Bookmark and Share

Max Cooper: Geneticists Don’t Do Envy (interview)

Reported by JontySkrufff on April 11, 2011

“I doubt my music every day. In particular, I go through extended phases of being really dissatisfied with my work, and thinking it's shit.”

“I think you have to learn to be your biggest critic in order to reach a good standard of production, but it's easy to go overboard. I also find it's very mood influenced. |f you ask me tomorrow maybe I'll tell you my music is fucking amazing.”

As one of the brightest producers in electronic music (he’s spent the last five years maintaining a day job as a PHD level geneticist) Max Cooper is used to high achieving though ask him about the sniping his increasing musical success has brought and he’s the first to admit he’s thinner skinned than he’d prefer.

“I have certainly experienced more negativity coming my way as things have moved on,” he muses. 

“It’s never from geneticists, though. They are doing much more important things. It's me who's jealous of them,” he chuckles.

“I've found the only thing to do is not look at anything anyone says about me or my music, stick to doing what I think is right, and try to make the best possible music I can,” says Max, “But really, my production process is massively driven by my mood, so maybe it's not that surprising that my analysis of my music is too.”

Not that he’s generally moody, though a quick scroll through his impressive back catalogue (available via 20 labels including uber-influential tastemaker imprints Traum, Perc Trax and veryverywrongindeed) suggests that’s he more than a little melancholic.

He also appears to spend time thinking about the meaning of life judging by both the sound and titles of the tracks on his new Traum release the Metaphysical EP; Heresey, Solace and Gravity’s Rainbow (click here to listen: )

“Gravity's Rainbow was a track that I made in more of a good mood than the others it’s something more playful and fun, with a name that I think sounds like something positive,” he explains, “while still fitting into the overall theme of concepts which exist outside of the realms of science, hence the name of the release - the metaphysical EP.”

Opener track Heresy has a similarly convoluted concept, he explains.

“The EP started with the track, Heresy (click here to listen: ) which I gave that name because it seemed to be breaking some techno rules which often have an almost set in stone following, like the 10 commandments of techno! Also I thought the track had a bit of a religious feel in terms of the power and chords used, like something trying to be grand and overpowering,” he says.

The next track was Solace (Click here to listen: ) where I wanted to make something more beautiful, relating to the idea of comfort and escapism, which is often tied into meditation and spiritual and religious concepts that relate to the term.”

The track begins with an unusual distorted noise effect which Max says serves a more practical purpose. 

“The strange intro for Solace was an attempt to create a contrast,” he explains, “Between something mechanical sounding and without soul, turning into something meaningful in order to maximise its impact.” 

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): You’re releasing scores of tracks seemingly relentlessly: how much do you consider each one perfect? 

Max Cooper: “None are perfect, I spend most of my time fretting over the mistakes I have made with every track. I do my best with every track at the time, but I can never seem to get it quite right.”

Skrufff: How much- if at all- are you embracing the ipad, for your own music making?

Max Cooper: “I'm using Griid and Kapture (both made by Liine) for my productions and live shows in particular, each is well worth a look. Kapture allows you to take a number of snapshots containing pretty much every parameter in Ableton live, and then smoothly move from one snapshot to another using an iPad control giving rise to loads of interesting behaviour along the way - it opens a lot of doors which I'm only just starting to explore.”

Skrufff: By what criteria do you judge a track as being successful?

Max Cooper: “If I still like it now then it was a success for me.”

Skrufff: How conscious are you of the armies of competitive producers out there?

Max Cooper: “Very conscious, I get paranoid about falling off a cliff of relevance whenever I have a couple of months without a release. It's bad, I think I'd make better music if I allowed myself more time to relax and let things come freely. Also there's an argument that by releasing too much you can desensitise people to your music, but hopefully I haven't crossed that boundary.”

Skrufff: How do you feel about people copying your ideas; how does it make you feel? 

Max Cooper: “Music in general, and especially electronic music, is fuelled by people taking each others ideas and presenting them again in their own way, hence the largely musically homogeneous genres we have today that allow DJs to continuously mix any one track with another. In addition to this general fact, if I can inspire someone to create music, then I'm chuffed. It's great to see the proof of the music fulfilling its purpose, and connecting with someone else enough to make them get involved.”

Skrufff: Have you ever had to deal with self-doubt or fear of failure?

Max Cooper: “I’ve never understood fear of failure, I've failed many times, especially with music, and picked myself up and tried again; and again. I've made loads of massive clangers. If you're prepared to push that extra bit more than everyone else then you'll usually get there in the end. Unless everyone else is pushing that bit more in which case we're all doomed. The result is a situation where you can do the thing you want, but in order to do so requires not doing anything else in life, and probably not being happy. 

Unfortunately I think this is exactly the case with a lot of professions these days, with peoples work/life balance being completely out in order for them to do their thing. My music career has definitely been feeling a lot like that recently, but I'm confident the right balance can be found and it will still work, especially given I'm in control of my own schedule. So what's the moral of the story? It's probably best to go and sit in the sun and chill out rather than getting involved in chasing your own tail. Weren't we supposed to be talking about music?”

Max Cooper’s Metaphysical EP is out now on Traum. 

Jonty Skrufff: