For someone living in a war-torn country, subject to rolling blackouts, daily missile showers and frequent food shortages, Ukrainian producer Warm Roller has had a staggeringly prolific year.
Harnessing his emotions, frustrations and fears and ploughing it all into his music whenever the conditions allow, this year has been his busiest yet.
Despite the many challenges he faces on daily basis, Warm Roller – or Max to his friends and family – has released no less than 13 tracks this year across a variety of VA compilations, collaborative singles and EPs on labels such as Melinki’s Four Corners, Dutch deep D&B imprint Celsius and pyxis’s charity-focused Beats In Mind.
Later this week – Friday December 2 – he’ll be taking that tally up to 15 as he makes his debut on another highly regarded Dutch imprint, Differential, with two more tracks – Bloom / Selecta.
Following his impressive Denial EP on Four Corners just weeks ago – an EP that saw him take his signature liquid vibe to darker and deeper places than he usually does – the tracks continue to show a development in his sound, a breadth in his range and a maturity in his music that’s been lurking deep in the mix since his earliest releases back in early 2019. Naturally there’s plenty more to come in 2023.
In awe of his work ethic and commitment to creativity during such a turbulent and challenging time, 1 More Thing reached out to find out more about life in Ukraine right now and how he’s able to focus on his art…
Hi Max. How are you? How are things for you in Ukraine right now?
Hi Dave! I’m alright, thanks. When it comes to Ukraine – it’s a rhetorical question. We are now liberating the territories that were occupied. At the same time, the whole country gets showered with missiles and drones regularly and the frontline territories are suffering from a humanitarian disaster. It’s tough, but we can do this, we are people who cherish their freedom and we will have it no matter the cost.
What have been the scariest experiences you’ve had during the Russian invasions?
It’s tough to say. The closest it got for me personally was when the missiles and drones were hitting and destroying the buildings near my home. But my parents went through occupation and that was the scariest. No phone connection, no electricity or heating and it was the beginning of March so it was still very cold. No food in the vicinity since all shops ran out of food or Russians stole or destroyed them. It was horrible.
Oh man. It’s impossible for someone like myself in the UK to even imagine your situation. I suspect it’s very hard to concentrate and find creative time to make music. How do you do it? And what problems do you face when you do find time to make music?
It’s hard to concentrate on writing music right now. When I moved to a different part of the country on the first month I wrote Last Day that came out on Celsius this Spring. I was mentally in a bad place, I was in a different city, the country is in war, but music actually ended up giving me some strength and solace in the process. I managed to write some music since the war started while polishing tracks I had planned for release on Four Corners, Headsbass and Differential. What I’m going through pushes me to write more, even though it’s hard and sometimes impossible because of the stress and the blackouts.
Yeah I can imagine it’s impossible at points. Has the situation influenced the sound or style of your music in any particular way?
Not really in a big way. I did start writing some deeper tunes and before I was mainly focused on liquid. I always loved the deeper groovy sound as well, so I’m finally getting to write some of my own. Supreme and Samurai that came out on Four Corners are a good example, they are quite different from the other two tunes on that release.
I was going to ask about this EP. How did you link up with Melinki and Four Corners?
This EP was coming along throughout the war. It took a while for it to be finally wrapped up. These tunes embody the thoughts and emotions I want to pass onto the listeners. It’s something like soft chaos, I’d call it that. I hope every listener can find something for themselves in these tunes. I started working with Four Corners in January 2022 when my collaboration with Qumulus called Levitate came out as a part of a VA release… Not without some help from Logikl! (Hi Sachin!) And thanks to Sonny Melinki for believing in me and supporting me in all way!
Big love to Melinki. How did you link-up with Qumulus? He’s also on the Denial title track.
Qumulus is an incredible person and he is also exceptionally talented. I was introduced to him by Logikl back in 2021. We started to chat on Facebook, discussed our tunes and ideas and if we should do something together. That’s how our first joint release Rays Of Light and Never Forgotten came about on Celsius at the end of 2021.
