Interview with Cosby

DJ, producer, label head and onetime radio host at sub.fm, Cosby is a man of many different roles; but where most people seem to stretch themselves thin, Cosby delivers fully on all fronts and manages to be amiable and modest while doing so.

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His last release on 100% Silk demonstrated a knack for groovy old-school House with Bass leanings and an analog backbone. His new works, both as Cosby and Blood Vibes are darker, electronic soundscapes, buoyed by a kick drum and steeped in pulsating synths that straddle the line between enchanting and nefarious. As the head of underground Dance label Car Crash Set, Cosby has released music and remixes by the likes of Mak & Pasteman, Distal, Girl Unit, and Kastle. Needless to say, Cosby is a busy man, so Blisspop was thrilled when he agreed to sit down and answer a few questions.

What brought you to DC? How has it influenced you or your music?

My wife & I are originally from the East Coast so even though we lived in Seattle for a number of years, we always intended to move back.  One of the things that attracted us to DC was that it was a growing city and had an evolving arts and music scene, which is exciting!  I can tell that the city has influenced the music I’m producing quite a bit.  Half of the release for 100% Silk was produced in DC and I feel like those tracks have much more of a soulful tone.  “Confusion” was the first track I made in DC and I think it’s apparent that I was listening to WHUR a lot at the time.

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What are the differences between Blood Vibes and Cosby?

Cosby has been and will continue to be my main recording name.  Blood Vibes is an outlet for more experimental tracks that aren’t specifically club based.  I did a remix as Blood Vibes for an artist called Kid Smpl and a journalist from Seattle called Andrew Matson wrote that it sounded like “a punishing Gothic dance party”, which is a very good description.

What is your musical background?

I have very little guided music training, but I was a voracious music listener as a teen.  It’s funny to look back at how primitive music distribution seemingly was, but I remember that I could read CMJ or the early internet and know about a producer or an album but have no way to listen to it.  I would special order CDs from a store and pray that the distribution chain could deliver. This worked maybe 30% of the time and it would take a few weeks to get something.

What brought you toward and kept you interested in electronic music?

It was exciting to me that you could make music sound like anything with a computer.  There wasn’t a limit beyond processing power and your imagination.  I’ve always been interested in music that pushes the limits or breaks the mold and, in this way, electronic music has been really exciting for the last eight or so years because new barriers have been broken constantly.

Do you primarily view yourself as a DJ first? A producer first? Both? And how does your role with A&R fit into that?

If you would have asked me before I started Car Crash Set, I would have said DJ first.  Having started the label, I have found that I’m really comfortable with the role of A&R and I feel that it suits my strengths best.  I am always excited by new music and want to push new sounds and that can be done as a DJ to a degree, but not nearly as much as heading a label or working on behalf of a label.

As a label head, do you utilize DJ sets as a chance to push new material or do you keep the two a bit more distant?

Absolutely.  For club-oriented music, playing new music in a club and seeing the reaction is the best way to gauge if a song works ot not.  How a club responds to the music really informs decision making for the label.

Can you describe your creative process? Do you approach your songs with a specific mindset or idea?

I typically start with a pretty good idea of what I want to do, what sound set I want to use, or what feeling I want to give a track.  If possible, I try to sequence the main elements in one sitting to get all of the ideas out then go back a few days later to add or subtract things to get it to flow better.  The final part of the process is tweaking and equalizing the individual sounds and channels so that the sit well in the final mix.  This is usually the most time intensive part and takes a few sessions with a few days of distance between.

What do you find exciting in music at the moment? What do you think is next?

House has been really exciting to me over the past few years, which I think is easy to see in the label’s releases and in the music I’ve been recording.  I felt like house had been really stripped of fun for a long time and so the recent return to 90s sound has been a welcome change.  It’s finally okay to have a good time again!  I’ve been a fan of Juke for some time and I think the best is still yet to come from that genre.  I was lucky enough to catch DJ Rashad in Chicago this summer and it was one of the most kinetic sets I’ve seen this year.  There is a label called Keysound in London that is at the forefront of a new wave of instrumental grime artists and that music is exciting and challenging in a similar way to early Dubstep – it’s rooted in historically British sounds, but it sounds different and dangerous and entirely unique.

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And just for fun, top 2-3 songs at the moment?

There is an excellent producer from Portland called Danny Corn who recently released an EP called ‘Deep Space’ and the title track is this immense, shuddering drum machine work out.  I played it in my most recent set and it was the track that got the biggest response.  On a similar tip, my favorite single of the year is ‘Hackney Parrot’ by Tessela which sounds like a Baltimore Club track that has been turned inside out.  I wish there were a dozen more songs that sounded like ‘Hackney Parrot’. One track that is in constant rotation for me is ‘It’s Not Right’ by Mak & Pasteman which was released as a white label 12″, but is worth the trouble to find.  It’s a slinky UK garage bootleg of a popular R&B hit and I think it’s impossible not to love.