Kokeshi has been releasing stand out Dubstep since 2009 and has somewhat effortlessly found it's way into some of the music's most influential taste makers on the right side of 140 bpm. We linked up with US born, London resident and Kokeshi head honcho Alley Cat. Kokeshi in the place!
You are just about to release the 5th Kokeshi installment, the excellent "Better Off In Me" by Irrelevant featuring Brad Sucks backed with a rather tasty Calibre 140 remix. Looking from the outside it would seem that since 2009 Kokeshi has gone from strength to strength with acclaim across 140 music and also from the drum & bass fraternity. How has the journey been?
The journey has been great so far, I'm enjoying every part of it. Initially I started the label to have a place to put out my own music in a casual way, after I had my tune 'Sweet Spot' signed to Offshore and I thought the whole production thing was something I wanted to pursue. (It still is -- I am just holding a lot of the music down for now!) When I linked up with Lung things changed and then I also found Irrelevant and I had a really good foundation to start the label properly. I sent a big package to my desired distributor, Chris from ST Holdings, with a bunch of tunes and the artwork and a proposal and he was actually into it and things kicked off from there. It's developed into something so much more than what I initially expected and it's really exciting to be working on a project thats 100% 'my style' and music I love and have the reaction be so positive. At the moment I'm doing everything from the artwork, the ((pod)) kasts, to the A & R ,label management , and now events as well, so it's pretty 'do-it-yourself'. I think it might also have a lot to do with timing because perhaps the last couple years people have become more open to deeper sounds and more eclectic music. Whatever the reason, I'm having fun with it.
"Better Off In Me" drops shortly in record stores, you've managed to secure a remix from Irish production wizard Calibre, a man known for reinventing and reinterpreting other peoples music. How did the Calibre remix come about?
I've been sitting on 'Better Off in Me' for a while, I think it's one of Irrelevant's strongest tunes and will definitely feature on his forthcoming album. The vocal is very catchy. I also wanted this to really pop and get some attention on Irrelevant so people remember him as his album is coming on Kokeshi later this year. BOIM was one of the most asked about tunes to ever feature on the Kokeshi ((pod)) kasts. Calibre was the one person who I thought style wise would suit the vibe of the original, and I really like the stuff he did on Deep Medi. To be honest I didn't think he'd say yes to the remix! I really didn't. Despite me working with Calibre for years at ESP Agency, he's still as elusive as ever. But his music is so damn good it's worth a try. If he would have said no I don't know who I would have asked because he was the one person I really wanted to do it. Once that was in place I also had to talk to Brad Sucks to make sure he was cool with the release as well, because he is a known artist in his own right and although he does give away his samples for use obviously I want to make sure everything is done properly and with permission from all involved. Hopefully it will reach an even wider audience than previous releases...I got an email from Appleblim the other day saying he loved it and he’s going to be playing it loads. Very exciting.
One artist on the label that has risen with Kokeshi is Lung. Almost entirely off the back of his Kokeshi releases Lung has affirmed his credentials has a progressive new skool artist to watch , Can you tell us how that link up came about?
It's funny because Lung actually found me on Facebook and he thought I'd be feeling some of his stuff. He's from Cardiff and I had played there a couple times before that and I think he saw me DJ and was aware of what kind of music I was into. So he sent me 'Afterlife' and some other stuff and I was just blown away by his music. When the Kokeshi ((pod)) kasts started there were so many of his tunes on there. I've told him this myself but his music really inspired me to take the label further and really go for it. He's also a really nice guy which motivates me to keep pushing him. I think the popularity of 'Afterlife' has surpassed our expectations though. ‘Afterlife’ has received props from Industrial heads, Electro people, Goths, dubstep fans, chill out DJs, d’n’b people and I think a mixture of younger kids and the more mature music listener. We didn't think it would end up on various big name compilations or anything like it has. But we don't mind! When the Kryptic Minds Remix won Best Remix of 2010 on the Dubstepforum Awards which is nominated and voted for by the members, I was really surprised, and pleased to get some kudos for the Label. Big shouts to Si and Leon from KM as well for all their support and for doing the perfect remix ! I really could not be happier with the treatment they gave to Lung’s tune.
Lung is working also with Med School now on some d'n'b stuff and it's great he's getting some support from that side as well. I can see why they’d be into his stuff he has the whole package really and I think he’ll go far. His tune 'Broken' which is along the same vibes as ‘Afterlife’ will be coming out on an album I'm working on for the label later this year. He'll be playing at the new Kokeshi night in London on April 30th so I hope people come down to see him.
As a DJ up to the forming of Kokeshi most people probably knew Alley Cat as a drum & bass DJ, so may have been surprised that Kokeshi's output focused on the lower tempos of Dubstep. Since that time how has your DJing changed respective of Kokeshi? How has Kokeshi affected the type of bookings that you now receive and the gigs you perform at?
I suppose some that were aware of me before might think it’s a bit odd that the music on the label isn't really d'n'b focused. I think people that know me really well would know how diverse my musical background is, but that’s only a few people I suppose.
