Maya Jane Coles on her quick rise in America
One of electronic music's fastest-rising young stars, Maya Jane Coles has become a major phenomenon over the past two years. Just 25 years old, the Londoner has been recognized as one of the hottest DJs on the planet by everyone from Rolling Stone to Resident Advisor, and she's performed at major festivals, including Coachella, Miami's Ultra and Detroit's Movement.
Coles has been winning fans on both sides of the pond and both sides of the underground/mainstream divide with a slew of twelve-inch EPs and singles on highly respected dance-music labels such as 20:20 Vision and Mobilee, as well as doing remix work for the likes of Florence + the Machine and Little Dragon.
Last year, Coles released the 42nd installment of the venerable DJ-Kicks mix series, which has spotlighted many of the biggest names in dance music since 1995. This year finds the producer hard at work on her as-yet-untitled debut album, which is forthcoming on her own label, I/AM/ME, and will prominently feature Coles's own vocals as well as guest appearances from the likes of trip-hop superstar Tricky, electroclash luminary Miss Kitten, and Kim Ann Foxman of Hercules & Love Affair.
We caught up with Coles via e-mail just prior to her second-ever Colorado appearance on Saturday night to talk about her wild ride so far, her forthcoming album, Comfort, and what you can expect when she takes over NORAD Dance Bar on "weed day."
Westword: You've become really big pretty fast -- not just in the U.K., but also in America. Is that something you expected?
Maya Jane Coles: It was never expected. I'm not that arrogant or naive. I've definitely worked with a lot of focus on honing my sound as a producer and as a DJ, so I'm just happy things are going well, and I'm in no danger of being complacent just yet. I still find it quite odd to think I had never played in America two years ago, and now I'm playing these big festivals like Coachella, Ultra and Movement. The U.S. is rapidly becoming a home away from home for me.
How did you first get into electronic music?
I actually got into music production through hip-hop and trip-hop. I loved that whole Bristol sound, and a lot of my early productions were heavily influenced by it. I guess I got more into dance music when I started clubbing in East London and was really inspired by the music. I also started buying records at that time and learned to mix. I guess it was natural that I wanted to create my own take on the music I was hearing when I was out, and that's when I started producing more housier stuff. I've always loved so many different styles of music, though, and a lot of my productions are influenced by stuff way outside the electronic scene.
Tell us about your upcoming album. Is it the same style of music as, say, your DJ-Kicks compilation that came out last year?
I think the DJ-Kicks compilation hopefully showed that I have a diverse range of musical influences, just like my album does, but that definitely showcases me more as a DJ. My album is much less club-based and explores my compositional side. Comfort is all my own original work, so I wouldn't compare it to a DJ mix. It's also a lot more song-based than some of my previous releases.
I know there are a number of big guest appearances on the new record. Can you tell us whom you've been working with?
I can't give too much away just yet, but you may well hear people like Kim Ann Foxman, Karin Park and Tricky on the record...
What else have you been up to?
I've been in the studio working on the followup where I can. I gig a lot all around the world, so I make sure I'm always in the studio whenever I'm back in London. I work on ideas on the road, too, at times but my instruments and main bulk of my equipment isn't really portable, so I prefer to work in my own studio. There should be some interesting remixes I've done coming out over the next few months, too.
What's it like performing at huge festivals like Coachella and Ultra compared to deejaying in nightclubs?
It's very different. With a smaller space, you can vary your sound more and take people on more of a musical journey, as it's more intimate. With a huge festival, it tends to be more about sticking to one thing a little more and delivering it powerfully. But then each and every gig is different, and you never know what to expect till you're actually in front of the crowd playing.
What's your current DJ setup?
At the minute, three Pioneer CDJ 2000s and a DJM 900 mixer.
Some of your current favorite tracks?
It's too hard to say; my sets are very different, selection-wise, from gig to gig. What might have been my favorite track last week I may not be playing again a couple weeks on. I play things from lots of different artists and labels -- just whatever sounds good to my ears.
Where are some of your favorite places to play?
Any London show is special to me, as I get to hang out with all my close friends, and it's where I grew up partying myself. Panorama Bar and Watergate in Berlin, Womb in Tokyo, Warehouse Project in Manchester, too. I've found the U.S. as a whole very warm. I didn't know what to expect the first time I played here, but the crowds here give so much back to you that it's really quite humbling...
Any crazy experiences you can share?
Weird stuff happens all the time. I remember one time a couple of years ago, when my partner, manager and I were taken to a festival site from the train station in the back of a white van with literally no seats, no windows, absolutely no lighting and pretty much nothing to hold on to. Our driver had to shout every two minutes, "Sharp left!" "Roundabout!" "Speed bump!" et cetera, just so we weren't rolling around all over the place! I guess life as a DJ isn't always so glamorous. ;)
Have you heard of 4/20?
It's weed day, right?
What should we expect on Saturday night?
A good night, hopefully. :)