Max Cooper’s Visual DJ Set Bridges the Gap Between Science and Sound at La Cave

Sound is vibration created in the form of waves that navigate throughout our ears. Passing by tiny bones and membranes, sound is then processed and sent to the brain. The relationship between science and music is one that has existed since cells created the first ear drum. A clever man understood this innate connection and with that Emergence was born. A show that combines the creative effort of mathematicians, visual artists, and of course Max Cooper’s authentic and unparalleled sound, and vision. This is then presented to audience over the course of a 6-hour set.

The Belfast-born musician had his first gig at 17. From there he would move to Nottingham for University and grow in his musical career as a DJ. Eventually he moved to London, where he is currently based, to continue performing as he simultaneously worked as a research scientist studying gene networks, algorithms, and zeroing in on how evolution can yield cells. As he kicks off his North and Central America tour with 11 slated dates, we celebrate his local show at Costa Mesa’s La Cave this Wednesday, June 8, at 10p.m. We snagged an interview with the nocturnal DJ, after an all night set in Montreal. Together we discussed how Emergence came about, the fall release of his LP, and what you can expect from his set.

How did you come up with this concept? Take me back to the beginning of Emergence—
I use to study science and do research. I was doing music and science together for a long time, but music was just the first thing that turned into a proper job. I’ve continued to read a lot of science and I try to incorporate that into my visual work, like music videos. It seemed obvious to do it with my live performances. Emergence is a wide ranging idea that you can have simple, natural laws and simple systems. Through iterative processes, those simple systems can give rise to really beautiful unexpected outcomes. I applied that concept to the idea of the emergence of the reality that we live in, starting with basic mathematical laws, the structure of prime numbers, and sort of pre-Big Bang structure. Then going into the Big Bang, star formation and planet formation, then eventually the Earth comes along. Then there’s proto life and cellular form… Eventually humans evolve, then the capitalist machine, the digital age, and the concept runs right through this universe timeline. It explores so many different ideas; it was really rich pickings for taking each bit, turning it into a chapter, and working with a visual artist on that project. That’s why I went with it.

Do you create the audio first and then work with mathematicians and visual arts to create your vision?
It’s a big mixture actually. For some parts of the show, we started off with the idea, worked with a visual artist, and then scored the music to the visuals. For other projects, we write music first, with an idea in mind, then send that to the visual artist to match the music and fit the concept. The bottom line is me having an overall concept in the beginning about what it should be, and then it’s just a matter of me working with musical ideas and talking to lots of video artists to bounce ideas back and forth. It’s an organic process of creating content without any set way of doing it.

How long have you been working on this for?
I think I started working on it a couple of years ago. At the moment I’m working on an LP and there will be a full video release, as well. I’m working with loads of video artists on new content to develop the show further and to make the proper movie version release. The album will probably be released in October. I haven’t set a date yet for the video release. What started out as a visual show I’ve continued to work on, because the more I delve into it the more interesting things become. I just thought I need to keep on with this project until it has reached its conclusion.

Do you miss the research?
I miss the focused, uninterrupted mental tasks. When you’re doing research you can lock yourself in from the world, focus on the minute, and really dive into it. I still get a lot of that type of work, but I’m also touring and traveling every weekend. I miss the sort of settled academic approach and the music industry is not so settled. Being a touring artist is a fairly hectic lifestyle, but at the same time I still do a lot of interesting work. I’m doing a project with some scientists at the moment at a place called the Babraham Institute. They do research that’s slightly similar to what I use to do. They invited me to find out about their research and data, and turn it into art basically. It’s really interesting working with scientists like that and working with visual artists on the more academic side to the music industry.

Will your sets always incorporate science and sound?
Not everything I do has that link. There’s been plenty of stuff I’ve done in the past that’s music for clubs, ambient music, or tied to things outside of science. It’s something that has a lot of legs creatively but I certainly wouldn’t say that everything I do will have that angle.

What can fans expect from your set at La Cave?
They can expect for me to experiment and see what works. I DJed for a long time before I started writing music and I still turn up and assess what sort of people are there, what things they are into, and what they’re not into. I’ll try to work my set in that direction.

How do you maintain your energy throughout your set?
To be honest, it goes by really quick. I’m so engrossed in the process of DJing and interacting with people. I’m thinking about how to push the night forward, how to develop it, and the feeling I’m getting from the audience. It’s totally an immersive experience. The time goes by in an instance.

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