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Touching Bass: Max Cooper

Catching some feels with a former genetic scientist-turned-beatsmith.
March 14, 2014, 8:06am

While some folk earn their moolah scanning your weekly washing detergents through their till, this week’s Touching Bass entrant is an actual scientist. I know, right? And Max Cooper’s productions of jagged noise and electronica are just as impressive as the PhD in computational biology (genetics) that sits pretty on his CV. His debut LP, Human, was released on Monday and beautifully explores human interaction via healthy doses of glitch and raw emotion. Peep this week’s mix from the Belfast native.


Noisey: Hey, so you were saying that you were piecing together some weirdness as we speak?

Max Cooper: Yeah, well I'm working on this 4D sound project, a special thing in Amsterdam, which is this array of speakers of different heights, widths and depths. You walk around in this array of speakers and a software is able to make sounds appear from anywhere in the room.

I can only imagine how mad that would be for films?

One of the projects makes you feel like you’re in the middle of this big storm and its actually pretty scary because you experience the lightening and things blowing everywhere.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 4D, maybs?

That’s the thing. It could also be used a lot in gaming to make you get totally immersed in the surroundings.

That reminds me of when The Gadget Show created a simulator for Battlefield 3 that allowed the character to essentially be a part of the game.

So they were physically running around?

Yeah, and the person’s movements were calibrated to the game.

Yes, so that could be recreated with the sound on the 4D project.

Sooo, I can get a go on the pilot version of this creation, yeah?

Yeah, exactly. I’ll put you on the list.

Totally worth it. But bringing things back around to your music, your album was out on Monday.

Yeah, I've been a lot of touring and also working on a couple of new things. Busy as always.

What was it like to put together a full length project, rather than working on EPs and singles?


It was great because I wasn’t working within the restrictions that I usually have to deal with. Dance DJs usually need tracks to fit into sets so the first bit and last bit need to be mixable, for example. This was my opportunity to just write whatever I felt like and be as weird as I like without worrying about who would DJ it.

What is the concept behind the album?

Every track is about a different aspect of the human condition. There’s one called “Automaton”, for example, which is about how people are like robots so on that track bits are chopped up like a robot and the vocalist is singing “I cant stop it”. They’re all concepts that people can relate to, but at the same time you don’t need to understand all the concepts to enjoy the album. It functions as a piece of music regardless of whether you’re into the contents or not.

Is there going to be a 4D version of it?

Well, I did a show with it but the thing is, with this system you can only hear it in 4D when you’re there. There’s only one of these 4D machines that exists in the world because it’s experimental. One way you could do it is with binaural recording, where you insert microphones into your ears to capture the way the sounds are picked up in 3D, rather than hearing things in stereo. I did use that in the album where, on the first track, I did some field recordings in the foyer of the British History museum.

So were field recordings a regular tool in your production armoury?


There are at least three tracks that use them and those tracks were all recorded binaurally so it’s the idea that you get more of a convincing sound experience.

If you could record any sound within our universe, what would you record?

I think the Big Bang would be the ultimate sound to record.

Just about as epic as it gets. What software/hardware combo were you using for the album?

It’s all pretty much recorded in Ableton. I use a lot of the Native Instruments stuff and Moog Minotaur on one of the tracks but generally, it was all digital. The strings and piano were composed by myself with samples. But then you have the vocalists and the field recordings, which are my way of bringing in the natural human feel. It’s still very much in my usual style but bringing in the human feel as well. That’s something that I've always had, that combination of computer and natural feelings.

And you come from a genetics background, so are you still combining the tour?

I've not done any genetics work for about three to four years now. I've been doing music full time since then but I was doing both before then, it just got to a time when I had to give 100% to either of them. I decided to give music a go, so genetics has fallen by the wayside unfortunately. I still read a lot of science but I'm not doing any proper research any more.

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