The 4D sound system (click to enlarge)

The 4D sound system (click to enlarge)

I want to ask about you playing on a 4D sound system.

I should explain how it works, I guess. What it is technically is 16 columns, four metres high, each with speakers at different heights within every one. They’re split out evenly in a grid. The floor is raised and speakers are underneath that too. The audience walks around inside the array so the sound can come from anywhere. They have software set up so sound can seem like it’s coming from the spaces between the speakers because they’re omnidirectional.

It all harks back to me wanting some immersive experience. I write music in stereo and am very interested in it, but this is a literally fully immersive sound environment – sounds hang out by your foot, fly by your head, hang in the air and you can walk about in them – the music becomes a physical entity. The guys in Amsterdam – music academics – have been working on this idea for ten years or so, constantly developing it. It’s not something that will be in all clubs though; it’s more a sort of art exhibition thing. People can’t just turn up and play on the system; it’s a specialist way of experiencing music that needs the music to be specially made for the system.

There are two ways of making music for it. The first shows were me taking existing tracks and thinking, ‘If this was a physical entity, what would it be?’ So the first track off my album has all these plucked string noises, which sound like rain, so I made it so all the plucks sound like they fall from the sky. Everything sounds different depending on where the listener is in the room, so you can never know for sure how it will sound – you have to design it so you think it will sound OK from everywhere. For every sound on every track you have to redesign them and work out how they’ll function in the space.

The other way of doing it is designing music for it from scratch – what I call audio sculptures. I wrote those on the system; they’re designed to be audio-spacial experiences, they aren’t bits of music in the usual sense. Playing on this system you don’t have to think about club music; it’s about making an interesting experience, which is something I would love to do full-time. It gives me more creativity.

It sounds like you enjoy the process as much as the end result?

Yeah, I love writing music. It’s why I write so much. I really enjoy doing it. It’s the most enjoyable thing about the whole job: sat by myself, late at night, lost in a track. For the first couple of years it was torture until you’re at a stage when you can get the ideas in your head out. Luckily I have more ideas in my head then I have time to make them.

Do you think people can go too far into the theory?

I don’t think so. People out there take things to huge extremes. There shouldn’t be any limits to creativity. I don’t think producers should feel restricted. I always start with an idea or concept and work back from that. It’s dangerous to start writing with no real plan.

I love writing music. It’s why I write so much. I really enjoy doing it. It’s the most enjoyable thing about the whole job: sat by myself, late at night, lost in a track.

You work like you would in science. You start with a hypothesis then sort of test that out?

Yeah, exactly. You start with a feeling or a production technique you want to try out. Or it can be more abstract, like a picture in your head you aim to represent musically – it can be something abstract like the life and times of Simon Cowell or whatever, though I’m not sure how that would sound… pretty brutal.

And do you care if the listeners pick up on all the concepts?

If so then great, but if they don’t I think the music should still function as music and should still be able to be enjoyed without knowing about the theory.

Do you ever pull yourself back and remind yourself that this is dance music?

If anything I don’t let myself be free enough. I still feel restricted. I turn up at clubs and have to be able to play to audiences who don’t all know my tracks. At some point I’d love to totally break loose and do something mad but I don’t want to scare people off.


Max Cooper’s Human is out now on Fields. Find him on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud.

Author Kristan Caryl. Main photo: Shaun Bloodworth
13th May, 2014

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