I think a lot of Kokeshi followers don't even know me from before, and many don't even know I'm a woman either. I keep getting messages like 'hey bruv check my demo!' It's funny. I like the feeling though that it's a fresh start, perhaps that’s what I needed. I don’t want people to listen to Kokeshi and think its ‘girlie’ or the opposite. I just want everyone to listen to it and enjoy the music for what it is. The fact that it’s getting attention outside of d’n’b and dubstep is really all I could hope for and I hope it carries on like this. I think once this next record comes out people will be able to identify a ‘sound’ for Kokeshi and hopefully I can continue on with that release-wise and with my DJ gigs should they happen.
It wasn't really my intention to go 'non-dnb' I just went with music that moved me. As I said above I think linking with Lung and Irrelevant has swayed me to go more toward the dubstep side of things but it wasn't about finding dubstep artists, I just heard their music and fell in love with it! Irrelevant sent me a demo CD some time ago and it was literally like a whole album ready to go. Every tune was rock solid and I cannot wait to get more of his music out there. I do have a single from Bulb coming out later on that is d'n'b tempo but to me it doesn't sound like it, its not even a 2step beat it sounds like some Vangelis type stuff. When I played it at A Bunch of Cuts recently people were coming up asking what kind of music it was and seemed to not really know what to catergorize it as, but at the same time they were very positive about it. It could be any tempo really the song is just very moving .The tempo doesn't make me like or dislike something its just the spirit to it that grabs me.
I think I'm just at a place now where I just want to do what feels right for me, and if DJ work comes from it, great, and if it doesn't so be it. I’m enjoying what I’m doing with Kokeshi . I'm not going to pressure myself about it. Over the last 14 years I’ve DJed in about 30 different countries and all over North America. I would love to do that again but not at the cost of compromising myself musically or hassling people. Do I want to DJ? Yes of course! I do still love DJing and will always feel my identity is as a DJ. Surprisingly I actually have quite a lot of gigs coming up, from what I gather the label stuff is playing a big part in that. I realise the Kokeshi sound is quite ‘stoneresque’ and can be quite spacey but I’ve been doing this DJ stuff long enough to know how to offer that and hopefully make people dance as well.
Drum'n'bass wise. I am playing at Temah in London tonight for example, but I am getting more dubstep-oriented gigs as well. I would feel weird ‘not’ playing dubstep gigs because that is more what the label is showcasing at the moment. But I still love my drum’n’bass and I’ll always want to be a part of that as well. I love mixing 170 bpm music, it still is a lot of fun for me and musically right now d’n’b is fantastic!
Dubstep-wise I'm playing at Daily Dubstep in Ghent next Friday and another big dubstep event in Heilbronn, Germany on Saturday called Dub Wars, at a label showcase with Kryptic Minds. And I am also doing a label night in Berlin at Icon Club on 22.04.11. They have labels like Ninja Tune or Ed Banger on the Fridays and I feel privileged to get to do my thing. I've again got Kryptic Minds on the lineup (for their Berlin debut) as well as Irrelevant who will be doing his live ableton set, and myself and some awesome German Djs as well.
On the more d’n’b tip I'm also playing in Poland in April as well as Hit & Run in Manchester. I’ll keep an open mind to gigs and I’ll play d'n'b or dubstep or a mixture depending on what the promoter would like and what the crowd responds to. I’d also love to play more chilled out events as well if the occasion ever arises....
On 30th of April I'm throwing a party in London. On the lineup is Klute doing a techno set, Consequence, DJ Flight, Lung, and myself. It's at Fluid Bar which is the perfect venue for Kokeshi, with its Japanese theme and 80's video games and yummy cocktails. It's an intimate venue which is what I think will suit Kokeshi perfectly. There's space to dance but also you can just chill out if you want on sofas. Genre-wise, as with the releases, it’s about the vibes and some nice bass heavy music! It’s also the week the 5th release comes out and its bank holiday weekend so there really are a few great excuses to party it up. If your readers would like to get on the £3 guest list they can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org and mention Organic and I shall happily put them on there.
What's coming up for Kokeshi in the coming 12 months? What can we look forward to?
The 'Better Off In Me' single comes out 25th April on solid white coloured vinyl and all the usual digital formats. I'm also finalising the tracklisting for Irrelevant's album so that is in the works. The label album which is for the moment called 'Kompilation' is nearly ready. It features tunes from label guys Lung and Irrelevant, as well as tunes from other faves of mine like Box Mouse and Magenta, Odyssia (Soul Intent’s slower tempo music). They are tracks that were featured on the ((pod)) kasts which hadn’t seen release before. Also something from myself and some special guests like Black Sun Empire , who despite their reputation for techy d'n'b have done some awesome tunes that to me feels reminiscent of Massive Attack and DJ Shadow and that 90s trip-hop aesthetic I love. Also coming is a single from Bulb. I've just discovered a really cool duo who I hope to be snatching up a couple tunes from! more on that later...... I’m also working on my own music which I don’t even know how to describe or name it right now (will be under a different name) With all that, I think I have my hands full for a while!
For latest on all things Kokeshi be sure to check:
Kokeshi's next London event HERE
Alley Cat's DJ Profile HERE
Kokeshi online HERE