John Maus "Keeps Pushing On" Through It All
by Bri Lien
Though this year has seen its high moments and its blessings, it has also been one of the longest years of my life; a world of trials and tribulations. It seems similarly so for synth-pop legend John Maus, who I had the pleasure of covering previously in January, and again early this December in LA.
The mastermind behind the gloomy magic of Bennington, Cop Killer and Just Wait Til Next Year continues to sell out shows all over the world despite an intense year. Maus reportedly split from his wife this spring, which was unfortunately followed by the sudden loss of brother and bandmate, Joseph Maus, while on tour in Europe this July. It’s more than understandable that Maus announced he’d cancelled all of his forthcoming live shows following the death of his younger brother and, personally, I expected this hiatus to become another “We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves” to “Screen Memories”-esque period Maus would use to mourn, to learn, to create. While I’m sure he has taken his time to do those things, (just as he will in every season of his life) he surprisingly (thankfully) came back to the stage for a number of North American shows this fall and has numerous tour dates coming up in 2019.
I had the privilege of doing this write-up for his sold-out performance at the Regent in downtown Los Angeles, December 8th. This time around, Maus performed his set on stage alone, contrary to full-band performances that were the norm this year, including his sets at Coachella and Primavera Sound. Though notably less flashy than before, this performance of his was by far his best I have seen. Maus is admittedly a regular human being with anxieties and fears and still sometimes experiences “stage fright”, but he showed the greatest gut-wrench of my life. Thrashing about himself in an ardent rage (or perhaps it was intense melancholy?) soon inspired the whole crowd to follow. The passion created one of the sweatiest pits I have ever been in, ironically enough to the tune of Maus’ slow, Medieval ballads.
I thought to myself,
“what’s running through John’s head when he faces the physical — and likely emotional — brutality of performing these dates this after such heartbreak? Is he consoled by the multitudes, ready to sing along with his every word? Does he wish them not so intrusive, as to clear his own head and get to the core of himself and the message of the music he’s come to share? Is he enraged with the world, or maybe with himself?”
Though Maus has always been a transparent artist, and frequently discusses the way he uses his music to “get at” his fundamental truths, (spoiler alert: “Cop Killer” isn’t actually about going out and killing your local policemen), I hope he is okay. I hope he sees the people like me in the crowds, sees how he inspires, and even soothes, everyone in the room.
John Maus makes me want to be braver, to speak up, and to feel every emotion for what it is. He once said in an interview,
“You’re never gonna get into trouble for being the one who listens. You’ll get into trouble for being the one who speaks, as it were.”
In these dark times in our nation--or maybe the dark times within your own life--I hope we all can be brave enough to say what we have to say in order to overcome those upset by our resistance. Our only hope is to keep pushing on.