Dealing with expectation has never been a problem for Maya Jane Coles. Since emphatically bursting onto the scene in 2010 with the ubiquitous 'What They Say', she's constantly built on her early success thanks to a string of successful — and critically acclaimed — releases for seminal imprints such as Hypercolour, Mobilee and 2020 Vision.
Just as refreshingly, her debut album, 'Comfort', sees her delve deep into a number of genres (and features a number of esteemed collaborators), while still somehow maintaining a difficult-to-pigeonhole sound that's become very much her own. With another round of Ibiza dates at the likes of Ushuaia filling her summertime calendar, DJ Mag rounded up the London-based DJ/producer and I/AM/ME label boss to talk Ibiza, expectations and compromise...
How was last season for you in Ibiza?
“Last season was immense, and the gigs just got better and better throughout the summer. I was also much more familiar with everything on the island, so felt a lot more relaxed when playing. It can be so daunting at first! This year will hopefully be even better, though. It's been a great start already, with the Ants party and the opening at Ushuaia, and I'm actually out there a lot more this time around.”
Do you approach the season any different than you would a handful of gigs elsewhere?
“I wouldn't say I treat the gigs differently to any others, because I put my all into every gig — whether it's a 5,000-capacity super-club or a tiny, 200-capacity underground basement. But yeah, of course Ibiza is important when it comes to the house and techno scene, and it's pretty cool to be billed high up amongst DJs I used to go out and listen to when I first got into dance music.”
Your debut album's coming out soon. First off, what took you so long? And why was now the right time to deliver the album?
“I could have released an album four or five years ago, but I didn't have as big a fanbase. I've developed so much as a producer since then, so I'm glad I took my time. Once something is released, you can't take it back and it's out there forever, so I wanted my first album to be something I was 100% happy with. It takes a long time to really find and create a unique sound, and I didn't want to rush things. More recently, it was about finding the right deal, and over the last year I had meetings with an insane amount of A&R staff and label owners, so that was pretty time-consuming. Then I finally decided that I'd release it myself, so obviously I created even more work for myself by taking that approach! But now everything's finally in place and how I want it to be.” You mentioned the LP being released on your own imprint, I/AM/ME.
Was it a case of you not wanting to give your music away?
“Yes, pretty much. Originally, I was actually going to sign with a major and had quite a few deals on the table with massive advances, but after properly studying the contracts and realising the kind of deal I would be trapped in, I decided that approach wasn't for me. There wasn't an independent label that I thought could do a job I wouldn't be able to do with my own team, so I thought why sign the rights away to my own music when I can keep the copyright to everything I write? It just made sense for me to do it myself — especially considering the direction the music industry is heading in in this day and age.”
Were all the tracks produced with the album in mind or are there a few you've had in your locker for a while?
“The majority of it is new, but there are some tracks from the archives that I couldn't let go to waste. There could have been more oldies on it, as I have a big back catalogue of tracks that I've never released, but for me it was important to keep the album fresh — for myself as much as for others.” There are a lot of collaborators on the LP, not least Tricky, Karin Park, Kim Ann Foxman and Miss Kittin. Did they all deliver in the manner you expected, or did they take you by surprise?
“Everyone guesting on the album is someone that has inspired me in some way or another. Guests like Tricky and Miss Kittin I grew up listening to, so I was especially honoured when they agreed to feature on the tracks. Some of the other artists were newer to my radar at the time, and others I had already previously done remixes for, but I reckon all of them most definitely delivered either way!” I particularly wanted to ask about Karin Park's contribution.
Did you write 'Everything' with her in mind? Or did you structure the music around her voice?
“I did a remix for Karin under my Nocturnal Sunshine alias quite a while back, and loved working with her vocals so much that I asked if she would guest on my album. When she agreed, I didn't want to just throw her any old backing track. There was an idea that I had started which I really liked, but never made into a full track. I completely reworked it with Karin in mind, and it turned into something completely different.”
You've a bigger audience, with even more expectation these days. Is this something you were conscious of when you started work on the album?
“Yes, definitely. I'm in a very lucky position, but It can definitely work both ways. I couldn't be more thankful that I have thousands of people listening out for my music and supporting what I do, but with that comes a lot of pressure. Also, because the music I make tends to be very diverse, I'll always have some fans that love one side of what I do, but not the other. As they say, you can't please everyone at once! The only thing I can do is always stay true to myself — I'd never release a piece of music I wasn't so keen on for the sake of selling more records.”