Max co-founded Wounded Buffalo in the early nineties with friend and fellow sound editor Tim Owens.
Max was passionate about everything he did and this was evident in the inspirational soundscapes he created. He was single-minded about capturing the perfect sound. Whether it was a submarine, being up close and personal with a leopard, getting the perfect train pass or recording the machine administering chemotherapy in his last months, his passion never waned.
He will remain in our memories as one of the most talented and generous characters in the Bristol TV and Film industry and above all as our dear friend.
“A beautiful man, I am full of images….shine on you crazy diamond”.
“I hold his skills in the greatest regard. And when he, Kate and Tim started “Buffs” I knew they would do great things together”.
“Many will remember him as being such an energetic, friendly face whizzing around the studios. He became a very talented sound designer and recordist”.
“I remember Mark with great fondness as he truly was one of the good guys in TV. I worked with Mark and the rest at Wounded a great deal in the 90s and early noughties and loved the genuine warmth of the place both he and Tim created”.
“What a lovely chap Max was… so helpful and keen to do any little job. We worked together on several small productions and he could not have been more professional and obliging”.
“Max was a very talented and artistic man with a slight anarchic edge. He loved sound effects and his quest was for a single seagull, which he ended up recording himself.
He always called me Kato, never knew why”.
“What a lovely man he was to work with… and such a talented sound designer.
The industry will be the poorer for losing him”.
“He was a lovely guy, one of the industry’s gentlemen”. “He always cared – about work, about people, bringing his trademark warmth and creative energy to each project. No problem was too small and solved with the same craftsmanship, ingenuity and humour he brought to everything”.
“Max was a warm, friendly, happy guy with a very generous personality, and I was always pleased to bump into him at the studio – in fact, it never failed to put a smile on my face”.
“He showed me just how creative it is possible to be in our profession, he has always been such a source of inspiration for me”.
“We did a lot of work together in the early days of conforming into Audiofile, both at HTV and then at Wounded Buffalo, and he was always so enthusiastic and optimistic about everything he did”.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know Max a little over the years, and to work with such a talented man”.
“Max produced wonderfully creative sound, indeed soundscapes that were not only ‘technically’ brilliant, but they had a humour and design that I certainly had very rarely come across in 30 odd years of mixing.
But that was Max, brilliant, funny and generous of spirit”.
“My most vivid memories of Mark (Max) was the amazing speed with which he could descend the stairs by the canteen and the eccentric use of road and pavement with which he negotiated the Three Lamps junction on his motorbike.
But the fondest are his enthusiasm and generosity. Once, with Peter Buchanan, I had a rather daft trailer which needed some dubbing and he and Alan Eagling seemed to like it as much as we did: they both gave us their time and laughter to get this little piece polished. A simple but appreciated gesture that Max was happy to repeat in the early, possibly nail-biting days of Wounded Buffalo. A lovely bloke”.
“I’ve been in Uganda filming Chimpanzees ever since I first heard this very sad news. The other night I sat up all night recording stereo sound in one of the last remains fragments of forest in Uganda. A symphony of natural sound. I thought of Max throughout”
On the evening of Sunday the 7th of January Mimi contacted Diana, our studio manager, with the message that Max wished to see us; the following Monday afternoon we went to his home in Mudgley. Sarah took me through to him and I heard her quietly say, “Darling, your old mate Tim is here to give you a hug”. Max immediately put out his arms and we hugged and I showered him in kisses. I told him he was an amazing man, the most talented of us, an inspiration, it all poured out….
We met at HTV studios in the late 80s. I was a freelance assistant film editor and Max appeared to be an autonomous entity in the sound department. Even though this was over 30 years ago, he left a lasting impression on his former colleagues. I’ve been reading their heart-warming and humorous comments on the HTV forum. In Max, I saw someone who was crackling with energy, full of much hilarity and wild anarchic fun – this of course was magnetic, his kindness and warmth were so obviously genuine and I was disarmed. We became friends.
I could see that Max was a pioneer; he together with Paul Hamblin embraced the emerging digital revolution and bravely invested in a nascent almost prototype digital audio workstation called an Audiofile. These two school friends then set about creating File Effects, one of the most popular and much-used sound libraries ever created. We will be hearing Max’s recordings for years to come, a typically generous and lovely legacy.
At this time Andy Batten-Foster was developing an exciting format – it was to be called 999. This was our opportunity and we set up in a top floor garret above an antique shop on Alma Road a stone’s throw from the BBC. Then we had to come up with a memorable name for the studio…
Never has the name, Wounded Buffalo, felt more poignant – we are really hurting right now.
Audiofile terrified me. Max very patiently taught me the giant leap from splicing magnetic tape to digital voodoo. By today’s standards it had a tiny amount of storage and a green screen that we both thought ruined our eyesight.
Pretty soon we needed help and I persuaded Kate Hopkins and Ken Barton to work with us as freelance sound editors. Max’s work really shone through in those drama tracklays – and we all listened and learned. What stood out for me was the detail and choice of sounds and his ability to blend it so well with the score. If it wasn’t working he would persevere and the hours were often long.
Graham Wild sent this in a text to Diana:
“ I’ve never told him but he was a massive influence to me when I first met him above the antique shop. I have never met anyone quite so enthusiastic and excited about sound before…. and that day when he played me his tracklay for the 999 item – I literally couldn’t believe my ears. He showed me just how creative it is possible to be in our profession,
He has always been such a source of inspiration for me.”
