Maya Jane Coles Talks Eclectic Influences, Breakthrough Success and Women in EDM
This highly versatile and prolific young producer is dead set on dominating the international house scene while also winning over dubstep and leftfield electronica fans with side projects like Nocturnal Sunshine and She Is Danger.
Crossfade caught up with Miss Coles on the cusp of her first-ever American booking.
Crossfade: At 23, you're remarkably young for such an accomplished producer. How did you first get drawn to electronic music and when did you start producing and DJing?
Maya Jane Coles: I started producing music when I was 15, so I guess I've had a bit of a head start compared to a lot of people my age. I played a few instruments when I was younger, and with my parents being huge music lovers there was always diverse and interesting stuff playing around the house. I started DJing when I was 18 and that's when I started getting more into house and tech. I grew up on '90s hip hop, R&B and trip-hop and stuff, so that's what I originally made when I first started producing.
How did growing up in London influence your sound?
I guess growing up in London opened my eyes to so many different genres and scenes from a young age, so that comes out in my music. There's something for everyone here and always a lot of creativity going on. I get bored just doing one thing. I've never stuck to producing one genre. If I like a style of music, I have to give it a go. When I was younger the UK drum 'n' bass/jungle/garage scenes were so strong. That was definitely a big influence at one point.
Do you think your Japanese heritage carries over into your sound as well?
I wouldn't necessarily say so. But I think the fact that I'm from London and influenced by music from all over the world carries through my sound.
Much of your current production style seems informed by early '90s house. Which artists or records do you feel have been immediate influences for you?
A lot of people seem to think that '90s house has been one of my main influences, but that's not really the case. I've always appreciated the roots of house, but then I'm influenced by a lot of old music. "What They Say" was one track that happened to have a real '90s organ lead vibe going on, but the music I'm most influenced by is the stuff I listened to growing up like all the hip hop stuff and then a lot of dub/electronica. I'm also influenced by a lot of song-based stuff and guitar bands, which is why I don't just produce dance music. When it came to dance music I listened to drum 'n' bass/jungle before house, and then in my later teens I translated all this into house music.
Did you expect the massive international success of "What The Say" before its release? What have been the higlights of gaining international recognition?
I didn't expect it at all! You can never predict these things, really. For me it was just another release and I never thought it would blow up so much. It's paved the way for my next releases and gained me a huge amount of listeners which I didn't have before. Those are the main important things for me. No longer feeling the struggle of being an unknown artist is a massive relief. And now I'm getting to travel the world through music which is amazing.
You've also kept busy this past year with your Nocturnal Sunshine and She Is Danger side-projects. What prompts you to take a particular stylistic direction when you're in the studio, whether it's deep house or dubstep?
It's been crazy recently trying to balance all the the different projects, but it keeps me super busy all the time and if I ever get a block with one project, I've got ideas for another. I try not to plan what I'm gonna do in the studio too much, 'cause when I do it never usually works out. I just prefer to let things flow naturally and that's when the best stuff comes out. The main reason I have so many projects is that I can never just stick to one thing. I just thought If I'm capable of making lots of different styles of music, then why not? I chose to use different aliases cause if I did everything under one name people would get too confused. I'd have way too much stuff, all completely different styles and sounds, under one name and unfortunately it's very hard to market in that way.
How did you first hook up with Lena Cullen for She Is Danger and what do you get out of the collaboration that you don't from producing solo?
We met through a mutual friend about 5 years ago and Lena gave me the parts of a track of hers to do a remix. I ended up doing a drum 'n' bass mix and she loved it. After that, we collaborated on another track but it wasn't 'til about 2-3 years later that we decided to actually start a proper project together. We decided we wanted to do something that was genreless and timeless. We didn't want to set boundaries or create any limitations before we started. That was when She Is Danger was born. It's cool cause we both do our solo stuff too and there's no pressure, we just make music together when we can. We're both pretty prolific artists and working together is so easy. Collaborating with people can often slow the process down 'cause there's more than one person's opinions to consider and not everyone always sees eye to eye, but when Lena and I go into the studio together it always works so smoothly and we always come out of a session with something we're happy with.
Can you run us through a typical workday for you?
Everyday is different. My ideal week would be to spend all day every day in the studio! But that never really happens. I'm always traveling now with all the gigs and when I'm not away there are always meetings and press stuff to cater to. But for me the creativity is the most important part and it's vital that I make time for it. At the moment I'm really trying to focus on getting my album finished, but I'm such a perfectionist, so it's not gonna be a quick and easy process! I love DJing, but being in the studio is the best part for me though 'cause making music is where my passion lies.
Do you think women are on their way to making a bigger impact on the male-dominated EDM scene? What advise would you give other budding female DJ-producers?
Yes, definitely. I'm starting to hear more and more outstanding female producers and there's definitely more younger women getting involved. The production side of music doesn't seem to appeal to women as much as it appeals to men, so I think it'll always be a pretty male-dominated world, but it's refreshing to see more women taking an interest. The main advice I'd give is to not let being a minority faze you. At the end of the day, we're all just people that make music. It doesn't matter if you're male or female, what matters is the end product.
What does the future have in store for Maya Jane Coles?
The future of MJC reaches far beyond house music. I hope to eventually be respected as a producer by music lovers of all genres as well as the EDM scene. I think when I eventually unleash my album it will be a true reflection of me.
Maya Jane Coles. Thursday, April 14. Electric Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Doors open at 11 p.m. Ages 21 and up. Call 305-456-5613 or visit electricpicklemiami.com.
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