In The Studio: With Christopher Coe

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Christopher Coe, has just released his new concept Album, MNTNS of SLNC on Awesome Sound Wave which he owns and runs with label mate Carl Cox. This record draws inspiration from the mountainous landscape of his home in Ireland, which is reflected by the rich atmospheric and deeply authentic layers that feature in this Techno-driven record. Noisegate got the chance to sit down with him where he tells us about his background, inspirations, workflow, plus all of the great music gear he is enjoying right now.

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When did you first get into producing music?

I first started getting into producing music at a very young age when I was forced to learn guitar by my mother and I hated because it was for pansies. So, then I learnt the guitar and realized that it wasn’t for pansies and I actually loved it, and so I started writing tunes when I was around twelve years old….I really wanted to be a famous Rock Star!

As you can see that didn’t quite pan out, but then I really got into electronic music around ‘94 when I realized that people were making tunes and dancing to tunes without vocals! It was like a revelation.

In The Studio: With Christopher Coe

Who were some of your influences at the time?

When I was a kid I was really into Talking Heads, David Bowie and New Order and The Cure and all those amazing 80’s bands, and in more recent times I’ve gotten into John Cage and Steve Reich and classical music and everything in-between. Also Reggae is a big influence for me because I love the Dub sounds. I worked with Mad Professor for some time and it was an amazing revelation.

Tell us about your alias Digital Primate, are you still producing under that moniker?

Digital Primate was a name that I chose to use for my first album in ’94 I called Digital Primate. It was because a very good friend of mine Ren at the time was listening to me waffling on about the dichotomy of the organic and the technological and how it was going to make some break through thing that I was so excited about it and hmmm, sounds like a Digital Primate to me and it was like, I have to use that name, I’m going to use that name. So I went under that name for the last 20 years or so.

Actually even until a couple of months ago, I was planning to release the new album under the name Digital Primate, but Carl and I got talking about it and we both kind of came to a realization that it’s better to just start afresh and actually put my own name forward, don’t hide behind the moniker.

But, Digital Primate is something that I will use again in the future, it’s kind of like having two brands I guess. For now I’m just going with the name Christopher Coe.

What was some of the first gear you used to produce music?

I’m trying to remember now, back to ’94 when I started doing it. Well actually even before that I was using computer sequencing and I had the first computer for making music, which was the Atari 1040ST.

I used the program Notator, and I don’t even know if you even remember that software and I also used Cubase as well. I don’t recall which came first, whether it was Cubase or Notator by Emagic but I ended up using Cubase the Midi program with the Atari 1040ST.

I got a Juno 106, I got a SH-101, and………. a couple of shitty speakers. That was the start really!

What gear are you using now?

If I am at home, it’s Ableton Push. It’s the laptop. It’s the modular device. But, here in the studio, we have a Moog Model D, and we’ve got that lovely KORG monologue.

Carl Cox and I built this studio for him, but I’m actually running it and so I have access to some amazing gear that he has bought along the way as well as what we have decided to buy for the studio. So I am very fortunate. Really the main item I use is the Ableton Push hardware device, but I’m really getting into modular…Yeh I know, it’s trendy I should grow a beard. It’s amazing I bought a Pittsburgh Modular Lifeform system recently which has 8 oscillators, with a sequencer, some amazing delays and stuff with the standard VCA’s that are on other modules with a mixer and I’m learning how to use it.

In The Studio: With Christopher Coe

Modular stuff is kind of like a wild animal and I’m still trying to get my head around it, but it’s exciting and I’m using it for my live shows which adds this element of unexpected improvisation that I actually don’t know what is going to come out sometimes.

You’re due to release your first record MNTNS OF SLNC as Christopher Coe, Can you tell us about that?

 Yes MNTNS OF SLNC is a concept album. I went back to the West of Ireland in 2016 to climb the mountains and take in the landscape and basically this album was based and inspired by the landscape on the West of Ireland. If you kind of imagine the layers of light and texture in that landscape, I then realized a kind of visualization of the sound of techno. In fact I realized that’s where I got my love for techno is from that landscape. I know it, it sounds kind of strange, but what I wanted to do with MNTNS OF SLNC was somehow capture that in a sonic landscape, and that is the outcome MNTNS OF SLNC. It’s an album but it is also a live show with the visuals and animations around those landscapes.

And this is on your record label Awesome Sound Wave that you started with Carl Cox?

Yes so Carl, the brilliant man that he is, he heard the album and he said ‘we’ve got to get it out somehow’ and I said “Yes of course I can do that” and he said ‘Well I’ll put it out, and actually in fact why don’t we start a label to put it out’. ‘In fact because it’s a live show and it’s based around that, why don’t we make a label that signs and support live artists’. ‘Furthermore, why don’t we make the label for really long play projects/albums?’

So once we talked it over, we came to the basic concept that,  Awesome Sound Wave is for Live Artists, they don’t have to produce the music for live release but they have to be able to re-produce the music live… somehow. It’s for long play, albums. Obviously we will release EP’s from those albums, but it gives the artist the freedom to express some idea in a much bigger form.

What gear did you use a lot of on the album?

I have a Dave Smith Evolver  that I’ve had for many years, and whilst I have no idea of how to actually control it really in-depth, every time I use it I find a sound or create a sound that kind of weird and unusual and I love it. So that synth was actually quite central to it all. I also used a couple of KORG Volcas, the Volca Bass and the Volca Beats version, the Bass one which is kind of TB-303 acidy kind of bass and my laptop with a couple of good Mackie speakers. I set it up in an old stable in the West of Ireland. I also used a little location recording device and I went out when I was climbing the mountains or out on the bay or in the hills I would be recording the sound of the wind or the sound of a babbling brook or anything. I would go into the local pub and I would record the sound of local musicians and then I’d process the sounds out of all recognition and use them as textures for the album. So that recording device was the most used piece of kit on the whole album, because I made Ableton instruments out of the sounds I recorded.

Noisegate is an Australian based collective of working musicians, producers, DJ’s, and live audio professionals.

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