Techno with a touch of the cinematic.
It seems somehow clumsy to say it, but the defining feature of Max Cooper's music is melody. And glitch. But mainly melody. The UK artist has been DJing since the late '90s, turning his hand to production around the middle of the '00s as a way of generating more bookings. It worked. Cooper has produced music for a number of European labels since making his entrance, although Cologne's Traum Schallplatten has by far been his preferred home: No less than ten releases bearing his name have seen the light of day over the last couple of years, including soaring club hits such as "Harmonisch Serie." This prolific form has translated to Cooper's live show, in which he regularly twists out his material from Ableton and an APC40 for up to two hours.
As if to further emphasize the point, RA.281 showcases no less than five unreleased Max Cooper productions, forming the spine of a mix that through artists like Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, Amon Tobin and Underworld presents a panoramic view of Cooper's tastes and influences.
What have you been up to recently?
Working like a fiend. I'm attempting to keep up with my production commitments but have a life as well. It's like when you go to check an email to do the one specific job you need to do for the day, but in the process find five other VERY IMPORTANT THINGS TO DO (possibly even written in capitals), each one referring to five other emails containing equally important URGENT STUFF, and so on. The branching tree of exponential confusion. Getting the opportunity to do this mix for you was a greatly welcomed excuse to ignore everything else and do what I actually love, so thank you!
How and where was the mix recorded?
I made the mix at home in my studio with my laptop and not much else. It's the same as my productions in that way; I don't use lots of machines, just lots of completely not live at all fiddling with details.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
The mix is a balance of contrast against continuity. I think that contrast can make any musical message more powerful. Like if everything is really beautiful and soft and quiet and then some nasty drill and bass drops its brutality will have more impact than it would in the context of a full set of noisy mania. Then there are contrasts of melody versus atonality, glitch versus simplicity, old versus new etc. But a whole set like this is going to have zero flow and wouldn't really work well in most clubs, and I wanted to make something representative of what I play out too. So the result is this amalgamation of genres which I'm in to, which I hope holds together in some sort of reasonable way. There's a fair few exclusives in there too, which won't have been heard anywhere else yet.
Do you see your sound, and in particular your use of melody, as part of a niche within the wider scene?
There does seem to be some sort of niche, but thankfully it's not well defined at the moment, and doesn't have a genre name. That means it can cover quite a range of different artists and stay fresh with maximum flexibility in the sound. I prefer it like that because I've never managed to settle on one or even a few genres which I would be happy to stick to. I've tried my luck with everything like a dutty genre stop out.
The fact that you were studying genetics while pursuing a music career seems to get brought up a lot, but did you have an ultimate non-musical aim in mind for after you'd finished education?
I was hoping that I could keep doing science research and music at the same time indefinitely, and I was working in science for some time, trying to get my own research program off the ground. Music was always something I worked hard on and loved, but I didn't ever plan to make a living from it because it seemed too unlikely a basket to be worth putting all my eggs in. Then the science funding faltered at the same time as some new music opportunities arose, namely Traum, and I thought, OK, why not give this a proper go and see what happens? I'm pretty sure I'll go back to some sort of academic work at some point in future, though. I miss it a lot.
What are you up to next?
There are some nice gigs on the way. I'm really busy until Xmas, including a Saturday night slot at ADE next week, the electronica night FIELDS in London on November 4th and an Australian tour next month. I have remixes of Ripperton and Agoria coming on Systematic and Infine, EPs coming on Herzblut and Last Night on Earth, plus an electronica remix of a classic I can't talk about yet on Skint, and some modern-classical-derived work via a collaborative project with Michael Nyman.
I'm also excited about developing my live show further with some brand-new amazingness in touchscreen technology coming from the guys at Liine, which I'm sure you'll hear all about shortly. I've got to get my album finished soon too, really. That's been held up again and again by opportunities that were too good to turn down. I'll need to cut myself off from everything for a while to get that done.