Maxed out

Belfast-born producer and star remixer Max Cooper is keen to avoid any talk of music classification. Fashion-driven music fads are something I try not to get involved in, he says. Genres – especially within electronic music – can come and go in a matter of months. Acts become big off the back of a new fad, then the scene dies and the acts die along with it.

Yet with more than 100 original tracks and remixes to his name, its more than pragmatism that prevents easy pigeonholing of his work – his international career tends to transcend local music scenes. Everywhere I go, different people have different names for the type of music I make. It seems to sit somewhere between a lot of different genres, which is fair enough as I try to steal as many ideas from as many different genres as I can!

Listing his dream collaborators as Ólafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Helios, Autechre and Björk (It would be amazing to get hold of her voice) Cooper aims to work with those at the top of their respective genres. And following on from Amalgamations – a combination of remixes and collaborative work with different artists released last November – plus a packed calendar of dates across the globe – he’s now hoping to finish a collaboration with classical composer Michael Nyman. Being away is good for inspiration – I generally come home with lots of ideas. But that’s only part of it; it’s now a matter of putting in the hours and turning the initial inspiration into something tangible.

His rise to fame coincides with the rise of the remixer. With some of the best tracks of recent years remixes of original material – no offence La Roux, Gil Scott Heron, Beth Ditto and many many others – it has emerged as a powerful role within modern music. Originally the idea of a remix was a lot more subtle, says Cooper. Perhaps a new producer adding polish to a track – but in electronic music it’s turned into a huge thing and almost every release is expected to have a remix or two.

So how to make your mark? I always try to take the best element of a track and improve on that – in theory a remix is the best work of two different artists. The original artists are generally happy to have remixes as they still own the rights to it, their name is still on it and they can get more distance out of their work.

Perhaps his most famous track to date came from a heavily played collaboration with Hot Chip, I Feel Better. As soon as people hear bassline first drop, they respond straight away, it and it still sounds fresh, says Cooper. It was a hard remix as it was one of those ones where my mix came out very different from the original – my style isn’t entirely compatible with that of Hot Chip so it was a matter of finding a smaller element of the track – one part of vocal and melody that works, and running with it. When you’re taking influences from different styles like that you often get more interesting results.

But undoubtedly a star turn as a remixer, how does Cooper turn his work into an engaging live set? My work is the least ‘live’ thing ever, he admits. I sit at my computer and fiddle about with my mouse moving notes around and editing fiddly details. For that reason, instead of transferring it to a live show I change the macro rather than micro structure of a track – when the big drops come and the building and directing the flow between tracks – I’ll often mix between tracks quickly and I’ll never have a predefined set-list so it’s different every time.

Max Cooper’s essential playlist

Undiscovered Colors by the Flashbulb
This is what I aspire to – the beautiful combination of electronic and classical elements. This track is really close to perfection for me. In fact, the only thing I can possibly fault about it is the spelling of  ‘colours’ in the title.

To watch the video click here

Timeless Space by John Tejada
John Tejada makes lovely soft melodic electronic music that always puts me in a good mood. It’s not shallow, though, like a lot of good music, it has a lot of depth and oozes quality, I think his use of almost only analogue synths plays a part in that.

To watch the video click here

Homeless by Burial
This is one of those tracks, and albums (Untrue) that slipped by me at first listen, and resurfaced when my state of mind was right. I think we’re always after music that complements our state of mind, so something might sound crap one day and great another. So, I guess my state of mind has been more Burial recently.

To watch the video click here

List Of Lists by Vaetxh
This track and this producer are unrecognised gems of epic proportions in my opinion. To be fair he’s only just started releasing music under this project, but when I first heard his stuff I was instantly blown away. His work is an audio-experience of immense detail and psycho-acoustic trickery, but with enough of a thread to hold on to easily and even work in a club – a rare combination.

To watch the video click here

Backlight by Helios
Beautiful relaxed epic – melodic live and electronic fusion.

To watch the video click here

Whitecaps Of White Noise 1 by Tim Hecker
Ultimate atmosphere here with no beats or standard musical structure. When I first heard Tim Hecker live, it all made sense, the music gives you an inkling of certain chords and melodies along with the mental space to construct your own explicit expectations and versions of each piece, which in itself is a really enjoyable thing. But it also carries the property of the imagination being better than any instantly gratifying music-on-a-plate, which is the style of nearly all other forms of popular music these days.

To watch the video click here

by Ben Olsen

Amalgamations is out now. For more information visit: