Composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and musical engineer Maxime Morin, a popular DJ on his native Montréal's club scene for more than 10 years under the name "Mad Max," stepped out from behind the turntable and emerged as DJ Champion in 2000.
Chill out, man
Looking to beef up his techno repertoire, Morin turned to the fat riffs of rock n' roll. In 2004, the self-taught soundsmith released his debut album, Chill ‘Em All, a runaway success featuring the hit single No Heaven that sold more than 70 000 copies. The album was the inspiration for The Remix Album (2006), which was nominated for Best Dance Recording at the Juno Awards, and the CD/DVD Live (2007).
Featuring vocalist Béatrice Bonifassi, four guitarists and one bassist, "Champion and his G-Strings" toured Canada, the U.S., France, England, China, Sweden, Spain and Germany. Their worldwide travels also included a stop at the famed South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, and an appearance at the 2004 Academy Awards in Los Angeles as part of the musical act for the Quebec film Les Triplettes de Belleville.
The electric live act arrived at the Festival for two consecutive years, in 2004 and 2005, with DJ Champion performing his usual duties conducting while simultaneously remixing and looping an infectious mix of electronic beats. The set prompted a Montreal Gazette music critic to write: "The beat never stopped nor did the vibe."
For his highly anticipated sophomore effort, Morin finally slowed down the pace, retreating from performing in the winter of 2008 to concentrate on forging a new sound. He deliberately deleted an entire studio recording after finding it too similar to his previous album. But the false start proved to be productive, pushing the artist into unchartered musical territory.
Whereas Chill ‘Em All relied on freewheeling jams, the follow-up took a more structured approach. Morin looked to work songs of the early 20th century for inspiration and began writing his own material, eventually writing the majority of lyrics on the album.
Seeking the raw energy and amplified effect of a live show, he also started to experiment with the guitar, tuning in to (and turning up) the heavy rock of Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Metallica, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. Following the departure of Bonifassi in 2007 to pursue her own projects, he recruited the up-and-coming Quebec artist Pierre-Philippe Côté (aka "Pilou") for vocals.
In September 2009, DJ Champion released Resistance. The first single, Alive Again, exemplified the rest of the album's upbeat, rock anthem spirit and use of heavy electric guitar, while the track Sannois Beach, an adaptation of early bluesman Leroy Carr's How Long Blues, paid tribute to a more extensive musical lineage.
After taking a break to fight a fierce battle against cancer, Champion hit the stage again in the summer of 2011. His two concerts at Métropolis were among the highlights of the Festival.
In the fall of 2012, Champion covered new musical ground by performing with OSM at Maison symphonique de Montréal.
The electro-classical album o1 came out in the summer of 2013, just in time for a special Festival concert presented at Place des Arts with I Musici.