For some, it takes years to finally be at the top of the game. Heck, it could take decades or might not even happen at all. Yet no matter how bumpy the road or how swift the rise, each success story has its ups and downs that should be told and maybe even learned from. We start off this series by documenting the rise of San Francisco-based superstar Max Vangeli and unearth how he rose to fame. This is the Road To Glory of Max Vangeli…
Flash-back to the year of 2010. The year in which Maksim Vangeli, who we know better as Max Vangeli, saw his life change forever. It was the year in which the DJ and producer relocated to San Francisco to pursue a full-fledged musical career, and the year that marked his breakthrough. His track ‘Swedish Beauty’ was named as the ‘Essential New Tune’ by none other than BBC Radio 1 legend Pete Tong, DJ Mag considered Max to be ‘One To Watch For 2011’, and he was touted ‘One Of The Most Promising Artists For 2011’ by MTV one year later.
As the Moldovan high-flyer finally saw his hard work pay off, his life changed dramatically. But with great success comes great responsibility, something that’s inexplicably hard to cope with when you’re confronted with it early on. In Max’s case, at the age of 25…
“I think the MTV and DJ Mag accolades make me realize today that I didn’t work hard enough at that particular time to live up to my expectations. My early twenties were a ton of fun; being the new kid on the block, partying like an animal. Life was so easy, I made music without even trying to necessarily make hit records. I was simply having fun. But when this industry blew up and I started getting autograph requests, that’s when I knew something was happening.”
“For the next five years, I took it way too seriously and was not happy with myself or my music in general. I lost that love for the music in general; constantly worrying about what A&Rs might say about my stuff started pissing me off. Until one day, when I said: “F*ck it, I want to be my own boss.”
“Fame sneaks up on you in a very interesting way. One day, I’m dating a college sweetheart and the next day, I’m being surrounded by supermodels and fans. It was so new to me and I think I let the fame get to my head a bit too much. I forgot who I really was and where I had come from. It took me a long time to finally wake up and realize what the hell I had been doing with my life. Living from one party to the next is not the way I wanted to live my life. This is why NoFace Records is a new chapter and a blank page with a new direction in life.”
Despite the lifestyle problems that seemed to coincide with the success, Max’s swift rise to fame didn’t halter for one bit. In 2011, a collaboration with long-time friend AN21 and Electronic Music pioneer Tiësto hit the world as the title track of debut album ‘People Of The Night’ with AN21. A milestone worth looking back on, even if it makes one realize how unforgiving the music industry is…
“The industry is a bitch. When you are making waves, everyone wants to be your friend. But when you fall off for a minute, it’s all over. All of a sudden, you don’t get invited to the cool spots and people stop talking to you. When we made ‘People Of The Night’, Antoine and I were on top of the world. And that just messes with your head sometimes.”
“We were just kids having fun, and Tiësto is an amazing friend who helped us a ton. But Tiësto is also a businessman who is very smart about every single move he makes in his career. If you lose a few steps and fall behind, you get left behind. I think that’s something I learned from him, to always be on top of your shit 24/7. This business is a bitch and if you want to stay on top, you need to be the best every day.”
But being the best sometimes just doesn’t cut it, as most of the aspiring musicians, DJs, or producers can very much relate to. Next to working your butt off, you also have to know the right people at the right time in your career. In the case of Max, his partner in crime AN21 was also the brother of Steve Angello, who had been conquering the world with the Swedish House Mafia at the time…
“When I started working with Antoine, I had no idea he was Steve’s brother. I saw he made some collaborations with Steve, which got me interested. Then one day, Antoine dropped the bomb on me and I realized it. I think that I would definitely not be here today without Steve. And of course, Antoine was a huge part of that road to success as well. In all honesty, it was that broke of luck after so many years of working my ass off on my music. It definitely made a huge difference. Being on the road with SHM was simply massive for my career in general. Steve has taught me so much; he taught me how to be my own boss in a way!”
“As we were riding high on all the remixes and releases, we couldn’t really tell what to do next. I still remember flying with Steve and he said: “you guys should do the album now, it’s perfect timing.” His reasoning was that we were so young and didn’t have that crazy pressure yet to make one. I think it’s something he always wished he did early in his career. So we said: “Ok, let’s go; let’s try it!”. But I had NO idea it was going to be such a difficult task to make one. It was extremely hard, but it was also an insane learning experience!
The release of the ‘People Of The Night’ debut album proved to be a more than excellent stepping stone in the already flourishing DJ career of the young Moldovan. 2013 in turn saw the launch of the Max Vangeli/CODE RADIO podcast (soon to go by the name of NoFace Radio), backed up by worldwide tours, breath-taking performances, and being the center of attention at some of biggest venues and festivals in the world. But retaining that coveted spot in the industry demands a lot of hard work and a knack for working the crowd, which isn’t always that easy.
“Most of the social media nowadays has this grand view of all the shows being crazy amazing. But unfortunately, that’s not always the case. I’m very lucky to be playing on some of the best stages in the world, but sometimes it takes a lot of work to satisfy a crowd in some cities. It’s easy to smash it at Tomorrowland or Creamfields when you have a shit ton of people in front of you going crazy, but that’s not always the case in smaller markets. This is the reason why I always come prepared, ready for anything.”
“Luckily, I can usually tell within a few minutes what needs to be played and what sort of a crowd I’m dealing with. I love DJ’ing in general. It doesn’t matter if it’s in front of 100 people or 50k people, I just love making people happy. It’s something that’s in my blood, I guess. It’s hard to explain it, but once I get on that stage, it’s like a switch I turn on and nothing can stop me. It’s a good feeling and I think every DJ is different, but for me, it’s about killing it every time and making people smile!”
Arriving at recent times, it’s not all that difficult to spot that Max intends to start off fresh again. Being on top of the game brings along a lot of stress and pressure to perform, which in turn could easily become a burden, capable of draining all of the creativity out of anyone. Having just now launched his own label, NoFace Records, it’s clear that Max intends to do a lot of things different now. But next to that, having his own label is also a “HUGE dream come true”.
“I think it’s every kid’s dream to have his own label. But I think a lot of people do it a bit too prematurely at times and that is why I waited for such a long time. It’s about being ready and experienced, and I learned so much from Steve Angello and SHM (Swedish House Mafia) that it’s time to apply all of my knowledge and leap forward.
“The main reason for launching my own imprint is to be in control of my own music and not to worry about people telling me to change this or that. Another reason why the label is called NoFace is because I want to diversify my music and not pigeonhole in general. It’s about making a difference in the music industry and this is my intention. I want to give people something fresh and unique, and at the same time, I want to be able to make what I want to make and not what A&Rs want to hear. Freedom is something that not all of us get to enjoy nowadays, and now I get to enjoy mine.”
“I’ve got one mission in 2016 and the rest of my career, and that’s NoFace Records. I’ve crossed the biggest thing off my bucket list already, which was to play at Sensation White Amsterdam in front of nearly 60k people at one stage. I have toured with the best and collaborated with incredible talent, so now it’s time to cross that final big one off: my own imprint! I will work until I drop, but this label will be successful. If it isn’t, I have failed as an artist.”