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29 October 2014
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Max Cooper
Max Cooper

The doctor of the decks

By Phill Huxley
Notts breaks turntablist and Firefly resident Max Cooper has played to over a million people on Radio One. He combines studying for his PhD with his blossoming DJ and production career.


Hi Max, is it really true that you are doing a PhD?

Yep, that’s true. It's not as strange a combination with DJing as you might think. The PhD is my own research, with my own timetable, which provides the flexibility I need for my music commitments.  It's like having two full time jobs. I enjoy both though, so I don't mind putting in the hours.

Is there any way that your PhD can help with DJing? Can you bring an academic quality to the DJ booth?

Possibly, I have always been into the very technical side of DJing (scratching, juggling) which requires breaking down complex actions into basic units for the learning process. This isn’t too dissimilar from most research.

How often do you spend practicing every day?

When I was learning I spent more than an hour a day for a number of years. But these days I am concentrating on production and only spending about half an hour or so a day just to keep myself on the level. If I wanted to push for winning turntablist competitions I would have to put in over three hours a day...

How much do you plan your sets in advance?

Max Cooper
Max Cooper

I will generally bring a certain selection of tracks, usually 150 or more, based on what I know about the night, and what I think I'll want to play. But I wouldn’t pre-plan a set for three reasons. 1. It would take forever planning every set. 2. You can always be mistaken about what sort of night it’s going to be and what you should play. 3. Reading the crowd and basing your set on the feel is one of the most important aspects of DJing.

You do Thrash Jelly with you fellow Firefly resident Jeet, tell us a bit about that. How does it work when you play live?

We have loads of decks, between four and six, CD decks, sampler, effects and mixers. And we play around on it all at once with a very eclectic combination of music.

You also have Max Hedroom - I take it you enjoy collaborations then?

It's always good to have a number of options and plenty of talented people around you to learn from. Max Hedroom is where the music production side of things comes in. It consists of myself, Mark Seavers and Gaz Williams.

What equipment do you use? Are you very techie about it?

As a turntablist orientated DJ I am generally at home with a good scratch mixer and a pair of 1210's. Although if there is more equipment available I will make use of it.

Nottingham - good place for a night out?

"To amount to anything significant nationally or internationally, you need a sound that demands respect from your peers and fellow DJs"
Max Cooper

Definitely. There's pretty much something for everyone in Notts, if not too many cheesy clubs.

What is more important: Respect from your peers and fellow DJs or consistently playing to big crowds?

Respect for yourself and your own style of music is most important. If this means you are happy playing commercial music to large crowds in your city then fair play, but to amount to anything significant nationally or internationally you need a sound that demands respect from your peers and fellow DJs. 

But can you be popular and still retain your credibility?

No DJ can be completely credible, because music is a subjective thing and there will always be someone that thinks that DJ is a sell out for whatever reason. So the more popular a DJ becomes, the more critics they will have. So no one can be popular and have absolute credibility, the question is, how much credibility do they have and from who.

How fast is the DJ world changing with the onset of digital music? Will vinyl ever die out? Should it?

It is changing quickly at the moment, with a number of new technologies arriving. But as long as people like to see a DJ scratching and playing with records, some form of vinyl will live on. People are never quite as impressed at watching someone stare at their laptop for 2 hours.

Finally - why should people come and see you play?

They shouldn’t, I'm cack!

Max Cooper plays with Jeff Mills at Firefly on Saturday 19th March at the Marcus Garvey in Radford, 10:00pm - 6:00am. Tickets are £16.

last updated: 15/03/05
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