WM Mix: Max Pearl

Artwork by Jeremy Dabrowski

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Some of the best selectors are pure sound travelers who would probably call themselves “historian” before “musician”. Max Pearl is a music documentarian by blood, from his own publications, including Cluster mag, to launching Thump/working with Vice to Resident Advisor (where we covered Sustain-Release). But he also will dj with a live conga player and drop killer mixes like this one, which effortlessly jumps around the globe calling on deep ethnic and club strains, as well as some killer footwork cuts, in a stew he describes as “hardcore”.

Max has been keeping busy in Mexico, we caught up with him to see what he’s up to, and get his predictions for 2015.

Who are you? What’s your background, music, djing, writing.

oooohhhh boy.

well I used to be a classically-trained boy soprano and I would tour with the Boston Symphony Orchestra but then my voice never survived puberty and I got dropped from my brief moment of stardom.
I still know some arias in Italian and German, sang in a couple Benjamin Britten productions at Carnegie Hall when I was about 12
I’m a shitty singer now
Spent seven years at band camp training my voice and learning to play the piano
then I played in a bunch of noise and trash bands in high school, one of them was actually really good and you can still listen to our myspace somewhere…  here’s one of the songs my thrash band made we were called Funbrain
Got into jungle and breakcore through DJ /Rupture’s early mixes, then fell in love with dubstep, but nobody in Boston would book me to play breakcore except for Wayne Marshall who had a regular monday night called Beat Research, which is where I later became the resident DJ for Friday nights where I would play dancehall and reggaeton, that was a blast
Used to think house and techno was boring elevator music for old people but then I started going out and hearing it at places like the Middlesex Lounge, where I would get in with a succession of bad fake IDs

Writing-wise, it all started with a blog I had about stuff to do in Boston, because there wasn’t really a place that did listings for house shows and basement shows and stuff, we were putting on punk and noise and ambient weirdo psychedelia shows at the Veterans Post for a while
so I started this blog called Under 21 in Boston to list all ages stuff, really inspired by early Showpaper and Todd P
stuff I saw when I first visited williamsburg when I was like 18
and then the blog transformed from doing listings to doing reviews and short thinkpieces and rants

I was writing a Boston Globe column even though I had never taken a writing class in my life, and I was studying at Hampshire College where I met the most amazing people

at the time there was an amazing robust network of show-houses in JP and Allston and Chinatown: three wave jump, blue triangle loft, gay gardens, the butcher shoppe, the white haus—at the time JP was still pretty cheap so a lot of kids were living up and down Centre street and every night was a different basement or living room
I don’t know if that’s still happening but I know JP isn’t as affordable as it used to be

and I was DJing almost every weekend in Boston, driving the hour and a half each way every weekend to play at the enormous room
another now-defunct club in Cambridge
that’s where I got really into dancehall and caribbean music in general, while studying caribbean and latin american music and art in college

My senior project was to start a magazine, which is how Cluster Mag got started, and it did surprisingly well and we carried it for four years!

Then I helped launch THUMP and worked as the managing editor there for a year before I jumped ship to focus on being an independent journalist

I also work as a news writer at Resident Advisor, and I’m currently living in Mexico City because it’s cheap and the scene is amazing here. I’m learning Spanish but it’s taking a while. Tonight I’m off to MUTEK.MX, which I’m really excited about

So Mexico’s been dope? Anything to mention about the scene etc?

Yeah Mexico has been amazing, there are so many different pockets here, lots of little cliques doing their own thing, but as they say “it’s a small city of 20 million people” so everyone knows each other

I’ve been really excited about the stuff that NAAFI is doing—they’re a collective run by Tomas Davo and they’re definitely in dialogue with this very internet-based global bass music exchange

SMURPHY just put out a really amazing LP and I caught her live A/V show which took place in this tiny indie movie theatre in the Roma neighborhood, and it was so good. Really chaotic and irreverent but also shows serious discipline as a producer…

