Making a pit stop at Rough Trade isn’t much of a digression from Maxim’s everyday life. “The setup is quite similar to the one at home,” the London-based Singer, DJ and Producer says while browsing through his favorite vinyls, most of which come from the golden eras of reggae and funk. When faced with the task of building his ideal DJ set, Maxim looks to the songs that he enjoys hearing in a gritty club, as well as representing his buddies and collaborators. “I’ve got to include some Massive Attack, so let’s do Protection; they’re good friends of mine,” he says.
The original Prodigy frontman is embarking on a new chapter in his musical career. Coming to the table with a background in electro-rock, it’s not surprising that Maxim is cultivating a following with his own style of Trap. “I want it to be harder, with a more industrial sound,” he says.
While he’s just getting his solo feet wet in terms of playing clubs and festivals, he sees a unique opportunity in breaking into the electronic scene here in the states. “I think right now kids are going to festivals and they are liking everything they hear without understanding it,” Maxim says. “I think in time these festivals will break off into their own specialty genres, and then people will really have a sense of their tastes.” I tell him I couldn’t agree more, having just spent the majority of my time at this year’s Electric Zoo festival inside Hilltop arena, a stage dedicated to up and coming dubstep and trap artists.
Maxim says he enjoys watching today’s popular DJ’s, but often finds himself asking “Where’s the band?” In an effort to bring a more collaborative spirit to his electronic persona, he currently performs with a female MC named Cianna Blaze. “I really want to push her work too,” he says, while fingering through a stack of Public Enemy records. “I remember listening to this and thinking ‘wow, what are these guys doing?’ I’d never heard anything he like it,” as he gazes at the track list from 1990’s Fear of a Blank Planet. “I knew they were on to something,” he says, putting the album neatly back in its place.
We continue to peruse the store, opting to skip over the folk and country aisle, before finding ourselves in the somewhat scarce reggae section. This is where Maxim runs me through the history of dubplates. The act of dubplating comes from their use in dueling reggae soundsystems. In an effort to one-up the competing soundsystem, the performing DJ plays a well-known track with vocals that have been overwritten to include the name or names of the artist spinning. It’s a way for soundsystems to “show off” or represent the heavy hitters who back them up. It’s a test of clout, and a creative effort to win over the audience. Next, Maxim pulls out his iPhone and plays an example of a dubplated version of Bobby Babylon, a song from reggae legend Freddy McGregor, who clearly gives a shout out to DJ Maxim in the new lyrics. When I ask him how he obtained that dubplate, he smiles and says, “I know a lot of people in the reggae scene, so after a few phone calls I can usually make it happen.”
After about an hour in the store, Maxim decides he wants to pick up a souvenir, and settles on the self-titled album from a band called Royal Blood. “I’ve never listened to them before, but I noticed the cover when we walked in. I have a feeling this is going to be really hard,” he says. “That’s part of the problem with going digital; you lose a lot of the great artwork.” He agrees not to listen to any of the album until he’s left the store.
It’s time for him to get back to Manhattan, and continue his meetings in New York. I ask him if he’s had any good food while in the city, but he laughs and says he’s not much of a foodie. He has plans to check out the club scene and hit Webster Hall later in the week. Speaking of clubs, Maxim’s managed to build a pretty eclectic playlist for his DJ set. So without further ado, if myself and Maxim were playing a back to back sets, here is a taste of what you’d hear:
Public Enemy – Fight the Power
Wu Tang Clan – Bring the Ruckus
Denis Brown – Stop the Fussing and Fighting
The Clash – London Calling
Blondie – Atomic
Massive Attack – Protection
Artic Monkeys – Teddy Picker
Dr. Dre – Rat-A-Tat-Tat
Nas – Made You Look
Freddy McGregor – Bobby Babylon
Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not be Televised
Zeds Dead – Under my Skirt
Rage Against the Machine – I’m Housin’
Megan of Free Williamsburg
The Glitch Mob – I Need My Memory Back
Skrillex & The Doors – Breakin’ A Sweat
Junior Senior – Move Your Feet
MaMMaLs – Strawberry Letter 23 (Remix)
Pretty Lights – Finally Moving
RJD2 – Ghostwriter
Big Gigantic – It’s Going Down
Bassnectar – Killing in the Name (Remix)
Nine Inch Nails – Closer
Major Lazer – Smack My Bitch Up (Remix)
Dillon Francis – Brazzers
Daft Punk – Robot Rock
Zomboy – Pump it Up
Knife Party – Bonfire
Keep your eyes out for new tracks from Maxim. He’ll be dropping some collaborations with Cianna Blaze in the coming months. You can check out their newest single Wolf here: [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/163291806″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]