“Hi there, this is Max Cooper. Are you free now?”, me “of course!!!” still wearing my PJs. 15 minutes later, I meet with Dr. Max Cooper at the Zoo de l’Usine. It’s midnight in Geneva.
As a child, if someone had predicted that you would become a DJ, what would your reaction be?
My shyness would most certainly have answered impossible. As a kid, I thought a DJ was some kind of radio host, someone who takes the mic and screams “hi everyone, how are you doing tonight?” And it was inconceivable to me: inconceivable to speak in public. However, from the age of 17, when I first started going to clubs, music became obvious. But it remained a hobby for a very long time; science was and has become my profession before music took over.
Now that music is your job, what does a working day look like for Max Cooper?
I wake up late… especially on weekends when I get very little sleep. For example, last night I did a gig, then took two flights to get here to Geneva. I had to set up my equipment and check the sound, and the light. So generally I get 3 hours of sleep per night on weekends. The fatigue accumulates so well that between Sunday and Monday, once at home, I sleep a lot: more than eleven or twelve hours. And I find a certain rhythm in my routine.
This routine necessarily begins with waking up late. As soon as I get up, I turn on my computer and start working. In my pajamas, I’ll go to my studio and start playing with different instruments. My days are often spent answering phones and emails in order to coordinate with my team: my manager, my agent, my travel agent, my accountant, public relations, and others around me. Many people ignore that being a DJ is more than a gig on stage and that a team is preponderant behind the scenes on a stage to bring any project to life. It is only after dinner, around 9-10 p.m. that I start to compose until 2 a.m.
Max Cooper is a night owl. He will add that silence and darkness feed his creativity. The excess fatigue also takes him to unsuspected corners of his mind.
The first question that came to my mind while watching your set, reading the reviews and your interviews, is this: at this point in your career, is music no longer sufficient since you add images?
I’ve always been a visual artist from the start. Of course, the music is enough; many DJs are happy with that. But my music has always been visual in my head. So with Emergence, I wanted to show these images. Sometimes the images came first and I composed from the visuals. Other times, the music was composed beforehand and the images followed.
How do you read your audience? Is it a collaboration or rather a battle?
Understanding your audience is a key part of being a DJ. Being younger, it was easier for me to train it in my music because I went out a lot and I felt the atmosphere of different clubs. I knew more or less what to expect.
And then you started to travel also because of your growing notoriety and had to face, I suppose, a different audience?
Absolutely. So I have to be careful. I could take no risks and still play the same set that has paid off before. But then you fall into a routine that I can’t conceive of. On the other hand, you don’t have to go too far either, or else you will.
Two hours later, Max Cooper sits on the stage surrounded by images with his music. He breaks them down to put them back together and the universe emerges right in front of me. The big bang, the black hole, the planets, the stars, then human life. I cross the centuries, I bear witness to the evolution of humanity and its complexity.
I keep repeating to myself: Dr. Max Cooper is a humanist and not meeting him would be a breach of our duty as earthly citizens.