Air Max '97 has been agitating from within the realm of club music for over half a decade now.
It feels like yesterday when London club crew Liminal Sounds gave the Australian artist a platform for his "WTF?!" experiments and he's gone from strength to strength ever since thanks to a keen sense of sonic and aesthetic style. Time flies when you're turning dancefloors and radio sets inside out.
Air Max '97's label DECISIONS has been running parallel to his own trajectory since 2015 and has not so quietly turned into a home for other artists intent on ignoring boundary or definition, instead honing in on club music that'll make your head spin. The label has released much of Air Max '97's discography, including his debut album 'Nacre', as well as a global cast that counts Laughing Ears, Jikuroux and DJ Plead among its number.
Fifth anniversary compilation 'Consequences' surveys the breadth of DECISIONS' commitment to incendiary bangers and is testament to Air Max '97's ear for fierce new music. It also acts as a bit of communal respite from the chaos of 2020, with his In Session mix a statement of intent for when we are able to dance together again. Hit play below for a signature brew of left turns and low-end and check the Q+A for a chat dedicated to the rise of DECISIONS.
DECISIONS just turned five years old. What have you learned about running a label that you never thought about before?
I’ve learned to trust that the music will find its audience, even if it isn’t super apparent to me how different releases are being received. Looking back it’s also clear what sells and what doesn’t, but that doesn’t affect my thinking too much, as I’ve found ways to get the overheads down to a minimum over the years.
How did you put together 'Consequences'?
DECISIONS was set to have a busy schedule of EP releases in 2020, then COVID hit and most of the artists I was working with either chose or were forced to take a step back — myself included. I then realised that a compilation could gesture to some of those projects without requiring such a big investment from everyone, and would also provide an opportunity for me to showcase a few demos I had received in the year prior that I had been playing non-stop and didn’t yet have a home. I also invited some artists who had been close to the label for a while but hadn’t yet featured on it. Emily Glass helped me out with the artwork, and also contributed a track. The approaching 5 year milestone was the final piece of the puzzle and gave me the deadline.
How do you A&R the label?
It’s very informal. Earlier on I was more proactive, encouraging friends to put together releases. Once the label was out in the world I started receiving demos, some of those demos submissions would turn into relationships with artists that would eventually coalesce into a release. I basically have to be blown away by something, feel like the music is giving something that I haven’t heard elsewhere, and therefore have no choice but to put it out.
The label has a very distinct art direction, much like your solo releases. How do you steer the aesthetic vision of the label and why is the visual side of it so important to you?
I think artwork can deepen the context and feeling around a release. I always see if the artist has a vision in mind, whether they want something representational or more interpretive, and go from there. I like for each release to have stand alone artwork as opposed to a serialised format. I’ve made a lot of it myself or have been lucky to work with other visual artists like Oriana Fenwick, Kim Laughton and Andre Piguet who understand what we’re looking for and end up making something perfect.
Your early releases came out over five years ago now but the music that you make and the music that you put out on DECISIONS remains two steps ahead. How do you keep pushing your own sound and the sound of the label forward?
There’s no grand plan, it’s about supporting kindred spirits making music that I think is really special. In terms of my own sound, if I’m going to add more music to the already overburdened world I want to try and offer something a bit different, or fun, or nasty.
You've lived in Berlin, Mexico City and London over the past few years – how did those cities influence your art and how have you adapted to having to stay in one place due to the pandemic?
The people in each city influence my art the most I think. I’m lucky to have some really great friends and collaborators in the places you mentioned, who have helped me grow as a person and learn more about making music. I returned to Sydney when all my shows were cancelled and I feel really fortunate to be here with the pandemic going on. I’ve been spending lots of time in the ocean, catching up with friends and finding other forms of work to earn a living.
Tell us about your In Session mix.
I guess it represents my longing for the club! It includes a few compilation cuts, a couple of unreleased tracks and lots of huge 2020 favourites. I somehow managed to double-dip Laughing Ears, BFTT and Slikback!
Bby Eco - Innerlife
BFTT - Suchblush
Anz - Gary Mission
DJ Plead - Going For It
Slikback - HYDE
object blue x TSVI - Syntax
Air Max ’97 - Work To Live
Laughing Ears - Untitled
Azu Tiwaline - Terremer
Air Max ’97 - Psyllium
COLLO - Bantu Nilote
Fauzia - Tense
Jennifer Walton - Flash On (w/ BFTT)
Ecco2k - Peroxide
Isomov - Aurora Torus
Laughing Ears - Untitled
Nara - Ipse Dixit (Air Max ’97 remix)
Slikback - RUKIA