What does Maya Jane Coles—the UK-born house music producer and artist who is currently considered one of the rising stars of the industry, love most about music? “Everything!” she exclaims. “The fact that the same piece of music can make someone laugh, cry, smile, remember, forget, dance; it’s such a powerful medium and such an expansive canvas to create with.”
Coles discovered her love for the craft in her early teens. Raised in a musical environment by “eclectic parents”, her childhood was infused with a range of influences from jazz and blues to classical, punk and dub. She began making hip-hop beats at the age of 15. Inspired by the urge to direct and execute every aspect of the creative process on her own, she decided to learn the software programs necessary to become the creative mastermind, as well as the mixer, arranger and performer behind every track with her name on it.
“It irritates me how many times I get asked ‘who engineers for me’ or ‘who I produce my music with.’ These questions seem to pop up far too many times for my liking… I’ve been doing it since I was 15, of course I write and compose it all myself. Of course I engineer and mix down all my own tracks. I wouldn’t call myself a producer if I didn’t. I work solo and no I don’t get a helping hand from any one else. It baffles me why that is such a surprise to some!”
After honing her skills, she released two consecutive house records in 2008 and 2009 under Dogmatik Records. She soon formed She Is Danger, with partner Lena Cullen, and the duo went on to collaborate with EDM giants like Massive Attack and Gorillaz. She eventually landed on DJ Magazine’s “best newcomer of the year” list, and that was only the beginning. Doors began to swing open for the young DJ. She was invited to record an “Essential Mix” for BBC, and was voted “Best Newcomer 2011” by the Ibiza DJ Awards. By the end of 2012, The Rolling Stone had ranked her 14th among the world’s most influential DJs. This year, look out as she dominates the festival circuit, including stints at Coachella, Bestival, Ultra, and Eastern Electrics. She’s already released her EP LB – Superstitious Heart this year, with no intentions of slowing down: “The album is the big thing for me this year then straight into writing the next one. I’m so happy to have the first one wrapped and it’s exciting to now have the space to be working on record number two.”
Check out the full interview with Maya Jane Coles for The Music Issue 6:
The Untitled Magazine: You produce music – can you tell us about it?
Maya Jane Coles: Yes, first and foremost I am a producer. The DJing came later. My first big musical passion was actually Hip Hop. The 90’s Hip Hop and R&B scene inspired me a lot and that’s what triggered me to start making music. I started in my bedroom at 15 and taught myself how to use a cracked version of the software I got hold of. I learnt a few instruments in the past so that also helped. I’d just mess around and record guitar loops and make drums beats and improvise really but as soon as I started I was hooked. I’d spend every second I could making tracks and I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life. It started with the dubber Hip Hop/Trip Hop type stuff and then that lead on to more electronic club based stuff. I like to produce a lot of different styles of music. I would never pin myself down to one genre.
UM: When did you start DJing?
MJC: I started DJing a couple of years after I started making music. It was when I started going to warehouse parties in East London and discovered Deep House & Techno. I managed to get hold of a pair of 1210’s and started buying records. At that point I didn’t take DJing too seriously as my main focus was production. I never thought that a few years down the line I’d be DJing in front of thousands of people.
UM: How long have you been performing?
MJC: Quite a few years now, around 8 years ago I first played in London. I was absolutely terrified. I played in 25 countries last year, which seems quite surreal looking back at that first gig.
UM: What was your breakthrough moment?
MJC: That’s a very subjective thing. I find different people have a different moment that they feel is when I broke through. There are still so many things that I still want to do and achieve, but for me personally it was when I could sit back and happily know that this is what I’m doing for life and I don’t have to think of a plan B. It’s always hard if you’re trying to make something your sole career but have to find other ways of getting by financially, it can be so distracting. I’m just happy that I can now focus 100% on what I really want to do.
UM: Do you have a favorite band or musician?
MJC: I listen to so much different stuff the list could be endless. I like everything from Little Dragon and Radiohead through to Aaliyah and Warpaint.
UM: What was your favorite venue you’ve ever played at?
MJC: I have many favorites around the world to be honest. London shows are always special because it’s home it feels amazing to get such an incredible response from where it all started for me. Panorama Bar and Watergate in Berlin also hold very special memories for me too. I’ve played some great warehouse parties in New York and The Monarch in San Francisco has one of the most up for it crowds there is.
UM: Who do you consider the most inspirational person in the music industry?
MJC: I definitely admire female artists such as PJ Harvey and Bjork who never compromised their integrity for their art. I think that’s a big reason why they are still making music that is still relevant today. If you want to hear a Bjork record you have to listen to Bjork if you want to hear a PJ Harvey record you have to listen to PJ Harvey. No-one truly sounds like them because they were true to their own vision and the albums are very distinct and their music evolved over time. That to me is inspirational as an artist.
UM: Do you have a mentor?
MJC: Not as such. Obviously you pick up things from people you work with, you share experiences with others, plenty of people who have helped me learn in one way or another but not one specific person really.
UM: If you could be any other musician or band who would it be?
MJC: I’m pretty happy just being myself to be honest!
UM: If you weren’t in music what would you do?
MJC: I can’t really think about wanting to do anything else really as even if I was penniless I would still just want to make music. It would always be something creative though. I love photography and painting/illustration so something within that maybe?
UM: What was the most difficult performance of your career?
MJC: In the last few years things have really accelerated for me including the crowds I’ve played to. I think the most difficult performance is always the first time you play somewhere new, or the first time you play some major club like Panorama bar or Fabric, then the first time you play at a festival or to a foot ball stadium. Each time it’s sink or swim as you can’t really have a dress rehearsal to play at an arena but you have to just treat it like any other gig. Head down and do the best show you can, that’s why they’ve pad for you to be there.
UM: Do you have a favorite designer?
MJC: I tend to buy one off pieces when I can. I often don’t look at the label, I’m more bothered about if I like the design of it or not. Something that doesn’t look good doesn’t suddenly look good to me again just because X, Y or Z has designed it.
UM: Who is your favorite artist?
MJC: I’ve bought a lot of art recently. Mainly stuff from artists that who create amazing work but aren’t necessarily that well known. I do a lot of artwork for myself too so I always keep an eye out for cool stuff. I’m into a lot of graphic art. Otecki and Dan Hillier are examples of a couple of artists I really like. I’ve also bought lots of curious things from all over the world because of gigging.
UM: Do you have a motto or words of wisdom you live by?
MJC: Don’t be a dick.
UM: What is it about music that you love?
MJC: Everything! The fact that the same piece of music can make someone laugh, cry, smile, remember, forget, dance. Its such a powerful medium and such an expansive canvas to create with
UM: What is your favorite song you have ever produced?
MJC: That’s a really tough one. Probably one of the tracks of the album like “Everything” featuring Karin Park. It came together exactly how I imagined it is actually the first ever track of mine to have a music video produced for it.
UM: What are your current or upcoming projects in 2013?
MJC: The album is the big thing for me this year then straight into writing the next one. I’m so happy to have the first one wrapped and it’s exciting to now have the space to be working on record number two.
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