Electronica and techno producer Max Cooper, one of musicOMH’s 14 for ’14 artists, has just released his debut LP, Human – seven years after his first release, back in 2007. The album goes against the grain of electronica’s machine-led focus not only in the title; each track represents a different, common human theme.
In Belfast-born, London-based Cooper’s music, minimalism and orchestral melodies combine in a rich, intricately detailed melange of emotion and atmosphere that bridges the minimalist world of Philip Glass with cutting edge production. Electro powerhouses Factory Floor and Perc have contributed remixes for the album track Impacts; yet with a PhD in computational biology and a brief academic stint as a genetics researcher behind him, Cooper’s rise in music has wavered far from any producer/DJ template.
Having cited influences such as musicOMH favourites Jon Hopkins, Ólafur Arnalds and Michael Nyman, and ahead of the London launch of the album at Crucifix Lane on 5 April, we asked Max to tell us about the albums that influenced him and, by extension, his music most…
Usually when I write about my favourite music I’m selecting things from the last 10 or 15 years, a period in which I’ve been very focused on music. But in trying to find what music “made me” I had to go further back and try and remember what it was that first got me passionate about music, or even was just drilled in against my will.
I’ve got more of a visual memory than one for names, and I’ve been scouring my memory and calling my parents trying to remember what some albums were that I randomly bought and later fell into obscurity, which I now only have stored as images of the artwork along with the feelings of the music.
Unfortunately, history has a way of overwriting our memories with the success stories, but here’s my attempt to piece together some of the music that made me, mainly from my early to mid-teens, ’90-’95 or so.
Pink Floyd always seemed to be a favourite across the board and across the decades, with my friends of almost all sub-genres and personality types seeming to have at least some interest.
I wasn’t so much into the darker albums like The Wall, until I saw the video, which totally blew me away, and no doubt influenced my love and work in combining music and video in abstracted forms. My favourite albums were always Wish You Were Here, and later Division Bell. In particular, the track, Potency, from my album, Human, is some sort of homage to Pink Floyd.
I think amidst the brash rave and trance of the mid 90’s I though this just sounded a bit weird, but it had something fresh in there, and an approach I’ve since adopted to a large extent with the ambience, melody and atmosphere, but still combined in an almost club format.
In particular the Accelerator album is really quite clubby, with the all-time classic Papua New Guinea which I used to play a lot. I really should bring that one back shouldn’t I…. done. But Lifeforms has to be mentioned as well, a big step forward in possibilities, beautiful work and still sounds amazing.
My mum and my sister used to play Michael Nyman’s The Heart Asks Pleasure First on the piano, and it always was, and still is, one of my favourite pieces of music.
When I had the chance to work with Michael a couple of years ago I even tried to remix the piece, and I failed miserably – for me it’s a perfect piece of music and one of the greatest piano solos ever written, I just couldn’t even approach doing it any sort of justice.
I think I was out to buy a tape with “explicit lyrics” written on the front, and I’d heard this at my friend’s house too, so bought the tape, put it in my Walkman and played it on repeat for months until I’d learnt all the lyrics. My friends seemed to do the same thing too, we were pretty badass. My love of hip hop (accepted this isn’t strictly hip hop perhaps) developed to quite a degree, and I was a hip hop/scratch DJ for some years, but when it came to writing music I realised it just wasn’t me.
The track titles from this album really have to get a mention. Starting with, and in order: I wanna get high, I aint going out like that, insane in the brain, when the shit goes down, lick a shot, cock the hammer, lock down, lil’ putos, legalize it, hits from the bong, what go around come around kid, A to the K, hand on the glock, break em’ off some.
So in between being a 13 year old explicit lyric knowing gangsta I would go on family holidays and sit in the back of the Renault 4 listening to Paul Simon.
Actually, the Paul Simon got drilled in from a much younger age. I think we only had two tapes in the car – Graceland, and Roald Dahl’s The Twits. I seem to remember finding this Paul Simon album really quite annoying, it was much too jolly for my usual mood, but no doubt it sunk in, and it was a great example of fusing disparate musical styles, something I’ve since tried a lot.
I loved this album, and it was one of the first “concerts/raves/whatever it was” that I
went to – not a bad start looking back. I had a lot of friends who loved Metallica and all sorts of metal bands, and it brought us all together to a love of electronic music that would see us through the next few years travelling the country every weekend in search of the best parties. The use of distortion and intensity has been something I’ve always used too, stemming from the metal influences no doubt.
The best ever electronic music album? Could be. We’re getting to the end of my early music opinion forming years on this one, but I think it still made a big impact – the bringing together of so many different styles and ideas, electronic melodies and a beautiful rich clean sonic palette, and full of emotions, it’s a great album, and it still sounds amazing where a lot of electronic music from that time doesn’t stand up to modern recordings.
The London launch for Max Cooper’s debut album Human is 5 April at Crucifix Lane, performing with FIELDS labelmate The Slow Revolt. The remaining dates for the 40-date Human tour are on Max’s Facebook.