We first met Max in Berlin in July last year after he’d contacted us through Soundcloud offering some of his unsigned tracks a couple of weeks prior, which we immediately signed on the spot, knowing this relatively unknown young producer wasn’t someone you come across every day. At just 19 (ridiculous..) Max has been churning out some of the tightest samply house and hip hop jams imaginable, not dissimilar to a young MCDE with his first additions to the Raw Cuts series. His background as a Jazz musician and an affinity for Funk and Hip Hop have been the back bone behind the Berliner’s uncanny knack for digging up the rarest samples, which he effortlessly crafts together with impeccable dance floor sensibility.
Max’s first releases have seen the light of day through his own vinyl only imprint Box auz Holz out of Berlin’s Oye Records, of which the latest two have sold out in a matter of weeks and are now in the hands of the greedy Discogs pirates. Set for a massive break out year, you can expect to see forthcoming releases for The Gym, Sleazy Beats Black Ops, Foto Recordings, and remix for !K7 as well as featuring on three different forthcoming records for Melbourne Deepcast, including his own artist EP – hot tip!
We caught up with Max from the depths of his snowed in bunker / studio in freezing Mitte to get the scoop..
We know you’re only 19, but you’ve been producing music like a bit of a veteran of late. When did you start fooling around with samples and the like, and when was it that you first felt like it was ready to be shared with the world?
I’ve been making music since I was really young, like playing the drums and guitar in a jazzband and a few other projects, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint the exact time I started. I remember Ludwig Labuzinski (label partner and longtime friend) buying “Magix Music Maker”, and I was super excited about making a hiphop beat on there with him by using all the stupid samples they had in the program already.
When I started getting into vinyl, I thought it would be cool to get my stuff pressed onto wax. I quickly realized that I had to make the switch from Magix Music Maker to Logic, which I still use today. The rest is history…
Sampling is obviously the driving theme in your music, do you have a set process in which you’ll generally follow when working samples into a track? Which types of records are you typically looking for when digging for new samples?
There is no set process really, but I usually look for drums when I’m digging through records and I often find good chords or a cool bassline rather than what I was actually looking for. That is the great thing about sampling from records I guess. There are a few artists that I am always looking for like Jan Hammer, Chick Corea, Donald Byrd, Ohio Players and what not. I love so many genres from jazz, fusion and brazil stuff to old rock and soul stuff, so I always find something even if it’s just good to listen to.
I actually prefer finding a nice record by an artist I’ve never heard of before. Even though I love sampling, I am trying to get away from it more and more. I’ve been recording a lot more real drums, vocals, guitars and synths than I used to a year ago.
Speaking of digging, we know you’re well connected with Oye Records, which is widely considered one of the best record stores in the world. How important has it been to have Oye at your disposal for both finding new music and also in getting your label off the ground?
I love Oye. It is the best place to hang out and buy records that I’ve ever been to. Oye and especially Markus have helped and pushed us a lot over the last few years. There wouldn’t be a Box aus Holz without them and I am still really happy for their support. Now, for our label, it is the most important thing to get as many records as possible sold at Oye so we are not on the bottom of the topsellers list.
Your label Box aus Holz has been gaining some serious momentum after you guys made the decision to press to limited vinyl. Who is behind the label with you and what’s the story behind it?
We are all not very sure when the whole thing started (and how) but I guess Ludwig, T-bone, Joschka and I founded it in mid 2011. There weren’t any labels to sign our tracks so we just decided to put them out ourselves. The financial circumstances made us do the first two “releases” as free downloads, but at some point we realized we had to finance a pressing on vinyl for the next EP. Our buddy Kappelmann took the risk to make a longtime investment in paying more than half of the pressing costs of BAH003. Now he is damn rich, obviously!
We know you’ve also been producing some hip hop and some more experimental music, is that something you’re going to pursue to the same extent as your house project? Also, there was talk of an album, is that still in the works?
I am into all sorts of music so I always try everything. I guess I love J Dilla as much as I love Kyle Hall or Jimi Hendrix, so I will definitely continue making some beats, although house or techno is what comes more naturally to me. I even try some jazz standards every now and then but my guitar skills are a bit rusty to be honest.
I have been asked to do an album for Tartelet Records and I will definitely try to do it. For me it is a great opportunity to try all sorts of different styles, sounds and instruments. I’ve always wanted to have some weird tracks of mine on vinyl.
What can you tell us about the mix? How did you record it and what’s the idea behind the mix?
I just recorded some of my favorite vinyl jams, some of my favorites I only have digitally, heaps of my own stuff and then edited it all in Logic. There is nothing much more to it.
We know you have quite a few records coming out in the next few months, with your collaborative projects as well as your solo work. What can you tell us about those?
The most recent one is the new Box aus Holz featuring the one and only Andy Hart, Ludwig and the unbelievably talented guitar player Julius Conrad. Then there is a record coming up on Tartelet records featuring Muff Deep and Ludwig. I am super stoked to be releasing on the Melbourne Deepcast, with a couple of tracks featuring on the new various artist EP, as well as my own solo EP due out later this year.
I have been doing quite a lot of tracks together with Andy and I will continue to do so. We will have an EP on Sleazy Beats Recordings and a track on Foto Recordings. I have been working on tracks with Muff Deep and Gene Siewing as well which will come out at some point. Last but not least, I am also working on a remix for the amazing, upcoming album “Miami” on !K7 by Brandt Brauer Frick, and a solo EP on their own label The Gym.
What else do you have coming up, and when will we see you down in Melbourne?
For the first time of my life I actually have some serious gigs coming up. I’ll be playing with Ludwig at Salon zur wilden Renate on Saturday 26th January with Brandt Brauer Frick, Kenton Slash Demon and Muff Deep, then at Chalet for the amazing Anyhouse guys on Saturday 9th February alongside San Soda and Hunee, at Gretchen on 22nd February with one of my favorite DJs, Mr. Scruff, and at Farbfernseher on the 27th February with Muff Deep and Nano Nansen.
All the gigs are in Berlin but I am still really looking forward to them. Hopefully I’ll be able to add some gigs in Melbourne to my schedule as I am coming over on the 4th March for a month.
Oscar Peterson – Carioca (Happy Bird)
Max Graef – Skit 24# (Unreleased)
Cuthead – Kingston loudness war champion (Kunststoff Breakz)
Melodiesinfonie – I praise you (Forthcoming on Box Aus Holz)
Max Graef – Das Brett (Forthcoming MDC 10”)
Max Graef – Nr 3° (Forthcoming on THE GYM)
Steve Stoll – Octaves (Trax)
Netto Houz – Rossi’s records (Knuggles)
Max Graef – Pedro 17 (Forthcoming on Melbourne Deepcast)
Maze – Do what you like (Smooth Sounds)
Max Graef – Nr 5° (Forthcoming on THE GYM)
Glenn Astro – Feelin’ me (Wotnot)
Max Graef & Muff Deep – Am Fenster (Forthcoming on Tartelet)
ManMadeMusic – G.Y.D. (Simon Weiss remix) (Audio Parallax)
Dean Blunt – Direct Line (Hippos in tanks/ A-Musik)
A Tribe Called Quest – 8 Million Stories (Jive)
Ohio Players – Skin Tight (Mercury)