As Maximilian Hecker’s synthetic croon permeates the room, feathered piano and velvet strings pulsing below his skyward voice, one can hardly help but feel their otherwise prosaic surroundings cinematically transform into a scene from a romantic melodrama that could transcend even the most sentimental of daytime television. This is not to say that German-born Hecker’s starry-eyed balladry is a construction quite as simple as that of the troubadours who have come before him.
“I write songs to emotionally survive,” says Hecker. “I need to unblock the channel to my soul with the help of music to finally be able to feel and to finally be able to express my deepest longing — a longing for disembodiment, a longing for an unsubstantial infinity, a longing for reunification with a lost entirety.”
While the fragility of Maximilian’s cherubic voice trembles and wavers, acutely touching on the thresholds of otherworldly bliss and the human tear canal, the solace, innocence, and peace he seeks in his song explores a soft-core emancipation from his own ego, a space seldom heard in standard Western pop-balladry.
The serene cleanliness of his sound can be attributed to the distillery of his very essence. Hecker’s recordings tend to affect the listener like the soothing caress of an air-conditioned room or the slow drag of a menthol cigarette. His tracks are neatly packaged, refreshing, and cool, but even as Hecker suggests, such air-tight production often leaves the listener short of breathing room. Regarding his earlier recordings in particular, Hecker confirms that even his own self-appointed sterility was too confining for him. His latest studio release, brazenly titled, “I Am Nothing But Emotion, No Human Being, No Son, Never Again Son,” Hecker felt liberated by it’s imperfections. The release attempts to break free from his own self-constructed mold of perfection.
“It brought out an energy I didn’t know I had. The album is not a traditional collection of songs; it’s a document about feelings. It’s a naïve and innocent expression of my soul, which is the soul of a 6-year-old. Basically, it’s a very private document. It invites listeners to look through the keyhole as I make music; it gives you a glimpse of a private, sacred, unadorned space that actually is not meant for public access.”
His introspective whisper has in fact offered him much more success in East Asia — primarily in Korea, China, and Japan — than it has in Berlin, which would explain why he is largely unheard of here in the United States. In 2010 alone, he performed 24 concerts in 24 Chinese cities, which he says has influenced his reflections on culture, behavior, and people and has reshape his artistic scope in a variety of ways. Once again finding himself in an impossible position of longing, some of his latest songs deal with his “paradoxical attempts of trying to belong to something foreign and/or unattainable in order to transcend myself, in order to become a new person, but obviously all these attempts lead to nothing, as I simply never will be ‘Asian’ for example. The result of my attempts has always been some kind of weird satisfaction and relief of finding myself outside again, of realizing that I do not belong.” His journey to the East has directly inspired the music of various Asian artists, such as Sodagreen, Faith Yang, and Wei Ruxan, for whom he has also composed work.
Hecker is currently working on an autobiography titled, “The Rise and Fall of Maximilian Hecker,” which is due to be released in German in fall. The book will portray his time busking in Berlin, his beginnings as a professional musician, his growth in fame as well as relationships, fears, self-doubts, and frailties with a large focus on his tours in and experience in East Asia.