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Raphaela Svirinskaya

In Conversation With: Coco Bryce

If there is a name to know within the jungle and breakbeat soundscape, it is without a doubt Coco Bryce. Dutch-native Bryce has been behind the decks since the 90s, never containing himself to one sound, instead bringing to the table a blend of eclectic, genre-blending elements that have made him a firm favourite of any crate digger. In recent years, he has pioneered the resurgence of the new jungle wave, releasing successful album Night On Earth, as well as a myriad of EPs, carving out a niche with his sound that only he can satisfy.

Having the privilege of seeing him play in the golden pre-Covid era, it was an honour to be able to speak with him and find out more about his inspirations, his own label Myor and what he has been getting up to in the past few months…

Raphaela: I think to start off, I have always wanted to know how someone from the Netherlands has been able to become so inspired and also capture the essence of the UK’s music culture so well? Is there any other place that you would want to ‘bring’ your music to or do you feel that the UK is your main ‘operating’ ground?

Coco Bryce: Thank you for the compliment. To be fair I'm not sure where it comes from, but yeah I've more or less always been into a lot of dance music from the UK. It just seems like a lot of British producers have a knack for syncopation. Even though I also like me some straightforward 4x4 stuff (gabber and house for example), breakbeats just always spoke to me for some reason.

I definitely feel like the UK is my main operating ground yes; it's where I sell the bulk of my records, and most of the labels I've released on in the past 5 years are from the UK as well. It’s also where I get booked the most (pre-Covid that is of course). It's my favourite place to play, hands down. That being said, I wouldn't mind if it became a worldwide thing of course. No countries specifically, the more the merrier.

Raphaela: You’ve impressively been in the game for 20 odd years and it must have been so interesting to see the scene shift and evolve from such a close perspective.

What is one thing in the music scene that you wish hadn’t changed and what is one thing that you glad has?

Coco Bryce: From my own personal perspective, I don't think I'd have wanted anything to have stayed like it was back in the day. A lot of people tend to get caught up in nostalgia, acting like things used to be better, but to me, they weren't. Sure, it might sound "romantic" and it might have been more fulfilling to have to chase down records at record stores, but in reality, it just sucked when you wanted a specific release very badly but simply couldn't get a hold of it. Also, if you were after just one tune, you'd always have to pay the full amount for the entire record, whereas now (in most cases) you can choose to simply buy a digi of the one tune you want. I think that's also made a lot of artists think twice about putting filler material on their releases, which is something they used to get away with way more easily back in the day.

I grew up DJing (and skating) in the '90s and though things might look cool in hindsight, the reality of it was that attitudes were at an all-time high and all the different music scenes were pretty segregated. It's way more mixed now, which is exactly how I'd always wished it would be like. I hear people complain nowadays about the demise of subcultures, but back then people were complaining about why all the different subcultures couldn't just get along with one another. I personally never really understood the need to cling on to just one specific style of music or clothing in order to "belong" to something. To me, that's just following someone else's rules, having someone else describe what your identity is supposed to be like.

Also, music production equipment was and still is expensive. But you don't need that anymore nowadays. With relatively cheap software like Ableton, FL Studio, Reason, etc. it’s completely levelled the playing field. Of course this has led to a lot more crap being released, but also tons more good stuff. You just have to dig a little deeper, put a bit more effort into finding the gems.

So in short, I'm glad everything has changed.

Raphaela: The release of ‘Night on Earth’ was a huge success. I think it took me trawling through 5 record shops to find it on vinyl and when I managed to find one, I was told I was very lucky to be able to get my hands on a copy as they were selling like mad…

As you’ve adapted your sound to include heavier influences of jungle in your more recent releases have you noticed more traction and attention surrounding your music?

Coco Bryce: Yes, definitely. I had a relatively decent run some 10 years ago as well when I was mostly doing skweee and hip hop beats, where I got booked for shows across Europe a bit for about 2 years. But nothing compared to what it's been like for the past 2 or 3 years. I think it's 90% due to the UK for me though. People out there, if they're into something, they're REALLY into it: buying records and going out to see you play. It's a level of dedication only rivalled by Japan in my opinion. Though of course, I can't speak for anyone but myself. I reckon a country singer might say the same about the US for example.

Raphaela: Under your alias of ‘Chavinski’ we have been able to see you play around with more UKG sounds which has been really exciting.

Can we expect to see more garage and 2-step influences in your future releases?

Coco Bryce: Yes, I've already produced some more UKG stuff and breakbeat at about 130bpm. Not sure where and when those will be released, but I'm definitely keen to keep making and putting out those kinds of tunes. They're fun to work on and it's nice to switch things up every now and then.

Raphaela: So not only are you a DJ and a producer but you also impressively have label owner in your repertoire

What has been the most rewarding thing about starting Myor?

Coco Bryce: Being able to release what I want, when I want. Not having to make any concessions. And ,of course, the amount of great music I've been sent by other producers. It's also wicked to see how many people buy directly from my Bandcamp, especially when knowing for a lot of them, it would be cheaper to buy those same records from bigger (online) shops. It feels really good to have that kind of support. Well appreciate it.

It's good to work with other labels as well of course. It kinda feels like a bit of extra quality control sometimes, to get someone else's opinion on which tunes would fit together nicely. There's been a few labels that were a bit of a ball ache, but for the most part, it's been really cool to get the opportunity to release on labels that sometimes I've been a fan of for ages, like Fresh 86 and Knite Force. Or if they cater to a different crowd than just the jungle niche you know.

Raphaela: I think to wrap up we have to address the elephant in the room: the pandemic. As the world seems to be at a standstill, you’ve still had a steady stream of successful EPs being released.

Have you found lockdown to be rewarding for your music and creative process?

Coco Bryce: As far as playing gigs go, it's been really shit. I've only played 1 decent party in the past 7 months, in Lithuania, which was super fun. And a couple of small local things, but that was more like playing background music. I've had a few offers for sit down events in the UK recently, but I can't travel there, seeing as I'd have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks upon arrival. And I reckon there's gonna be another lockdown soon anyways, so...

Record sales have been really good though thus far. I can't complain. I also took to finishing heaps of old Ableton projects a couple months ago, plus I got a fair few remix assignments, so I've been keeping busy. I can't wait to start gigging again though, but I'm not gonna hold my breath. I don't see things going back to anything resembling the "old normal" until at least March 2021. We'll see…

Raphaela’s top Coco Bryce picks

Lovin U - https://open.spotify.com/track/56xdjzfE5K0Fxq2LCs3RLS?si=hzq4uTFtSMWZHo44SEK9rA

Trust Issues - https://open.spotify.com/track/3PwUfTuLZWldh1ox39I3j1?si=N9_OBCDaQT-w2ip5nQrrtw

Rising High - https://open.spotify.com/track/63UUI8NalbFuJ8HFtw9O1j?si=Gztyd4ZpQ56sf7j74HRapg