Interview: MAX GRAHAM

26 September 2013 - - - The DJ List


How did you get into dance music?

When I was 12 I started to watch Rap groups in NYC and totally wanted to be the guy scratching behind them, like Jam Master J and CUT CREATOR. From there I started to learn about music more, but didn't really get into it until after high school when I took a summer job djing. Back then I played Top 40 and 90's euro dance, until someone dragged me to a party in Montreal. This party was the first time I saw a crowd hanging on the DJ's every sound and fell in love with the underground. And the rest, as they say, is history :)

Who or what would you say is your biggest musical influence?

Depends on the era but I would say probably DJs like SASHA, JOHN DIGWEED, MARK FARINA and DERRICK CARTER. People are going to say "but you play nothing like them," but the music we have in common is not what's inspired me, it's how they rock a party and tell a story at the same time. Sasha and John Digweed in the late 90's were particularly instrumental in shaping how I DJ now. John Digweed can play for 8 hours and not play his biggest record until an hour before the end. That kind of patient programming is a rare thing these days and definitely something I learned from them and value greatly. It's why it's harder for me to play a one-hour festival set. After shaping my DJ style after guys like that I really only feel 100% comfortable with a minimum of three hours.

Describe to us your sound.

It's a combination of energy and emotion; it's gotta have some soul whether it's techno, trance, progressive or deeper stuff. I'm too diverse for my own good, which is another reason I really enjoy long sets as I try to weave between different styles. I feel like a trance breakdown after five chuggy techno tracks has ten times the impact of 8 trance breakdown tracks in a row. I definitely try to tell a story by combining different influences of music. Shopping for music takes me five times longer than some DJs because I go through every different style. Even though my manager might say, "stick to one marketable style," the artist in me won't allow it. I think though lately people are really opening up to so many different sounds and it's making it easier for me to branch out at a gig rather than keep it just trancey.

Talk to us about your recent original track "The Evil ID".

Well, it's funny… I never expected it to do well. I really made this one for me. It's dark and heavy, definitely evil. I made it thinking ‘I’m going to have fun and play this, I don't care if anyone likes it,’ and it's ended up being bigger than the records where I try to imagine what people will like. I'm really proud it's been so well supported and it just goes to show if you just relax and make music you like you'll probably be better off than if you try to force it.

You just had a massive remix release with KHOMHA and JUVENTA, can you talk to us about it?

Well these are actually quite old. KhoMha and I discussed him doing a private mix of SITW back in 2011 just for us to play, it was just before he blew up and he loved the vocal and agreed to it. I've been playing it at every gig for two years and basically we've been the only people to have it. I'm quite unapologetic about this as I wanted an exclusive track that only I could play and took a bit of flak for not releasing it sooner, but hey, we all want those tracks that separate us from everyone else and this was it for a while. But I did promise I would release it and now is the time. KhoMha knocked it out of the park so to speak and I couldn’t be happier.

Juventa is one of my favorite producers and we're working together on a new track. He helped a bit with the mixdown and the bass on the original "Still There's You" so he had all the parts and decide to make his own remix just for him to play. I loved it and asked him if we could include it on the package. I'm stoked because both of these were done by guys who loved the original, in a very natural organic way. Rather than just hiring whoever is hot out there I really try to find producers who love the original and genuinely want to create something new with my tracks.

Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming records?

Well I've got some awesome surprises coming up for Cycles 5 (out in January on Armada) so I have to keep those secret, but I'm finishing up a track now with KERRY LEVA and Juventa as well as producing a track with an awesome singer from Texas named JACQ. I’m also working with one of my favorites JEZA whose voice and writing I absolutely love.

Talk to us a little about Cycles Radio.

Cycles is so fun, I can't believe I didn't start a radio show sooner in my career. Having an outlet to show everyone where my head is at musically every week has done wonders for my gigs as there is absolutely no confusion over what I play (there has been at other periods in my career). People come to my shows wearing homemade Cycles Radio t-shirts and it's just been incredible. It's also a chance to try out so much new music weekly and get a live reaction from the community that tune in and interact on twitter during the show. I've really fallen in love with the interaction each week and the community we've built around the show has made it so much better than I thought it would be. Cycles 100 was broadcast live from Egypt and trended worldwide #2 in six minutes. Worldwide is no joke when it comes to trending and this was during peak time in North America, so I think that's a very strong testament to the online community around the show. All the past episodes are on my SoundCloud and iTunes as well as the live one each Tuesday at 12 noon EST on DJ Mixes Channel.

How is Rebrand Records doing?

Rebrand is another thing I’ve really focused on in the last two years. With talent like PROTOCULTURE, STEVE HAINES, JOHAN MALMGREN, SOLID STONE and all the other amazing artists I've been lucky enough to work with, it's been an absolute joy. Finding music that turns me on and being able to release it to everyone else, play it live and promote it on the show is pretty incredible. We're starting to do Rebrand On Tour dates where we focus on that sound, so expect more of that in 2014.

What has been your most memorable gig so far this year?

Without a doubt the six hour set in NYC in June - Here's why -

If you weren't an artist what would you be?

I would love to own and run a hotel. After all the years of staying in them and seeing it done right and wrong I’d love to open and run a small boutique hotel in some beautiful part of the world like Bali.

What's next for you?

Cycles 5 is out in January, it's going to be a single CD with plenty of Rebrand exclusives and some very nice surprises. Cycles Radio 150 will be in March, I think and we're planning another live broadcast. I'm also really pushing for promoters to allow me to play open to close sets. I love playing deep and building into techno and trance rather than just playing a 90 min guest spot and leaving so the "Open to Close" is something I hope to do a lot more of next year.

Anything you'd like to say to your fans?

Well I don't call them fans, just "like minded music lovers" since we all love the same thing. We have a lot more in common than just being "fans" if that makes sense; I'm just lucky enough to be the one programming it.

I would like to say hello, I'm always around on twitter and Facebook and I would love to hear from you, positive or negative hit me up and let me know how you like the show, the label, the production or if you want to talk politics or stupid stuff. I’m always around, bored in an airport staring at my iPhone trying to resist Candy Crush and chatting on twitter, so come say hi @Maxgraham

Bonus Question: Are there any embarrassing moments you'd like to share with us?

One of my favs is when a guy handed me a piece of paper and a pen at a show for my autograph. I signed it and handed it back and he said, "No no I want the name of the song" - ouch :D

Tour Dates: View his tour schedule

Max Graham Remixes: Part 2 available on Beatport.

Be sure to follow MAX GRAHAM on his socials to keep up-to-date:
Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram | SoundCloud | iTunes | Spotify | Tumblr

About the Author

Caleb Lau
cut creator derrick carter jam master jay john digweed juventa khomha mark farina max graham protoculture sasha steve haines jacq kerry leva johan malmgren jeza solid stone

The world's largest DJ directory bringing you DJ profiles since 1997

bassline events

Discover DJ events, buy tickets and more, including following your favorite venues, promoters and DJs

bassline news

See news and events related to the world's top DJs

bassline news

Press play on your music career for club, festival and event job opportunities

bassline events

Discover the best places for drinks in your city, plus transactions and logistics made easy