The art business and business of art is murky territory for the interview, so I try to lift the mood and get on the level by asking if Max believes in an aura of creativity in celebrity. I'd once met George Harrison at a party when I was a teenager, and I tell Max this, explaining that I physically felt the presence of a legend in the room, it was as if the air had been vacuum sucked; I wasn't star struck; I was an arrogant teen. Had I felt 'the spirit’? Is excellence in creativity a spirit of sorts? “We all have creative spirits, and the spirit is recognised by melodies or by stories or by putting something together, that's all creativity,” says Max, "creativity is what this universe is about, that's why they call it ‘creation’”.
What advice would Max give a young artist starting out? “Just paint. No rules, no regulations, if you like humming songs, hum songs, if you play the piano, play the piano, if you are a story teller, tell stories”
Is Max a hippy? "I think the hippy period was great, I never got fed up with it, I loved it, but I love every period, all nice, and you know, I'm a creative guy and there's always creativity and creativity – it’s a will to do something that is pleasant, that gives me pleasure and colour and melody, in line work, in just, creativity. I just enjoy it and I love it so much”.
We talk about Woodstock, the festival and the place (Max has a house there) and I ask him if he has a particularly inspirational place to go to in order to work? “I think the work comes from me whether I'm in Woodstock, whether I'm in Manhattan or St John in The [Virgin] Islands,” he says. “I love being creative. Paul McCartney loves melodies and there're some other friends who like making business deals, everything is creativity”.
At some point in the interview I lose hope of getting beyond the mantra of love, shapes, colours and being an artist. I feel like I'm being led around an empty vessel in shallow waters, possibly one with an art auction onboard somewhere.
Things draw to a close with a heartwarming story about how Max met his wife-to-be across the street from his studio. He radiates warmth and love and it’s hard to feel any ill will towards the man. He's stood for some great philanthropic causes, he's a vegan, he promoted yoga to New York (and the rest of America) long before the Sex in the City crowd moved in. He's as colourful as his artwork, and you can't help but admire the man despite a nagging feeling that something isn't as it should be.
On the way out, I stop at the door and a strange compulsion to pull the full Ringo Starr act overwhelms me: I self-consciously mumble "peace and love" at Max. "Peace and Love,” comes the echo, "Peace and Love".