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Maksim Overdrive
Posted: 11:17 PM (Manila Time) | Apr. 23, 2004 By Martin Valdes Inquirer News Service, Manila

HE'S young, he's attractive, he's tall, and his fingers have more moves than the LA Lakers. Maksim Mrvica is back to seduce audiences with his brand of kinetic classical interpretations. A few months ago, Maksim exploded into the Manila scene igniting the evenings with the sound of the familiar made fresh and fiery. Now he's returned with a new album with more compositions called "The Piano Player Re-packed." Super! sat down with the lanky Croatian ivory-pounder and tickled his keys with a few off-note questions.

Q: You started playing piano at a young age. Did you ever want to be anything else? Like a football player or a porn star, maybe?
A: Not really. All my life I wanted to be a piano player. All my friends wanted to be policemen, or doctors, or surgeons. But all I wanted ever since I was young was to play classical music.

Q: Did you ever wish you had just ... a smaller instrument? Yeah, a few times. When you have to travel from country to country, and every place has a different piano, and not all pianos are that good.
A: Sometimes I wish I just played the violin. At least you can go on holidays with your violin. Sometimes I want to go on vacation somewhere and I can't because there's no piano there. But the last time I had a show in Manila, that piano wasn't bad.

Q: Nice job of putting a modern twist on classical pieces. Ever consider a modern piece with a classical twist? Like Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" in C Major? Or a Sir Mix-A-Lot version called "Baby got Johann Sebastian Bach"?
A: (Confused look) Well, I've never done it. All my life I've been trained in classical music and I've played only classical music. What is interesting for me is to change classical into modern, and not really the other way around.

Q: You were 18 when you won your first major competition. Did that help with the ladies?
A: Ah. (laughs) A little bit, yeah. I did some television interviews after I won, and (laughs) yeah, I suppose it did help.

Q: Your first album of contemporary Croatian pieces, "Gestures," did really well. Now you've gone international. Are you considered a big celebrity back home yet?
A: People in Croatia knew me from before because I've invested so much in my career for a long time, but I don't think I am a celebrity or anything like that.

Q: So no streets named after you as of now?
A: Not that I know. I don't really think about things like that.

Q: We've got a Chinese restaurant with your name on it.
A: I know. And there's a French restaurant in Paris as well.

Q: So do you hang out with famous people?
A: You know that Croatian doctor on the television show "ER," Doctor Luka Kovac? Goran Visnjic? He is a friend of mine. I know him from my hometown!

Q: What's your favorite purchase with a pianist's paycheck?
A: I have this electronic piano...

Q: Oh Christ...
A: (Laughs) But I really love my car. It's a Toyota Celica and I'm going to drive it from London to Croatia. Normally it takes about two days, but my wife, my friend and I will stop in several cities along the way.

Q: Ever screw up during a live performance and think, "What the heck, no one knows how this piece is supposed to go anyway"?
A: It's very difficult to play a whole concert without making one mistake. I don't think anybody can do it. The levels of mistakes are different, you know. Sometimes when I listen to some fantastic pianists who don't seem to make mistakes and play everything perfectly, it doesn't do anything for me. So small mistakes are not that important to me, because you have a bigger idea of what you are doing. And also, different places have different crowds. Some know more about classical music than others.

Q: How about the whole rock-n-roll thing of drinking or getting high before a concert?
A: I can't afford to drink before a concert because of my hands, you know. My muscles. If I take alcohol, I won't be able to control them!

Q: Who is better, Vanessa Carlton or Alicia Keys?
A: Who is Vanessa Carlton?

Q: I'm not so sure myself. But what about Alicia?
A: She is a gorgeous young woman! She plays a different type of music so I can't really judge. But on her new song, I heard a very technical piece and if she is the one playing on the album, then she is very good. She must have classical training.

Q: I was listening to your CD on the way here. Very frenetic energy you've got going. Ever, you know, fool around with the missus while listening to your own music?
A: I'm not going to answer that.