In a stroke of genius Max suggested his sister Bully as our studio manager, and this gave us the stability we needed. Next came a surprising development – Jane Hancock, a fully-fledged London Dubbing mixer, moved to Bristol. Max and I decided it was time to step up and build her a dubbing theatre! Bully found and negotiated for us to buy 19a Hampton Lane, a lane so seedy and smelly that it reminded us of Soho and therefore had cred. In keeping with Buffalo tradition the builders were all Max’s school friends from Cotham Grammar, Kato and Sarge were our builders, Uncle Joss the electrician and Spawn who did all the work. Andy Allan wired up four tracklay suites and a dubbing theatre and voila… we were now finally a bespoke facility.
Soon after the move Max introduced Ben Peace to the Buffalo herd and then Jonny Crew was next. Max was a good teacher and with patience and good humour set about honing their skills. Then the final piece of the jigsaw: Diana joined us – and that’s still The Buffazone and we’re now nearly 27 years old.
Max was technically very strong, he had a good grounding in the science of sound and this combined with his creative imagination was the perfect mix for his chosen profession. Yes, he was a perfectionist and this could make things stressful at the studio as our work is ruled by deadlines (one of his least favourite words). He could be a whirlwind – he’d sweep into the studio, create merry hell, make everyone laugh and then depart with a cheery, “I’ll leave you in pieces!” In the intervening years we have become a close and dedicated team. Max referred to us as a family, and I know I can say that Kate, Diana, Ben, Jonny, Hannah, Jane and Justine have all laughed and loved working with our brilliant Max.
A couple of years ago we approached Andy Allan and asked him to build us a Dolby Atmos dubbing theatre, this was the most ambitious decision we have ever taken. Max was incredibly pleased and proud of our new room. Oh how I wish he could have had more time to use it.
As I got to know Max more there were some surprises, first off his name is Mark, unless you were his Dad then it was Simon. I started to meet his family and friends and realised he had pretty much re-christened all of them.
He grew up going between Bristol and Hong Kong where his father worked for Pearl and Dean, I think Max very nearly chose the ex-pat life for himself, but their loss was our gain. Although he has family all over the world, it was great to get to know his two very cool sisters who were the Bristol side of the family.
Visiting him at home was a real treat because you got to try his cooking – mouth-watering oriental dishes a speciality, and he was always perfecting that squid recipe. He preferred to cook outside whatever the weather.
He had an enthusiastic ever-curious mind. His interests were many and varied and pursued with intellectual vigour. I loved seeing the night skies through his knowledgeable eyes. Aviation was a particular interest, military and civil, and he recorded some wonderful aircraft tracks. He played the piano and painted, I don’t think he missed an episode of the Archers, he loved water and fun, his swimming pool has been a great resource for us – we used his recordings on Blue Planet II. He never really switched off from listening; everything was a possible recording opportunity. He was world class at swearing; he would launch a choice volley and leave me silent in admiration… His skill at launching mortars into the night sky was exhilarating; Jessie my daughter called him the pyrotechnic wizard – he always had a good stash of dangerous out of date ex-display fireworks ready for any occasion. He loved dogs and they loved him. Birds, particularly Jackdaws, found him irresistible. He enjoyed sea fishing. He had an eclectic taste in the movies and would recite to great effect, lines from films as diverse as “Full Metal Jacket” to “Carry on Doctor”. It was such a joy to hear an impatient Max bellowing, “Hurry up nurse!”
We all found him very empathetic, always observant, ever thoughtful, a good listener. He knew how to make a person feel good. These attributes make for a very special man.
Jonny told me about a recent work-related visit to Max at home. It was in the summer holidays so he took his young daughter Martha with him, Max made it such a fun day opening up the pool and cooking a lovely lunch, he went out of his way to include her and she talks about it all the time.
Not that long ago I paid him a visit and we sat chatting in his kitchen. He was listing all the inventions that he was not going to live to see. Artificial intelligence, driverless cars, commercial deep space travel, robot dubbing mixers that would do what they were told.
He then asked if I minded him lighting up his giant roll up. I said I thought he had switched to electronic smoking. “Matey” he said, “I’ve gone back to analogue.”
I shared his values across pretty much everything. This made for a lasting and loyal partnership.
It has been a very hard year for his family and friends and simply brutal for Max. I knew the terrible outcome of this cancer but nothing prepares you for the loss.
I rang Kato after Max died. He was in Heathrow about to board; he told me he was going to stay with Klaus for a few days before his epic fund-raising cycle ride. I wanted to show my appreciation for his dedicated companionship and selfless support to Max; he brushed that aside and just wanted to praise Max for his incredible fortitude – he said it was a real lesson in dignity.
On Christmas day Max and I exchanged Whatsapp messages and one of his read:
“ I have never felt so loved in all my life, love to you all from us all” followed by eleven kisses.
Max reserved his most mighty pride for his children and on that desperate Monday, sitting with Alexei, Mimi and Bertie round the kitchen table it struck me what impressive people they have become. I also saw Sarah calmly, tenderly caring for Max, and I knew then that despite the tragedy he was blessed.
I told Max while holding his hand that I loved him very much, that he was a wonderful father to his children, that my kids adored him. Then I remembered Wendy had asked me to give him a kiss from her, so I did and he squeezed my hand. And then the hardest thing of all… I said goodbye to my wonderful friend Max.