101 with Niko Maxen

Niko Maxen is a DJ, producer and record label owner that comes from Leeds - a place with a rich rave and party heritage going back to the dawn of electronic music. His passion for music was passed onto Niko from his parents who owned quite a diverse collection of vinyl spreading from funk, soul to disco and even R&B, so creating his own imprint was just the matter of time. Pathway Traxx was born back in 2013 with a simple aim to create a platform for Niko’s own productions. The label soon gathered support amongst the underground scene and provided a welcome home for new breakthrough artists such as Jack Wickham, Michael James, Jamie Trench, Manooz and others. Besides successful releases on his own imprint, Niko has also released music on labels such as Signatune, Recordeep, Shadow Sanctuary and most recently Phorus.

Over the last few years, the UK native has co-run the underground party Beatstreet, which has played host to the likes of Subb-An, Seb Zito, Chris Lattner, Rossko, amongst others. In April 2018, Niko Maxen has decided to take the next step by moving to Australia where he'll host Pathway Traxx showcases and continue to grow as an artist. We've invited him to share few thoughts with us before heading on the other side of the world. 

What was the funniest / most bizarre request you’ve ever had while playing?

There is one time that springs to mind and it was actually only a few weeks ago. I was playing back to back warm up at my monthly Pathway Traxx Showcase Party and it was fairly early on in the night so it was still pretty quiet. A guy came into the booth and started talking to me about this new tune he had made that day. After insisting, I've listened to his new tune on his phone with a spare pair of headphones.

Needless to say, the track wasn’t my kind of music, but I didn’t want to offend him so I politely said it’s not for me. He then spent the next 10 minutes trying to convince me that the tune would fit perfectly in my set and beg me to play it. It got pretty desperate when he tried to persuade me by telling that he was the brother of a famous DJ as if that would convince me to play this track. The awkward encounter ended by me having to ask him to leave the booth.

Can you describe your studio setup for us?

My studio is kind of separated into 2 areas, one is the playing space where I have my turntables and my record collection and the other one is a production area. It’s important to me that I'm near my records at all times throughout the production process as I like to reference and sample drums a lot! From a production point of view, I like to focus on flow and speed. For me, it’s really important that I can keep ideas moving quickly and not get bogged down.

For that reason, I use Ableton as my DAW because nothing comes close to its workflow. I’m still yet to find the right combination of hardware that allows me to keep the workflow quick and flowing. The next big move for me in the studio is to upgrade my converters as I believe this is an area you cannot sacrifice on.

Could you tell us the story about your first gig?

Wow, this seems like a lifetime ago but I still remember it very vividly. I entered a DJ competition in my town. I didn’t own any decks and hadn’t really been playing much at all but I just knew I wanted to play music to people. I remember going to a studio to hire some decks for 2hrs a few days before the competition and trying my best to practice mixing.

Needless to say, I was dreadful and didn’t win the competition but I did get a massive buzz and from that moment I decided this was something I was going to put a lot more energy into.

Name three artists that currently inspire you.

For me, Ricardo Villalobos will always be my number one inspiration. His creativity and uniqueness are the most authentic of all the artists in this scene. I could talk about him for days but put simply if you get it, you get it! My second biggest inspiration is Enzo (and the rest of the Fuse team in all honesty) because they have truly carved a way for themselves from nothing to now being one of the biggest and most sought-after brands in the global underground scene.

Credit where credit is due, they have created something special by keeping it real, sticking to their sound and pushing the scene forward. Nothing but massive respect for him and the team. Finally, I would pick put Burnski, and for the same reasons. His Constant Sound label has been exactly that, constant quality! The quality of music is second to none at the moment. It’s clear he is someone who has followed his passion, worked hard and believed in himself while also giving an opportunity to artists breaking into the scene. Hats off Sir.

Recall the worst experience of ‘killing the vibe’ in the club.

I think most DJ’s have probably experienced the dreaded removing the wrong USB or accidentally pressing cue on the wrong deck. This has happened to me a couple of times in my earlier days.

One thing I’ve started to notice a lot more recently is DJ’s trying to be unique by dropping old classics and it’s a very fine line between getting this right and being downright cheesy. I’ve witnessed both in the club but won’t be naming names!

What do you do before and after your set?

Dance! Simple, I love the music and good music makes me want to dance. Unless I'm playing, I don't really like being in the booth. It drives me mad when I see the DJ booth packed with extras. For me, when I go out I’m there to dance!

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

Well, it could possibly be the worst and best job. When I was 17, a couple of my friends and I got a job working for a newspaper company. Because we had just passed our driving test we got the task of delivering free newspapers. Every morning we would collect 1,000 newspapers and have to drive to another city to deliver them.

We soon realised that no one was checking if we delivered them or not so we used to just dump the papers at the recycle plant then take the day off. This lasted about a month before we all got fired.

What are your favourite labels at the moment?

Oh man, there are so many good labels at the moment, it’s crazy how high the competition is. There are a few that really jump out for me right now, MOi, Constant, YYY France, AKU, Cabinet, Hoarder.

Imagine a cold winter, a fireplace and two glasses of wine—what song would you play?

Mari Kvien Brunvoll - Everywhere You Go (Villalobos Celestial Voice Mix)

Last but not least. What's the best advice you've ever received?

All the best bits of advice I have received in life has come from my dad. His best and the most repeated line is “Bullshit baffles brains” which means so many things in so many situations.

By Saša, edited on 14 June 2018