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Patient voice

Redefine: Max Feinstein’s concept album inspired by his life with haemophilia

Max Feinstein explains the thinking behind his new record, Redefine in honour of National Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month

Max Feinstein explains the thinking behind his new record, Redefine, released on 25 March 2022 in honour of National Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month

Living with a lifelong chronic condition such as haemophilia can be an emotionally complicated experience. For starters your bandwidth really never gets the chance to become singularly devoted. You always keep the disorder in the back of your mind, always feel like there’s something wrong. You become overwhelmed, dedicating your brain to dealing with upkeep and side effects, in addition to the demands that life puts upon everyone, and you shut down in some respects as a result.

Redfine was not an album I set out to write deliberately, but one I realised I had a duty to myself to create as the music, ideas and lyrics came together. The music itself isn’t important—I’d have been writing whatever I wanted to write from an aesthetic standpoint regardless—and a lot of the ideas go back with me quite a way, but the lyrics came about as I began to open doors.

The doors opened by the pandemic

I couldn’t have made the EP without the extensive physical therapy routine I underwent for my right elbow, after living a decade with severe arthritis from repeated haemophilic episodes. If I’m being honest with myself, the only reason I made the time to do the physical therapy was because the pandemic afforded me the time to do. It took all excuses of being busy away from me.

I had been being busy at the expense of my sanity for over a decade and to no real productive end, and the pandemic opened the door for me to begin confronting other parts of my psyche. I hadn’t felt capable of change on any level, really, and the process of physical therapy showed me that I was wrong about that. As I wrote, it became clear there were threads I needed to pull on, and my songwriting at large changed in focus to become something more solution-oriented.

With Redefine I wanted to write something holistic and not just make a singular haemophilia statement. I hadn’t wanted to write about haemophilia for the entirety of the 20 years I’d been making music. Other people had been egging me on about it, but I had wanted to keep music as the thing untainted by my disorder, the one refuge that the lifelong complication couldn’t touch. I was wrong about that as well. After all, that’s what got my elbow messed up in the first place.

The truth of the matter is that I was living an incomplete life trying to separate my music and my disorder. I decided that if I was going to write about haemophilia I had to do it through the proper lens: I wanted to be a human being first and foremost.

Unpacking the human condition

The human condition is a complicated one and so I found myself putting together seven pieces of music that felt like a collection, each of which dealt with an emotional issue, with a large focus on haemophilia-related emotions such as anger and anxiety. Just about all of the songs have at least a subtle reference to haemophilia in them. Borderlines, Pass, Charades, and Bleed are all very reflective of different aspects of anger and anxiety regarding haemophilia, and Dear Anxious reflects the notion of rejoining my community after quite some time away from it. The record was something that I had put together in that time to be able to say I had something to show for my absence. I didn’t want it to be some pomp and circumstance thing for the community though, but my calling card within it. This is who I am, this is what I do, and this is what I’ve done for the past two decades of my life.

I didn’t create Redefine for anyone else but myself as a way to try and unpack my personal problems regarding my anger, depression, and anxiety and anything else regarding haemophilia that I just couldn’t put down. Songs like Stop the Madness and Redefine were a bit more general, but the implication is there by way of the album’s context. Getting to that point was important for me. Not educating people about haemophilia, but unpacking my issues as a human being.

Max Feinstein explains the thinking behind his new record, Redefine in honour of National Bleeding Disorder Awareness Month

Reflections and hopes

It was important to make a concise statement as an artist. The music itself is less important: I have the influences I have, but it is important to speak from an artistic standpoint about what matters to me. What matters to me if I’m putting out a collection of songs is to tell a story, either literally or thematically, and I believe that’s something I have managed to do pretty well here. The intention was to have the songs tell a story whether listened to linearly or non-linearly, and I was rewarded by my peers when they felt emotionally compelled by the music, [GC1] even when they knew it had something to do with a disease they don’t have. That’s not an effect I would have had approaching this in a more literal way.

I sit here reflecting on how this record came out of me, and I realise that as the world opens back up I have let some of the better habits I had worked on during the lockdown go by the wayside—and my health along with it. I implore others not to do the same and hope to course-correct for myself. It took the world ending for me to figure things out the first time. I hope not to be so dense about life again.

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