“As you may know, I recently got myself a new guitar. I went into the shop and had quite a few questions, unfortunately the sales assistants didn’t know the answers to a lot of them. So I went home and as you might have done before for yourself too – looked up the guitar on YouTube to try and find a detailed review. In comes Max with the most detailed and interesting review I had ever seen! Awesome, mega helpful and answered not only all the questions I had, but even more and I fell in love with the guitar even more! <3 So I thought a person with that much interest in the instrument will surely have some interesting things to share… read on below! ” – Neli
How did you first get into guitar?
It was around 1996-1997 – my older brother had a guitar or two and it was just a matter of time for me to grab it. And that is what happened – eventually I started trying and at some point it worked. He abandoned the instrument completely and I continued.
How did it grow from a hobby to a career path?
That actually happened naturally. Somewhere around 2006 I started seriously working as a musician and had around 20 gigs a month or so with the cover band I was in. Ever since I moved to Germany, where I currently reside, things escalated quickly – two weeks after moving I was in a band, month after – two bands, two months after – three bands and so on. The first two years I was playing everything I was asked, for free or not for free – I was just taking any kind of jobs. And then things shifted – people started to ask me to join different shows and that started making some money, which was good. Then a musical happened and another musical and things continued like that until 2017-2018 when it kind of faded out and stopped being a major source of income for me. Because of that the pandemic didn’t hit me in that sense.
Did you move to Germany to pursue a career in music?
I was already playing the guitar years before that, sometimes for fun, sometimes professionally. But one of the triggers for me to move to Germany was that I was working a full time job, sometimes six days a week and there was no time for playing guitar. I was going like this for about a year and I was very sad and needed to change something. So when the opportunity presented itself, I went for it.
What led you to create your first guitar gear video?
I created my first video around 2016-2017 while I was still active with music and gigs and it was going very slow. Our niche is not particularly popular and it is hard to make it grow faster so the first probably three or four years it was very slow and it really kind of started to work in the beginning of 2020.
What happened was I met a couple of people from the industry and started to work with a couple of brands. As musicians many of us want to get some endorsements from brands and as a kid of course I wanted that as well. A few years into making videos I figured out that maybe there’s another way, a better way. If you work with brands not as an endorser but as an influencer or youtuber, then you are getting all the same stuff, but you don’t have the same level of obligations. You are not exclusive to a specific brand and you can choose whatever gear you want. That is how it started – I was a brand endorser. They sent me some gear and I was wondering how to pay them back which resulted in me creating a video or two. They liked it, I continued, then some other brands approached me and this is how it all began.
How did your channel pick up in 2020?
I don’t think there was one specific trigger, I think it was a combination of different things that happened. First of all, of course people were locked because of the pandemic. But the momentum that I had started before that, in January of 2020. One of those things might have been the YouTube event that I organized in Moscow. It was one of those events when youtubers and brands come together without the general public to just produce content for a few days. There are studios which are all set up and you can book them and create whatever content you want with the gear that is at the event and with the other youtubers. We were 6 or 7 Russian channels and 9 brands and the event was the first of its kind in Russia. The whole thing was organized very quickly and with a very thin budget, but everything turned out great. The effect wasn’t immediate but it was steadily getting better for a few months after that. Perhaps that was the trigger, although most of the content we produced was in Russian.
How did you come up with the idea to create videos with such detailed reviews of guitar gear?
I used to watch gear videos, but not guitar gear videos. When I was playing in bands I was looking for ways to film the shows so I started buying tiny cameras that I could put on the guitar neck, the drum kit or in front of the stage. I was watching a YouTube channel called Techmoan and was impressed by the way he created his videos – they were so detailed and answered all the questions I might have had. That got me thinking why doesn’t anything like this exist for guitar gear? This is the kind of content I would like to watch when I want to buy a pedal, guitar modeler or a guitar and nothing like that existed so I decided I would be the one to make it. I put together all the questions I would like to get the answers to and that was my script for the first video. It still pretty much is how it is going nowadays as well.
What advice would you give to a beginner guitarist, who would like to buy some gear?
I would say the best solution would be to go into the store and try 3, 5 maybe 10 guitars and just pick the one you like. Don’t go for a very expensive instrument. Any typical Harley Benton, Ibanez Gio, Ibanez AZES or Cort would be a good fit for most needs. Many brands have good offers in the price range between €150 and €300 and most of those guitars are pretty much the same in terms of performance. They are not top-notch guitars, but they perform. Try a couple from that range and pick the one that sits right with you.
In terms of sound it is important to know what you are aiming for. Most people get into guitar because they have a favorite band and want to play something like that. That gives you a direction already – if your favorite band plays a certain type of guitar, you probably should go for something similar. It can be beneficial to also watch a couple of “beginners-read” gear videos. I don’t have any of those, but many channels do.
You also have a second channel in Russian language. Are there many differences in creating content for English speakers and for people fluent in Russian?
Yes and no. Apparently it is easier for me to express myself in my native language and I speak way more freely in Russian. Doing livestreams and videos in Russian is way easier for me. Other than that the audience is different. On the Russian channel at first I had only live streams, which now happen every second week. Right now almost every video I produce happens simultaneously in both languages – I film a take in English and then immediately in Russian as well.
What would your dream gear review be about?
They are obviously a few things I would like to have, but I wouldn’t necessarily make videos about them. But there are certain guitar brands I have never touched before and would like to review – Solar for example.
What are you up to when you are not reviewing guitar gear, any project happening at the moment?
I am currently preparing for a show. It is a musical production – “Rent”, one of my favorite shows. We played it a couple of years ago and it was a lot of fun and this time it will be even better since we are doing it in English and not in German. It is always more exciting for me to play this kind of stuff rather than regular band gigs, because there is so much more going on – many more people involved and many more things that can go wrong. It is a much higher responsibility, if for example there are 10 actors performing on stage and you are the only instrument that is playing.
What is your dream music project?
I would like to play for Taylor Swift. I once lost a gig because I wasn’t familiar with the certain style of music. Then I realized I needed to get familiar with what is popular at that moment and started listening to whatever received “Best album” of the year. That was right after her album “Speak now” was out, but it wasn’t popular outside of the US. I listened to it and was very impressed and thought I would like to play something like that. And then “Red” came and she did a world tour and so on. It is funny that I got to know and appreciate her music before she became big.