Catch The Ghost Records boss Coflo brings a true dancer’s touch to house music.
Infusing his Capoeira dance and movement experience into his musical productions, releasing on labels such as MoBlack Records, Player, Merecumbe and Ocha Records, he has been turning heads on the scene with his distinctive style.
With his new remix of Wheeler del Torro & Sidney Washington’s ‘If Only You Could See Me’ on Dog Day Recordings, already receiving the thumbs up from the likes of Black Coffee and Solomun, 6AM digs deeper to find out more about this intriguing producer.
Hi Coflo, it’s a pleasure to chat with you today, how is your 2020 going so far?
2020 has been a double-edged sword. A lot of massive losses in my personal and artistic life, but a lot of triumphs and breakthroughs with my craft and spirit. There are a lot of people hurting and suffering this year. I am an optimistic person and I try to see the challenges and suffering as a necessity for better to come. I have a lot still to do with my music and dance work and 2020 is proving to be a year that tells me that if I really love this culture, music and the people in it, then I need to work harder than ever to succeed in my contributions to the culture.
Please tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you first got into DJing and producing?
I am from the East Bay Area in California. I started DJing and producing in my late teens/early 20’s when I wanted to further my understanding of music in lieu of furthering my ability in dance music. I am a club dancer aka a “house dancer”. A dance style originated here in the US that is an improvised celebration done to house music. I was lucky enough that through my early years of clubbing that I met a masterful DJ named Jayvi Velasco, who mentored me on the fundamentals of what a DJ is and does. I used to hang with him in the booth at his gigs. Something I feel blessed to have experienced because many people learn to DJ on their own in a bedroom with controllers these days. Different times. Producing was a massive uphill battle (I never really considered DJing my craft). I was introduced to a particular workflow from my friend and brilliant producer Stephen Rigmaiden. He also lived with Trinidadian Deep for a while, so there were times I got to sit in on a session with them and I learned my “roots” to what I do.
How would you describe your sound?
I make American House music. A lot of stores genre-fy me that I make “Afro House”, but to me, all house music is “Afro House”. House music at its own beginning gentrification is African American, hence I see all house music as “Afro House”. I know that messes with people’s heads in today’s retail market, but I don’t really care how I get labelled. My sound is me making music that I hope gets me wanting to “dance”, or gives other club dancers a feeling of “I need to wreck shop now!”. Sometimes my sound is very deep and minimal, sometimes it’s very musical and busy, sometimes it’s based on organic sounds, sometimes more synthetic, I have no rules or constraints. So I describe my sound as to pay homage and respect to those who birthed and keep this culture alive, it is an “American House Music Sound”.
You practice the Afro-Brazilian martial art Capoeira, please tell us about that and it’s relationship with your music?
I do, Capoeira has taught me a lot about being a good person, plain and simple. The music, stories and discipline that my Mestres have continued to gift to me are undeniable in the makeup of my person. I am not a massive fan of Capoeira music, to be honest. That is because much of it I just don’t feel is as musical as it is “common place” to the art of Capoeira. It is a necessary part of the art and its culture and you get a wide range of quality. Some of it is amazing and beautiful, but not all of it. It is also because my Grande Mestre is Mestre Acordeon. Who many consider a pioneer in a higher quality of Capoeira music specifically. The rhythms, sounds and stories of the music derive heavily from the African story through Brazil’s history. It resonates with me because of how human those stories are – the good, the bad and the ugly, it is all in there. My first full-length album was my take on trying to combine a more contemporary feeling of “dance music”, some of it house and traditional Capoeira music. I believe it is the first and only of its kind in a full length concept today. The title is “O Berimbau”, it came out in 2017 on Boddhi Satva’s label, Offering Recordings.
Who did you listen to growing up and do they influence your productions at all today?
