Feature Interview

Spotlight On: Maya Jane Coles, Queen Of Curation

Soft spoken and unassuming, Maya Jane Coles greets me with a handshake and a soft smile. After traversing the stone streets of Madrid all day shooting a wrap-up documentary for the Spain leg of her Boiler Room and Ballantine’s True Music Tour, she seems fully at ease. Aware of being on the clock, I waste no time jumping into things.

Tecla Ciolfi: When you were initially presented with the idea of the True Music campaign, what were your thoughts? It must be a dream come true having two global brands like Boiler Room and Ballantine’s behind you every step of the way, giving you creative control over line-ups and choosing artists to work with.

Maya Jane Coles: It’s amazing to be asked to be apart of the campaign. I mean, I don’t really do a lot of documentary filming and these kinds of projects because when you’re so busy travelling and touring all the time, it just totally takes time away from the actual creativity and making music, which is my first passion and love. But this project just resonated with me because of the whole concept of staying true to yourself as as artist and not ever compromising your art.

TC: Talk me through the process of selection for your line-ups because I know that each artist was chosen by you. Firstly, how were the three cities decided upon and then how did you go about choosing who you’d collaborate with?

MJC: I didn’t actually choose the cities myself, I was presented with them which is kind of cool. So South Africa for example, I was like, who do I know that’s a producer from South Africa? I couldn’t think. So I did my research and Boiler Room presented me with some stuff and I thought it would be interesting to get Culoe De Song to do the remix. His stuff stood out and I really liked the worldly element in his music and I thought he would be cool because he’s a great representation of the territory. That night in South Africa was super fun, the crowd was very wild. Where you there?

TC: Yes, I was there! I live in Cape Town but I flew up to Joburg for that event and I think I can say, it was hands down the best event I went to last year. And it was so weird because it was end of November, smack bang in the middle of exams and I honestly didn’t think that it would be the huge event that it was.

MJC: Yeah for me as well, because I’d never been to South Africa before, it was my first visit. It was quite cool because these days it’s very rare that I go somewhere where I haven’t been before, because I’ve been touring so many place for so long now.

TC: So I know that you handle almost every aspect of your musical output through producing, engineering and pretty much everything else – was it important to work with artists, someone like Culoe for example, who’s likeminded? 

MJC: There’s a similarity between Culoe, Nikita [Zabelin] and myself. We’re artists who don’t work in massive studios and play big glamourous gigs – it’s raw. They also work in the same kind of process that I do, all from home and with pretty basic equipment. I love working from the comfort of my home it’s where I’m most relaxed, and you can sit in your pyjamas and make music it doesn’t matter. [Laughs] I feel like Culoe and Nikita are the same as me when it comes to the process of their work, everything is done by them.

TC: In South Africa you played a house set, in Russia a techno set – would you say that it’s almost like your “love letter” in a way, to each country, because you’re focusing on a genre that is so personal and specific to them and those artists?

MJC: Totally. It’s nice because I love playing so many different kinds of styles and the sound varies depending upon where I am. So it’s nice to be in a place where the crowd is specific and you get to focus on one kind of thing.

I feel like everywhere you go you tailor your music to fit the crowd but there’s no compromise there, I still play exactly what I want to play. But part of the art of DJing is just reading the crowd and tying that together without ever compromising.

TC: So now lets talk about your new album, when’s it coming out?

MJC: I’m hoping for the beginning of summer, if not it’ll be a bit later. I meant to release it about a year-and-a-half ago, but times passes and I’m a perfectionist [Laughs]. It constantly kept changing and I had to set myself a deadline. It’s a double album, the first disc is very down-tempo, melodic, compositional kind of stuff and I have some guest vocalists on it but it’s less that my last album. And then disc two on the album is not club bangers but it’s stuff that I could play during my DJ set, just a bit faster. And both sides tie together well, I just couldn’t put everything together on a one-disc album without feeling like I was leaving so much out and compromising a bit.

TC: Your manager said earlier that you’re the queen of curation.

MJC: [Laughs] Really, did he?

TC:  For someone who prides themselves on curation and in being so hands on, how do you know when the album is done?

MJC: That’s the problem, that’s one of the most difficult things. I could start a track and 95% finish it so easily and then that last 5% is the most difficult part of the process I find. I just have to set myself a deadline – usually when stuff goes into production that’s my deadline and until that point it’s just never finished.

Occasionally there’s stuff that, you just finish it and you don’t want to touch it, but that’s quite rare for me.

Follow Tecla on Twitter.

Download the True Music EP for free here.