Awesome Soundwave label feature with Christopher Coe

Awesome Soundwave is a label that is run by two of electronic music’s greatest ambassadors, Christopher Coe and Carl Cox. The label primarily revolves around live artists and their productions and the label is based on one very simple motto, “We love electronic music by artists who perform it live”. Since its inception in 2018, the label has seen releases from Christoper Coe, Mat Playford, and Saytek, as well as remixes by artists including Reinier Zonneveld, Fabio Neural, and Octave One. The label is clearly only in its infancy but with the passion and vast industry knowledge coming from Christopher Coe and Carl Cox, you know as well as I do, this is going to be a very interesting label to watch over the coming months and years.

I grabbed some time with Christopher Coe to speak about the label, future releases, the music industry, and a very special gig planned for a well-known event in Amsterdam in the coming months. When I spoke with Chris he was in Ireland after a rather eventful few days over in Amsterdam… “today I am enjoying the wonderful rugged countryside of my home region in the west of Ireland. It’s where I created my album MNTNS of SLNC, which was inspired entirely by the landscape here”. We soon got down to the music chat and I asked Chris how he first met Carl Cox and how did the relationship develop from that first meeting… “Carl and I met many years ago at the disco. I don’t remember what disco. I think it was Turnmills in London… he used to run a night there called Ultimate Bass, didn’t he? We were introduced by our mutual friend Charlie Hall. Charlie ran a wicked label called Pro-Jex back in the day… amazing records from DJ Rush, DJ Funk, Christian Vogel, myself, Organ Grinda, DJ Deeon, Frankie Bones, Co-Fusion, I think Chris Liebing even”. Chris continued… “anyways, Carl and I met there first and then we reconnected a few years later in Australia on the Big Day Out festival tour that we were both on. Since then we’ve been firm friends. He’s a loyal and genuine friend is our Carl”.

“Carl is a great supporter of new music, and underground artists and, as such, he’s always been a quiet supporter of mine too. So, when I came to him in 2017 to play him my new project called MNTNS of SLNC, he was so enthusiastic about it that he suggested we release it ourselves. So, we decided to do just that. Carl wanted to support it and, as the conversation ensued, we realised that we were starting a new label.”

So based on that chat Awesome Soundwave went from an idea to reality… Chris continued… “It was Carl who said we should focus on live acts only (my project is based around a live audiovisual show) and release long play projects (albums), thus giving the artist the chance to really explore their sound, and push the envelope beyond the typical two-track EP format that every dance label is caught in at the moment. It’s a bold vision, but I think it really shows a commitment to the music and to artistic development.. In some ways, it’s a more traditional record label format, but it’s also rather revolutionary and it has inspired a lot of artists already.”

Decoded Magazine has followed the label very closely since that first release. I asked Christ about the Mat Playford LP and his thoughts when he first heard it… “Carl has known Mat for years and he was one of the first artists Carl wanted to sign. When I first heard the album I really understood that this label has the scope to go beyond the limited techno format and be truly diverse. If you play Mat’s record next to my record you can hear the difference so it’s a great statement to be able to do this straight off the bat. We don’t care about the genre, we care about the quality and Mat’s album has such a timeless quality to it doesn’t it? I love it… and loved it when I first heard it!” Well, I am not sure you can give an artist much of a bigger compliment. Chris went on to say… “I must admit, I asked Carl at the time should we release this sound straight after the deeper techno sound of my record? And he said “Hell yeah!!” if it’s good we release it! So liberating! I keep learning from him.”

At the time of chatting with Chris, Saytek’s LP, ‘Improvisations (Live)’ was due to land so I asked him to tell me a little about the release which is now available… “We actually released an EP from him last year which has been so well received and now we are releasing his glorious album, ‘Improvisations’.” Chris added… “what a great record, he writes and records his music entirely live… no laborious mouse-clicking perfectionism here, and you can hear it, it’s energetic and fresh, and really live-sounding, dynamic you know”. There is no doubting Saytek’s style or talent on this release. We recently premiered one of the tracks from this very album and you can check it out here.

Whilst on the conversation of music production and releases I asked Chris what we can expect from him over the coming months in terms of new music…

“Last year I worked on a special project with an amazing group of artists who live with mental disability in the west of Ireland. They invited me to come and collaborate with them to create some music together and we developed some great tracks based on the recordings we did together in Westport, Ireland (my home town).”

