Even though you've been producing remixes consistently for many people you've been under the radar for a while. Is the new single 'Gotta Have It' a return to a more prolific MJ Cole?
"I'd say so. I've kind of been rumbling on the underground for the last few years, but on my label I've been releasing stuff in a low-key way. But I've got an album on the way so we're pushing back to old prolific form."
How did the hook up with Digga come about?
"That happened when I heard his track 'Broken', saw it all over YouTube and stuff, and so I got in touch with the people that look after him and I was gonna do a remix of the 'Broken' thing, but in the end we said let's just do a couple of days in the studio and in the end we came out with a couple of things. I did another thing as well which is going to be part of the album. He just came down and listened to a couple of beats and then we wrote together for a couple of days and it was really easy. He was an amazing person to work with,."
Is the single the precursor to a new album? If so what can we expect?
"At the moment I've got about 25 tracks floating around. I'm not sure quite which way it's gonna go exactly yet but it's gonna come together in the next few months. I've been doing stuff from dancehall bits to more UK Funky style bits. I've been working with Serocee, who's worked with Toddla T, on a dancehall vibe, and then I've been working with Lifford, who I've worked with from the old days, and Gabriella, on some really good pop sounding stuff with her, and some more old skool sounding bits. I think basically it's gonna have a rough edge to it, it's not gonna be pipe and slippers stuff, it's gonna be around town stuff. Some rough bass heavy bits as well, but with full songs over them. I've been really getting into doing these dubs, I've just done a dub of 'Neighbourhood', the Zed Bias classic, he's holding on to it at the moment, but it's gonna be out soon. And I've played it out a couple of times, it's going down really well. It's gonna be across the board pretty much, you still want an album to be listened to as an album and fit together. That's where my head is at, I'm pretty much going out to different clubs, following different people. It's new vibes really, the music industry has changed a little bit, there were some dark years, or rather damp years. But this year or the end of last year I'm playing different kinds of gigs and it's all good!"
Which producers or DJs are inspiring you out there at the moment? What do you think of the UK funky phenomenon, in some ways a style that you pioneered?
"I wouldn't say pioneering but the good thing about UK music is that there is always some frontline, and at the moment that seems to be UK funky. The good thing is that it always draws on different influences. With funky there's always this dancehall and African rhythm base, so it's good to get away from the formula. I think that one thing that UK music has always had is that it doesn't always adhere to the formula. You look at drum & bass or breaks, or garage and it's always about picking up different rhythms, you don't go into the studio everyday and say, right I'm gonna get a kick-drum out layer some shuffly drums over it and then I've got a new song, there's loads of different vibes flowing through. So I'm really into the funky thing, and I just got L Blue to do a mix on 'Gotta Have It', which is going down really well. I'm meeting some younger guys that are in their early 20s that were quite young when my first stuff came out when I was their age, so it's quite good picking up some vibes from them, and this whole UK funky thing seems to be going down well, I'm playing it a lot in the clubs."
What's next for MJ Cole?
"The album might be the end of the year, we're not in a big hurry. At the moment I'm just trying to get some good singles out on my label, with really good remixes, strong packages and things that are going to get played in the clubs. I'm doing a lot of dubs and things that I want to play and that other people will want to play. I could release an album next week if I wanted but I just want to absorb more music around me at the moment to see what's going on but we've got the next few singles lined up already. We know where we're at."
What are your thoughts on dubstep?
"I'm feeling it more and more. When it first kicked in a few years ago, I thought it was more intelligent man's grime in a way but it seems to have taken on a whole thing of its own. I played the other week up in Sheffield and Mary Anne Hobbs was up there, Plastician, people like that. I've been playing gigs where people have been really mixing it up, and the dubstep thing is really happening for me, I'm getting it into my sets as well.
"It seems like a good time for UK music at the moment, literally and not so literally, and the whole model for the way people are working, releasing records, seems to be changing with the whole download thing and there seems to be more of a community vibe out there. When I go out to play I'm sticking around to check out other people's sets, people are really mixing it up, from dancehall to old skool, to bassline, for me I've got excited again about music which is great cos I'm having fun in the studio."
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