Reggae and collaboration, the molecular make-up of Max Glazer

Tomorrow night, the legendary Johnny Osbourne will take to the stage at The Woods - with none other than legendary Max Glazer holding down the decks. It'll be a night for the history books, and one that deserves a little bit of schooling ahead of time. To lay down one of the lessons, we spoke to the brilliant, multitalented Max Glazer. 


Growing up in New York, where did you find your musical inspiration?

Growing up in New York there was musical inspiration everywhere. I lived in a small town called Woodstock in upstate New York until I was 18, and I've been in New York City ever since. Growing up in Woodstock (namesake of the 1969 festival), music was always a big part of life. First was my parent's music, and then tuning in to NYC's rap shows on FM radio. When I finally moved to the city, I was going to record stores and clubs almost every day, just exploring and surrounding myself with as much music as possible.

You founded Federation Sound back in 1999 with Kenny Meez and Cipha Sounds. Could you tell us about why the collective was formed, and how it’s evolved over the past near-on two decades?

Prior to the formation of Federation Sound in 1999, Cipha and I were using the name Federation for our crew of DJs, and even beyond that, everyone who rolled with us. In those days it was always a crew because we still had to carry crates of records. Cipha and I were in New York, and Kenny Meez was in Philly, where he had been DJing for years. Kenny and I started getting more serious about reggae and got to be known for that so naturally, we wanted to start voicing dubplate specials. We voiced a couple of dubs without even having a proper sound name and then in '99 Capleton was going to be in Philly and Kenny called me and said we should voice some dubs, but we really need a sound name if we are going to keep spending money on dubs and suggested we use Federation, since that was already the name of the crew in New York. That's how, and when, we became Federation Sound.

This’ll is your second tour visiting New Zealand - how does performing down-under compare to the Northern Hemisphere? Do you find many differences with crowds, or culture, or what songs really make them lose themselves?

There's definitely a strong reggae scene here, it's just a much smaller scene than a lot of the places I've toured. Because it's small, I've found that the people who are a part of it are super passionate about the music. It's amazing to come all the way around the world and see people who love reggae as much as I do. The crowds are definitely different since for the most part there is no direct West Indian or Caribbean influence, so the scene here has been built from scratch which in some ways makes people even more open and receptive to new things. It's not necessarily about what is the biggest hit in Jamaica at any given moment, it's more about what sounds good and the DJs like. 

What can people expect from a set of yours?

I always like to play some signature Federation dub plates and remixes - some exclusive things that only we have. I also like to touch on classics and hits that people are familiar with, so there's a little something for everyone. At most of the parties I've done in New Zealand and Australia you've got hard core reggae fans and then also people who are just out to party for the night but aren't necessarily familiar with every song. Ideally, I want both those groups of people to have a great time. Sometimes maybe I'll play more downtempo classics and other times it may be much more brand new dancehall but I really like to read the crowd and cater to them.

You’ve worked with innumerable artists on their rise, including Rihanna, whom you were Music Director/DJ for 3 years. Is collaboration important to you?

Collaboration is really important for me when working with artists. Because of my years as a DJ, there are certain things that I may be aware of that an artist may not notice and vice versa. It works best when the people working together trust and respect each other and there's open communication to bring forward the best finished product, whether it's a song, show or whatever. 

How is it touring with Johnny Osbourne, whom many consider Godfather of dancehall and reggae?

Touring with Johnny is a pleasure. Not only is a musical legend, but he loves to travel and see new places. A lot of times when you're on tour it's easy to just go from the show to the hotel and never really see anything but Johnny is the first one to be up and walking around exploring a new city. He's got such an incredible voice that it's actually really easy on my part, setting up, sound checking, and DJing for him. It's also great to get to see a show that is really a history of reggae and dancehall music every night. 

You’ve seemingly conquered the music world of reggae. Where does Max Glazer go from here?

There's plenty more work to do. A big part of what I love about DJing and being involved in reggae is helping to expand it's reach. Just like it's important to come out here, there are plenty more places and ears that we can reach. Music is continually evolving so I'm really just trying to keep up myself and continue doing something I love.