“We had a great time, banging on the side of wooden boats, hitting iron railings with sticks, smashing drum kits, playing wild sounds on synths and recording mad vocals. It was so liberating working with people who didn’t give a toss about being cool or what “works”, they were all about expression and I was there to capture it and turn it into playable tracks. The result is a wonderful collaboration entitled The Upstarters and in the next month or so we are going to release the first EP from that. It’s coming out on ASW and it’s so great ‘cos Carl has been smashing the tracks in his sets, and I have been sending a video of him playing these tracks back to the group and their carers who have been gobsmacked with the result.. they never expected such an outcome”. Chris went on to add… “I am very proud of this project as it was such a wonderful experience to work with these amazing people and to create such a unique sound with them.” Something a lot of people could learn from for sure. A fine example of what can be achieved from just giving something back to a community. A fantastic outcome for all!

I went on to speak with Chris about his studio and asked him if he has a particular workflow he always follows when putting together a track… “hmm, workflow, well I actually try to change it up a lot, sometimes I spend hours and hours just on a kick and then that informs the direction of the track but other times I will set up the modular gear and 303 and other devices and just jam and record the jams. Then work on these to make tracks, often this is the most interesting and fun way of making music. When it comes to remixes, I always follow the arrangement of the original and pick two key sounds and the hook or feature element and go from there and increasingly I spread the tracks out across the board (summing mixer) as this gives more space and depth to the mix and makes for a better balance. Always mix through compression on the mix buss too… always!”

Chris went on to speak about some of his favourite pieces of kit in the studio…

“I am very fortunate to be able to work in Carl’s studio that he commissioned me to build for him. He calls it “El Rancho” because it is on a farm in Australia. There we have a nice SSL X Desk summing mixer (with XPanda board) giving us 24 channels, and it’s such a clever board because it makes the workflow so much more intuitive.”

“I also set up a great patch bay that allows me to route anything into anything.. and man that is such a delight! It really is lovely to be able to work in a hybrid way using analogue routing mixed with great plugins. The favourite synth is the Moog Model D .. such a classic sound and always reliable. And we have a beautiful Manley Massive Passive stereo EQ unit that is so special! A custom made SSL G series buss compressor made by my friend Arjan Hebly is ALWAYS on the mix buss and just glues everything together beautifully and makes the groove pump… and I have a PGH Modular modular system that I use live, as well as in the studio, this always delights and surprises me!”

I know I could listen to Chris talk about his studio kit and geeky chat all day but I had to press on, so I asked Chris if he has any advice for young producers out there… “make great music, copy to learn, then break the rules and make something completely different. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and always do it your way. It is hard to be totally fresh and unique, but the main thing is to make what you love, be genuine, and don’t follow trends, break the trends! Be punk assed and to hell with what anyone tells you, especially “industry” types!” This kind of led me nicely to my next question… today the production barriers are at an all-time low and the availability of studio software so easy which is a good thing but in my mind has led to an oversaturation of music producers (especially average ones) in the electronic music world. I asked Chris his thoughts on this and whether the low barriers meant a negative impact on the industry… “maybe in the short term because it is little or no curatorship going on and there is a lot of noise but in the long term I think it’s great that people can do what they want. I don’t believe in some fantasy idea of democratising music so that everyone can make it (not everyone has the aptitude), but I do believe in the fact that now the potential for amazing talent to find a voice and be independent is so much greater in lots of ways. I think we are going to hear some incredible stuff happen in coming years.. and a lot of it will be a reaction to the cookie-cutter safety of tech-house that’s going on at the moment… I realise I may have contradicted myself a bit here. but hey, life is perplexing and complex at times isn’t it… there is no simple answer.”

Moving back to the label, I had heard that ASW was taking a slightly different direction so I asked Chris what we can expect from the label over the coming months… “well, I like to think that with each new release we are taking a new direction. For example, we are releasing a brilliant record from Julien Chaptal exclusively on vinyl next because he loves vinyl and so do I so and let’s see how that goes. The record after that is from a totally different artist Hannes Bieger… after that comes a record from Australian acid legend Honeysmack who has made an amazing post-acid deep analogue monster, and then we are going to put out an afro-beat record from a crew called Digital Afrika who went and recorded amazing material in Morocco, Nigeria and Melbourne. We also have stuff coming from house pioneers Quazar, and new techno legend Rainier Zonneveld… I mean, who knows what will happen next!” Chris went on to add… “we are also doing some events, this year we are doing a big showcase during ADE and in partnership with Awakenings. We are going to present the main stage that is entirely live acts! Even Carl is doing a hybrid live show as the headliner for it! (October 17th at Elementenstraat Warehouse), Saytek will play, Julien, Mat Playford, myself, Quazar, Hannes Bieger, Carl… all live!” WOW, that sounds like some event! I suggest you get yourself over to ADE 2019 if you have not made plans already!

