Self-Portrait: Max Abysmal

For a recently-graduated student in media school still settling into his new home in Amsterdam, a debut release on Young Marco’s Safe Trip isn’t a bad way to get started. Making the most of a Dutch duel nationality, Max Abysmal moved from Australia to study audio engineering and audio production. Enamoured by the city’s nightlife, he settled down after his course, applying his new-found skills to the sights and sounds around him. DJing too was just as reactionary, yet in a short period his work in the booth and studio has propelled him to the front row of Amsterdam’s new-gen. With an album nearing completion we wanted to hear what unreleased and original material he was sitting on. Alongside his Self-Portrait mix, we discussed how his debut EP came about, creative processes and how his SAE course set him on the right path.

Catch Max Abysmal at Atlas Electronic in Morocco (30th Aug – 3rd Sep) alongside Ben UFO, Call Super and Lena Wilikens.

Let’s start with our usual ice breaker: what’s your earliest musical memory?

I would have no idea to be honest ahah. One memory that stands out is when I was about 11. I was learning how to play guitar and would always pretend to play Metalica’s ‘Enter The Sandman’ solo almost every day. I even filmed it once I think. could be a cool video clip for an ambient track some day.

You moved to Amsterdam to study audio engineering and production at SAE, prior to that, what was your musical upbringing?

Not much at all really. I went to SAE without any knowledge of music production. All I knew was how to set up a guitar amp and prepare a drum kit for playing, I had a lesson in recording at high school too.

Are there any particular rituals you go through before you head into the studio? Do you come in with a destination in mind before starting a jam?

No not really. Sometimes I will come with an idea but I always end up creating something other than I had intended. My ritual would probably be smoking a joint during the recording process.

Are you the type of producer to work on a track until it’s perfect, or are you more of an impulsive creator, happy with first takes and sketches?

I’m a bit of both. When I record I love using my first takes because I feel like they are the truest take. I won’t re-do recordings a lot because a lot of the time it’s an accident or a certain feeling you have expressed without knowing and if you try and re-do it to get it just right, it will never be the same. I don’t think any of my tracks are truly finished though so I am a perfectionist when it comes to mixing and sequencing.

What’s the most important bits of kit that makes a Max Absymal track?

It would have to be a combination of self-recorded percussion, synthesisers, vocal, drum computers and a bass guitar all run through an old Tascam M-312 with plenty of FX.

Your first Max Abysmal release was on Safe Trip earlier this year, which landed after you took a punt and sent Young Marco some demos. Did you let it influence the creative process, knowing that you were going to send them his way? In general do you make music primarily for yourself or for an intended listeners?

I actually didn’t send those to Marco myself and had no real intention of sending them to him either. Safe Trip didn’t exist at that time. These tracks were made almost three years ago and my booker at the time had contact with Marco and sent them herself. That then led to Marco telling her he wanted to release it on his “new label”. I was a huge fan so his sound had an influence on the the record itself but it never altered my creative process. For a while now I have always been making music for myself and try to be as original as possible. Back then I would have a huge focus on making tracks that my favourite DJs would play but recently I hate making club music. I just want to make stuff that I would buy myself and listen to at home.

You’ve also put out release under other aliases. Could you tell us about those and how they differ from Max Abysmal?

Yeah that stuff is all terrible ahah. One EP I did was literally during my first month at SAE and they were the first bounced tracks that I had ever made on Logic 9. Back then I had no idea what I was doing, just putting sounds together that worked and being more impressed by the fact that I had made a song by myself instead of actually being able to enjoy it as a listener.

At the end of last year you said you’d been working on an album. How’s that going?

Really good! It’s pretty much done, I’m just touching up the final tracks and it should be ready to go into production pretty soon.

This mix is comprised of 100% original material. Could you tell us where you recorded it and a bit about its contents? Any tracks that are particularly special to you?

All these tracks where recorded at my current studio in the north side of Amsterdam behind Garage Noord and a few were made at home in my bedroom studio I had for a while. It’s not a smooth mix at all, and it doesn’t really have a flow. I just packed a bunch of my tracks together and filled in the gaps with a Japanese women whispering a novel. The last track is definitely a personal favourite that I have a strong connection with.

You’re headed to Atlas Electronic next month. First time in Morocco? Anyone else you’re excited to check out?

Yeah first time! So keen it’s ridiculous. The whole line up is killer, I couldn’t pick a select few.

And finally, what else have you got on the horizon that you’re excited about, musical or otherwise?

So much good stuff coming up I’m really excited for. To name a few, the b2b with the boss Gilb’r at Dekmantel. I’m dying to get back to Croatia for Selectors too. Got a tone of gigs abroad I can’t wait for and I’m working on a few other musical projects with friends I’m keen to get done.

Catch Max Abysmal at Atlas Electronic in Morocco (30th Aug – 3rd Sep) alongside Ben UFO, Call Super and Lena Wilikens.

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