With releases on labels ranging from Hospital's Med School sister label to the sadly recently-deceased Soul Motive - whose back catalogue you would be a fool not to dip your whole leg (and wallet) into - Coleco has a habit of popping up where you might not have expected, and then promptly reminding you why you know his name already. He's one of those rare, under-appreciated producers who makes being ahead of the curve look easy. Think back to Ramadanman getting shout-outs on Youngsta's show back in 2004. Fact Mag recently ran a piece on the recent resurgence of drum & bass and the ways in which the outside influences of dubstep, footwork and hip-hop have driven this, and it would be fair to include Coleco within this resurgence - except, of course, that to confine him with the label of 'drum & bass' would be to do him a huge disservice. From drum & bass, to dubstep (and introducing Thelem to the sound), to footwork, to trap (more on that below), to whatever's going to be interesting next; rest assured that Coleco will have been there before you...
Hedmuk: To introduce yourself, what's your name, where do you hail from, and how would you describe your sound?
Coleco: My name is Alex, and I'm originally from the dormant, soulless commuter town of Farnborough, Hampshire. Now living in Bristol.
It's hard to categorise my sound, but I suppose you could say it's currently focused on up-tempo rhythms influenced by dubstep, footwork, 'trap', and D&B, with melodies/sounds influenced by anything.
H: Something that's always stood out about your tunes is the intricacy in the drums: is this where you start when you set down to write, or do you tend to build the drums in around an initial riff?
C: Yup, drums usually start first. I've tried it the other way around - the odd time has been successful, but it mostly ends up sounding like a pile of crap.
H: In terms of instrumentation too, you're willing to adopt sounds from all over the world. Where do you see this approach as stemming from? What sort of music would you say you draw most influence from, particularly in terms of sound, arrangement and style?
C: I'm not gonna sit here and say 'Yeah, I'm mostly influenced by 50's progressive jazz, Hungarian folk music and 60's dub reggae' in order to sound really rootsy and cool. Let's face it, most of the time we just draw ideas from our favourite producers, a lot of the time from within the same genre, and whack some of those other sounds we like over the top or modify it a bit into something new. A rare breed of people sit in their little hermetic bubble, making avant-garde-experimental-weirdstep - and props to them, but mostly we are just reluctant to admit we copy each other.
I do however sometimes think 'that sound is fucking cool and hardly anyone is using it'; [and that can often be the case with] a lot of instruments from around the world. I was exposed to a good bit of ''world" music as a kid and that's probably why I'm more inclined to put some of it in there. I could also say that Chicago footwork, and 'trap' tunes are influencing my drum rhythms at the moment, alongside older-style dubstep, and certain styles of drum & bass.
H: As someone who caught onto the dubstep sound pretty early, do you think you'd ever have predicted how quickly it might grow? How do you view it now? Is it something that, for you, has been and gone and left you to focus on new things, or do you see it as retaining a healthy influence and potential for musical originality?
C: No, I didn't predict it to grow into the monster it became. Originally I wasn't really in the mindset of thinking about where it would go, I don't know if I ever really thought about it. Some people used to say it would stay well underground and liked to imagine an eternity of pitch black rooms with huge subs, local producer heads lurking about, and lots of slow, meditative "skanking". I was never good enough at it to get big or very well known. When the whole "brostep" thing kicked off, loads of scene heads were up in arms, ranting about how their precious child had been bastardised and the Americans are to blame for everything. I kept quiet, because I knew eventually it'd all come around and a section of the mainstream would break off and discover the underground. This is why a lot of talented producers that hung onto dubstep now have the pleasure of touring the US in hyped venues. Will most of them get a gig in Bristol at the moment? Will they play the city which was once dubbed "The Second Home of Dubstep"? Probably not. Nearly everyone here is dancing to the house music revival now, there are almost no active dubstep promoters.
Dubstep will always be close to my heart because I made what I thought could be called dubstep for years: it's just a tempo and a leaning toward a particular rhythm structure at the end of the day. I know there are a lot people out there that are still pushing the sound forward, and that's great. I don't really conceptualise "moving on" myself; I've made a lot of stuff at 140, I just wanna make and play some faster stuff at the moment, call it what you like.
H: More recently you've been pushing the tempo up towards the 160 bracket. What was your thinking behind this? You seem to be able to take the sounds and styles that you'd always previously worked with, but twist them into a new form here.
C: Well, I first picked up on the fact that Planet Mu were releasing proper Chicago footwork beats, and some other tunes from producers that were hybridising the sound with other stuff. That led me on to dig a bit deeper. To be honest, like a lot of people, at the time I thought so much of the proper footwork tunes I found were interesting, but a bit abrasive. I'd not heard it on a system yet, and it wasn't in my culture. Then there were others tracks that really caught my ear. The overriding realisation was that you could do so much with this. It kicked me out of the habit of just going back to the same dubstep rhythms, and I enjoyed the energy of the faster tempo as I first got into electronic music through drum & bass. It made me start to think about rhythm in a new way again. I'm very grateful to the Chicago footwork producers for that, and the people that brought it over to the UK.