I grew up listening to a lot of music and genres, but to make a direct path to dance music/house, I listened to three specific artists that still heavily influence me: Osunlade, Ron Trent and Atjazz. Not only do they all make fantastic and different music, but they all give me inspiration in different ways. Osunlade is like a fuckin chameleon., he can do anything and everything. He was also one of the first artists I heard putting rhythms and tones into music that made me start to research where the music was coming from, what many would credit as the beginnings of “Afro House”, but you already know how I feel about that term, lol. Ron Trent’s productions hit me in a different way, it was weird how I would hear a song the first time and not be that into it. Then hear it a second time and it would inspire me to dance, hear it a third time and I would want the song to play for 30 minutes without stopping. Ron is able to create stories in an extended song format that weaves sonic texture, imagery and a level of undeniable groove that I can only hope to achieve one day.
If I ever make it there it is a direct nod to Ron Trent’s sonic guidance. Atjazz flipped my head in a different way again. He was the first producer where I would hear songs on club systems and I would turn to look at the DJ booth as if someone “fixed a cable or something”. It was like clarity, the clouds have parted and the sun is shining. Atjazz’s engineering seemed to be leaps and bounds above most songs being played next to his and I immediately started to study audio engineering once I realized the gap between most and Atjazz’s music. I still constantly study and try to get my ears and abilities to a level I feel has that kind of clarity, but this kind of concept in music is all opinion, so what sounds good to me might not be what you prefer.
You’ve just remixed Wheeler del Torro Ft. Sidney Washington ‘If Only You Could See Me’ on Dog Day Recordings, please tell us a little about the release and how it sounds?
I tried to really nail the “groove” in this one from the start. Heavy sounds of organic drums give pace to a relentless bounce. I used a bass patch that I tend to reserve for tracks that I want to really have a big rebounding feel. The approach was not pre-meditated, much like my dance, I try to use improvisation as much as possible in my musical creations, simply because it is the most fun part of the art for me. Some songs, original or remix, present challenges that I rarely walk away from. This song was no easy task and it was indeed hard for me to get something going with the vocal that I felt would work. I am happy with how it came out, I persevered and that makes me feel good. I hate “giving up” on something challenging, I feel like that should be a lesson for anyone that feels that way when they hit a wall. You can make dope shit when met with challenge or boundary.
What’s your relationship with Wheeler Del Torro and how did the remix project come about?
Wheeler is a cool dude, he has a bunch of cool projects he has been looking to get me involved in. That is what is so beautiful about social media, if you approach someone in a respectful way you can end up working with them. Wheeler reached out and we ended up working together. There is more to come from Dog Day, but I am not going to steal his shine, he would probably want to premiere those announcements.
You also run your own label, Catch The Ghost Records, how’s that going and what have been your highlight releases on the label so far?
I do, the label was started in 2014 because no one would fuck with my music. I decided if I was going to contribute to this beautiful culture that I would need to carve my own path. I also asked a bunch of other friends feeling the same way if they wanted to also walk the path with me. As a result our label is a family of friends, which for the most part are also dance artists. The label isn’t meant to be a monster brand or do anything “incredible”. It is a home where myself and my friends can do what we want. We currently host a weekly online dance show called “The Simmer Room”, you can find the show’s schedule on www.CatchTheGhost.tv and archives for the mixes and our podcast for the label are over at www.Mixcloud.com/catchtheghost.
Right now we have a release by myself and Big Leaf titled “Color Of My Soul”. It’s a song about showing the spirit of people in ways that society doesn’t generally define people and their “color”. It is not meant to be political, it is meant to shine light on the beautiful club dance culture that Leaf and I come from and bring people together. The song was made last year, it seems to be that its release at the moment is extremely timely and hopefully helps people find a message that speaks positively to them.
You have released on labels such as MoBlack Records, Player, Merecumbe and Ocha Records, Offering Recordings and many more. Which has been your own favourite personal production or remix so far and why?
An impossible question to answer. So many productions mean so much to me in so many different ways. Some of them people have never heard or flopped, but are some of the illest music I have made, but didn’t get enough shine for people to pick up on. Others did really well for me and while I love them, it is sometimes a mystery as to why they did well. I like to think about music with the mindset that “there is something for somebody, somewhere” – meaning every song I make can have an impact on someone. If it’s a million people that it impacts, dope, but even if just 1 or 2 people fall in love with it, just as dope. Music is timeless and personal, all of it matters and all of it has an eternity to do some good for someone… somewhere.
