Ben Coda has always trodden his own path, which is probably why he doesn’t give a fuck about speaking his mind.
Hi Ben, it’s been a while since we last spoke. What have you been up to?
Ben Coda: It has been a while, I think the last interview I did with you guys was back in 2014, just before the first Nanoplex album (The Billion Dollar Brain) came out, and things have really taken off since then. From my perspective I’ve just finished my first album ‘Reboot Reality’ which has taken me the best part of five years to finish… I finally got some concentrated studio time this year when I could finish off all those ideas that have been floating around. And the Nanoplex project that I set up with Chris (Ipcress) is really flying, we’re working on our third album now, after the second one ‘Digitechture’ hit top five on Beatport. Gig-wise I’ve been busy touring all over the world, its been a great few years.
We heard you got mentioned in the Guardian recently
Ben Coda: That one came out of the blue, they’ve been running a series about underground music, and Nanoplex got a mention as one to check out for psychedelic techno, particularly related to our link with underground festival culture. Both of us (me and Chris) have our roots in festivals, so it’s great that more mainstream publications and audiences are starting to pick up on it – I do feel like underground music is looked down on in the UK, especially in dance music circles, so to get mainstream exposure like that is great, someone must be paying attention.
We heard you’ve started doing your own industry focused podcast together with Meat Katie. What are you guys chatting about on there?
Ben Coda: Yes, Mark (Meat Katie) has been running the podcast called Lowering the Tone for a few years now, and he invited me on for a chat a while back, we hit it off straight away and about a year ago he asked me if I’d like to host my own show there too. We get people involved in the dance music industry (not necessarily just DJs) in to have a relaxed chat about pretty much anything they want, the interviews can last up to a couple of hours and it’s really a way to get under the skin of the person we’re interviewing, rather than just asking them stock interview questions. We’ve been told that people find the interviews pretty cathartic, as they get the chance to talk about subjects and topics in a way that they never normally would.
Mark also runs the Lowering the Tone label, which he set up after Lot49, I’ve been working on it with him over the past year or so and it’s really picking up steam, there have been some great releases on it so far – the idea is to showcase the progressive techno sound, particularly UK artists, we’ve got a lot of really good talent over here.
What’s your view on the UK underground scene? Is there any way it could be better?
Ben Coda: I have to be honest, underground dance music is woefully under-represented in the UK in my opinion, promoters just aren’t willing to take the risks to promote new artists and it just becomes a merry-go-round of the same acts playing at the same events – I’m really not seeing the diversity in the music that would be healthy for the scene. We do have some gems though, Nosily Festival in particular, which I’ve been involved with for the past few years, the festival has gone from strength to strength and 2018 is promising to be the best one yet.
Let’s talk industry matters. What things are pissing you off about the scene right now and what needs to change?
Ben Coda: Where do I start, I see things all around me that frustrate me, but really you have to let it go and get on with what you’re doing. I’ve mentioned it in interviews before, but there are a lot of people who are in this industry for the wrong reasons, primarily ego-gratification, and off the back of that you have people buying their way in, through paying for big PR teams, ghost writing or paid chart placements, which is way more common than you’d think. A knock on effect of that is it cheapens the work of people who have spent years honing their craft as producers or DJs.
There are many levels of smoke and mirrors in the music industry (not just dance music), and the further you go into it the more of a rabbit hole it becomes, its important to keep yourself grounded and have people around you that you can trust as it can be a real minefield. As a producer I think it’s better to let your music do the talking rather than get involved in the politics, as tempting as it is, I see endless beef on social media, I’m sure a lot of which is just a PR stunt.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far from this industry?
Ben Coda: The best piece of advice I’ve heard, years ago, and it’s still true today, is be nice to everyone, and treat everyone in the same way you’d like to be treated yourself, but that does come with an extra warning (from me), which is to be careful who you work with. There are a lot of amazing people in the industry, who are great to work with, but at the same time, as it’s pretty much unregulated, there are lot of people out to take advantage for their own personal gain. My bullshit-ometer is getting more and more attuned to it, but I think pretty much everyone I know has been burnt in some way or another along the way, not trying to be negative, but it’s really something to be aware of. Even though it has a huge following the dance music industry is a small world, people know each other, so you have act with integrity.
A lot of the DJs and producers that I meet right at the top of the game are also really down to earth, friendly people, you need to keep your feet on the ground in this industry, and don’t expect too much too soon – if you have talent it will shine through, but that also means putting the work in, you can’t expect to ‘make it’ immediately. Also, there are no guarantees, so make sure you have a back-up plan.
How difficult has it been in getting people in the industry to take you seriously and what strategies did you use to get people’s attention?
Ben Coda: It is very difficult, especially as a new artist starting out, I think the key aspect is acting professionally, releasing consistent quality material, presenting yourself the right way, and choosing the right people to work with, which can be hard to start with, but you get a feel for it. When you’re given that opportunity to play a killer set or release on a great label make sure you deliver. I never really had much guidance so had to work it out as I went along, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but the key is to learn from them and not carry on making them.
You mentioned earlier you’ve got your new album out. Can you tell us a bit about it.
Ben Coda: It’s a few years’ worth of ideas, but as far as actual concentrated studio time it took me about four months at the start of 2017 to get them all finished off. I had a fairly clear stretch in my diary after I got back from Rainbow Serpent in Australia earlier in the year, so just worked my way through the tracks. I wanted to write something that really shows the diversity in my sound, I’ve never been one to stick to a particular formula or style, although I do think my tunes have a definite feeling or energy running through them. When I’m playing live I need to have the diversity there (from more progressive stuff to harder edged techno sounds) to suit different moods or vibe on the dancefloor. I also really wanted to push myself from a production perspective, and I think from that perspective the album is some of the best work I’ve done yet. The album itself when it’s mixed together is like one of my DJ sets, so conceptually I wanted to take the listener on a musical progression as they’re listening through it, which you can hear from the fully mixed version of it.
The idea behind the name came from the idea that once in a while I think it’s good to give your reality a ‘reboot’, I see so many people stuck in the same patterns of behavior, or just following the herd, and that’s fine, but I think it’s important once in a while to stop, take a look around and just register what you’re doing and what’s going on around you. There are messages in the vocals on the album, a good example is the first track, The Other Side, which has a sample from a South American Ayahuasca Shaman singing a healing song on it, she has such an amazing voice and I wanted to work that into the album somewhere, it really brings an air of magic to the track.
What other stuff can we expect from you soon
Ben Coda: Loads of new music – I’ve been working on a new collaboration with John 00 Fleming, which will be on his forthcoming album, which is sounding really good, as well as that he’s picked up an original EP from me which will be forthcoming on JOOF records. We’re planning a juicy remix pack from my album on Lowering the Tone, and there are plenty more singles in the pipeline. I’m also working on the third Nanoplex album with Chris, which should be ready later in 2018, as well as some new singles for Iboga Records. Gig-wise next year is filling up already, and I’ll be heading to some familiar, and not-so familiar, places, so keep an eye on the diary.