HardWorkSoftDrink Spearhead Max Vaahs

Max Vaahs is a somewhat illusive character at the spearhead of the Frankfurt collective HardWorkSoftDrink. As a resident at the city's famed Robert Johnson club, Vaahs has played alongside the biggest names in the scene, while sticking true to a stripped back punchy sound that characterises what he's all about. It’s a way of doing things that we can wholeheartedly get behind so were keen to get to know him better ahead of his set in Room One this coming Saturday night when he’s set to join Craig Richards, Raresh and Barac.

Tell us about where you grew up…

I grew up in a small town located near to Frankfurt called Idstein. It is more or less 30 minutes away from Frankfurt and has a beautiful historic city centre, there are around 30,000 inhabitants. Basically there was no access to this kind of electronic music, but I remember that Thomas P. Heckmann played at the Hessentag in 2002 in Idstein and I went there and thought "wow, what is this???", but I had to leave after 30 minutes as sadly I was too young to stay longer.

How did you first get into music? What were your early influences?

Well of course my dad has a record collection and for sure I listened to some of his records. They were cool, but what really influenced me a lot was music television. When I was a bit older my mom left me home alone after school to go to work and this was amazing for me because when I got home from school I skipped my homework and watched music videos on TV. Back then this was really big as the internet was still in its infancy and I loved it! Midday they played everything randomly, but in a good way and not what was on the charts then only.

Later when I was older and also able to watch in the evening they had a different theme each day for their videos Monday was Hip Hop, Tuesday was Rock, Wednesday, Electronic and so on. The shows were really specialist, for example, they played tracks by Oz artists on Thule with some weird music video. For me this was important but I think it wasn't only for me really, it was a great way for musical socialisation, I witnessed things I probably would never have heard of. What happens these days is horrific, on these channels there are only stupid soaps and on the radio they repeat the same stuff the whole day. What the fuck is this!?

When did electronic music become a passion?

I think around the age of 13. A friend of mine gave me the 'Sound of the Fourth Season" compilation by Sven Väth and I was blown away. Before that I mainly listened to Hip Hop, but I have to say that the beats attracted me always more than the lyrics. When the beat was not my thing the MC could have brought the biggest message there ever was in Hip Hop, but I would not have listened to it. So after receiving this CD I checked out the artists on there and so on and at 15 I bought my first turntables and records.

"Every night has its own spirit and this is what it is all about, giving moments."

When did you begin DJing and what was your first gig like?

My first real gig was in a club in Bad Homburg. It was an event put on by friends of mine and basically there were only people we knew, if I remember right. It was a lot of fun even though I was a real rookie back then, but the experience was super nice!

What’s your preference to musical format, is this something that you find important?

I play more or less only vinyl. This was what I wanted to do from the beginning. It never came into my mind to play digitally, I simply like the habit of it, and I love to collect records. I mean you hear a lot these days that the medium doesn’t count, only the music, but I personally have never seen a DJ who played only digitally that I really enjoyed. There is a different approach to it I guess.

What is the story behind HardWorkSoftDrink?

We all met at Robert Johnson. Although some knew each other before, they were not thinking about starting something like this. Basically we partied a lot and had a good time, hanging out, discussing music and girls and whatever. Everybody was enjoying it a lot and so the thought came to the mind that it would be the perfect way of living to be working on the same thing.

How many of you now make up the collective and what kind of roles does everyone have in the collaboration?

Back then we were pretty young so some are now following other things, but we are still quite a large group. Basically we do music but we also have our design section which is responsible for the artwork, blog and those things. The prototypes for shirts and a few other things are ready and look nice, so they will be available at some point over the next year.

How did your residency at Robert Johnson come about? What is it that you find special about the club?

This club is truly special and means a lot to me; it’s where I have my roots. I’ll never forget the first party I went to when Raresh was playing; it must have been 2005/2006. I sneaked in there with the passport of a friend of mine as I was not 18 at that point and it was heaven. A lot of people that I call my friends or work with, I met in there.

The first time I played there was for a freebase party in 2010. I can remember that I was sitting in front of Resident Advisor with some friends to check what was going on the next month and see where we wanted to go and then there was my name. I called the club manager straight away and then he said "yeah do you have time!? I just put you on there and forgot to ask, sorry". I was overwhelmed as you can imagine. I enjoy every single gig there, it is the homebase where I try things and go further.

What are the most important factors in making a perfect DJ set in your eyes?

Is there a perfect DJ set? I don’t think so, each night has its own spirit and this is what it is all about, giving moments. When everybody is in the bubble and doesn’t want to go home it is a real good set!

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