Coldcut, the legendary pairing of Jon More and Matt Black, formed in 1986 and subsequently rose through the ranks of UK electronic scene thanks to their maverick approach to production, DJing and releasing music. Now, 32 years later, the pair are as innovative, influencial and stubborn as ever as producers, collaborators and label heads. In a brand new in-depth interview with DJ Mag editor Carl Loben as part of DJ Mag Insight, the pair discuss everything from their early days, the origin of the Ninja Tune name, the art of sampling, the importance of visuals, always championing independence and innovation and how to be a "Data Jockey" not just a "Disc Jockey".
Since they founded the Ninja Tune label in 1990, it has gone on to become one of the biggest and most musically excting independent labels in the world, with names like Bonobo, Bicep, Nabihah Iqbal, Helena Hauff, Roots Manuva, UMFANG and countless others all having releases on their roster. They'll be releasing Peggy Gou's new EP this month as well as the new LP from Scottish alternative hip hop/soul trio Young Fathers in March. Looking at the label's immense catalogue now, it's heartening to learn about it's humble beginnings as a platform for its founders' music to get released fairly and with a chance of getting paid properly. Soon, other artists starting releasing on the imprint and the rest, of course, is history.
"They just sort of gravitated towards us I think," explains More.
"I think we were quite loud about the fact that we were pissed off," Black agrees. "We wanted to start a label to make sure that we had control and we would make sure we got paid fairly. At least, if it was a success or not, at least it would be our own responsibility. Labels should pay artists what was agreed and what was owed. As a lot of artists have had the experience of being shafted over, they said 'maybe, well these guys are artists themselves maybe they'll give us a better deal'."
That ideology of standing up for what's right, both in the music world and beyond fed into their adopting Internet technology in the early days, using it to cast pirate broadcasts with a socio-political tone they felt was missing from mainstream broadcasting. These broadcasts were soundtracked by the duo among other artists they were working with at the time .
"We're still always asked if music can be political. The answer of course is 'fuck yeah'," says Black. "Just look at history. Every revolution needs a good soundtrack. Protests like 'Reclaim the Streets' and the May Day Protests were going on but weren't really being covered on mainstream TV. If you've ever hand first hand experience of anything that's going on in the news, usually what you'll find what they report is nothing like what's actually happening. We had a crew of mates, activists, who would go out and film stuff at those protests and they'd come back and we'd stream it out and mix it with music, doing a live commentary."
As is seen throughout the interview, Coldcut and Ninja Tune remain at the cutting edge of independent music in the UK and beyond today. In December 2017, after a year which saw the duo releasing 30 tracks including an album with including an album with On-U Sound dubmeister Adrian Sherwood, DJ Mag awarded Coldcut with the Outstanding Contribution honour at our Best of British ceremony.
You can watch the full in-depth interview below.
Lead photo credit: Hayley Louisa Brown