I wanted to get to know more about the running of the label so asked Chris if the relationship with Carl Cox for ASW was a 50/50 thing… “Yes, it really is… we both decide on music and releases together, and both bring to the table our different abilities. I do a lot of the day to day and building the brand, and Carl obviously champions it across the world and when he is playing the music. It really is a joint effort to get this off the ground.” It is clearly a joint effort that is working! I went on to ask Chris what he looks for when signing new music/artists… We really like to search out the artists we are interested in ourselves… being sent demos is tough because we don’t always have a lot of time to listen (and we do try to!). So, because this label is quite a labour of love, we tend to really curate releases and reach out to people who we believe would suit the label. It really is a curated result.” It is a very different ethos from so many labels out there and one I feel many could learn a lot from that is for sure.

Whilst discussing artists and new music I asked Chris if any upcoming artists had stood out for him recently… “Yes, so many… Colin Benders is doing amazing things, FJAAK are great live techno purveyors, a really interesting South American act called Klaus, Giorgia Angiuli brings a sense of real fun and humour to some serious dancefloor tunes, and of course, Reinier Zonneveld has been laying down the most banging peak time tunes too! Then there are BICEP, truly glorious! I mean there really are so many and we keep discovering more… and, of course, let’s not forget the old guard like Chemical Brothers, Underworld, Prodigy, and Orbital etc… They all still hold set the standard and inspire us greatly!”

Having been in the electronic music scene for so long I asked Chris what he thought some of the biggest positives are at present… “that the music keeps on going on and on! Never stops regardless of delivery medium or earning capacity… I think the desire for the live experience will never die, and I think at the moment this is turning into a bigger movement again in the electronic scene. I think in coming years dance festivals will increasingly have live acts performing again because the energy is different, perhaps more urgent, exciting, dangerous. Punters pick up on this, and, let’s face it, watching a DJ is kind of a strange thing to do, isn’t it?” This is something I have often thought… why do we stand and face the DJ? There is often nothing to see… they may as well be behind a screen! That might scare off the Instagram massive! Apologies rant over… Chris continued… “perhaps the biggest and most positive thing I notice is the diversity of sounds and styles available throughout the world and the ability for amazing talent from literally anywhere to get in. The music scene is truly global now and that allows for greater cross-pollination and interesting hybridisation… this, to me, is exciting. I went on to ask what Chis felt needed to change in the scene today…

“Stop judging artists based on how many likes they have on their socials. We all do it, and we gotta get back to checking the music, that’s the priority, who cares about how good they look on Instagram… and it would be great if we could put away our phones and dance wildly.”

Could not have put it better myself… Viva La Revolution!!!

In recent weeks I have asked many artists their thoughts on mental health in the music scene, as I feel it is something we definitely need to discuss and improve massively… so I asked Chris his thoughts too… “hmm, this is a big and serious topic. Obviously, there needs to be more awareness around this and more information about available services and professional support. But first and foremost we need to look after our mates, check in with them and be there and ready to listen and lend a hand when needed. Sometimes the ones we think are fine are actually holding up a brave face because they don’t want to bother their friends or be a burden, and sometimes it’s embarrassing, because you are not meant to feel this way, because you are a role model or a superstar… it is important that we normalise this and let people know it’s ok to reach out for support and, it’s ok to stop, take a breath, recover. Constant touring can be gruelling and in fact lonely… often times you are the last one left at the party after everyone has gone home, and then it’s another hotel room. It really is important to create a balance for yourself”. It really is important to remember that balance, no one can party forever, trust me! Speaking of balance I asked Chris what he gets up to when he downs tools or gets a few moments to himself… “I make sure I have lots of downtimes… and I love to climb the mountains and swim, and have dinners with dear friends, oh and read.”

At this point, I thought I had asked Chris enough questions and thought I had best let him get back to what he does very well which is making great music and running the incredible Awesome Soundwave… To add to this interview Chris sat down with Carl Cox whilst in Amsterdam to speak about the label and a few other fascinating topics. You can check out the video over on our Facebook page.

I would like to thank Chris for this interview and also thank Chris (again) and Carl Cox for the video interview they gave us the opportunity to present to you which can be viewed over on our Facebook page.

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About the Author

Director and DJ, Ian French (Naif) is passionate about many genres of music from Breakbeat and Drum & Bass to Techno and Electronica. A man that lives in a world of bass and beats, Ian is an obsessive collector of music and a true geek at heart, with many years spent in application design.