Q&A: MAYA JANE COLES By Sean Griffiths

26 March 2013
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Two years ago, Mixmag put Maya Jane Coles on the front cover of our New Queens Of The Underground issue. Since then, she’s played shows around the world, released a mix for DJ Kicks (Mixmag’s Compilation Of The Year in 2012) and been named as one of the most influential DJs on the planet by Rolling Stone, which isn’t bad for a 25-year-old yet to release her debut album.

With remixes for Florence And The Machine and Little Dragon already under her belt, stellar sets at some of the world’s best clubs and a 2013 DJ schedule already bursting at the seams, Maya’s profile only looks set to ascend this year. The secret of her appeal is clear: brooding yet deeply melodic, her productions are a masterclass in deep house that stay with you long after the club has shut its doors. With a star-studded LP that will showcase her songwriting ability on the way and a high profile set at Coachella, we caught up with her to chat about collaborating with Tricky, how you can take a smaller crowd in different directions and why she never plans a festival set.

You were on the cover of Mixmag two years ago. How has your life changed since?

The Mixmag cover was definitely a game changer. Sadly, there aren’t many women on the front of electronic music magazines or, I think, in the eyes of a lot of promoters, so it gave me more legitimacy. It showed I could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the men in the same way people like Miss Kittin and Magda do. And it simply meant more people knew about me and came to my shows. In terms of my personal life, the last two years have been non stop. While there have been all the pinch-yourself moments like getting helicoptered to shows, there’s still a lot of it that’s quite unglamorous.  

Do you want to expand to other areas outside of music?

I’ve got a lot of goals and ambitions, not just in music but other areas like painting and drawing also. I enjoy a lot of different things creatively but at the moment music is my focus, as I think you need to focus on one thing at a time to make a real success of it. 

Your debut album’s on the way. What can you tell us about it?

It’s been a pretty long process. I started making music when I was 15 so I’ve had 10 years to build to this. Three or four of the tracks on the album were made around four years ago and they kind of set the blueprint.  

Whenever one of your tracks comes on in the Mixmag office, we can tell it’s you straight away. Do you strive to have a signature sound?

I don’t try to create a signature sound but, naturally, when I make music it sounds like me. It’s a compliment if people can tell it’s me on a record. . 

You’re singing on the new album. Have you always sung on your records? It’s something people probably don’t know you for.  

I’ve always looped bits of my own vocals to add texture to my tracks. It’s only recently though that I’ve started writing full vocal tracks. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing but didn’t really include on my early EPs. There’s also a lot of guests on the album. It’s half guests and half my vocals and more fully formed songs than club tracks. 

You’ve got Kim Ann Foxman of Hercules And Love Affair on the album and Miss Kittin. Are you keeping it an all-female affair?

No, not at all. I’ve got some male guests on there also. I’ve got some people on there who have been inspiring me since I started making music.

Like who?

I’ve got Tricky on the album and a few others I’m going to keep as a surprise. 

How did the Tricky collaboration come about?

I did a remix for him a couple of years back and he really loved it so when it came to doing the album, I asked if he wanted to get involved. We didn’t record it together unfortunately though as he lives in Paris. 

How about the Miss Kittin and Kim Ann Foxman collaborations? 

I’ve met them both before so I asked them to be on the album. We didn’t manage to get in the studio together though, unfortunately.

Do you prefer to work that way?

It depends. Sometimes it’s just more practical as people are touring and busy all the time. If you’re sending stuff back and forth to each other there’s less time pressure and it can have a chance to evolve. On the other hand, sometimes it’s good to just get in the same room and get the main idea locked down. 

You’ve had a packed DJ schedule for the past two years. Have you had to slow down to make the album?

I wanted to but I haven’t really had as much downtime as I’d have liked as it’s hard to turn offers down when they come in. I guess I’ve had to sacrifice sleep and find a balance. It was a bit of a shock to the system but when you’re being offered the chance to play all over the world in places you’ve never been, it’s hard to say no. I’m going on my first proper holiday since this all kicked off next week, which shows how hectic it’s been. 

You’ve played some huge festival gigs. Do you prefer them to smaller clubs? 

I relax a lot more in front of a smaller crowd. You can take it in so many different directions musically but at an open air festival you have to go one way and stick with that. 

Do you plan a set for festivals?

I never plan a set. I don’t think I’d really enjoy it that much if I did. There’s certain tracks that I’ll often mix into each other but just to keep it fresh 
for myself I’d rather not plan. 

You’ve just produced the new Little Boots EP with James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco. Do you want to produce more pop records?

Definitely. So much 90s pop music was influential to me when I was younger and I think quality is lacking at the top of the charts at the moment. That EP came about as I was going to remix one of her tracks but was a bit burnt out from doing remixes so I guest produced, which was more exciting. 

Rolling Stone named you the 15th most influential DJ in the world. How did that feel?

That was crazy. I totally didn’t expect it. Especially when you look at the list and I’m above people like Carl Cox, Deadmau5 and Daft Punk. It was great to get something like that without compromising or signing to a major. 

What has your experience of America been like?

Detroit’s great, there are 80-year-old grandmas raving to techno! It’s crazy to think I hadn’t played the US two years ago and now I’m playing the huge festivals like Coachella and Ultra.

Maya’s debut LP is out this summer on I/AM/ME
Maya Jane Coles plays at Creamfields, August 23-25, 2013




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