Max Graham is a Canadian DJ, composer and producer who manages to transcend genres while producing international hits in the dance music scene. He is most famous for mixing Transport #4, playing sets at Atomic nightclub in Ottawa and remixing the classic song “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes. Graham runs Shine Music and Re*Brand Records, he currently resides in Montreal.
Graham was born in London, England and lived in Spain, New York City and Los Angeles before settling in Ottawa in 1989. At age 15 in 1986, he began as a hip-hop and scratch DJ before discovering and falling in love with the house music scene between 1992 and 1994. Max was also instrumental in the creation of the famous Atomic club in Ottawa, and his weekly 6 hour sets at Atomic are the stuff of legend among fans. Max exploded onto the producing scene with the releases of “Airtight” and “Tell You,” both of which became international hits. Airtight was nominated for a Juno Award in 2001. This success got some attention from the world dance music scene and Graham was asked to mix Transport CD #4, which was also met with huge success, and spurred a world tour in 2001. This rapid rise in attention led Graham to be voted into spot number 23 on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list, the highest entry for a newcomer in 2001. His distinctive style remains difficult to pin down, covering genres like house, progressive, techno, disco, and trance to name just some. During a Graham performance, a collection of different sounds can be heard in every aspect of the tracks being played: the bass, rhythms, and melodies constantly change and energize the audience and dancers at Graham’s sets.
Graham spent his first years in Hampstead Heath, London with his Mother and Two siblings. At the age of eight Graham and his mother moved to Spain and settled in a small town called Mijas in the Costa Del Sol. It was here in the local public school that Graham learned to speak Spanish fluently. After two years the decision was made to switch custody from mother to father and Graham moved from Spain to the United States and attend school in New York City.
In 1984 while living in New York City, Graham was exposed to the then budding Rap Music scene of the lower east side, frequently hanging out with Graffiti artists and local Rappers and coming home with spray paint on his hands. It was at that time he was exposed to Turntablism. Being only 13 at the time Graham was not old enough to attend any of the local rap concerts by such legends as Run DMC and LL Cool J. Instead Graham went into the now defunct Ritz nightclub which is currently Webster Hall on the day of a Run DMC concert and asked for Posters of the show for his wall. Just by luck the VJ (video performance artist) was in the foyer and invited Graham to come back during the show and watch from the DJ Booth. The DJ Booth at the Ritz was quite large, housed the DJ and the VJ and was not considered a “licensed area” for alcohol, this allowed for someone underage such as Graham to view the concert. Graham was more interested in the Scratching he witnessed than the rapping and fell instantly in love with djing. The friendship he forged with the VJ led to Graham attending more hip hop shows in exchange for taping visuals off the television onto a VHS and bringing it to the VJ. Graham convinced his father to buy him two Belt-drive turntables and a Gemini Sound Products DJ Mixer. This unfortunately lasted only a few months as Graham discovered Skateboarding and then moved to Los Angeles to attend Palisades High School.
Graham fell deeper into the Skate culture of Mid 80’s Los Angeles hanging out at Venice Beach with Skaters such as Christian Hosoi, Eric Dressen, Jesse Martinez and Natas Kaupas. With no further need for his turntables Graham traded them with Natas Kaupas for a custom painted skateboard and a selection of Trucks, Stickers and Wheels.
After getting into trouble with the LAPD in Los Angeles in 1988, Grahams father took a business opportunity in Ottawa, Canada with the hopes that it would move Graham away from the negative influences in L.A. and keep him out of trouble. Graham finished high school here and decided to take a job as a bartender at a local club. While applying for the job the owner asked him if he knew how do DJ as the DJ for that night had not shown up. Graham, remembering his turntablist days agreed to give it a shot. While he bombed that first night the owner like him enough to let him in to practice during the day. It was here that Graham met DJ Michael Mailly who spent extensive time with Graham, teaching him the concept of beat mixing, counting bars and matching harmonics. Graham learned the art of mixing tracks together so that each songs main elements complimented the song it was mixed with, a concept known as Harmonic Mixing.
As Graham mastered this mixing technique he moved from one club to another in Ottawa, each time increasing his following with a top 40 style that included house music and hip hop, finally settling in a two year residency at Indigo nightclub in Ottawa.
