The fan-favorite UK producer opens up about the personal struggles that go into making the freshest sounds.
What was initially supposed to be a quick but detailed chat about the creative process behind the three cuts featured on Cooly G’s new clubby EP, Hold Me, turned out to be quite possibly the most honest conversation I’ve had with any artist – ever. Someone I’ve known on a personal level before 2009′s “Love Dub”/“Narst” hype, it soon became apparent that there was more playing on Merissa Campbell’s mind than the tools used to create the project’s dancefloor-ready house tunes. “I’m about to go deep to the point your readers will think I’m crazy,” she says jokingly, before our hour-long talk begins. Fronting campaigns for major sportswear brands, having a comfortable label situation, and jet-setting around the world to DJ doesn’t always equal to inner peace and happiness, as you’re about to find out. Read on for heavy thoughts from the Hyperdub starlet.
The new EP, Hold Me (out on January 27): “I remember making the “Hold Me” track while my kids were dancing and running about in the middle of the night. My baby woke up and wanted breast feeding and I still carried on with her in my arms, as I was so determined to finish it at that moment. The vibes were crazy [laughs]. When I made “Molly” last year, I was going through a breakdown. Something was seriously wrong with me, but I got through it. The track’s not about drugs for me, because I don’t take drugs. I was just really sad and alone and didn’t tell anyone, but I just got on with it and made sure I did what needed to be done. It was very hard but, like I said, I’m over that now. “Oi Dirty” was made like three years ago, when me and Scratcha DVA were chilling in my old flat: we were smoking, cooking, listening to Bob Marley, and laughing a lot, and that’s what came out. I know all of the tracks can be played in the clubs, but it wasn’t something I consciously set out to do or what I thought Kode 9 would want me to make. I just did my own thing.”
The follow-up to 2012’s Playin’ Me LP will take a new direction: “There will be fourteen tracks on my next album, which I don’t have a name for yet. It includes three interludes, and is a whole story from beginning to end. You see me? I don’t make music for fun or because I want hype; I take it so seriously! Music is my life, and I actually feel weird when I’m not making it… I know it sounds cheesy, but I was born to create music [laughs]. I’m also a mother, so I haven’t got time for all that hype-up stuff; I’m doing all of this for my kids. On the album, I’m rapping, singing, and producing — it’s really sexy, too — and I’m just going back to what I was doing before “Love Dub.” That track was supposed to be a joke thing, really. I just quickly put it up on MySpace because some people I know, who were on tag and needed to be in by 7pm, they badly wanted to see me make a beat [laughs]. I’ve literally got a couple albums worth of tracks from 2000 of me doing R&B and rap so, with this forthcoming project, I’m taking it back to what I’ve always wanted to do.”
You can’t box Cooly G in: “I love my house music — my mother brought me up on house and acid, while my dad was heavily into reggae — but I can make slow jams, R&B, grime, and everything else too. I want to feature with other UK artists who are doing their thing right now, like Jessie J and Wretch 32. They should be coming to me for tunes! [Laughs] I’ve had some artists come in and play special things for my new album, and working with so many talented people has truly been amazing. But yeah, even acts like Meek Mill, Danny Brown, The Weeknd… I want to work with all of them. Hopefully, you’ll see me teaming up with some big names in the near future, because I’m in this for the long run.”
Sacrifices: “I sacrificed my Christmas and New Year’s Eve to finish off my new album. I never get to physically be with my kids during the holiday period; they spent two whole weeks at my mother’s house, which is one hundred miles away. I was literally on Facetime with them when they opened up their presents. I was bawling, but I was just fully focused on getting the album finished. At the end of the day, I’m doing all of this for them… I have a private home tutor for my son, and it’s working because he’s doing so well in school now. He used to struggle with his reading and writing, but he’s flying now! And my baby girl, she knew her ABCs before she turned one years of age. I’m so proud of my kids, man. They’re happy, and I’m happy because they’re happy. I’m the mum and dad in the house, and I’m the mum and dad in music right now, too [laughs].”
Conquering depression: “I was depressed for about two months last year, but I didn’t know. I began disliking myself, and was just in a really bad place. I was even hospitalized! I was run down until I fainted – it was deep. It felt like I was trapped, man. I could always call on my dad, he was there for me all the time, but there are times when I don’t want to call him because it’s not his job, so I just ride it out alone. You know what, though? The talented people around me right now — like Grips, who is super talented and the truth for UK rap, and my long-time friend and producer, Rootz — they’re keeping me happy. The stuff we’re making is crazy, by the way. But yeah, I’m finally me again. I’m back to being Merissa and loving it! My schedule is back on track, and I’m ready to go kill some stage shows and make some wicked videos. I could cry with joy, that’s how happy I am with my life and music right now.”
Future Cool: “I’m gonna make a lot more videos for my tracks, just to give me that extra boost. Solange’s people wanted me to go on tour last year, but I couldn’t because there was no footage of me on-stage. I was really pissed off about that, but I’m just glad that Playin’ Me was a good enough album to reach those kinds of people in the industry, and the fans took to it too. I’ll be putting four tracks from that album into my new live show, where I’m all whining up myself on-stage… I’m feeling mad sexy again [laughs]. I almost feel reborn! I’ll still be doing electronic stuff, and I’m always up for remixing and doing EPs, but I’m just gonna fully express myself and not waste any time or ideas like I’ve done in the past.”
Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson is MTV IGGY’s UK Correspondent. He lives for underground music, and you can find him on Twitter @Jpizzledizzle.