Brighton-based Yorkshireman Max Wheeler is one name currently making some decent moves in the house/bass game at the minute, as his take on the current sound reels in a dirge of production experience from his days making hip-hop as part of the Dirty Diggers collective, or his progression into the realm of grime and all it’s myriad offshoots.
Currently working on what seems like an endless list of projects, one that’s currently catching the ear of many is his work under the Wheeler guise with vocalist Tiawa. At the bottom of this interview you’ll find a link to a free download of the pairs ‘Rewind’ track, but before that we chat to the man about hip-hop as a young mans game, the intriguing Producers Retreat project and local heroes Rizzle Kicks…
You recently remixed a track called ‘Rewind’ by young Brighton artist Tiawa. How did this come about, your both local to Brighton right?
Yeah, basically I work out of a studio where her producer Jack (from Hi Road in Bristol) works. We were both working on female vocal projects, swapping notes on mixes and stuff. When I heard that tune I kind of heard the edit straight away. It worked really well and I wrapped it up pretty quickly.
Are there more remixes to come from Tiawa’s studio work?
Yeah, Come So Far is the imprint handling it all, and they are talking about some quite exciting producers too. I’m definitely down for another one. Love her voice.
What was your approach with the ‘Max Wheeler Detroit Introvert Edit’?
Well it’s basically just a chop of the accapella. All the other parts of the track are original production so its not a typical remix. I just heard that phrase ‘Inside my mind’ and straight away heard that kind of tripped out dubby approach to a Detroit sound. I was kind of going for something that sounds like what you hear at some of the Well Rounded raves at the Tube in Brighton. Don’t know if I got there. Hahaha.
Is the Max Wheeler alias the start of further exploration into the realms of techno and bass?
Yeah definitely. I use that name whenever it’s me working 120-140bpm and its predominantly hardware/software rather than live instruments. That track is a mix of mainly MPC, samples and analog synths and that’s what I use quite a bit for these kinda tracks.
Any particular ‘bass’ artists you’ve been reaching for in sets recently, fellow locals Guy Andrews and Bobby Champs have been making moves recently…
Guy has definitely been a big influence, very focused, amazing attention to detail & not afraid to dress like a robot and get hammered when the situation calls for it. Bobby I only met this last couple of weeks but yep definitely feeling his work. Dauwd has been absolutely smashing it too. In terms of checking stuff live, like I said I get to a lot of the Well Rounded Parties, and LDN DC in East London is killing it for me. I try to get to all of those. Recent live highlights have been Cosmin, Levon Vincent, Lorca, Scratcha DVA. Rustie at Outlook blew my mind. Mosca is consistently sick in my book.
Is there a healthy community vibe in Brighton?
Well it definitely works for me. It’s a pretty transient place but you get a lot of talent passing through and I think once I got used to the turnover I find it really inspiring. I’m from Yorkshire so I think I need a bit of beach to make up for the lack of hills!
You mentioned Guy and Bobby, but there’s a lot of massively talented people in and around Brighton, Hint, Dauwd, TM Juke, Greymatter, Blake & Donga, all the Producer’s Retreat fam. Aka Aka Roar, Well Rounded, Below the Line, the Green Door Store. Lots of good people doing good nights here. Also we all have a spiritual home in the Caxton Arms. Best pub on road. Also, I’ve got to give a shout out to Rizzle Kicks, they came up through super forward thinking local youth project Audioactive and everyone is mad proud. Kids in this town are buzzing to have some local heroes.
Hip-hop heads may be familiar with you as former member of hip-hop duo, Dirty Diggers. How come the project came to a close?
Because Pat is a bastard. Hahaha. Nah I think basically being a rapper is the best thing in the world in your early twenties, but there’s a temptation to drag that out. Really I think grime came out and it was just a natural progression. I feel lucky to have got a deal and we got to gig with De La Soul, Roll Deep, Kano & Lee Scratch Perry. I just recently got a book-deal writing about hip-hop and education so no complaints here! Diggers died of natural causes. Me and Pat are still scheming. Shout out Tommy Pimpcup too..
