Amalgamating the rhythm - Max Cooper presents his vision

Words by: Polly Lavin
Posted: 15/11/11 10

Max Cooper Max Cooper may have no formal music training but the 31 year old Belfast native began producing tracks in the mid 2000s now has over 50 tracks and remixes under his belt. He’s been charted in the top ten of Beatport, DJ Download and play-listed on BBC Radio 1 along the way..

Remix work has included Hot Chip, Dominik Eulberg, Agoria, Extraweltand he hit #3 on the Beatport  electronica chart in 2009 with an Au Revoir Simone remix. However, it was the “Harmonisch Series” on Traum Schallplatten that garnered the most visibility for the young Irish man..

Emigrating to study and pursue a career in genetics in Nottingham and London he initially was involved in running nights such as ‘Firefly’ and DJ-ed and produced part time around a genetics researcher career  but as his funding for his work ceased last year he has decided to pursue a full time job within electronic music.

Putting his hands to remixing the works of composer Michael Nyman, cinematic electronic producer “Hiatus” and collaborating with “Get People” on tracks on the “Amalgamations EP” it’s all the better for EDM as 2012 will also see the release of a new album.

Recent performances include Lightbox, Alpha-Ville Festival, XOYO with Pantha Du Prince and Jon Hopkins in London, Picnik Electronik Festival in Montreal and Decibel Festival in Seattle but he’s also promised to be a regular feature at a new bi-monthly electronic bands night called ‘Fields’ at Electrowerkz in London.

You are from northern Ireland. Have you ever utilised any of the vast range of instruments from the island to embed into your work or explored same?
Traditional Irish music fused with glitchy electronic melodies. Ha, you should do it yourself it’s guaranteed to make millions! (maybe). It could work though. I think most combinations of music can work if you’re prepared to strip out the clangs.

I have no music training of any sort. I played the violin for a couple of years when I was about 12, but I never enjoyed it and didn't pursue it to any great degree the music wasn't right to be honest...You ended up in London far from Belfast what are your thoughts on how far the north of Ireland has open up in mindset when Rihanna was lynched for stripping off in a field by a political representative?
Yeah, that's just the attitude of one person, I'm not sure if it reflects anything about the country in general. It’s funny though. My favourite one was the NI environmental minister who didn't believe in global warming.

When Belfast is moving on with music etc and the old mindsets are still there do you think it impacts on whether producers etc like yourself stay in the city or the country?
I know some amazing producers living there. Space Dimension Controller, Boxcutter, Phil Kieran etc so I don't think there's a big drain because of attitudes. Personally I prefer living in London for the things I gain by being here, not because of anything I wanted to get rid of by not being in Belfast.

Do you think the MTV EMA’s being held in Belfast was a good or bad thing? What are your thoughts on the fact that dance music was more or less snubbed in Belfast music week prior to the EMA event?
I think it's a good thing the EMA's are in Belfast, it's a major UK/Irish city which deserves as much attention as any other. As for the music week issue in one way it's bad that no dance music was included in the music week, if it's true that the audience are there and would want to know about it, but in another way it's good, dance music has always been about being the underdog and being something that was outside of the mainstream, so not having it in major press alongside mainstream pop music can strengthen the electronic music scene in some ways.

Max Cooper - Amalgamations EP

                               Amalgamations EP by Max Cooper
What do you gain from living in London? 
I can travel to gigs almost anywhere with a single flight. I like the multi-culturalism, there's loads of amazing food and creative things going on, art, music, theatre, or anything you can think of really - basically if you have any sort of interest you can find your own strange niche here to live in.

Tell me now a bit about your musical background? Are you trained in piano or such? Who created the vocals on the tracks also?
I have no music training of any sort. I played the violin for a couple of years when I was about 12, but I never enjoyed it and didn't pursue it to any great degree the music wasn't right to be honest. If I could have found music that connected with me I would have got into it.

I do quite a lot of vocals myself, although if it's a remix of a band or something then it'll be them. When I do my own it's more of vocal harmonising and layering, rather than anything lyrical. The Hiatus remix has vocals that Cyrus (Hiatus) sampled from his Iranian dad's old record collection hence the Easter feel. The Get People collaboration has vocals from the band Get People!

The whole melodic movement – a number of producers are coming out of London such as Jon Hopkins. What are your thoughts on that? Didn’t melody die a little with Prog?
I think there’s been a trend towards deeper more melodic music in recent times. Maybe it reflects people’s moods at the moment. I don’t have a value judgement on that though, what type of music other people choose to make is neither a good or bad thing. Or maybe I should say it’s bad, I wish no one made melodic music at all and then I could sell more records.

Jon Hopkins is amazing, he’s way above what most people, including myself are doing in terms of quality in my opinion, I’d love to work with him if the opportunity arose. As for melody dying with prog music is made up of rhythm and melody primarily to lose either one is massively restrictive. Melody has always had a place in dance music, independent of prog.

Are melody lines crossing over into trance these days?
As with any genre there are always examples of tracks with elements from other genres. I don’t know what’s going on with trance these days though to be honest, I don’t listen to it. I rarely listen to  4/4 stuff at all really apart from a few select bits like John Tejada's recent album on Kompakt, which has been on repeat.

Prog like techno in the past was a ‘serious’ genre that bordered on slightly anal. Has the melodic movement opened up a little and lost some of the serious edge that the superstars of prog had?
I guess the new guys aren’t nearly as superstar style as the old guys, as the whole scene is much smaller and more fragmented, given the number of people now producing and the number of micro-scenes around the world.

IDM vs. EDM debate – what are your thoughts on those who take things separate the scene?
The way I see it is that it’s not a issue that can be categorised, every piece of electronic music sits somewhere along a scale of completely idiotic to insane genius, probably with the two ends of the scale linking up to form a circle.

When you see electronic bands like Capac, Ghosting Season, Caribou, Nicolas Jaar breaking through where do you feel the genre is at right now and where do you sit in that picture?
I’m always encouraged to see amazing bands like those coming through. It’s good to know not everyone has their taste in music forcibly defined by what’s on TV. As for where I sit, I guess I’m slightly more towards the techno scene than those guys, but hopefully still sharing some musical commonalities.

Has the electronic musician replaced the acoustic musician? What are your thoughts on what Noel Gallagher said in the press earlier this week about dance music being so simple that every f*cker was making it?
There will always be a place for electronic and acoustic musicians I think. That’s a funny quote from Noel Gallagher and true to some extent, a lot of dance music is painfully simple, but at the same time that is why it’s so appealing to a lot of people there is something enjoyable about repetitive form. The same is true for minimalist classical music but then of course there’s plenty of rich complex dance music too it just depends where you go looking for it.

Fields #2 - Danceable Experiments In Band & Dj Electronica
 Fields #2 - Danceable Experiments In Band & Dj Electronica
        Electrowerkz - Friday, 6 January 2012 - 10:00pm - 6:00am
           Line-up: Max Cooper, Get People, Enjoyed, Graphics
How much does classical composition influence your work? Can you name me your top 3 composers? 
Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Philip Glass.

What are you doing with Michael Nyman?
It’s a collaborative project where I get my dirty hands on his lovely orchestral records, live piano solos etc, and I brutalise and mangle them.

Creating sounds – what’s the starting point – what are you using in terms of plug-ins, programmes and do you use pre-sets or other? What hardware also are you using?
I don’t use any hardware, it’s too expensive and hard to house although I’d love to get some at some point. I use Ableton live and a lot of the live instruments plus the live orchestral strings. NI stuff like Reaktor, Absynth, Massive, and a few other synths like Synplant and Imposcar and recently a lot of Max for Live plugins.

Some say your work is ‘emotional’ where does this stem or be influenced from?
Often I’ll try to make a track which is a representation of an emotive state, when I get it right it should invoke some sort of similar emotive response in the listener. But that’s music, nothing particular to do with me.

Science, maths, music the world in general – what’s your feelings on matters such as climate change and as genetics researcher what hope for the worlds 7 billionth child born the other day? Are we over-loaded in the world?
Climate change is a scary one, you’ve got thousands of experts who spend their lives studying the subject shouting out for things to be done to overt massive global problems, and policy makers and corporations opting for short term financial and political gains at the potential expense of future generations. We probably deserve to destroy ourselves for behaviour like that. And yeah, no doubt we’re over-populated; we’ll be heading for a lot more famines and wars if we don’t get it under control. What a nice cheery end to the interview!

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