Max Key on his dreams, regrets, career and being the former PM's son

Video produced by Logan Swinkels

Max Key wasn't allowed to do interviews while his father was Prime Minister - he was essentially off limits to the media.

But with John Key stepping down, that's all changed.

In his first ever television interview, he talks about being determined to make a name for himself as a DJ, why he wanted his father to leave his job and says sorry for the Snapchat video in which he yelled at a cyclist, "real men ride women".

Last July, Max DJ-ed at the Deep Hard and Funky Festival, playing music that included his own.

"From a young age, I have always wanted to be on stage to be a pop star," says Max.

"Then sadly I realised I couldn't sing very well. Then one day I started realising about DJing and for me, this is actually a way I can do that, you know."

He's currently studying finance and property, but says that's his Plan B. Plan A is DJing and producing his own music as a career.

His new single 'All The Way' quickly began trending when it was released on YouTube and in just two weeks, it's had more than 500,000 views.

"I think people should give me and my music a chance and take it for what it is, not who I am," says Max.

"They can hate me, but like the music - that's all I care about."

Max's detractors - and there are many - put his success down to his dad's profile and wealth.

He's at pains to point out he hasn't received any financial backing from his parents.

"He hasn't given me a dollar towards it at all. It's all self-funded," says Max.

"I took out a loan for my last music video and worked to pay it all back."

Max was 13 when his father took up office. Now, at 21, he's determined to make a name for himself. 

"At the moment, when you search Max Key, it comes up as 'John Key's son'. The day it changes to 'DJ' or 'music producer' is going to be pretty exciting."

The time could be ripe, with Key announcing his resignation three months ago and stepping aside. 

It was a moment Max had often wished for.

"Ever since I was a little kid I was like, 'Can you come home more? Can we hang out? I want you to come to my baseball game,'" Max says of his dad.

But when the decision did come, Max no longer wanted it to be about him.

"My point to him was simply you've been there for eight years now, I'm finishing uni, I'm getting on with my life, you don't need to step down for us anymore," he says.

The baseball of his early teens has been replaced with bars and bass.

This month, Max is embarking on a free nationwide tour to meet his fans and he says he wants to one day be bigger than pop superstar Justin Bieber.

"Yeah definitely, I mean it's the goal. You've got to reach for the top you know," says Max.

"Bieber is the perfect example - he made some mistakes when he was young and I've done the same thing being in the public eye my whole life."

Max continues to put himself out there, unflinchingly, despite the blowback. But he does have one regret - infamously yelling "real men ride women" at cyclists.

"Yeah, I think like definitely that was probably my worst - that was probably dumb," he says.

The comment shouted in a video that appeared to be filmed by Max himself, as he drove past them and posted on Snapchat. It made international headlines.

"I just genuinely made a mistake, I've definitely learnt from it and I'm sorry to whoever I have offended," he says.

It's hard to know if it's a genuine apology or if he's just saying what he's been told to. 

I put it to him that some people think he's a spoilt, arrogant rich kid based on what they see on his social media.

"I've grown up with my parents saying you've got to work, you've got to make your own money," says Max.

"Stuff I put up isn't meant to be arrogant or cocky or misogynistic. There are lots of words that get thrown at me and I don't think they're a fair representation."

Max can reach over 100,000 people through his social media channels. For many young people, he's an influencer - for others, he's a target.

He's dealt with bullying, online abuse and death threats since his dad took up office.

"If 100,000 people know who you are and 1 percent hate you, there will be a certain amount that just really don't like you and I mean, I don't think there are that many cold-blooded killers that are going to come out - I wouldn't say I'm worried about it, no," says Max.

In saying that, he doesn't DJ without personal security. He says that's normal, but we checked with two music promoters and they said it's unusual.

Max's back-up plan is a corporate life using the two degrees he'll complete mid-way through this year.

But with Plan A, DJing and producing, he's determined to dream big. 

"I want to tour the world, I want my following to get bigger and to release more tracks," says Max.

"I want to hit the Billboard Top 100, one day. Hopefully with 'All the Way', even."

The free nationwide tour starting on Friday will give him a clear idea whether the public are willing to see him as more than just the former Prime Minister's son.


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