A champion of experimentalism

By Jordyn Marcellus

With some artists, there’s a constant need for re-invention and Maxine Morin — otherwise known as DJ Champion — experienced that drive with his new album Resistance, released in September.

After returning to his home studio in Montreal, he sat down to produce what would eventually become Resistance. He found himself in a bit of a sticky situation following the initial recording process — the album he made wasn’t satisfactory.

“I wasn’t challenging myself and I wasn’t putting myself at risk,” says Morin. “I was being myself as DJ Champion on stage and I was very confident on stage with all this power. I had to stop myself and do stuff that I’m not used to or stuff I’m shy to do. I would play songs I would compose, compose bad songs, feel ashamed — trying to kick myself [into a new creative place].”

So Morin took a bold step. Instead of releasing something he wasn’t sure about, he put it on the backburner and re-directed his efforts to a new sound.

“I decided to flush [the album] and not use it,” says Morin in his Quebecois brogue. “It was three or four months of work and it just sounded too much like Chill ‘Em All, the first CD. I wasn’t going anywhere else, I had good songs that I was proud of, but it should mean more than being comfortable and being safe and making tons of money.”

While it’s easy for most musicians to stay in the comfort zone, slowly creating and evolving their sound over years of albums, Morin decided to do something different and experimental himself — create a rock album.

“You have the choice to build on solid ground,” says Morin. “Like if I had done this CD like Chill ‘Em All I would have been on safe ground. What I decided to do was not play that safe game. Of course, it’s great to learn from your error and if you want to go forward, you have to have a memory of what you did. But there’s other ways to evolve. When you’re always building on safe ground, you get that power of knowing what you do. But you also get to power-tripping with what you do.”

Though some diehards may feverishly cry “sell-out,” this move is perfect, in keeping with Morin’s musical experimentation on Chill ‘Em All. It’s not about fiddling with the knobs to create something weird, abstract or somehow different; it’s about crafting something unfamiliar to the artist engaged in that creative process. If that means picking up a guitar, then so be it.

“I’ve done experimental music and I’ve gone real far with it,” says Morin. “But I’ve never done pop music. So for me, making a pop song was experimenting — because I’ve never done it. It’s challenging and very different for many people. For me, it was just a new thing.”

For Morin, who is almost constantly on one tour or another, he had to actually sit down and craft the album. Morin’s mind, though, was still on the road — which meant that he was composing not creatively, but more efficiently. He realized he needed to be less like Henry Ford and more like Salvador Dali.

“When I stopped touring, I started composing for the new CD,” he says. “But that’s no good — I was the guy on stage. On stage, you have to be efficient. You have to be there . . . When I’m composing, it’s the total opposite. I like to get lost.”

So Morin moved into rock ‘n’ roll. He abandoned the mellow soundscapes that made the 2004 effort so popular and engaged the part of him that makes his live show so exciting: powerful, crunchy, hard-hitting guitars and exciting dance beats that get asses onto the floor. Even though he says it may not make him “a ton of money” he wants more than just the dollar bills.

“I want my dad to be proud of me, y’know?” says Morin with a laugh.

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