Selective Focus: Max Mileski

Selective Focus has been a series mostly about visual arts, but there is an undeniable link between music and visuals. This week Max Mileski talks about making music, creating a band and the work that goes into building the sound and the aesthetic that goes with it.

MM: My name is Max Mileski, I work under the nom de plume – Sadkin. I merrily toil with contemporary music as a multi-instrumentalist who writes and records songs in a self contained, d.i.y. manner. Two years ago I released the first collected works of Sadkin, Élan Vital. In speaking more specifically with regards to style, the music is categorized first as Alternative. Within that, there are certainly some subdivisions which help describe the sound ~ Artpop, New Wave, New Romantic, Synthrevival. Most recently and with the help of 4 other inspired souls in Duluth, I’ve been able to take Sadkin to the stage as a live show. The performances have been unquestionably invigorating and has more recently pushed Sadkin into new arenas, exploring deliberate visual components closely tied to the music.

Photo by Michelle Bennett/Wolfskull creative

Sadkin puts forth an admittedly dubious style to present here in Duluth; a land of acoustic guitars & banjos. I love Duluth, the lake and where I live so paradoxically, the off-kilter mode in which I work is a direct reflection of my own sensibilities; yet, I’m at my best when I am honoring that. I believe that much of what lies at the core for most artists is largely defined by what they absorbed during their most formative childhood years. For me, I was born into a family of musicians so at an early age, as I was learning drums, bass & piano, the music I was entirely taken with, artists such as ~ Bowie, Prince, Duran Duran, & Tears For Fears, impressed very particular and specific sensibilities with structure and aesthetic.

Photo by Andrew Hill

Due to the insecurities and naivety of young adulthood and as I observed broad shifts in trends, there were many years diffusing what I knew to be my musical instincts in terms of craft/style. I spent energy trying to develop music using forms other than my own. However, along the way I re-acquired a record player and began collecting vinyl. I kept bringing home many of the old records I had growing up – and others from that time period as well. As I’d listen, I marveled at how it sounded – everything just resonated. Recollecting those old albums was fairly pivotal, it helped reshape my direction as a musician. Paired with some deeply personal loss at that time, I was sharply prompted to look inward and start writing songs that were decidedly ‘me’; when I did that, I experienced a flood of productivity. Most importantly, it felt honest and vital to myself which I think is more integral than anything else with regards to the form an artist presents. But, no matter the current trends, no matter the predilections of a towns musical tendencies, honest music is going to more effectively touch a nerve with an unsuspecting public no matter the style – I have to believe that, this is why I doggedly persist.

Photo by Barbara Barrey

Sadkin has become something more than I’d first imagined. I’m a musician who is also fascinated with the recording process and revel in what is now available for us do-it-yourselfers. As I slowly collected the audio tools to effectively produce, I immersed myself into the technical aspects of engineering a recording in tandem with unearthing new music; writing then recording one instrument at a time. In 2017, when I finally finished my album, Élan Vital, I had no intention to perform these densely layered songs live. I was just one person, how could I?

However, because of some audio work I was starting to do through Jason Wussow and others, I was quickly getting to know those in Duluth’s music community. The month the album came out is the same month I joined the 10 piece band Red Mountain and within that I formed bonds with a cast of brilliant and supportive spirits. A year later I found myself with an opportunity to perform Sadkin with Red Mountain’s Anton Jimenez-Kloeckl and Cory Coffman. I also reached out to guitarist Nicholas Hanson and bassist Daniel Vopal and as a 5 piece, rehearsals were underway.

All of this was not without some challenges. One thing I’d noticed early on in sharing my music in this community was that it was often met with a certain glassy eyed expression – a hint of bewilderment. To be fair, Sadkin is pretty far off Duluth’s typical musical trajectory and so when I made the decision to perform, I strongly felt that I needed to take it to an elevated place. I wanted no room for ‘question marks’ about where I was coming from with Sadkin. I was certain that the way to do that was to make performances more theatrical with a fairly elaborate, choreographed lighting design giving atmosphere to each song of the set. Wardrobe is considered and the five of us put forth to lift these Duluth bar gigs into mini-concerts. Jason Nordberg runs our lights, he and I meet weekly over months to create scripted lighting designs for the set. He does an outstanding job, he controls everything from a laptop and we attempt to create an impactful aesthetic matched to the music.

For some within the music community who were at first demonstrably perplexed by the music of Sadkin – that it was music coming from here, from this town, once they came to the shows and saw all of these elements together in concert, they’ve stopped to express, with some enthusiasm, that they ‘..get it now’. That is such a reward for any artist. I am feeling increasingly confident that there is a place for Sadkin in the Twin Ports and that we can feel assured that it is our home-base as we start venturing out to other cities.

The albums can be procured and heard on most music sites/apps – iTunes, Spotify, Bandcamp or Amazon (as well as many others). Physical CD’s are also for sale at the official Sadkin website. To keep current with news and performances, Sadkin’s Facebook & Instagram pages, along with the official website, are the best places to visit online. Please stop by and drop a line!

Sadkin has a new album underway and will be out in the Spring of 2019 for which we will be celebrating with a live performance (date and details pending). In the next 4 months Sadkin will be very busy recording but also working on an upcoming video in collaboration with local video projection artist – Daniel Benoit (featuring local dancers Andrea Miller and Erin Tope). Sadkin is also working on an exciting project with Duluth writer, Tina Marie Higgins. She has a multi-media performance booked at Teatro Zuccone slated for April which is based on a short story of hers. I am delighted to share that it will feature one of the new Sadkin songs as part of the performance.


Photo by Dean Miller

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