What’s your studio set up like and what’s your favourite piece of kit?
I have a home studio that has been a work in progress for at least the last 10 years or so. I go through cycles of gear/tools etc, where some stuff gets more use or less, gets sold, is acquired and so on. I think the most important piece of my gear is undoudtebly my computer. I am a huge technology person and the computer is really my center-piece. Whether I make a track that has all recorded instruments or is completely plugin derived, the computer makes my creations come to life. From an inspirational standpoint, it is the room itself. My studio is an art gallery where I have pieces from some of my favorite artists covering every nook and cranny. Pictures of my ancestors, musical instruments and other inspirational spirits flood the space. I am not a guy that likes a sterile, clean edge, fancy lighting type creative environment. My own art started on baby powdered covered dance floors, I’m used to being in the mix of the art, so my room/studio reflects that I suppose.
Have you any plans to make another album at all?
I do plan to make another album at some point. Right now I am really busy with other projects. I actually have plans for two albums. One with Tomahawk Bang and my second solo album, but I have no timeline on this stuff. I am big on albums being albums, not a collection of singles or collaborative songs. There needs to be a story, a reason and a sonic landscape that narrates that story. I think albums should be something you listen to top to bottom, not browse for the hottest single and then walk away from it.
As a producer what’s been your biggest triumph and your biggest learning curve?
My biggest triumph has been obtaining a fan base, because I actually have people that follow my music. As a fan of artists and music myself, there is nothing better than knowing you have people out there that value your art. There was a time period where no one would fuck with me. If I have 30 dedicated people fuckin with me now, I got a nice little party, its all perspective and developing fans for my music is the biggest triumph.
The biggest learning curve was leaving an industry where I developed a career as a software engineer doing very well for my self for almost 15 years to do music, dance and audio arts full time. I went from being passionate about music to trying to survive with it. It has been a learning curve in regards to all aspects about how to make it work. When I say “make it work” I mean that, not how to do I kill it or profit and become rich. I want to live and spread this beautiful culture of house music and dance that raised me into the human being I am today. I owe my elders that, I gotta keep doing that work and I am forever grateful for it.
How has the Coronavirus affected your work and what have you been doing to keep yourself occupied during lockdown?
It shut down all my planned tour travels. There are longer stories here that I will spare your readers, but it has forced me to do a lot more work for other people in order to keep up with survival expenses. I work 7 days a week, which isn’t healthy, mixing, mastering, running Ocha Recrds, doing remixes and trying to find the energy to keep writing my own music.
I continue to dance and train capoeira in a somewhat isolated fashion, because movement is my true meditation.
Corona fuckin sucks and I am wishing people good health, safety and mental fortitude. We will get through this, keep your mind moving and don’t let depression run you.
Which dance track holds the most precious memories for you and why?
So many… but one, in particular, is a track called “Oh Well” by Tamara Wellons (from the DMV area), the BahSonik version. Having had been into house music for almost 10 years, at the time I heard the song, I never had an emotional experience on the dance floor (believe it or not). Emotional like, I wasn’t in control or overwhelmed beyond control. I had a crazy day and I was at a party in San Francisco and David Harness played the song at some hour in the morning. The song struck a chord and I began to cry. It was like I needed to let something out and a smile, tears and perpetual turning is what my body did. It was a crucial moment where I decided this would forever be my life and this culture is something special.
What else have you got coming up that you can tell us about?
I work on a lot of music, so I try to release music once or twice a month. I have some really dope projects coming out this year. To name a few, I’ve got some originals and remixes popping up on Yoruba Records, my debut EP on ARCo. (Atjazz’s label), many good projects with my home base at Ocha Records, including a remix I did for Alton Miller (I admire him so much, really proud to do that). I also have my first vinyl EP ‘Playground Samba’ due out any month now. The digital version is out, but Corona stopped vinyl production and delayed the release. I have vinyl pre-orders available on coflo.bandcamp.com. The project is a collector’s piece for sure! Beautiful artwork done by my wife Tsunami Originals and the music on it is pretty good too.
Full release July 3rd on Dog Day Recordings