We understand you operate under a variety of production guises for different projects, could you talk us through what you are currently involved with?
Well Max Wheeler is the kind of bass/dance stuff. I’m also one half of an Astral Jazz project on First Word Records called Ye Mighty, that’s been going great & got really strong support from Gilles Peterson on Radio 1, definitely more releases soon. The main thing I’ve been working on recently is a record with vocalist Victoria Port on a kind of bass-music-with-songwriting tip. Really excited about that one, we were lucky enough to find management and we’re just putting finishing touches to the first EP now. It’s kind of on some Theo Parrish vs Erykah vs Marcus Nasty vs Sia type business. Victoria is next level both in terms of her voice and also her writing. Been a massive laugh making the jams too. Shout out to Octave Haze. Should have the first masters back this week. One or two other top-secret projects. You know who you are…
Has it always been important to you to not get tied down by being heavily associated with one type of music – reinvent yourself as it were?
It didn’t used to be, I was pretty one track minded. I’m actually now going back to unfinished projects from when I was 17. I originally made house before I made hip-hop. It was grime music that brought me here really. I work in music education and a big part of what I do is teach grime, UK funky and dubstep to young offenders and that type of crew. Spending a lot of time around that music it obviously started to change the way I looked at certain things. To be honest I haven’t had any resistance to my bass/electronic stuff. I thought the hip-hop thing might be difficult but in reality a lot of the more forward thinking hip hop people seem to be going on their own journeys anyway, and y’know anyone who wants you to make the same record over and over should just go make it themselves.
Bass music is exciting at the moment, and I suppose I’m looking to people like SBTRKT who had a previous music career, and it actually informed a lot of how he works now. Like for example, producing hip-hop is why I can engineer and mix vocal tracks. Cos I’ve done a lot of it and I started when I was like 16 up in Yorkshire making rap records with stupid made up crew names.
Producers Retreat is an interesting project, can you tell us what its about?
It’s basically a free entry new/unreleased music & live art event down here in Brighton. Some one described it as ‘art and dancing’ which I liked (shout out to Pinky). I run it with 1Dan who I also produce with under the name Panama. We borrow a system and get producers to come test what they are working on our rig before it’s sent off to master. It started cos I always used to hear a track on a system when it was too late to change the mix and it was a nightmare. As it developed we started to include live art and then organically each event wound up having a theme. We’ve had some nuts parties. Tropical Retreat was big, Primitive Retreat, Hippy Retreat with incense and tie-dye and shit. Partytron Retreat on the beach was the one. For New Years Eve we did a Speakeasy Retreat with tommy guns, smoke, lasers and a balloon drop. Hanging out with a lot of really varied producers has had a massive affect on how I produce and a lot of people passing through have said the same. Same goes for the art, it’s been great to be around that and we have a real family vibe going on. Everyone who comes seems to wind up a resident.
Big up all the retreat fam; 1Dan, Wispa, Neil Ennui & Charlie, Figure of Wax, Murder He Wrote, J Devious, Sai Love, Guy Andrews, Hinesy Hines… Big up the Caxton Arms. Next one is Intergalactic Retreat at the Green Door Store, 14th April 5pm-10.30pm
Who are some of the artists that had the most major influence on you, what records do you never tire of?
This is where I bait myself out isn’t it? Lot of stuff I’m really into at the moment. This week it’s Darling Farah, Daphni and a load of ballroom stuff, bit of Marcel Dettman, but that’s what I like, how quick it’s all moving. It pisses some people off but I love it. Got to shout out Tramshed from LDN DC, he always hooks me up with my new jams. Him, Anotes, Guy Andrews and 1dan are responsible for 90% of my listening. The other 10% is the young offenders I work with. Haha – I racked some amazing grime instrumentals from the youthie this week…!
Interview: Josh Thomas
Tiawa’s ‘Rewind’ will be released via London’s Come So Far imprint soon – download Max Wheeler’s ‘Detroit Introvert Edit’ of the track for free here.