#BeatportDecade is a series celebrating the past 10 years of dance music, providing insight into the artists, tracks and labels that drove the evolution of its sound and culture, and interviews with the people who made history.
In the male-dominated world of modern dance music, Maya Jane Coles has made her own way. Since bubbling up from the London underground, the aficionado of all things deep, groovy and dubbed-out has swiftly become one of the most sought-after DJs on the circuit.
While she’s a natural selector, Coles has been turning heads as a producer since her teenage years. From early experiments in hip-hop and dub, she became gradually drawn in by house, which led to her breakout releases on labels like Dogmatik Records, Hypercolour and Mobilee. Since then, her studio output has been prodigious, all the way up to releasing a debut album, Comfort, on her I/AM/ME label. As a remixer, she’s also put a seductive MJC stamp on tracks from Rudimental, Little Dragon, Bonobo, Ella Fitzgerald and more.
2014 has kept Coles always on the move. With a new EP on Mobilee and a full-length under her Nocturnal Sunshine alias approaching, she’s also found time to play Richie Hawtin’s ENTER.Ibiza night, Berlin’s Watergate, US dance massives like Electric Daisy Carnival and HARD Summer, London’s hallowed Fabric (she helmed the 75th edition of the club’s mix series) and many more stops in between.
Ahead of a whirlwind week that would take her to Amsterdam Dance Event and onto Moscow for a fly-by visit, we caught Coles in London to hear how early Trentemøller opened her ears, which track was her secret weapon of summer and why being a “good producer” is her main game.
What’s the concept behind the five exclusive tracks that you’re giving away in honor of #BeatportDecade? What makes them so special?
I only started I/AM/ME last year to release my debut album Comfort and recently my collaboration with Gaps [“In Dark, In Day“], so I guess these tracks are really just the start of something that I hope to grow. The things I release on the label aren’t going to be restricted to any specific genre. It’s just music that I really like that has its own identity.
What’s the point-of-view behind the 5-10 tracks that you’ve picked for the week (current stuff as well as other people’s music)? Why is it memorable to you?
It’s just a sound or a vibe that I have got from the track. Music is so subjective, but it has to move me in some way. It may the the progression of a track, how it affected me emotionally, or simply just a hook that I keep wanting to hear in my head and that makes me wanna dance.
What’s the theme behind your 10-track chart selection? Why do these songs stand out to you?
There isn’t necessarily a theme; they are just tracks that have stood out for me within the genre. These are tracks that will never really grow old and sometimes in dance music that can be hard to find. There are the classics that I felt had to go in there, but I also wanted to highlight a couple of tracks that I feel got missed the first time around. There are a lot of talented undiscovered producers out there if people take the time to really search.
Originally, what was the one track, artist or club night that turned you on to dance music?
I’ve always liked dance music in different forms. When I was very young I apparently kept asking my mom to buy me a jungle record I had heard at a funfair. That must have been my first subconscious step into dance music! I got more into house and techno when I started going out to clubs and parties in East London as a teenager. At the time, Trentemøller’s early productions and German labels like Poker Flat, Mobilee and BPitch were some of the first things that really turned me on to the sound.
What’s the one piece of DJ/production gear you can’t live without? The ‘desert island’ list?
Can’t I take my whole studio, please? I have a lot of bits and bobs and I need it all or otherwise I would have to build a raft and leave the island. But I guess as long as I have my laptop with Logic and all my custom sounds then that would have to do.
What is your fondest musical memory over the past 10 years?
There have been so many. Releasing my first ever EP Sick Panda on Dogmatik was a very exciting thing when it happened, then that evolved into self-releasing my debut album Comfort five years later. Being asked to do DJ Kicks mix so early on or remix Massive Attack was great too; and I’ve also been able to work with so many amazing musicians. There are also a few things coming up which I am even more excited about, so hopefully things will keep getting better!
What’s the biggest change in the scene or the sound you’ve experienced over the past decade? What has remained the same?
I think deep house 10 years ago and modern deep house are musically pretty different and there are tracks that I wouldn’t have considered were that sound that other people do and vice versa. Music is constantly evolving and I think labeling things can be a bit restrictive on creativity. Good music is just good music.
I mean, I wouldn’t consider myself just a “deep house” DJ, as I actually play a lot of bass, techno, dub, house — just whatever I like, really. It’s boring if you feel you have to stick narrowly to just one sound; it’s more fun to take the crowd and the night on more of a journey when the DJ is a little more unpredictable. I think recently there are a lot more DJs that cross over the different genres.
Looking forward, what’s your prediction for the emerging trends over the next decade? What do you see out there on the horizon?
I see more bass-driven and dubbier sounds coming back at some point and new genres will no doubt emerge. I think things also come in and out of fashion like the different divisions of house and techno. Dubstep came and went and that is reinventing itself again too. Personally, I’d like to see electronic music starting to become more open still and artists should also try to experiment with all kinds of different artists, including those from genres that aren’t even normally considered typical electronic territory.
What DJs — new and old — make you want to dance?
I managed to dance to quite a few of the girls over the summer like Heidi, Miss Kittin, Kim Ann Foxman, Magda and Ellen Allien. Boys-wise, there are lots too; I watched DJ Sneak play at a closing party in Ibiza and I definitely danced to that, as well as Dense & Pika, Catz ‘N Dogz and many more.
If you were to nominate a single young artist to be on the lookout for, who would that be and why?
One of my tracks of the summer from a new artist has to be Hodgson’s “One Spliff.” I’ve always gotten an amazing reaction from the crowd with that one. I’m definitely interested to see what else he produces in the near future.
What would you like for your musical legacy to be? If there was one thing in your musical career you’d want to be remembered for, what would that be?
There will be a lot of music that’s going to come through over the next few years that sees me producing music in many different genres and I hope what I actually get remembered for is making a different types of music and making it well. I wouldn’t want to be just remembered for one track. I’d prefer if one person remembered me for a vocal hip-hop track and another person for an instrumental techno track. Ultimately, I just want to be known as a “good producer” rather than a “good deep house producer.”
What’s next for you?
I’ve just about finished my Nocturnal Sunshine album [Coles’ dubstep alias]. I’ve been producing for other people too so more of that to follow soon, finishing my second album and my next EP is coming out on Mobilee in November. So lots more to come soon…
Ready for more Maya Jane Coles? Go to #BeatportDecade now and download some of her exclusive free tracks.