While at Indigo nightclub in 94 Graham was approached by some coworkers who convinced him to join them at a rave in Montreal. It was there that Graham experienced a completely different relationship between the DJ and the dance floor and felt that performing for top 40 crowds was no longer his calling. Upon arriving back to Ottawa Graham promptly left a high paying top 40 DJ gig and spent every penny on house vinyl, Graham began with breaks and deeper house as he found his sound within the multiple genres of the underground. In the mid nineties someone handed Graham a mixtape, it was DJ Sasha performing live on the Radio 1 essential mix playing such artists as BT, Blue Amazon and Peter Lazonby. This sound had a profound effect on Graham and shaped his career to come.
The same friends who exposed Graham to the Rave in 1994 approached him about creating a first of it’s kind club night in Ottawa. The night was called Sweet and was held at a gay club on Bank street that was looking for promoters for their Saturday night. Graham brought in his own turntables each week and the group attracted crowds by handing out flyers in the city. The night was a success and brought in dj’s such as Derrick Carter
Sweet led to Graham and his partners wanting to expand and take more control over their night, they began to look for their own space and settled on a half basement on Besserer St which opened in 1996. Atomic was an instant success and Grahams 8 hour sets at Seven Fridays became known as a destination club night from Montreal to Toronto.
It was during this period that Graham decided to assist both in his own career, and the growth of the music he was championing. He did this by flying to the UK and setting up meetings with the progressive house record labels who released the type of sound he played. During a ten day period Graham visited labels such as “Stress”, “Jackpot”, “Skinny Malinky” and “Deconstruction” in an attempt to draw attention to the fact that this sound was growing in Canada. During the late nineties Graham was known as Canada’s Progressive Ambassador.
In the late 90’s, Graham’s career evolved from the dj booth into the recording studio. After years of late nights djing in Ottawa and the surrounding cities Graham opted for a fresh start and moved to Vancouver. This move was designed to remove himself from the social scene in Ottawa and into virtual seclusion in a Yaletown Hi Rise. It was here that Graham wrote “Airtight”, “Tell you”, “Yaletown” and “Falling Together”. Airtight was quickly picked up by Nick Warren and Paul Oakenfold for their DJ sets and signed to Hope Recordings. At this time Graham was also signed to a management deal with Hope Management. Soon after the success of these singles Graham was invited to mix the next installment of the Transport series. Transport put Graham on the Touring circuit and he was invited to join Paul Oakenfold on a mini tour including Pacha Ibiza and the Roseland Ballroom.
In 2003 after moving back east, and a heavy touring schedule, Graham felt a break was necessary. He returned from a trip to Southern Asia with a new musical style and attitude towards the dance scene. From his new Montreal Studio he released his hit “Owner of a Lonely Heart” a remix of the song written by progressive rockers Yes in 1983. The remix started as a bootleg just for Graham to play out, but was quickly picked up by Deep Dish and Pete Tong causing a frenzy in the dance scene. The track was picked up by Ministry of sound and propelled into the UK top 40 charts at #8. The Video was #1 on Canadian Dance Station BPM for two weeks in a row.
While this grew Graham’s profile in the scene, it also caused confusion, as it was drastically different to his earlier works which were considerably more Progressive and Trancey. To further add to this confusion Graham release another bootleg, the emotional “Gone” with Jessica Riddle which was much more like his previous style. Ministry was not interested in this track and attempted to convince Graham to produce something more commercial.
Not interested in being pigeon holed Graham was influenced by the Electro sound of the moment and had another strong release with “Crank” which went #1 on Beatport. Crank was strongly supported by Deep Dish, Tiesto and a score of other dj’s.
After two years of making a hybrid of Electro and House Graham decided to return to his musical roots with progressive house and Trance. At the beginning of the year Graham Signed with Trance/Progressive powerhouse Armada records for a Deal that would see an artist album and the creation of Max’s own Compilation series entitled “Cycles”. Cycles 1 was released in June 2008 and a successful tour followed.
2010 Will See the release a Full Artist Album as well as Cycles 2,also some collaborations with various artists including Jessica Jacobs and Markus Schulz.