Interview: Max Graef

by Ulrik


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Max Graef
Tartelet Records

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There’s a new kid in town. More specifically, Berlin. His name is Max Graef, he makes the city's densest, dustiest, most mood-altering, jazz-influenced beats - and he is actually sort of still a kid at the tender age of 21. We had a chat with the promising young wunderkind about jazz, the inspirations that went into creating his delectable new game-changer of an album - and paying for beers you didn’t necessarily drink.

Max has got quite a few impressive things going on at the moment like his recent mix for Gilles Peterson Worldwide, an upcoming mix for the mighty Solid Steel show as well as his debut album ‘Rivers of the Red Planet, which drops today on Tartelet Records and must under no circumstance be slept on.

We caught up with the rising, Berlin-based producer on the day after his release party at Oye Records for a quick chat about beers, rhymes and life.

A: Hey Max, how’s it going?

Max: Pretty well. Yesterday we had the release party for my new album at Oye, which was great. After the party we were a large group of people that continued partying at a bar. I was one of the last people to leave, which unfortunately also meant that I had to pay for a lot of beers that some friends had because they forgot to pay. I think me and some friends payed for 18 beers or something although we had maybe 7. 

Bummer. You’re a considerably poorer man today, then?

Definitely. But apart from that it was a great night.

Could you start by telling me how you got into music? 

Well, my dad was a guitarist and very into music. That got me into it and I started playing the drums quite a lot. At that time, when I was around 14, I was more into rock but I slowly got into jazz as well. A big turning point was when I discovered this really cheap and shitty software called Magix Music Maker. It sounded really bad – I almost can’t believe how bad it sounds when I’m listening to it now – but it was really good for learning how to produce music. 

Does it sound shit in a good way or just in a bad way?

It definitely sounds shit in a shit way.

Got you. What would you say your main influences are? 

I like a lot of different stuff like Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Jan Hammer - the early stuff not the cheesy 80s stuff. It’s funny because I love 90s hip hop now but I only discovered all that stuff around two years ago. That’s not to say that I’ve been cut off from hip hop – the Midnight Marauders album from A Tribe Called Quest is another big influence – but I didn’t really know that much about hip hop until fairly recently, to be honest. 

How do you go about building a track?

That’s hard to say because it’s more or less a different process every time. But usually I’ll start with the drums, then I’ll go to Oye Records and find a good sample and just sort of take it from there or record some synth or bass. 

Could you talk a bit about the inspirations that went into producing your new album ‘Rivers of the Red Planet’? 

There’s definitely a lot of movie soundtracks in there. I guess it’s an album that lands somewhere between house and hip hop. The thing is that I wanted to make an album that you can dance to, but I didn’t want to make a house album because I’ve never heard one house album that I actually would listen to the whole way through, you know? I actually started out wanting to make an instrumental hip hop album, but then it sort of drifted and became something in-between the two. 

You recently did a mix for Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Radio Show and you’re about to go on the Solid Steel show as well. That must feel pretty alright?

It’s funny because I’d never heard about Solid Steel until very recently. And I never met nor talked to Gilles Peterson about the mix. I just did it. But yeah, I was told that both shows are massively acclaimed, so it’s been great and i'm very thankful for the support. 

Does living in Berlin have an influence on your music?

I’m not sure, actually. I mean my friends – like Glenn Astro, Imyrmind & Andy Hart - who also produce music are no doubt an influence or people like Mo Kolours. I think what I’m trying to do is a bit different. Not saying I’m trying to revolutionize things in any way, but the scene in Berlin is still very much about house and techno…and I think techno is extremely hard to produce – at least if you want to make it interesting, so I don’t really do that and in house i'm trying my best to be original - whether or not I am is not for me to say.

You’re obviously big into vinyl. Why is that?

I just think the whole culture around it is really beautiful. For me it adds value to the music. I’d much rather put on a vinyl record while I’m hoovering or something than just play something from the digital library. I just don't like to use iTunes or something similar. Just the fact that you can touch and feel the music makes it more significant somehow. 

Could you talk a bit about your upcoming projects?

Well, I’m definitely going to do a few things with Glenn Astro, Imyrmind and my other producer friends. But to be honest, I think I’d like to have a little break after the release of Rivers of the Red Planet. Producing it has been a wonderful experience, but I think that people should probably have a break from me, so they don’t get sick of my stuff, you know? 

Max, thanks for talking to us 

Thank you. 

Rivers of the Red Planet is out today on Tartelet Records. Check it out right here:

Bonus info: Max will be ripping ish up at Harvey in Copenhagen this Saturday! Join the Facebook event here: