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028: The Transcendant Sounds of Balearico MAX ESSA

Updated: Jun 26, 2021


This week we’re excited to share a mix from a man who is an important figure in the dance music pantheon. Max Essa is a producer and DJ of balearic music; his productions are known globally for their melodic chords, and instantly recognizable euphoric qualities. A Londoner by birth, Max now resides in Tokyo where he has been a mainstay of the electronic scene in Japan. He has toured the world globally as a DJ.

Max experienced the height of the second summer of love, which was life-changing. He delved into the world of electronic music production shortly thereafter and has been active as a DJ and producer ever since. He released music in the early 90’s on labels such as Warp Records and Paperecordings and DJ’ed alongside the infamous D.i.Y Sound System.

His later work, for labels like Is It Balearic? Recordings and Hell Yeah records have been touted by DJ’s and scenesters all over the globe; Max’s imaginative productions have the power to spiritually transport the listener to the white isles wherever they are currently located. He also runs his own label called Jansen Jardin Music, which has released a number of beautiful recordings from Max and his talented network of musicians and artists since its inception in 2010 after Max moved to Japan.

For the past decade Max has held two DJ residencies in Tokyo: one called, “Lone Star” at the legendary Bar Bonobo with Ken Hidaka and Dr. Rob (who is the main editor and contributor to the excellent blog, Ban Ban Ton Ton); and another on Fridays at the ever-popular Aoyama Tunnel.

He plays regularly at clubs and events all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Max has continued to be prodigious in the studio with a slew of recent and forthcoming releases.

His hour mix for this Friday’s OVER&OVER PRESENTS warms the ears in typical Max Essa fashion with recent music hand picked by the man who brings beauty to everything he touches. So find a place to chill, light up the spliff, and sit back and enjoy the trandscent sounds of a true gem of clubland who continues to bring the love.


Hi Max! We’re thrilled to have you on OVER&OVER PRESENTS.

First off, how is life in Japan? It seems that things seem to be opening up a bit - is this true?

We’ve been fortunate not to be affected by the pandemic as badly as some other countries, however the new infections are far from under control. The second State of Emergency has been lifted and we’re just trying to keep our heads above water!

You’ve appeared to be very busy during the pandemic. Have you appreciated the opportunity to hunker down fully in the studio? Has the pandemic changed your approach? Have you welcomed any of these changes?

I have been very busy making new music and remixing. I usually spend a large part of the week working on music, but with no DJing at weekends since the beginning of January I’ve been able to concentrate on it more.

You are strongly associated with “balearic” music. Can you tell us what this term means to you? Do you see it as a throughline in all your Dj’ing and productions?

The DJs from Ibiza like Alfredo and Jose Padilla were playing to a ‘holiday’ crowd of people from all over Europe. They needed to cater to the tastes of a broad cross-section of people and the melting pot of styles they utilised is still an inspiration. My DJ residencies in Tokyo have a similarly international crowd (at least they did until the pandemic started!). Things change over time but it’s an approach to music that will always be appealing to me.

What prompted you to move to Japan? How has it been living and making music there?

Firstly let me just say I’d rather we don’t use the term ‘ex-pat’. For example the Filipino people working in care homes here or the Indian people who come to work in IT get called immigrant workers, but white people from wealthy countries get called ex-pats. It’s racist.

Back to your question, I was offered a one year position at a company here back in 2008. When that finished I decided to stay on. I’ve found the music community here very welcoming and inspiring. The DJ culture and sheer number of places to play was a big eye-opener for me when I first arrived.

What is your favorite place to play in the world?

That’s a difficult one! There have been nights at Aoyama Tunnel and Bonobo that are undoubtedly some of the best in my life. But also the Mareh festival crew’s Babel party in Sao Paulo with Faze Action a few years ago was pretty special, a fantastic night at a place called Lolas in Jakarta, and the many unforgettable nights in Okinawa with the Okinawa Delays crew.

What’s coming up in the future for Max Essa?

I haven’t been back to Europe for five years so I’d really like to get back and play some dates there when things settle down a bit. Other than that more of the same! Music, music, music!

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