Interview: DJ Koyote
DJ Koyote has already achieved a lot in his musical career. From playing a starring role recently in a Paris Boiler Room session to being invited by Jackmaster to play in Glasgow to hooking up with D12 rapper Proof in Detroit, his is a long and genuinely intriguing tale.
Regardless, he’s a producer who probably doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves, not least because he’s something of a pioneer for ghetto-tech inspired sounds in his native France. However, all of that may just be about to change courtesy of Koyote’s latest effort. A fascinating insight into a supremely talented musical mind, it touches on everything from deep house tropes to more jacking, Chicago inspired house workouts. We caught up with the main man recently for an in-depth chat, as he touched in everything from his early influences to his current inspirations.
Watch out for the brilliant ‘France N Trance’, which drops soon on Koyote’s own Supergenius Records…
“…don’t follow trends and stay away as much as you can from the Internet”
How has the industry and scene developed and changed since you began DJing/producing?
When I started to DJ, about 20 years ago, I was into Detroit and Birmingham techno, Tresor and ghetto house. French house and Daft Punk were big but I wasn’t into that stuff. It was vinyl only, you had to learn how to spin on turntables if you wanted to DJ, until the mid 2000’s when CDJ’s became popular. Serato appeared at that time also, this is when people stopped buying records and switched to mp3s. Basically, Serato and CDJs killed vinyl. And a lot of the young producers were doing DJ sets on laptop + controller. I mean, in the 90’s, a lot of the French house producers became famous for their tracks but weren’t DJs at all. So they had to learn how to do it when they started to be booked internationally. In the mid-2000’s, during the electro-rock French Touch 2.0 era, a lot of the producers didn’t care and they were just selected in big festivals. Eventually this sound (and scene) faded away and classic house and techno came back with the resurgence of buying records and I guess this is still going on today, which is cool. A lot of the producers, even the younger ones, are really into making tracks on old school hardware vs. computer music, which makes the prices go crazy. Music styles and technology seem to follow a cycle of 15 years.
What release of your own are you most proud of?
France’n Trance, my next EP on my label, Supergenius Records. The title track is probably the favorite track I’ve made so far. I made it very quickly about 5 years ago when I came back from a year in South America but I was kinda keeping it safe as I new someday I’d have my own label. I finished it recently for this release. I think, in a way, it summarizes everything I like in music: raw, simple (just a couple drum machines and a wurlitzer), melancholic and hypnotic, spontaneous. I hope people will like it. I like my last EP on Mixpak also, the music and the artwork (the painting of the red fist). Too bad it was only released digitally but I’ll ask Dre Skull someday if I can licence it to do vinyl on Supergenius.
Who or what has been the sole biggest influence on your career?
I’d say Jeff Mills, for his music and his mixing skills. I already had some of his mixtapes but the first time I saw him live was 20 years ago when I was a student in Bordeaux, where he was doing a showcase in a small music store. I was just learning how to DJ and I stayed in front of him during the whole set, watching him working 3 turntables with my jaw dropping. There was no Internet back then so we had no clue about how DJs were doing tricks etc. unless you’d see them live.
Another big influence is DJ Godfather from Detroit. I was blown away by his DJ skills, scratching and beat-juggling at 160bpm, throwing in 60 records per hour. All the ghettotech DJs in Detroit had these skills. In the late 90’s till the late 00’s I was really into Booty music. I went to Detroit and I stayed at his place for a week, he brought me everywhere, to parties, to friends (he even introduced me to D12’s Proof), and to his studio. It was such a treat and some of the best times in my life. The funny thing is, Godfather learned to DJ on Jeff Mills’ turntables. The ones as The Wizzard he was using for his show in WJLB and which Godfather had bought from him and that he still has in his studio.
What advice would you give to any young aspiring producers/DJs?
Do your own thing, don’t follow trends and stay away as much as you can from the Internet to develop your own (local) style. But do share your tracks and mixes online, of course. Go to local record stores, dig your parents’ collection and try to connect with DJs and producers around you to build a local sound/scene. Most important, don’t do tracks to get booked, I think too many producers try to fit in a certain style to get DJ gigs. It might work for some time but when the next trend happens they’ll be forgotten.
Any other releases in the works for 2018?
After my EP in January, I’ll put out Too Smooth Christ’s next release (he’s also my label partner). Basically, the label calendar is alternately one release from me, one release from him. After his EP, I’ll release my first album, a double LP, hopefully next summer. I’m very excited about it, the tracks are different from my other releases, they’re short tracks exploring a wider sound spectrum than house or techno.
What was your favourite release of this year?
Definitely Modern Music by Al Massrieen on Habibi Funk. A friend introduced me to Ahmed Malek and his soundtracks album last year on the same label and I loved it. So I’ve been following closely the label releases and this one is a blast also. It’s from 70’s Egyptian disco band Al Massrien, their music mixes synth pop, disco, funk, sung in Arabic with also traditional instruments (violin, darbouka) and oriental melodies and arrangements. Mafatshi Leh is such a tune. I’ve always been a big fan of Oriental music like Maroccan chaâbi or Algerian raï.
What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Too many to list and some highlights may sound anecdotical, but they mean a lot to me. So here’s a few:
– my first trip to Detroit and Chicago
– my first international gig which was in Ghent, Belgium at Decadance Club in 2005. It was small budget so I had to take the train to my parents to borrow their car, drive back to Paris to pick Goon up and drive up North to Belgium. Then we played and drove back to Paris.
– Praise from Ivan Smagghe and Tim Paris on my track, Brigitte
– Playing Concrete recently with Too Smooth Christ
– Booking Dance Mania’s DJ Nehpets at my Diamond Grilling party in Paris then flying with him and Goon after the party to Malmö, Sweden where we had a gig
– The last Boiler Room I did, where I grabbed a lot of my first records to do an old school techno set
– and of course launching Supergenius Records, my own vinyl-only label and being distributed by the legendary Clone
Where is your favourite place to perform? And why?
I’d say Glasgow. The first time we played there, Jackmaster booked me and Goon to play in a very small club with, let’s say 100-150 people. It was nuts, Jackmaster and his friends had to do a security line with their bodies to avoid people dancing and jumping on the turntables and the records to skip. Belgium is also top of the line, in every city I played I’ve met some of the friendliest people in the world and they always bring the heat to the parties.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with in the near future?
That’s an easy one; my partner Too Smooth Christ. Actually we’ve already made some tracks together and we have a coupé-décalé EP in the pipe to release in 2018. Otherwise I’d love to have Sebastien Tellier or Philippe Katerine do some vocals for me.
Will you be making any New Years resolutions?
Go to bed earlier, organize my records collection and do more music than ever. I’m moving to a new apartment in a few months where I’ll be setting a whole new studio with all the equipment I’ve purchased recently. I really need to take the time to master that old ms-20 I’ve got for my birthday this year, which is a bit contradictory with going to bed earlier.
DJ Koyote’s ‘France N Trance’ is out soon on Supergenius Records. Pre-order/listen to snippets of the release here