Same thing with the "trap" stuff. Yup... I just used the dirty word that causes so many to curl up inside. I put it in inverted commas because of course I'm referring more to 'electronic music influenced by southern hip hop' rather than the original trap genre. And the same thing again, a lot of it I don't like. A lot of it, personally, I find a bit over the top and abrasive. But more increasingly there's more producers influenced by the movement that are doing stuff I do like. I'm even thankful to the ones I don't, because they were part of what gave me new ideas. Whilst a lot of other people were moaning about it, so horrified by its development, saying 'what the hell is all this crappy trap stuff? It's horrible!', some other producers in the scene were quietly sitting there thinking something like: 'Well yeah, it's not all 100% up my street either, but it sure has given me some new ideas about drum patterns and tune structure.' They just mostly never said it, probably because they were scared about being chucked on the trash heap by the same purists that had done the same with anything else they thought was "trap shit".
H: With more people looking to experiment within that higher tempo range now, who are you tipping - besides yourself, of course - for fans to keep an eye on?
C: Oh god, I wouldn't have the time to think of all of them, and I don't want to separate artists into "known artists" and "up-and-coming artists", so I'll just give a few I'm loving at the moment: The Host, Adam Elemental, EPROM, Deft, Om Unit, Fracture, Sam Binga, Addison Groove, Machinedrum, Danny Scrilla, Ital Tek, EAN, Moresounds, Krampfhaft, and probably a load more that I'll kick myself for not remembering to list. There's lots out there.
H: You're also involved with running Inflect in Bristol. Tell us a bit about the night, and what got you into promoting nights; how do you view the lie of the musical land in Bristol currently, and where does Inflect fit in?
C: My girlfriend, Lorna, and I run Inflect; she is responsible for a lot of it. It's a small, humble operation really. We started it so we could hear some of this higher tempo music with new influences in Bristol clubs. Amongst the fact we still love dubstep and drum & bass, so some of that sometimes lands up in the melting pot too. We do exactly what we want, at the end of the day: we're flexible.
The Bristol club scene has changed so much. It's absolutely full to the roof with house and techno now. It's at saturation point. Actually, no... it's at the point of insanity. Just several weeks ago I wanted to go out and not listen to 4x4 beats. Looked online, there were seven house/techno nights, and one hardstyle night. There is rarely a dubstep event on here, and even drum & bass nights are few and far between. Don't get me wrong, I love a lot of house and techno, most of modern electronic music basically came from house music anyway, but when the variety on offer is so restricted it does start to get a bit frustrating. There just isn't a clubbing fanbase here anymore to keep, for example, a regular dubstep night going - might as well move to the US now if you want that! Things are changing though and, fingers crossed, they will continue to change.
H: How did you go about putting together the mix you've done for us?
C: It's just a mix of some 160-170 stuff I like. I've tried to organise the tunes in a way that they blend fairly well melodically, and take you on a journey through a few different styles. To play some tunes that people already know, and perhaps some stuff people don't. Hopefully it's enjoyable for most people.
H: Finally, are there are any forthcoming releases or anything else in the pipeline for people to look out for?
C: Y'know the classic thing: I don't wanna say anything specific because then it won't happen and I'll look like a tit. All I can say is expect the possibility of a release on a good label that is known for pushing footwork-related stuff, a remix from a well known artist who I very much respect, and collaborations with some very talented producers. There will be more releases from me soon, perhaps even some vinyl. Sorry to not be more specific! And lastly, thanks to Hedmuk for putting this out there.
Download: Coleco - Hedmuk Exclusive Mix
DjRum - Thank You [2nd Drop]
XLII - No Cure (EAN Remix) [Neon High]
The Host - Neonia [Dub]
Sepalcure - Eternally Yrs [Hotflush]
Adam Elemental - Shadow Self [Dub]
Coleco - Focus 10 [Runtime]
Muaramasa - Midas Touch [TrapDoor]
EPROM - Regis Chillbin (Machinedrum Remix) [Rwina]
Deft - The Count (Bounce) [Rwina]
Coleco - Ghost Rhythm [Loose Squares]
DJ Pillsbury - Everybody Get Down [Juke Trax]
EAN - Burnt [Cosmic Bridge]
Muramasa - Cruel [Trapdoor]
Deft - Masqurade [Rwina]
Om Unit & Sam Binga - Gamma [Exit Records]
Adam Elemental - Zero Point [Dub]
Danny Scrilla - Fallout [Civil Music]
Spirit & Digital - Phantom Force [Fracture Astrophonica Edit]
Alix Perez - Villians 1 Heros 0 (feat. They Call Me Raptor) [Shogun Audio]
Coleco - Nostalgic Future [TrapDoor]
Alix Perez - Warlord (feat. Riko Dan) [Shogun Audio]
Coleco - Micro [Dub]
Flosstradamus - Rollup (Baauer Remix) [Fools Gold]
Fracture - Clissold (Machinedrum VIP) [Astrophonica]
Coleco - Micro (EAN Remix) [Dub]
Paradox - Aphorismic [Paradox Music]
Fracture - Better Than Tomorrow [Metalheadz]
Paradox - Crate Logic [Samurai Red Seal]
Fanu - Leave The Natural World Behind [13 Music]