It's easy to hear Max Graef's music as a collection of influences. There's Berlin, his hometown, where playing records feels as natural as hopping on a skateboard. There's his love of live instruments, built through the years he's spent playing them. And then there's house music and the funk, soul, disco, jazz and hip-hop that feed into it—all of which bleed together at Oye Records, the record shop in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg that may as well be Max's living room. As a producer, DJ and now bandleader, he embodies all of the above. Yet no matter how many facts you know about Max, his music still catches you off-guard—what he's grabbed out of the ether is freely available, but the maturity and inventiveness he strings it together with couldn't have come from anyone else.
His sound first came together, oddly enough, during the one part of his life he didn't live in Berlin—he spent two years at school in London, where he didn't quite connect with his younger peers and found ample time to learn his way around production. Back home, his MPC-led tunes found a home on the shelves at Oye, often appearing on collaborative EPs on Box Aus Holz, his label. His first album, Rivers of the Red Planet, found release through Tartelet in 2014 and met with immediate acclaim. Fully formed and worn-in yet bursting with spontaneity, the record made good on the infectious, eclectic and out-of-time feel of his first singles, and it brought Max and his wildly eclectic record bag to clubs and festivals around the world. He's not merely settling in, though. Max's latest project finds him not behind turntables but on stage playing bass with his eponymous five-piece live band, which brings his music even closer to the loose, organic feel of the records he cherishes. He's also launched Money $ex Records this year with fellow traveler Glenn Astro and Delfonic.