A passionate proponent for preserving the art of DJing, Max Graham sat down with DJOYbeat for an in-depth conversation. It was a DJOY to speak with him (see what we did there?), so much so, we wanted to share the conversation with everyone to gain an insight on the world of electronic music today with such a well-respected force in the industry. Graham talks about his latest compilation, Cycles 5, his preference for at least 6-hour sets, the art of DJing, electronic music culture, cake-throwing, David Guetta, ghost producers and more. Intrigued? Give the interview a download via our SoundCloud or listen right here on our site below (music featured in this podcast from Graham’s “Cycles Radio,” episode 146). Plus, DJOYbeat just got the exclusive word that Graham was so intrigued by After Las Vegas’ viral DJ rules, he’s signed on for a February 22 gig!
Here are a few excerpts from the interview:
Graham on Cycles 5:
This year it’s actually a single. I think we’re going to put it out twice a year instead of once a year, but the previous ones have all been doubles. I designed it as a reflection of my DJ sets. A lot of people judge a DJ based on their production, but that’s actually such a small part of what they may DJ. I’m a pretty multi-genre DJ—even though my production is a little more trance-y. When I DJ I play tech house, I play techno, I’m kind of all over the place. All the parts fit together to tell a bigger story than just playing 30 trance records in a row. So Cycles was the opportunity for me to put a CD together, sort of like a yearly retrospective of where I’m at so people can listen to it and get an idea for how I build a set and how I sound live. Even though it’s only 80 minutes versus the six-hour set that I might play, I like to think I’ve been able to sort of give a condensed version of that. So Cycles comes out every year around this time and it’s cool. It’s become like a little tradition among my community—and that grows every year.
On DJs versus producers in the booth:
I don’t want to use the word “epidemic,” but I think it’s been that case for years. When I started you had producers that were at home and you had DJs that DJ’d and you had guys like Digweed and Sasha that deejayed … The star became the producer … There’s a real sort of paradigm having producers go out that have to learn how to go and DJ in front of a crowd versus guys like John Digweed who are DJs through and through, but who have to produce to keep music out there to sort of—I don’t want to say “relevant” because Digweed’s never going to be irrelevant—but to sort of keep things out there. You hear a lot of fans about producers who can’t DJ but will show up and play three or four hits with other hits around them, but there’s no story, there’s no journey where hour sets play into their favor. But at the same time, that’s part of the scene and I never complain about it. I realize that for me, open to close, playing the whole night plays to my strength.
On how electronic music culture in 2014 is like baby food:
It’s a natural evolution. But it really was sort of the weirdos—and I was one of them—in the ’90s it was such a secret society and everybody felt so unified because it was this tiny group against the world. Now it’s so popular and everybody’s into it and there’s all this fragmentation with genres and even clothing styles. The people who go to BPM are ripping on the people who go to Ultra … but I think that’s natural as it grows. What I like is so many new people are being brought it with the sort of baby food concept. They’re being brought in with the sweet applesauce of these big festivals and the lights and wearing cool clothes and the neon and raging and all the other clichés you want to use. But they are going to grow up and want to try Thai food and Indian food and wasabi. That’s when they’re going to start discovering there’s so much more [beyond] an easy set of 12 bangers or big drops. Some will fall off, some will move on to the next trend, but some will discover Adam Beyer, Richie Hawtin, Seth Troxler, Nic Fanciulli, Carl Cox—the list goes on.
On After’s viral DJ booth rules:
What we liked about it—and when I say “we,” I mean the DJ community—is we got that it was tongue-in-cheek. But the fact that it was coming from Vegas? That fact that it’s sort of known for—everyone’s heard the stories of DJs being pulled off the decks and a real mandate to play for the few that spend a lot of money rather than the dancefloor. … It was really cool to see a club willing to take the risk and go in the opposite direction and stay away from the easy, accessible hits. It was also quite funny the way it was written: “Don’t be lazy!” That kind of hit the nail on the head for a lot of it. I have a friend who lives in Vegas and he was there the opening night and he Tweeted at me that it was “perfect.” That it was the right crowd and the right vibe and to see it in Vegas they proved their point that there is a market for it in Vegas. … When I saw that list, I thought, “This is a place I want to play in Vegas.”
Who thought a simple text amongst pals would turn into a viral sensation? Las Vegas’ newest afterhours, simply called “After,” prepared to launch on February 1 in the building old-school clubbers remember as Utopia and Empire Ballroom. DJOYbeat was already hot on the tip that the underground house and techno scene needed a home, thus we jumped on-board as sponsors of the venue (full disclosure). But when After’s managing partner Thom Svast texted me a draft of a list of DJ rules for the party, it was too good not to share. Afterall, it is what underground electronic fans think about the current state of DJ sets—particularly in Vegas.
“I made this for the DJ booth. Laminating and posting on booth,” Svast texted me on January 30 at 8:43 p.m., along with a picture of his computer screen.
“I want it to go viral,” Svast texted back. So I posted it. Who knew it would spread like wildfire? (And spurn blog coverage throughout the country, though no one mentioned it was taken directly from my Twitter, so shame on all of you for not following journalistic rules of citing the source).
