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Interview: Max Cooper

Having recently juggled a degree at UCL alongside his production career, one can only admire Max Cooper’s dedication to his music. Making subtle experimental electronic sounds with a dark atmosphere often accompanied with breathtaking breakdowns, he has earned DJ slots across the UK playing at nights like Fabric’s Wet Yourself and releasing on Traum and Tim Sheridan’s Veryverywrongindeed. We spoke to Max about juggling study and music, his dream collaboration and golden waterfalls.

How did you get into the music you listen to?

Very loosely I guess my love of electronic music was pushed to the forefront of my interests when I started going to clubs in Ireland in the late 90s. As for the music I listen to now, it’s a very organic process, with my interests and listening patterns changing constantly and gradually over time depending on whatever random influences I stumble across!

What inspires you to make music?

Mainly expression I would say. The reward of expressing myself through music.

What is your production process like?

Recently I’ve been getting into having some sort of visual concept on which a piece of music will be based, which carries with it emotions and whatever else I associate with the scene. Then it’s a matter of trying to make a piece of music to represent the whole lot. Sometimes I just keep it simple and knock out a club banger though!

Can you give an example of this visual production process for a specific track?

A track off my next EP on Traum (Chaotisch Serie EP), called “River of Gold”. This track started when I was lying in bed thinking and I had an image of millions of falling ball-bearings, which were gold, forming some sort of shimmering flow. I thought I’d like to try and make a track that sounded like that idea, and “River of Gold” is the result (I had to avoid the perhaps more appropriate name, of “Golden Waterfall”, for obvious reasons!).

How do you incorporate your day work/studies with your music?

My studies are all finished luckily, but I still aim to do post-doctoral work, even though at the moment I’m struggling to find time because of my music commitments. Ideally I’ll be combining the two which is something I’m actively working on at the moment. But the short answer is; it’s almost impossible to incorporate everything I want to.

“Recently I’ve been getting into having some sort of visual concept on which a piece of music will be based, which carries with it emotions and whatever else I associate with the scene. Then it’s a matter of trying to make a piece of music to represent the whole lot. Sometimes I just keep it simple and knock out a club banger though!”

Do you think applying logical or mathematical concepts to music detracts in any way in terms of purely emotive interpretations of music?

For me personally it only adds to the emotive power of a piece to know that it is inspired by an interesting concept, as I find the concept can carry beauty in addition to that contained in the music alone. Plus if you can pick out some of the concept in the music, then this adds extra enjoyment, and also hopefully a closer approximation to what message the artist wanted to deliver in the first place  – I say approximation because it’s all very imprecise of course.

Has anyone influenced you in what you make?

Every piece of music I ever listen to influences me! My biggest influences of recent would be Philip Glass, Jon Hopkins, Max Richter and Stephan Bodzin.

Do you have any preferences as to DJing or playing live more?

Both are enjoyable for different reasons, live more the satisfaction of playing my own music, and DJing for just letting go and running with a vibe into some sort of madness. So no preference overall.

What are your DJ sets like in comparison to your live ones?

My DJ sets are more varied. I’ll run with a crowd to wherever I think will work best, so often I’ll end up playing much more housey, or more technoy or more dubby or whatever, while my live sets are a bit more constrained. That said, I have about 60 tracks in my live set so still a fair amount of flexibility to play to a crowd.

“My studies are all finished luckily, but I still aim to do post-doctoral work, even though at the moment I’m struggling to find time because of my music commitments. Ideally I’ll be combining the two which is something I’m actively working on at the moment.”

What do you think will change about the way you make music?

One thing is starting to make music in way which is more compatible with my live set – so for example designing easily manipulated instruments and effects chains in Ableton using the racks and macros, which can be instantly incorporated into live sets and manipulated accordingly on stage. Which is exactly what the APC40 is great at (macro controls). Sorry for the bout of jargon, you did ask!

What are you listening to at the moment?

Nils Frahm and Jill Bellac (at different times)

Any dream collaborations?

Loads……Autechre, Olafur Arnalds, Radiohead, Plaid, Trentemoller, Stephan Bodzin, Lusine, Boards of Canada, Jon Hopkins, Max Richter, Fuckbuttons, Sigur Ros, Philip Glass, Bjork!! Haha I’m not holding my breathe!

What’s next for 2010?

Lots of hard work. And an album. And a bonjibbly fondue.

Interview: Flora Wong