Home Grown: A Q&A with Max Rewak

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“Hi, I’m Max Rewak.  I was born in Bethlehem, PA, and I’m graduating from GW in May.  I’m a lover of music and I try to surround myself with positivity.  I was raised on all different kinds of music and I began producing about five years ago.  I like a wide range of tunes but I mostly play Baltimore and Jersey club music.  Check me out at soundcloud.com/rewakdj or twitter @mrewak.”

Q: For how long have you made music and what inspired you to start?

Max: I’ve been working in Ableton Live for around 5 years now.  As a kid I
played the trumpet, and I was interested in all kinds of music. I remember one day in fifth grade I came home with a Cannibal Corpse album and my mom freaked out.  She made me return it to the store, but as it got easier and easier to access different kinds of music via p2p websites I started listening to the weirdest shit I could find.  I listened to everything from drone metal to Tom Waits to IDM to Baltimore club music.  I loved the sounds of really distorted metal guitars and snares but as I listened to more and more music I wanted to figure out how people made the sounds I found on electronic tracks.

Eventually I decided to quit playing World of Warcraft and spend my newfound free time on teaching myself Ableton.  For probably three months straight, I just looked at the program like “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” but after working at it for a while I started to figure out how to make music with it.  Once that happened, I put down the trumpet and decided to focus on producing electronic music instead.

Q: Name three producers who have inspired your sound:

Max: Three producers that have really inspired my sound….That’s a hard one because my favorite producers make music that sounds nothing like what I make.  I’d love to tell you that big, bombastic, maximalist producers like Rustie, Starkey, or Lockah inspired my sound, but the truth is whenever I sit down to try to emulate their style it always comes out like house.

As far as three people who’ve inspired the sound I make… First of all I would have to pay homage to everyone on the Night Slugs label. L-Vis 1990, Bok Bok, Kingdom, Girl Unit, Jam City…I guess if I had to pick one out of them I’d pick Kingdom because I love the way he twists R&B tunes around and works incredibly with silence.  Secondly I need to have a Baltimore Club music artist on here, so I guess I’ll pick Murder Mark.  He’s not new on the scene but he’s not one of the classic guys like Diamond K or KW Griff – but I like him because his tracks are so raw and sparse at times but still so catchy.  Also his mentality is wonderful.  Once I saw a tweet from him that just said “watch me work,” and that’s become my motto ever since.  It’s like he dares every other artist to sit back and take a day off because you know he never does.  Finally, I’m really inspired by a producer named Salva.  He’s had a ton of success recently with a couple tunes he released with RL Grime, and also with his latest EP (Odd Furniture, go check it out it’s wonderful).  He’s got this hip-hop context that he brings to all his tracks and it keeps his style sounding fresh.  Also recently he’s been working with found sounds and recordings of things you find in everyday life.  For instance, on his recent single “Drop That B” he’s got a power drill and a ton of other shit used as melodic elements.  I tried to do the same thing on one of my recent tracks, I used a whip, a baseball bat, a gunshot with a silencer, and some other random outside sounds to try to create interesting percussion lines.

Q: Describe your most memorable gig or moment as a DJ:

Max: My most memorable gig would probably be when I played at Musikfest, which is a big festival that happens every year in my hometown.  I thought it was the shit when I was little, because a million people would come through the downtown of my little city for two weeks.  Then in high school it was the spot to get into trouble because we didn’t have money to buy tickets to the headliners.  During the first couple of summers at GW I went back and visited pretty frequently too.  But last year one of my boys at Lehigh hooked me up with a promoter and manager in the Valley who got us both booked to play at the festival. The gig was a ton of fun.  We were in a big tent on Main Street, and there was absolutely no promotion done for the event besides foot traffic and people hearing the music.  At the beginning, people didn’t know what to make of it.  I played mostly house, bmore, and jersey club tunes to try to get people into it.  It was mostly people just watching for the first ten minutes until a few kids heard the club music and started rocking off a little bit and doing some breaking. People really started to get into it after I mixed Jackson 5 – I Want You Back into Ben E. King – Stand By Me and from there it was crazy. I played everything from Adele to Busta Rhymes to Jasmine Sullivan to Daft Punk to Linkin Park.  I really got to go nuts up there and bring a different sound to the festival I grew up with.  But the best part was seeing the kids who I knew would be under the bridge, getting fucked up and breaking bottles on each other, dancing and having a good time instead.  That was my favorite gig because it felt like I was giving something back to my community.

Q: What song can’t you get out of your head right now?

Oh man, it’s tough to pick one song I can’t get out of my head right now.  I think if I had to choose one for the moment it would be “Konerak” by Sega Bodega.  He’s a producer from Glasgow who just put out a really excellent EP called 34, and “Konerak” is probably the most accessible, dance-y tune on there.  It’s got quite a nice chord progression and these big chorus stabs that seem to envelop the listener from all angles.  Besides that, I can’t turn off my playlist of mathbonus tunes – he’s a weird hip-hop producer from Eugene, and he’s done some really interesting remixes of artists like Christina Aguilera, Hannah Georgas, and Usher that I’m honestly having a tough time turning off.  Check out his remix of Gucci Mane as well.  I know I’m way past one track but I can’t not mention Rustie’s new single “Triadzz/Slasher” and Pusha T’s “Millions” with the Rick Ross feature.

Q: Anything else you want to tell the readers?

If I could tell one thing to the people who have read or listened to my bullshit for this long, it would be “Thank you.”  But beyond that, I just wanna say that the key to making good music in my eyes is being original.  And to be original you have to know what other people are doing.  Most importantly, one of my favorite DJs by the name of Rizzla recently said “Get to know it and you won’t want to rip it off.”  The deeper you go into the history of electronic music, and music in general, the more you realize how incredibly rich our shared musical heritage is, and how ridiculous it is to try to copy a style that’s not you.  Be yourself as hard as you possibly can – and creativity and originality will follow.

Check out Max’s music on his SoundCloud! He’ll have two of his new tracks featured on Baltimore Club in May.

– Elyse

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