Interview: Black Coffee

Black Coffee was born in Durban in KwaZulu Natal and grew up in the Eastern Cape in Mthatha, before moving back to Durban to study music at Natal Tech where he majored in Jazz.

Then, chosen as one of two South African participants in the Red Bull Music Academy in 2003 jump-starting him into the South African DJ scene. Two years later, in 2005, saw the release of his powerful debut album ‘Black Coffee’ and the formation of Soulistic Music, Black Coffee’s wholly owned 360° corporate structure, his team’s home base and the jump-off point for himself, and many others.

Over past five years, Soulistic Music under Black Coffee’s leadership has built a worldwide network of exclusive track licenses, tours and agents giving Black Coffee and other Soulistic Music artists their real break into the international touring market where they have become regular features in cities from Sydney to New York, Sao Paulo to Luanda and Los Angeles to Athens.

One of those stops was Mayrehofen, Austria, where Black Coffee played Snowbombing 2016. On site, I managed to catch up with the man at his hotel to talk about his relentless touring schedule, approach to production, balancing a family with the demands of the jetset life, and more.

“I am at a place where I can’t take anything for granted.”

You were just out in Amsterdam for DGTL…
…yes, I was also back in the Netherlands a few days later for a gig in Rotterdam.

When was the first time you came to Amsterdam to play?
It must have been one of those ADE periods. I have had a very close relationship with a club in Paris called Le Jeune, and when they did their first party outside the city they did it in Amsterdam. I was on that lineup. It must have been 5 or 6 years ago.

I see your name on lineups in the Netherlands quite often these days. How do you find Amsterdam as a scene, energy-wise, crowd-wise?
There is no country with more festivals than the Netherlands so the people are exposed to so much music. In the last 2 years I have done many different festivals there so I have heard many different types of house that I haven’t heard before. I also find the crowd very open to different styles.

The gig I was doing in Rotterdam was more of a soulful house thing while at DGTL it was more techno. I find the scene to be very well balanced, so I am always looking forward to playing there. It doesn’t matter where, it’s always good.

Do you find a difference in the way you prepare for a gig in Amsterdam than when you play in Rotterdam?
Of course! Like you were saying, I’ve been doing many gigs there over the last few years. Before that, I was doing one dimension, which was soulful house. Now, I am exposed to different styles and I really have to prepare as I go. I have to be more educated. I have to research where I am going, who I am playing with, when I am playing. Even today, before I came here, I was expecting something but I was hearing something else being played outside. Then, when I looked at the flyer for tonight, I saw I was playing with Kerri Chandler so then I knew what to do.

I am at a place where I can’t take anything for granted. I need to understand, when I walk into the room, how I balance everything that came before me and everything that will come after me, while also living up to certain expectations.

Aside from the Netherlands and Europe, you’re also touring around the world at a seemingly constant rate. Do you pay attention to balancing your International gigs with your appearances in South Africa?
In the past I did. Now, with the kind of growth we are experiencing, I am taking more outside gigs. I am even contemplating moving to a different country so I can really focus on the production side of things and make an album that is meant for the world as opposed to the South African market only.

I was made in South Africa and I built my following there and when I started doing stuff in Europe, it was mainly to grow. At the time, I would do gigs for free or for next to nothing but there was a bigger picture. This is what is happening now. The next plan is to be more in America and the world, while only doing the big shows in South Africa.

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