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The Work That Made Me: Max Taylor


Squeak E. Clean Studios senior producer on Michael Jackson's 'Thriller', Talking Heads and how working on 'Empire' truly changed his career

The Work That Made Me: Max Taylor

Max Taylor joined Squeak E. Clean Studios as a senior producer in 2020 after spending four years at 20th Century Fox coordinating music for the hit drama Empire. Chicago-native Taylor grew up amid the music industry, spending his formative years around concerts and musicians with his father as a sound engineer. He studied Recording Industry at Butler University before kicking off his career in music ticketing and promotions. He spent five years working across multiple functions of live events between Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, liaising between artists, management teams and venues to optimize the guest experience. In 2016, he joined the production team on Empire as a music production liaison, overseeing the end-to-end process for the music-driven series. 

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

When I was a kid, the 'Thriller' music video was so life-changing. They had a video that went behind the scenes of the music video at the local Blockbuster that I would rent over and over again. It mesmerised me that this amazing song existed and was paired with this amazing piece of art. As an early fan of horror, it really met all of my childhood interests.

I also watched 'Stop Making Sense', the Talking Heads concert film, a ton as a kid. It was very informative of my tastes and interests going forward. Both were odd pieces of work paired with music that was so transformative to me at the time and really informed my interests as an adult.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

Growing up, being around my dad who was a front-of-house live sound engineer was what really opened my eyes up to the many behind-the-scenes roles that existed in the music industry. I was always around musicians, producers and that really gave me perspective on all of the different moving pieces that are a part of the music production process.

The creative work (film/album/game/ad/album/book/poem etc) that I keep revisiting…

I’ve watched the new David Byrne concert film, 'American Utopia' a lot lately. I definitely have a bit of nostalgia for 'Stop Making Sense', it has a lot of callbacks. It speaks to the times we are in right now politically, musically and artistically. I think it does a really great job of bringing something from the past and into the new age within the streaming world. It’s still playing on Broadway, so it seems to be hitting a chord with a lot of people.

I’ve also really been loving the Beatles ‘Get Back’ docu-series. I love seeing one of the greatest bands of all time in such an intimate setting and crafting songs that would shape countless artists.

My first professional project…

I managed a pop hip-hop group when I first graduated from college. I moved out to LA with them and jumped headfirst into the music industry. My first steps after getting my diploma were taking label meetings, going on the road, booking tour dates, writing press releases, etc. It was a trial-by-fire entry into the crazy world that is the music industry.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

I try to always find a throughline to a project that interests me in every project and put myself within the project instead of letting the project dictate what needs to be out there. Even when looking at other people’s work, I still tend to stray away from the negative and see if there is something that I can learn from it that will help me grow creatively.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that still makes me jealous…

I’m always jealous of the creative work that Apple puts out. All of their pieces are amazing and I get jealous of those that get to work on them.

The creative project that changed my career…

Working on 'Empire' truly changed my career. I was working at a label before that and through past connections and being a native Chicagoan, I found myself in the music for television and film world. It was a life-changing experience working on four seasons of such a large-scale show. 

The work that I’m proudest of…

Every project is like your baby, you can’t pick a favourite. Whether good or bad, you learn something from every project. In ads, every project is different and calls for different skills, mindsets and different ways of working with the team. A lot of the time in the beginning, the challenges can feel insurmountable, so it’s always exciting to come out on the other end with something new to take away from it.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

In my senior talent show, I was in a boy band medley. You know, one of those lip-sync, dance situations. I would hope to never have to see that.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

We just did a cool spot with Mike’s Hard Lemonade that was really fun and funny. It was a rap all about jorts and it was really tongue in cheek. It was a full music video style spot, so it played into my love of 90s early 2000s hip hop music videos. 

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Squeak E. Clean Studios, Thu, 13 Jan 2022 08:58:00 GMT