[INTERVIEW] Max Graham Talks Trance, EDM and Loyal Fans
February 7th, 2014Matt Reynolds
With the high influx of electronic music acts nowadays, an artist who plays straight trance is becoming a rarity. There are so many subgenres and “BPM” categorizations – like progressive, psy, uplifting, euphoric, vocal – that it’s easy to lose sight of why trance is worth listening to in the first place. Max Graham, an exceptional trance DJ/producer out of Canada, doesn’t care about these trance subgenres. He knows them, yes, but he is not bound by them. He has transcended classifications and embraced his passion for the art of trance, both of which are apparent when watching him perform. Graham takes his audiences on a musical journey each time he performs, and it is because of this that he has garnered a fiercely loyal fan base. I had the opportunity to talk to Graham prior to his Cycles 5 tour, and I’m even more of a fan now than I was before.
2014 looks as though it’s going to be the biggest year ever in regards to electronic music here In the states. How does the atmosphere in US venues compare to those in, say, Canada, or other regions of the world?
Well it’s blowing up in Canada as much as in the US with the all the festivals, but for my scene and the type of gigs I do have always been consistent regardless of the popularity of EDM. I’m not really part of the main stage EDM thing that’s happening right now. What we are seeing is lots of people kinda moving on from that and looking for a deeper substance in their music and discovering sounds like Digweed and Adam Bayer, and that for me is really cool. It’s like the EDM explosion introduces so many new people, and lots of those will stick around and check out some of the other Tents/Stages (so to speak) so it’s a very cool thing that’s coming out of it.
You’re embarking on your Cycles tour to promote yournew Cycles 5 album. How does this compilation improve on or progress from previous cycles albums?
It’s really just my yearly reflection of where I’m at musically, my mini journey of what I play and what you can expect at a 4 or 6-hour set of mine. The tour is really about the long sets this time, which differs from previous tours. I can honestly say I’m more comfortable now than I ever have been with my sound and my sets.
Your radio show is a thing of beauty. It’s become a ritual for me and many of my fellow trance fans. How much work usually goes into creating an episode?
Well thank you and I’m glad you like it, it’s a LOT of work! More than I imagined but I bring it on myself, as I really want each show to be the best. I spend the full day each Monday working on the show. It’s about three hours listening to promos and sites like Beatport, another three hours editing all the tracks I buy to make them suit my style, two hours mixing the show and another hour doing the track list, rendering, voice overs, uploading, etc. But the payoff each Tuesday is so worth it and actually more than I ever imagined when I started the show. The interaction has been incredible and it’s translated into a community feeling that extends to the gigs now.
“Meeting people who tune in weekly and who interact with me is such a huge part of the gigs, rather than just showing up and playing.”
It also forced me to search for so much music to keep the show fresh that my DJ sets have benefitted from it, so it’s a win win.
You’ve played alongside the biggest names in trance music over the last few years. One of the coolest things to witness in electronic music is when two artists take the same stage and mix together. Can you recall your favorite B2B set (either that you were a part of or that you witnessed) and why it sticks out to you?
Protoculture and I in Mexico for ASOT 600 was probably the most memorable. People still message us about that gig.
I’m sure that you’ve seen “trance purist” versus “everyone else” arguments on social media sites. As a trance artist, how do you feel about people’s perception of the “perversion” of trance?
I don’t really get involved in that whole thing; I’ve always been a diverse DJ and just play what i love regardless of genre. I think Cycles reflects that quite well.
You have a very personal relationship with your fans. You designate time to talk with them and share drinks before and after your performances. How does this type of interaction help inspire and drive you with your music?
It’s a lot more fun when you have a connection with the people you’re performing for. I really enjoy the interaction online and during the radio show and that leads to the type of thing you’re talking about. It does feed the energy in the room when I play so it’s always a pleasure.
It seems like, wherever I look, you’re playing an extended set. How do you approach your extend sets in regards to structure, the tracks you include, and transitioning from genre to genre?
The transitioning has always been natural. To me I’m not making a conscious decision to switch genres, I’m just playing what suits the room at that moment and finding a way to drive the vibe in that direction.
“I do structure the long sets in a way that’s a slow build, using tech house and deep house that slowly builds with energy and patience.“
A good example, I find playing a soaring trance melody after three or four dark techno tracks lifts a room far more than if I play five soaring melodies in a row.
Finally, can you let us in on any special surprises you may have planned for this tour?
Wait till you see the new visuals!
Written by contributor Matt Reynolds. Find him on Twitter here.