I wanted to check back in with Svast to get his thoughts on what started as a sorta tongue-in-cheek post for the eyes of our local house music community. It has since garnered the attention and support from many big players in the game, including one who liked it so much, he instantly reached out to Svast about wanting to play at After (and only DJOYbeat has the exclusive details on who it is. We’ll release the news in the next few days, so keep checking back).
Q: That Twitter post spread faster (and was stolen more) than anything I’ve ever put out there. Did you know there’d be not only a reaction, but such a supportive one?
A: Oh my God. You were the first one to post it and I didn’t have a chance to make any revisions before it went out all over the place. The next morning our phones kept dinging one message after another. Overnight it had made its way around the world and the reactions were amazing. Since then it’s like a bad car accident—you can’t take your eyes off of it and its like we’re gawkers at this point and all we can do is sit back and watch it. I love that big DJs are into it. Kaskade is joking around about “All these years, all the hard work. All the time + effort. And I didn’t even make the list?? C’mon!”
Q: But there’s a fair share of haters, too, when it comes to After’s preference for avoiding the popular big-room EDM sound. And I think Martin Garrix got his feelings hurt.
A: The one thing in hindsight is maybe not calling Martin a douche. He’s a kid and what it was was a knee-jerk reaction. The previous day I read the DoAndrioidsDance article with him about copycatism. When I was typing it up, there were some other articles that popped up about his attitude. I wasn’t thinking about that he’s still a teenager; I reacted as if he were an adult. So that’s where the “douche” came from. But actually, it was supposed to say “Dutch” since that’s where he’s from, but autocorrect changed it to “douche!” [Laughs.]
Q: So is that an apology, or should he get his panties out of a wad and learn to play with the big boys?
Q: Your rules also mentioned another hotly-debated aspect of DJ sets these days.
A: The thought process was, you see all these things online with DJs playing with CDJs unplugged or on one channel. … I have nothing against technology if its used correctly. Just don’t be a lazy ass, work for it.
Q: Then there’s the dubstep, trap and hip-hop fans who weren’t too happy with the list.
A: The other thing is the style of music that we play. It’s the timing. We’re an afterhours. I have nothing against those styles and I listen to them sometimes, I just don’t think the timing is right for the club, that’s not my club. Afterhours I think it’s appropriate. People have a misconception that I’m dogging dubstep, trap and hip-hop, but that’s just not the music for that time when we’re open.
Q: What do you think about notable artists sharing in support of the DJ rules list?
A: It solidified what I was doing and showed the love. Someone said, “It’s about finally time someone spoke up for what we’re all thinking.” The underground community is sick of hearing and seeing this, I think it’s become more of a movement across the world. There’s always haters and doubters, but its given people a chance to voice their opinion and I love watching the battles back and forth—not fights—but debates. People take their music very personally. It’s grown the music, gives people the chance to voice their opinion, gives people an opportunity to stand on a soap box and gives people a voice and I think that’s amazing.
Q: How do you feel the grand opening went?
A: The first night went awesome. The energy in the building was amazing. There were so many hugs and handshakes. We didn’t even plan on opening the second floor, but we were oversold the first night. The dancefloor was packed all night, too.
Q: Any hints who’ll be joining residents Black Boots and Spacebyrdz in the coming months on Saturday nights?
A: I have 10 people already lined up with dates, but the contracts aren’t signed yet.
Q: Does you think buzz will continue and tourists might start delving into the underground in Vegas, too?
A: Yes, just our table reservations are coming in hard and fast. Locals came out in huge support and I want to thank them for that; I love our house community here. It’s a tight group and they really show the love for each other and the music. We’re kind of a grassroots effort. Everyone who likes house and techno now has a home when they come to Vegas.
View the photo gallery of After’s grand opening here.
Las Vegas’ newest afterhours launched on the Strip Saturday night (Sunday morning if you wanna get technical). From what we can remember from the night at After (what? We were partying, too), we had a blast with sets by Las Vegas duos Spacebyrdz and Black Boots, plus a guest set from L.A.’s Steve Prior. Even DJs Donald Glaude and Chris Garcia were in the house to check it out. Can’t remember much, either? No worries, we have the photos by Mikey McNulty to fill in the gaps!
View the full gallery on Flickr here.
For some clubbers—especially those that are fans of legit underground music—the party after the party is the only party to be at. So what we’re basically saying is: here’s a new afterhours venue/party to make a note of. Besides, all the cool kids will be there!
Housed in the building that was legendarily known in the Sin City scene as Utopia and then later Empire Ballroom, there’s historically good music karma in this club on the Strip as far as bringing the best beats without selling out. And that’s what managing partner Thom Svast aims for with the late-night affair simply called “After” (“like” them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter; you know the drill).
Opening at 3:30 a.m. every Saturday night (or super early on Sunday mornings if you’re putting it into your calendar since it’s a party you won’t want to miss), After welcomes anyone and everyone that loves good electronic music. And you don’t have to wear a collared shirt to get in. Score! We do, however, suggest you wear your best dancing shoes because Ultra artists Black Boots and Beatport chart-toppers Spacebyrdz are on the docket as residents. For the February 1st grand opening, L.A.’s own Steve Prior (an Avalon Hollywood and Exchange LA resident spinner) stops by for a guest set.
We plan to party our faces off and we want you to join us. Enter for your chance to win a table for you and five friends at the opening—complete with a bottle of Absolut to get your drinking on (yes, you need to be 21+, duh).