Everyone here seems to have lots of projects at once, and people seem to very into the material

like a lot of people I’ve met in the music world spend a lot of time on packaging their releases in a beautiful way, there’s a lot of zines here, there just seems to be a kind of very refined eye for design that everybody has
NAAFI has some dope merch too, really sick flat brims and jackets
design is everywhere
I wish I knew more but I’ve only gotten to see that one tiny corner of the scene thus far
I think it’s still mostly a rock city in a lot of ways, and dance music is kind of stigmatized
People are still trying to maybe reclaim dance music from the stereotypes of affluent euro-centric nightclubs and cultivated aloofness
or I guess I mean specifically electronic music
cuz there’s a lot of different kinds of dance music in central america, obviously
that aren’t electronic
but I’m mostly talking out of my ass, because I’ve been here for two weeks and I shouldn’t pretend to know anything haha
these are educated observations from a total outsider

Also my friend turned me on to Umor Rex Records which is a DF-based label that I’ve started to get into
these guys are playing at MUTEK tonight

I’ve also been jamming a lot of Mock The Zuma recently, who is based out of ciudad, Juarez

photo by Emma ZT

Notes on mix?

Um, the mix is mostly hardcore stuff
not like hardcore the genre
I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot of the same pleasant, tasteful house loops in every mix podcast ever
When I go out dancing I haven’t been seeing any adventurous mixing or changes of pace and energy, like everybody is afraid of clearing the dancefloor
and people aren’t drawing influence from as wide a field as they could be, sticking to 4×4 rhythms and specific synths and drum machines and it’s all very tasteful, and I kinda wanted to mix up some stuff that’s excessive, whether excessive in feeling or excessive in speed or excessive in that it’s kind of tacky and goes against notions of good taste
and I recently rediscovered one of my first electronic music CDs which is called ‘only for the headstrong: the ultimate rave compilation’
which has Altern-8 and Joey Beltram and the Prodigy and Orbital and it used to all be so fucking ridiculous and over the top, with the sped-up vocal and they were totally unconcerned with good taste, and they just wanted to eat XTC and fucking lose their balls to the shit
and that kind of inspired me, so I dug up some cool vintage acid stuff like Psychic TV and some old 808 tracks and mixed them up with some contemporary shit that I feel embodies that spirit, like Total Freedom and a track from Pana, who is a new artist on the #FEELINGS roster, which is a label that I love love love run by Ben Aqua down in Austin
so I guess that’s what I mean by hardcore
cuz it could never be background music at restaurant

Musical predictions 2015?

I think we’re starting to see a lot of musicians who are less about recording and putting out records and more about jamming on their drum machines and pedals and I’m definitely expecting to see more and more expanded format dance music happening in a live context
I hope that Chicago and the UK come back into prominence as influences and sounds we here on the dancefloor more, because right now, especially in the Brooklyn scene it feels like everything is drawing from cold, hard Detroit and Berlin techno
which I LOVE
but it does feel a bit restrictive
I think that more and more big clubs are gonna open in brooklyn, and they’re all gonna be playing shiny ibiza tech house and stuff like that, and it’s gonna be even more of an all-out culture war between kids who don’t like megaclubs and the dudes who wanna party at Pacha and Sankeys and Marquee and Verboten and all that, so I hope we can go back to the nasty basements where we came from and put our foot down and stop settling for wack mega clubs that are too expensive and too surveilled etc.

Perc – Dumpster (Clouds Remix)
A2 – Czarat (Secret Dub Acid Mix)
Psychic TV – Blue Pyramid (Virginia & Mista Luv Mix)
The Martian – The-808 Celcius
Ikonika – Mega Church (Perc Remix)
Poolboy92 – Lick
Dat Oven – Icy Lake (Total Freedom Remix)
Plasticman – Camel Ride
Autechre – Flutter
Pana – Cop
Bloom – Quartz
LV & Josh Idehen – Shake
DJ Rashad – Niggaz Scared To Battle
DJ Rashad & Boylan – Look To The Sky
Machine Girl – Galatea (Nightwave Remix)


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