mystery. Can you tell us about the rather abrupt ending of the band?
Janine-The band’s demise was abrupt, yes, it’s a bit of a mystery to me too…!. We were ready to take things further as a band, but it was not to be, it was a long time ago… I guess it was a case of sex, drugs and rock & roll, as they say, which can wreak delight and havoc in equal measures. Some survive and some don’t – Maximum Joy are in the latter category, however it’s great that due to the recent post –punk revival and for you and others the sound of Maximum Joy is still alive and kicking.
s.o.t.r.-The unreleased alternate takes on Unlimited were a really fantastic treat, being that I’m a huge fan. Do you have any other gems that you’ve kept from the public? Any unreleased songs?
Janine-Do you mean the unreleased track on re-released Station MXJY (plus bonus tracks) that came out on Beatink in Japan in 2008 ( soon to be available on I-tunes world-wide incidentally) ? That was the only releasable unreleased track I have managed to source – it was the version of Why Can’t We Live Together that I sang on, recorded with Dennis Bovell and Nellee Hooper et al before I left the band – the released version featured Peta – the new singer that the band had until they folded approx 6-9 months after I left. As far as I know the tracks on Unlimited were all previously released.
s.o.t.r.-How do you feel Maximum Joy fit into the post-punk scene? You had a great, eclectic sound which was kind of rare in the early years.
Janine-Thank you, yes – I think we had our own unique sound – which was a true reflection of the collective sound of us as members of the band, what we each brought to the mix informed somewhat by the Bristol scene that we all were part of. We were into Roland Kirk as much as Television as much as Chic as much as Lee Perry as much as Alice Coltrane as much as The Clash as much as Grandmaster Flash etc. etc. We fit in in as much as we were there, we were just kids on the street, responding to and reflecting what was going on. And I think most post-punk bands took their sounds in the direction that moved them – it was an amazing time to be in a band making music – looking back, there was so much freedom and charge from the punk scene; hip-hop was taking off in the States – it seemed that musically virtually anything was possible. However, there was the flip-side – which contributed to our sound as much as the cultural stuff - the economy and political situation in the UK was depressed (similar to now actually); there were race riots on the streets of Bristol and London; unions on strike, times were very hard and quite extreme. So through our music I think we were trying to comment and counter these difficult times by finding the positive in the negative, the beat in the bland and the strange in the predictable I guess. The funk/punk sound we created was our way out of the drudgery, we rode the wave, made the music that lifted us up, hopefully our audiences too - and ultimately through what was going on at ground level.
s.o.t.r.-Glaxo Babies reunited. The Pop Group Reunited. Is there any chance that fans will see a Maximum Joy reunion?
Janine-Never say never, but I think I’d eat my hat!
s.o.t.r.-What kind of projects did ex-members get involved in after Maximum Joy? There’s not a lot of info out there.
Janine-Tony Wrafter has his own My Space under his name – he has a jazz trio that play a lot in Eastern Europe, where he is largely based now. He also has played with too many artists to mention.
I am working solo now, you can check it out on my My Space (janine u rainforth), whilst it’s not Maximum Joy and some of my influences have changed and moved over the years, my roots are still my roots and the voice and what moves me hasn’t changed much, though matured a bit of course! The same themes still stir me.
John Waddington is working on solo stuff.
Charlie Llewellin is not playing at the moment, he’s based in Texas now, working on his own creative endeavours.
Dan Catsis is currently playing with the newly reformed Pop Group.
Kev ‘Ebo’ Evans and Jeremy Hirsch are involved in other creative projects.
I believe Nelle Hooper is producing.
s.o.t.r.-How do you feel about post-punk revival right now? Have you heard any acts that re-capture the former glory of the genre?
Janine-Interesting question – I don’t want to put a damper on any of the post-punk guys doing it now, respect to them and all and I haven’t heard much. But I did have a feeling when I first started listening to some a while back that what was informing them was just post-punk – not the multitude of sounds that informed our stuff and other post-punk acts the first time round - i.e. disco, funk, punk, jazz, reggae etc. – without these diverse influences I found some of what I listened to a bit one-dimensional. But having said that, since then I have heard a few more that seem to be heading in a different direction – a couple of local ones in particular – Das Fluff and Parking Offence.. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s of course are great. There are a plenty more out there…. can you or any of your readers suggest any worth a listen?
Interview by: Cassandra Gillig