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The Illusive Air Max 97

There’s not a whole heap of information about who Air Max 97 is, and he likes it that way.
March 21, 2014, 4:45am
Image by Elliott Lauren

There's not a whole heap of information about who Air Max 97 is, and he likes it that way. Known simply as Oliver the Dunedin-born Melbourne DJ and producer has been gaining momentum over the last eight months, releasing an EP and several remixes that have got people talking. Albeit in hushed, but nonetheless eager, voices. The lack of fanfare deliberate: without self-promotion and social media campaigns, Oliver says you can be sure that Air Max 97 fans haven't been hustled into it.

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Noisey: The Air Max 97 moniker is still relatively new, what were you doing before?
Oliver: I have done little bits of music before, but more of in a noise context. When I left Dunedin, I wasn't really doing much in the way of making or performing music, but I was collecting a lot of field recordings for the first two or three years—which I now draw on for the Air Max 97 project. This is the first proper thing that I've focused on, and the first time I've decided to make it public and do it properly.

I guess that time spent on field recording is seen in the diversity of your EP Can you take me through it?
It took about three months or so. The tracks that work best I can usually get the structure of them with the main ideas in one siting. The good ones seem to come quite quickly. In terms of the diversity of that EP, I feel like that was quite an exploratory phase for me. My new record and subsequent recordings might be a little more focused and have more consistency; it'll still be quite diverse and sonically interesting but more cohesive.

Like most young artists you're active on Soundcloud, you're more visible there than anywhere else, how have you used that Soundcloud culture to get your tracks out there?
When I first put my first tracks up, I did so pretty quietly. Close friends of mine knew I'd been making music, but when I first made my Soundcloud account I wanted to make sure that if the music got an audience it did so in its own right. I wanted it to find an audience purely through the music and not through how I might promote it.

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So still relying on classic word-of-mouth?
Yeah, or just letting the audience develop organically. I didn't want to engineer the audience or hassle people to listen to it.

Or buy likes on Facebook.     
Yeah, so in that sense it has been very encouraging to see that grow. It's great because people get in touch with me or I reach out to them. Twitter is also really great to be able to get people's emails and send them tracks.

You're very much an online artist, how do you feel about this culture of online celebrity and people shooting to fame overnight?
I've always tried to make sure the music is at the forefront of it—as opposed to me getting notoriety from crazy rants on Twitter. There're deliberately not heaps of photos of me online. I try to put the music first. For me, it's felt relatively gradual.

Does that ambiguity affect the gigs you play, for example how do you feel about festivals versus club nights?
I'm really not a festival person. I don't go to festivals that often and the few experiences I have had I've found them to be a bit overwhelming. Having said that, I'm open to playing festivals. That might be on the cards later on this year, but in terms of the relationship between that and a club night, I really like the format or a club night. People know what they're going there for: they're into that sound rather than having a much broader interest.

Festivals by nature have to be big and there must be something about that that makes them harder to manage, and it means you have to be broader. If there are problems with festivals, it might be because of the size.

You've got your new EP coming out soon; will you be working on anything in the lead up to its release?
I've got a bunch of new demos up my sleeve; I've started reaching out to a few more labels, too. I don't have anything concrete in the pipeline but with luck there'll be another one or two more releases later in the year. The plan is to definitely make more stuff and develop more bodies of work.

See Air Max 97 in the flesh at our Melbourne Thump Presents party. It's free, so don't forget to RSVP.