The Russian producer has just released his sixth studio album in 10 years – entitled, perhaps fittingly, 'Insomnia'. Time to find out more…
One thing you can't accuse Russian minimal techno producer Maksim Dark of is messing about. After emerging onto the scene a decade ago he released five albums in quick succession – 2011's Alkapones, 2012's Mechanica, 2013's Bated Breath, 2014's My Time Is Fire and 2015's Unbroken. Which is going some by anyone's standards.
Since those early years on Shinocs Music he's stepped things up another gear, touring the world playing DJ sets comprised entirely of his own material and dropping a long string of singles and EPs on well-regarded labels including Dubfire's SCI+TEC and, most commonly of late, Oliver Huntemann's Senso Sounds. But it's been a few years since we had another full-length from him – or at least it had been until a couple of weeks ago, when album #6, Insomnia, landed in stores.
Again on Senso Sounds, the album's described on the hype sheet as "his most serious minimal techno album yet". To our ears, you could certainly say it was the best example to date of a very distinct style he's shaped for himself: minimal, yes, but never self-indulgent or twitchy-glitchy for the sake of it, and muscular enough to reach out to tougher techno floors while at the same time having enough dark machine funk flowing through its veins to appeal to househeads as well.
We reached out to Maksim to find out more about the album, his working methods and his history, and here's what he had to tell us…
As you haven't featured in iDJ before, can you start by telling us a little bit about your background, and how you came to be making and playing electronic music in the first place?
“I got a job in a club in my area at the age of 14, playing there on the weekends. After a few years this club was closed, and I no longer saw prospects DJing so I began to create my own music, and this interested me very much. I spent days and nights studying something new, and after a year or a year and a half I already gained experience and realised that this was for me and continued to develop.”
How would you say Insomnia differs in style or mood from the albums that have gone before?
“Insomnia is my most serious minimal techno album to date and its inspiration has come from all of the positivity my fans give me from across the world. I’ve put my soul into every single track and created an LP that I truly love, and that I hope my fans will too. Writing this album gave me a different mood because I had performances and it had different feelings.”
Insomnia is out on Oliver Huntemann's Senso Sounds, something of a regular home for you in recent years – what is it you like about working with him/them?
“I am really pleased to work with the Senso team, these guys have the same interests as me. I like everything about the label: the promotion, the support and the quality!”
I'm guessing much of Insomnia will have been produced during the coronavirus pandemic – has that shaped the album in any way, do you think?
“I don't care about the pandemic, because music gives me good vibrations and the desire to live. When I create music I just forget about everything, because when I open Ableton for me there is another world and I immerse myself in it.
"I just continue to live as I did before – and now the album is No 8 in the Top 100, I think this is a good result and this is just the beginning!”
I make that, what, eight albums in ten years, counting the remix and dub versions? That's pretty prolific – what's the secret to having such a productive work rate?
“I just had a lot of time in my youth: because of music I did not graduate from college, I put everything on music. They told me that music would not feed me, but I continued to believe in what I believe, I just did something every day and created the bass I was looking for to propel my sound.”
On that note… how do you like to work in the studio? Are you a hardware nut, an all-in-the-box guy or somewhere in-between?
“I just use VST plug-ins. I'm already used to working without hardware, but maybe in the future I will be interested in this. I can't even call my studio a studio, because it's just an ordinary room, but I believe that a person can adapt to any conditions if he has a passion and desire to do what he loves.”
I know at one time you were known for playing only your own productions in your DJ sets – is that still the case today?
“Yes, I continue to play a live set of my own tracks, I like this process the most.”
With lockdowns gradually coming to an end worldwide, is their likely to be a tour (DJ or live) in support of Insomnia? And if so, will you be coming to the UK?
“If this happens before the end of the year, of course, I would like to do performances in support of the album. That would be cool, but the situation changes every day, so I don’t want to think ahead – every day in countries something changes due to the pandemic. It's a crazy time, I would never thought that this was possible!
“I have never been to the UK, so it would be a wonderful experience. In any case I am ready to visit any country where my music will be welcomed: I am a citizen of the world and I treat all countries very well.”
You're undoubtedly known as a techno producer, I'm very much a house guy. But to me the techno you make is the kind househeads can get into as well – it's got plenty of the essential funk and groove! Is that a conscious move on your part, or just what comes naturally? Do you listen to much house music yourself?
“Yes, this is a deliberate step, I just fell in love with such a sound and I cannot change it. I know that with such a sound it is difficult to get onto the big techno stages but, well, what can I do now? There are many other places in the world where this music will have a place!”
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
“Nothing special happens: I continue to live, making music, walking and relaxing with friends, reading books, and seeing my parents more often. But I hope that I will become a father in the near future. Thank you very much for the interview and interesting questions!”
Words: Russell Deeks
Insomnia is out now on Senso Sounds