The UK Producer Talks Having Kids And Other Forms Of Creativity
Some artists will dance around the subject of their inspirations, and just about anything else you might asked them in an interview. As a full-time mom and full-time DJ/producer Cooly G doesn’t have time. She’s got world tours and remixes to do. Even if she wasn’t raising two kids while birthing an iconoclastic career in bass music, we get the feeling that the UK artist still wouldn’t make time to be anything other than to the point.
She’s recently moved with her five year old son and new baby girl and just released her first full-length Playin Me on Hyperdub. Speaking from her new place with her son chattering happily in the background, she told us how she set up her studio workspace before she set up her bed and about her spontaneous approach to making Plain’ Me.
She spoke plainly and openly about her life and her creative process, punctuating every other statement with an emphatic “innit,” which somehow makes us love her intensely emotive house/dubstep fusions even more. The one thing she’d rather not share is her new location, though she’s unapologetically happy to say it’s not Brixton.
Is there a double meaning intended the title of your album Playin Me?
Yeah, there is. It’s kinda like about situations with relationships where it’s kinda like you fall into the same stuff again. And then you get to the point where you know that, even if you like this boy, he will play you, innit. So, kinda play him first before he plays you and that’s what the song was really about in the first place. Like a “He’s not going to be playing me” kind of thing. And then there’s the other side of people literally playing me, like, playing my shit, innit?
What prompted your move?
I wanted to move to a quieter area and for a better school for my son. Just a much better place actually. I’ve got two kids now. I just want to be living in a better place than where I was before. It was a bit ghetto. South London, innit. The Brixton area.
Are you settled in? Do you have your home studio set up yet?
I set it up the second day! I had to. I have been making music in the last week since I’ve been here. My son’s room is done. I had to get some guys to come and set up his bed. He’s got one of those dramatic treasure beds. His room is, like, made out of Legos. The front room’s done. My bedroom ain’t done. The kitchen’s done. And the bathroom.
You’ve been getting some work done?
I’ve done a couple of turns. I’ve just done a mix for Mary Anne Hobbs. I’m active doing my stuff. I just, like, get a vibe and I want to do it. That’s why I had to set it up. If I got a vibe and I didn’t have it set up I’d be really frustrated.
What do you use to record?
The software is Logic and I use Ableton and ProTools. I’ve got my monitors. Right now, I’ve got a drum machine out and a controller and the Launchpad for Ableton. I’ll be doing that a lot too. While I’m hanging around the house and washing up I’ll leave my live set rolling and just be practicing and doing that as well. Just leave it to roll for a bit. And I just get … vibes. All my answers are vibes. Everything is vibes. That’s how I do my music. It’s never planned. Just get on with it.
Is that true for you live as well as when you are writing?
I don’t really write. I sing sometimes in my head and then I just like add little ad libs and try to find harmonies that blend in. It gets done very, very quickly.
You don’t think of that as writing?
I have written, like, sat down and written tracks, but most of the album I was on tour. So much of the time it was just lay the beat, hum something in my head, and bam, it comes out. It just happens all at the same time.
So, that was the process for recording this record?
Yeah, and I might have been feeling lonely or emotional or happy or whatever. And whatever came out, came out.
What part of making the album did you enjoy the most?
Being pregnant in the last stage of the album and my son helped me engineer it. And that was all at the same time. So I didn’t have to run to fast to the mic, my son would press record. Because I had the big belly and my baby was kicking me while I was singing that track. So, yeah. It was sick.
Are the lyrics personal?
Yeah. Like on “He Said I Said,” it deals with things that I had to let go of before I had my son, all this stuff that kept coming back in my head over the last five years, and when it came time to record it just was in my head and I just let it out.
What is the most emotional song on the album?
“Trying.” It was really deep that one. I was going through some shit that night and my mate was over and I was telling him the issues and what I was feeling and I just recorded that. We were both sitting there crying after I finished it. So, it could be something I’m just having a conversation about and bam, there’s the tune.
Are there certain touchstones you return to all the time when you are making music?
I listen to a lot of old reggae music and old soul music. When I listen to that while I’m cooking or cleaning or something that’s what gives me inspiration.
Do you consciously resist following all the various micro trends in electronic music?
I never really listen to new music in the way that I listen to old music, because it’s just got that sound that it’s just not here again. Anything I do listen to new, I listen and I think, “yeah, that’s heavy,” but it goes past me straight away. It’s not like anything like that is interrupting or getting in the way of me making a track.
Do your kids ever inspire your music?
In what way?
Just the thought that I’ve actually managed to create something, another human. Before I had my son, I didn’t think that I could ever have a baby. I thought, that’s like alien, innit, like, who does that with a big belly and stuff? So, when I did have him, I felt like a different person. And I felt like, if I can do this then I’m a G.
I was going to give up when I had him. But after this boy I went to a club and asked a DJ (I didn’t know the DJ) and asked him to play my song. And he played it and the crowd went nuts. And I was like “I’m going to make more shit. I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it for my son.”
I didn’t have no money in those days, so I made my own computer using parts and cracked software. Sorry to say that, but, yeah.
I’ve really been surprised at the skepticism I encounter when I talk to producers about women in electronic music. People will come out and say that they don’t believe a woman is making her own beats. Have you encountered anything like that?
Someone has said that about me, actually, on a blog before. When I saw that I Ustreamed myself live making a tune. Randomly. I didn’t say, “I’ve just seen this fucking thing on the blog.” I just Ustreamed myself live that night making a beat. That was just my way of getting people to see, “No, love, there’s no man around here making beats for me.”