Max Graham is a global minstrel. The Canadian DJ-Record Producer has traveled the world in pursuit of his passion – playing the right sounds. His days in music started twinkling the keys of the piano to making his way behind the turntables, starting out as a hip hop scratch DJ to move through house, trance and then prog. With a number of albums under his belt, he was promptly propelled into the consciousness of the world’s eye with his 2005 remix of Owner Of A Lonely Heart by Yes. But he is more than one remix, which he has shown with a torrent of singles, mixes and remixes, his Cycles Radio particularly gaining momentum with each show. He continues to trek his own path, defined by a universal appeal. In the lead up to his gig with Lemon & Lime for a secret rooftop party, we sit down with Max and chat open to close sets, not sticking to formula and what underground dance music means to him.
What is your sudden fascination with open to close sets? What do you love to achieve with these?
Well I think it appears to be a “sudden fascination” for people who haven’t been around awhile, but for any of us that have been DJing for more than ten years, it’s the norm. The multiple DJ/short set thing is mostly a festival scenario where promoters are trying to use as many names as possible to fill a large event. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, I played eight hour sets all the time. When I came back in 2010 after a year off I was more in the trance scene, which is definitely all about short sets and intros between DJs etc. and has never really been my comfort zone, so I felt when the time was right I would push back to do what I’ve always loved – which is take the crowd on a journey from that first moment the club opens to the last track of the night. I love so much music from so many genres I can’t play them all or feel the least bit fulfilled from an hour set.
Hernan does it, Nick Warren does it, Danny Tenaglia does it. Many DJs are getting back to it. Every DJ used to do it. What is the significance even now of the long set?
The journey. A quality storytelling journey cannot be told the same way in a short set.
The open to close seems an example of your willingness to find ways of demanding more from yourself as an artist: what else across the years have you done to push yourself harder with your music?
I’ve never stuck to an easy formula either as a producer or DJ, so I think I’ve always been pushing myself in one way or another. Currently finding new producers combining a techno groove with trance melodies has been the biggest push lately.
What does underground dance music mean to you?
I play music I love by producers I love and I don’t really over complicate it. I find these types of topics are for the headline, “see what X DJ says and feels about that other thing that has nothing to do with him but that you’re all talking about,” so I just stay out of it and focus on what I’m doing, like my live shows, my radio show and my music.
As you persevere in this fickle and ever changing industry, what do you find stays the same?
Evolution in music is always there, I love that it never stands still. And flight delays… they are the same no matter what era it is in dance music.
You traverse a great many dance styles: what remains as your signature sound and what do you try to achieve with each set or each album?
Energy, emotion and drive and to find the best music possible for people to enjoy.
What can Brisbane expect to hear from you.
If I’m doing my job right: the unexpected.