While the household names of such dj’s as Carl Cox and Paul Oakenfold often steal the spotlight in the electric/dance world, Hip Online is proud to feature a new star on the horizon, Max Graham. His career as a dj goes back fourteen years to when trudged across Canada building a name for himself as Canada’s dance music ambassador. His trademark progressive sound has taken him from the chilly northern winds of Canada to the beaches of Ibiza and even to parts unknown to weekly blast audiences with his intense style. Max’s live set can be summed up as pure madness. Just when the party couldn’t get any hotter, Max has been known to add little more gasoline to the fire to keep the dance floor burning.
When he’s not playing dj around the planet, you can find Max in the studio fine- tuning remixes and producing tracks, preparing to propel his sound into the future for the masses. Earlier this year, Kinetic Records wanted to showcase a fresh new talent to represent their ongoing successful Transport series, showing the world that electric/dance music features some of today’s best modern composers. After getting a taste of the single “Airtight”, Kinetic knew Max Graham was the obvious choice for the release of Transport 4. I caught up with Max for an electronic chat to see how the life has been treating him.
Max, I caught the album release party in Toronto at Turbo last week. Thanks for a kick ass time! Congratulations to you on the amazing work done on Transport 4. How special of a night was it for you to return to Toronto?
Toronto is always great. My closest friends live there, so when I go back
they all come out and it’s a mad one.
You have always been a key figure in the Canadian dance circuit. As you reflect back, did you ever think that electric/dance music would be this booming in North America?
Who approached you about making a mix for the Transport series?
Steve Lau and the Kinetic team did. They had signed “Airtight” from me a year before and knew they wanted an unknown. The timing has been great for it.
Describe your style and mindset in creating this record.
Well, I wondered what I was going to do with it, then I stopped really thinking and just started playing. I decided to only focus on being myself with it.
Which side of the cd best represents Max Graham? And why?
Both do, that’s the trouble with a double cd versus a live set, one gets compared to another. I’d have to say the first cd is more of an opening and closing part of a set put together, if that makes any sense, whereas the second cd is more like the peak of my live sets.
Were you allowed to have total creative freedom on the selection of tunes? For example, the Ministry Of Sound compilations are loaded with selected anthems that will sell records.
I don’t know whether to be insulted by this, but I guess that it does happen in
the scene. I would never make a cd if the tracks were dictated to me. After all, I’m a dj who is releasing a cd to promote myself in a country where no one has heard of me. I’d be crazy to play anything other than what I actually play. Also, this cd was an opportunity for me to showcase the songs and producers that really move me. Also Kinetic is really behind the dj’s, so I can’t see them doing that.
Also, with compilations I feel that the listeners know who the dj is but do not bother paying attention to the artists represented on the cd. Do you think for a listener it’s easy to get locked in and just listen to the whole mix from beginning to end, only to walk away without knowing what you just listened to? Thoughts?
Yes, I think that’s the idea. I would much prefer people listen to the set as a whole than break down the style, name, producer, time, blah, blah. It’s not an artist album, it’s a mix album. The songs each play a part in an overall feeling you get from the mix.
What do you enjoy more, producing tracks or being a dj?
Djing seventy percent, producing thirty percent.
My favorite producer/dj to listen to is Nick Warren because his mixes are so precise and incredibly tight. I must say I was absolutely floored by your live mixing skills at Turbo. What is your secret? How long did it take you to hone your craft?
No secret. Just practice, and I think it has to be part natural.
How much of your time to you dedicate listening to new music to add to your
Loads, as much as I can really.
I’m always amazed at how a dj is able to find records in the complete darkness. How do you keep track of the records you are looking for? How do organize the records? In bmp, genres, alphabetical order?
They are not organized at all. When you look in your closet you know your clothes, you just see the splash of blue under a pile and know it’s your jeans, you don’t need to pull it out and look at the label, you’ve worn them before and know what they are going to do. It’s really easy, actually. If they were all white labels with the same typed print on them it might be hard, but I live with these things and they all have different covers and such. The whites I do have to write on so it’s easy.
What are your three favorite records in your crate right now?
See, now you’ve got me. The white one with the ripped sleeve that I wrote ‘play this now’ on, the latest Michael Thomas production called Propaganda, and the Hybrid cd I have with the Radiohead mix and a Sarah McLachlan mix.
What labels do you think are currently putting out the best new material in trance/progressive?
I’ll tell you my favorite labels at the moment. Cyber is the first to come to mind, a couple of sick Chab records are doing the rounds in my box. Hope is on a roll, new Loafer, Starecase, and Grayson Shipley are all amazing.
Do you have residency anywhere?
Gatecrasher in the UK, Sona in Montreal, Circus in Los Angeles. I’ve been offered a couple more but time is really of the essence.
Now that you’re playing US club dates, what clubs are you looking forward to spinning at?
Space in Miami after having such a great gig there lately, Circus in Los
Angeles is my favorite club in the States. Also I’m dying to go back to Chicago and DC (Buzz). Always a good time.
How do you handle your schedule? When is the last time you slept in your bed?
Vitamins, aloe vera juice – yes, I drink it – yoga. I book all my own travel and make sure I’m home whenever possible. When I do UK dates I fly out Thursday and back home Sunday in time for The Simpsons.
What was the last rock concert you attended?
WHFS Festival in DC two weeks ago. They had a dance tent but I went wandering
off and found myself stage left of some serious punk band activity. Madness, I tell you.
+ Larry Sarzyniak