Then we dropped Levitate on Four Corners and Break Me and Black Lies on Celsius. Then we wrote Denial together. It took a lot of effort, we rewrote it a bunch of times, the name was changed throughout the process as well. But I’m really happy with the end result, I’m very proud of this one. Qumulus has been there for me when I was going through tough times, our friendship stretches way beyond just the music. He has been supporting me so much and became my best friend from abroad. I’m sure you will hear a lot more music from the two of us in the future.
Ah wow that’s beautiful to hear. You mentioned earlier about Samurai and Supreme having a darker edge. Each track tells a very different story doesn’t it?
Yes, all four tunes have a vibe of their own. You’ve got dynamic minimal grooves, airy melodic stuff, aggressive but precise breakbeats. Samurai and Supreme definitely stand out in my discography for now with their intricate drum work and I had a blast writing them. They represent a different side of myself and show my pursuit of something unique. I don’t try to fixate on one singular sound, I’m always in search of ways to express my ideas and want to develop a signature sound people can recognize regardless of the mood of the track.
Totally. I think that’s happening with every release. What’s the most important thing you want people to know about the Denial EP?
These tunes are a part of me. Denial and Heart Key come from my heart and Supreme and Samurai come from my consciousness and my brain. This EP is an important milestone for me, it’s my best work yet and it is also a reflection of the world outside my window. It’s my reaction to having my country under attack. It marks a very turbulent, but important period in my life.
Wow. Huge respect that you’re able to articulate those feelings through your music at such a time. How did you get into drum & bass and what led you to producing it?
I heard D&B for the first time on radio when I was 14-15. I loved what I heard, but had no idea of what it was. The next time I heard it I knew I was completely hooked. I started going to local gigs, even though most of them were neurofunk / techstep / dark ones which I wasn’t as much into. But there were also some ones where I could hear the more deeper and soulful stuff and it made me want to try write something of my own.
The idea of having people dance to my music really appealed to me. I also wanted to be even more connected to this music, not just be a listener. I installed FL Studio, spent a ton of time messing around, mostly just for fun. I then stopped for a few years, but was still digging around in the music, getting to know subgenres and labels more closely, following where the music is going. The breaking point was in 2018 when I approached producing my own music again with a more serious mindset. I knew I’d need a lot of time, effort and perseverance to get anywhere, but I was ready for it and so my real journey as a producer started.
Time, effort and perseverance are the most key ingredients! If you could collaborate with any artist at all who would it be?
Probably Lenzman and Redeyes, since I’m a massive fan of their music. Their vibe always evokes a big emotional response from me, they inspire me a lot. I dream that one day I can have a release of my own on The North Quarter.
One day man! In the meantime, what releases are coming up from you in the future?
I’ll have a two-tracker on Differential in December, which has been in the works for a while now. Next year I also have a collab coming on Celsius. I’m struggling to write new stuff at the moment, there are blackouts in Kyiv all the time now, we can spend half of the day in darkness so it’s hard to do things when the electricity is just not there for such long hours. So I’m not getting much done at the moment, but it was a pretty productive year for me overall, I feel like I’ve grown as a producer, but there is still so much to learn and so many ways to get better.
Finally, how can people around the world help everyone in Ukraine right now? Obviously there was the Together album which was huge and raised a lot of money. But how can people help now?
Any help, any donation is meaningful. Donate to the army, donate to humanitarian funds, all of it makes a real difference. Thanks to everyone who has been helping and to those who keep helping months into this war. We will never forget all this kindness and we are eternally grateful for it. Seeing support really helps us pull through this.
Together With Ukraine was such an incredible project that showed what D&B community is all about and how it can help those who need it and I’m so thankful to all the producers who were a part of it or supported it. And of course shout outs to Vlad (B.Kind), Bohdan (Uma Nema) and everyone else who put it all together.