‘Making music is fun’: DJ Max Graef talks new material and phones on the dancefloor ahead of Manchester show

Not content with simply being one of the hottest producers to emerge from the continent’s techno capital, Max Graef has his fingers in several proverbial pies.

In the two years since releasing his debut album aged just 21, Max has co-launched a record label, performed in DJ booths across the globe, and produced a plethora of new material.

Just six months after dropping his eponymous band’s first album Dog, the Berliner has teamed up with Glenn Astro for a brand new release on the influential Ninja Tune label.

And with the Max Graef Band hitting Manchester’s Soup Kitchen on Friday, he is refusing to stand still.

Max told MM: “The music is constantly evolving, always changing.

“There’s so many records that I did in the past that I’m not really happy with anymore, but that’s normal.

“Only last year as the band we did a concert that was horrible, we were super unhappy.

“Then we recorded the album, and we were really happy at that moment, but a couple of months later we thought ‘we’re so much better now, we should rethink the whole thing’.

“You always change your perspective on things. We’ve progressed over the past three years – brought new stuff in with rock and jazz which we grew up with.

“It you’re ever really happy with something it’s not a good sign – that you don’t want to make progress anymore, that’s not a good thing.”

Max’s constant innovation has most recently manifested itself in The Yard Work Simulator, the Glenn Astro collaboration which hit record stores last month.

The pair spent around four months working on the release, and plan to tour it in Asia later this year.

Max is pleased with the reaction the album has received, and enjoyed producing it alongside his good friend.

“The process was very mixed – sometimes we started stuff that one of us had started before, sometimes we started from scratch working it all out,” he said.

“Sometimes we split the parts, and one did the drums, one did the keys. It was always different, and it was always about jamming a lot.

“You have to give the energy out and keep it interesting for both of us, but it’s always fun. Making music is fun.”

Max’s love of music takes him much further than the decks, and when the opportunity to resurrect his old band project knocked three years ago, the impulse to play live was too strong to turn down.

Describing their sound as more ‘psychedelic and jazz rock’ than the electronic music he also loves, Max believes his band’s tracks reflect the records he listens to most.

“I still like to produce music but when I write the tracks and we work them out as a band there’s a whole different energy,” he said.

“Usually I write down the notes for the keyboard, then we work out together how we can play each sound – how we’re going to arrange and structure it.

“There’s also a lot about improvisations and spiritual experiences, so that’s very different to producing a track at home.

“It will be interesting to see how many people who liked the production stuff will still like the band project, and the other way round.”

With Money $ex Records, the label he runs alongside Glenn Astro and Delfonic, Max’s attention has also turned towards working with other artists.

It’s an experience he finds rewarding, and he’s happy to see the operation get bigger and more diverse.

“I really love when I can put out a good record – it’s a really good feeling,” he said.

“We have so many friends that send us music and we like it so much, so it’s definitely a really cool thing going on.

“We started with all these EPs and now we’re going to focus more on albums and open up with genres a little bit. We’ve got some really weird stuff coming out, some more jazzy, some funk.

“So it’s going to be cool to have a lot of releases that focus on what the artist wants, and giving them the platform to do what they want.”

Despite growing up in a city synonymous with electronic music, Max has a greater affiliation with the scene of London, where he also spent two years at school.

For Max, England’s capital has a unique attitude to new music, and the DJ experience differs in each city he performs around the world.

“London’s always fun to play. When I DJ there it’s always cool because people are really open and willing to get surprised,” he said.

“It’s rather difficult in Berlin to get the same vibe that is happening in London pretty much every time.

“The US has a very different approach to music, different scenes and sometimes no scenes.

“But in Europe there’s a lot of cities where it’s getting slower, and some cities are super open to eclectic stuff, and some are just techno.

“You can always try to bring something new, and maybe they will enjoy it.”

One recent addition to club culture that shows no sign of disappearing is the presence of smartphones on the dancefloor.

Whether it’s capturing the moment the beat dropped on Snapchat, or using Shazam to grab the title of every other track on the set list, an iPhone in the air is usually never more than a few feet away.

While many DJs have criticised the phenomenon – with Jackmaster even asking clubbers on Twitter to “stop shoving phones in my face” – Max is far more chilled about it.

“The whole being on your phone the whole time is a little bit annoying. I’d rather see no phones when you’re playing music,” he said.

“But it’s okay – it’s just a generational thing I guess. People do a lot on their phones and I kind of get it, I can live with it!”

Through all his endeavours, Max’s love for creating and discovering music continually pushes him on to the next project.

It’s a passion that isn’t going away any time soon, and for Max it only keeps on getting better.

“I probably enjoy DJing more now than I did when I started to be honest,” he said.

“Since I’ve enjoyed collecting records more and more and being a little bit free about the selections – doing what I feel like to have a good time with people – it’s more fun than it was in the beginning.

“And the production – that’s never going to stop. That’s what I did all my life and what I’ll always do.”

Tickets for Max Graef Band’s performance at Soup Kitchen on Friday cost £8 and are available at

Image courtesy of Magnet Musik, with thanks. Videos courtesy of Max Graef Band.

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