Chris Coco is the epitome of the music industry all rounder. He’s been a working DJ since the acid house explosion of the late 80s, edited DJ magazine, worked for BBC Radio 1 on the after hours show The Blue Room with long time friend Rob Da Bank, released music on seminal labels Warp (as Coco, Steel and Lovebomb), Kismet (as Coco Da Silva) and Distinctive Records to name a few. Has made compilations for Playboy, Ministry of Sound, EMI Classical and Trojan Records, and had his music appear on many compilations including Cafe Del Mar and Hotel Costes. His tracks have also been used on many TV shows like Sex And The City, Nip & Tuck, House and many others. He currently broadcasts and syndicates a weekly electronic music radio show called Melodica and runs his label, Melodica Recordings, out of his studio/office in London.
Difficult to label, Chris’ eclectic selections are the result of years and years of dedication and experience such that whether it be an intimate gathering of friends or a 40 thousand seater football stadium, he has the right tracks for the right moment. His radio show, Melodica, is growing from it’s online home on Mixcloud to include broadcasts in cities from Melbourne to Istanbul and Chicago. The Guardian called it “the hazy, lazy sound of the summer”. A&R Manager Simon Huxtable caught up with Chris recently to chat about his career, the success of Melodica and his thoughts on the evolution of the scene.
Hi Chris, Im very glad you could join us today. Lets briefly touch on the pre Warp Chris Coco. You grew up in Brighton around the same time as Danny Howells and John Digweed, and you were a resident at Zap Club in the late eighties. Who were your influences growing up in such musically rich environment, and what first whet your appetite for a life in the music industry?
Really varied, everything from New Order and Kraftwerk to Eno, early house on Trax Records to Leonard Cohen, Talking Heads. At the time if felt like music was the answer to everything and anything that involved music and had the possibility of making money seemed like a good idea. There wasn’t really a plan, I kind of fell into DJing in the classic fashion of the time which was working at a bar, the DJ doesn’t turn up, the manager sends you home to get your tunes and away you go.
‘Feel It’ (as Coco, Steel and Lovebomb) was your big break in terms of a recording career way back in 1994. But, we understand the band was actually just you! Can you tell us about how the record came to be signed and what happened following its release?
The record came out of the Coco Club, the Saturday night sessions at the Zap in Brighton. CSL wasn’t just me, I was the driver, but there were plenty of other collaborators on the creative and sonic side. We pressed a 12″ ourselves and took it round the record shops, that went pretty well, this was a time when record sales were counted in the thousands, not the hundreds; then Warp came calling. They re-released the 12 and we followed up with an album called It, which was a mixture of house and more atmospheric ambient stuff, reflecting my confused or diverse music taste, depending on how you look at it. Obviously being on Warp even then was a big deal and a great honour.
In a recent interview talking about how the record industry had developed you said “…everything changed and nothing has changed.” Do you think the music industry model is resilient enough to survive current changes? Will we see a time when the novelty will be actually buying music, and if so, how do we as an industry continue to incentivise the public into parting with their cash?
What I meant was that the making music bit is pretty much the same process, it’s still time consuming and confusing, and best when it involves groups of people trying out crazy ideas. The business side has completely changed, and I am sure that very soon most music ‘consumption’ will be streaming. I think there will always be a niche market for nicely made physical products and high quality downloads and collections of music from curators and respected DJs. That’s the bit that I want to be involved in. Check my Melodica radio show for a way forward that worked really well creatively, a weekly collection of music, mostly new stuff that I guide you through, the idea is to make it like a conversation, a listening session with some friends. Hopefully that’s an entertaining product in its own right that also leads to some new discoveries and even a few actual music purchases.
Picking great music is a rite of passage every DJ has to take, and there appears to be no right or wrong way. As a working DJ for some 25 years, do you feel the way in which we select our music has changed, and do you feel the volume of music available has had a negative effect? Do A&Rs do a strict enough job to weed out the bad tracks?
There’s a lot more music being made and released on a small scale because it’s relatively easy and cheap to do it digitally. So there’s definitely more stuff to wade through than ever before. It is easier to and probably necessary to specialise now, it’s not possible to keep up with everything. Luckily my Balearic world can involve a broad range of music so I can pick and choose the stuff that I find interesting. Having said that the filtering process has become a lot more brutal. I skip tracks really quickly and don’t give things a change to breathe so some stuff does slip through. You can’t blame A&Rs for any of this though, one person’s bad is another person’s best ever.
Tell us about the Nightbus project. We’ve heard you’re working with local producers to develop an electronic soundtrack for those long journeys home and its now becoming a live music event too.
Nightbus is an ongoing experiment really. The idea is to make late night atmospheric electronica drawing on the tradition of ambient and filmic music, that will sort of work as a soundtrack to a late night bus journey. We are working with a great bunch of producers and artists, mostly from South London, so there’s an album to buy digitally, some limited CDs and stickers and some live events, we did one recently in Peckham on an old red double decker bus parked next to a brewery, which, as you can imagine, went really well.
We understand your favourite destination to DJ is Australia, but your favourite gig was warming up for UK pop star Robbie Williams at San Siro stadium in Italy. Firstly, how did you become Robbie’s tour DJ, and secondly how on earth do you warm up for one of the worlds best loved entertainers?
Haha! That was a complicated process that involved DJing at a wedding outside Florence; the guy planning the tour falling in love with my Blue Room show on Radio 1 and me telling the musical director that I didn’t want the job. Warming up was kind of simple – play massive rock tunes and jump up and down a lot while drinking champagne. I don’t think I would be able to get away with that now.
Anyone who’s a music fan will go to a festival this year. They have become an expectation among the young these days, but as someone who as seen the rise of rave culture from its inception, how do you find the UK scene now compared to say 10 years ago, and where do you think it will be in another 10 years?
The music scene is so diverse, certainly in London there is something for almost everybody. It will continue to flourish because there’s a constant flow of new artists and DJs reflecting what their mates are into and turning it into parties and tunes and labels and businesses. That’s the great part of it for me, it’s the opposite end of the business to the X Factor / Voice approach. There is no ‘man’ to go to to seek approval, you just do your own thing.
Felix Da Housecat was all over the internet recently following a rant he made on Twitter because he was refused entry to Berghain. Countless 100s are turned away on a weekly basis, but for some reason he chose to publicly express his displeasure. Was he wrong to use his Twitter account for this, and do outbursts like that damage artists carefully orchestrated public image?
I think outbursts like that make the artist interesting. He was pissed off and he told people about it, why not? It’s kind of cool that they didn’t let him in though, I like that attitude in a club.
01// Ojan – Intro
02// Jeff Bridges – The Key
03// Alaskalaska – Kings
04// Jeff Barrow & Ben Salisbury – Eva
05// Chris Coco – It An Tells Ya
06// Coco Steel & Love bomb – Ice Cream We All Scream For
07// Monkey Lounge – Forlorn
08// Carl Craig – At Les
09// Jamie Isaac Vs CSL – 344
10// Brian Eno – Deep Blue Day
11// Jeff Bridges – Feeling Good
12// Coco Steel & Love bomb – You Parked Your Car In The Spaceport
13// Hana – He Never
14// Haraket – Level Head
15// Arcade Fire & Owen Pallett – Loneliness 3 (Night Talking)
16// Chris Coco – Leave No Trace