Colin McDowell is an impeccable authority on all aspects of…
Max Cooper is a DJ, musician, remixer, scientist and genetics researcher. His new Series EP is a critically acclaimed electronic masterpiece inspired by genetics, maths and the structure of music.
Max Cooper’s worked with and remixed artists ranging from Berlin techno (Extrawelt, Dominic Eulberg) to mainstream pop (Hot Chip, the Wombats) and now an increasing number of contemporary classical, with the first ever remix of soundtrack composer Michael Nyman due out this year and Max’s remix on the upcoming Helios remix album.
Max was studying science at university when he first started writing music. He took his PhD in genetics while simultaneously earning the label of ‘Future Hero’ from Mixmag and appearing twice on the UK’s biggest dance programs on Radio 1. He worked as a genetics researcher for University College London while he had his first top 10 Beatport minimal hit with The Shufflebox EP.
The SERIES releases are the product of his work as a genetics researcher. Each track is informed by abstract ideas about genetics, maths and music. ‘Harmonisch Serie’ riffs on the mathematical relation between notes, chords, and musical scales. ‘Stochastisch Serie’ balances randomness against a listenable musical framework. And ‘Chaotisch Serie’ observes how even the most random chaos can suddenly become ordered – and vice versa. You don’t get that with a Cheryl Cole album….
If you were given free rein to do genetic experiments, what would you do?
Boost production of brain growth factors to make some big brained people, so as to see if they could come up with any better ideas of what to do with the new-found relaxing of genetics laws and morals.
When was the last time you embarrassed yourself ?
Today – I had to make a jingle for a radio show, “Hi I’m Max Cooper and you’re listening to etc etc”… I sounded like a, to use the technical term, dufus.
If you could own any piece of art in the world, what would it be?
Summertime by Jackson Pollock
When did you last have a really good night out?
Wilde Renate in Berlin, one of the coolest clubs I’ve seen in a long time, with great people to match. Plus I was on holiday with lots of good friends who were all on particularly good form.
What got you interested in genetics?
Escapism. I like my science (and music) to be removed from reality.
Your music is quite minimal. Is that genre best enjoyed in a dark after-hours at 7am, when off your face?
Philip Glass is minimal, I don’t see many mashed punters at his gigs. I think it’s the repetitive rhythmical aspect of the music which may please some people at 7am, not how minimal it is. I write my music as much with home listening in mind as for being played at clubs, a lot of it doesn’t have any beats at all – can’t play that out.
Are your groupies of the knob twiddling geek variety, rather than the fluffy bra and high heels crowd?
What are your feelings on glo-sticks?
I wouldn’t use them myself, but at the same time, they’ve got a bad rep and I’m not going to jump on the wagon. If people have fun with them then fair play, don’t be a slave to trends.
Which gig this year have you enjoyed the most?
I’ve not got a great memory for timings so I’ll keep it simple and say this weekend just gone. I played with two of my favourite producers, Maetrik and Applescal, who both did amazing live shows at Dachstock Reitschule in Bern, which is an ace club. Top night all round.
Is there a bigger market for minimal outside of the UK? We seem to like our girly disco house here. Is that true and what does it say about us?
It’s funny, when I go outside the UK, people don’t refer to my music as minimal at all, the genre changes depending on where you go. But yes, if we’re talking about minimal/techno/house/electro, 44 sort of thing, then it seems to be more popular outside of the UK.
I’m not sure that handbag house is the reason though, as I think that’s pretty popular everywhere, perhaps we’re more into dubstep and drum and bass and electronica, which reduces the 44 crowd. Sorry, that’s a bit of an ugly answer isn’t it. I’ll rephrase: Yes, people in the UK only like girly disco house because actually only girls live in the UK (some dressed up as men).
DJing- the late hours, the feverish atmosphere, the chemical temptations- how do you stop yourself from going off the rails?
Frippin ‘ell, my mum is going to fret if she reads this interview.
It’s been said that architecture is frozen music, does this make sense?
In the sense that music changes with time and architecture is generally static, while both are forms of art, it makes sense, yes. You could say the same about any still physical art form though. I think it’s more that all art forms are connected by underlying rules like symmetry.
Is it still possible to make money from dance music?
It’s very hard to make anything significant now from selling dance music, partly because of sharing and partly because of the increased volume of dance music out there as a result of technological advances making music production open to all.
Is string theory science?
I’m no expert, but it seems not to be experimentally falsifiable at present, which would mean it’s technically more philosophy than science. But I don’t think there is a clear distinction between the two, each informs the other, and neither good science, nor good philosophy, can exist entirely independently.
Scientific innovation often consists of having an idea of how something works, and then devising tests for it. Does this mean the idea is initially philosophy and then suddenly becomes science the moment the test is imagined? The boundary has little relevance outside of our choice of terminology. More importantly I’d say, would be the foundations of the new ideas upon established science, and the robustness to scrutiny of the new ideas by scientists. On this basis I would describe string theory as science.
Should governments support scientific research when there may be no technological
Definitely. The most important scientific advances often spring from unexpected places which have no apparent technological benefit at the outset.
What album will you keep listening to and never get bored of?
Olafur Arnalds – And they have escaped the weight of darkness
Can you love someone if you don’t respect them?
Yes, but it’s probably a bad idea.
First published: TheHospitalClub.com, November 2010