It’s been a full year of diverging from the norm in an underground scene Peckham, South East London for Cotch International. With the minds of Joe, Tom and Clive pushing to blend genres and rid the purist ideals of music and culture, they are determined to overcome these elitist views and have done so at each of their monthly events since they launched at Rye Wax a year ago. With all three founders experienced in running music labels, artist management, pirate radio, as well as publishing and performing themselves, they are set up for a take over. They share a vibe with the community that encourages experimentation and innovation, with the vision to break down genre barriers. Cotch achieves this by promoting international and domestic talent like Ms Banks, Keita Juma and Larry B... all have featured under the spotlight at Cotch. An amazingly progressive year has pushed Cotch forward into forming a label (Cotch International) signing up talent from all corners of the globe, and broadcasting with NTS Radio, vibing to an even wider audience. Carhartt WIP had a chat with the boys about their achievements this past year, their views and how they will be making even more moves in the near future…..
What is Cotch about?
We really just want to offer our perspective on new underground music, and champion the outsiders that aren't afraid to experiment and innovate, while at the same time keeping things unpretentious and emotionally powerful. Even though we came up in localised scenes, Cotch International was founded on the belief that you're more likely to have something in common musically from the other side of the globe, and we just want to celebrate the differences that listening to similar music in different surroundings can bring.
Why was Cotch founded?
The same reason most nights or record labels should come into existence: we didn't feel like there was a scene out there that directly represented what we wanted to hear, and there seemed to be a lack of nights that actually booked the artists we wanted to see to perform live. Especially in south London, where there's so much talent that has to go elsewhere to get gigs. At the same time, the idea of starting a record label had been something that we'd been working on for a long time, having all worked in labels previously, and when we felt like we really found our sound at the club nights, it became the next logical step.
Without getting any ideas above our station, we really just represent creative unity across boarders and cultures. We have a strong sense that we are all children of the world, something that is shared with many of our generation, especially anyone that grew up in the internet age. Considering it feels like the our leaders are hell-bent on causing friction and dividing us along racial and cultural lines, it's a message that needs to be shouted louder than ever.
What does Cotch embody about hip-hop originated music?
We just love raw energy in music. Modern Hip Hop is just as visceral and innovative as when it first came out, but it's managed to adapt to speak for a new generation, facing new problems. There's something honest about music made with minimal resources, and Hip Hop is the ultimate DIY music; it broke through into all areas of culture despite the best attempts of mainstream culture to water it down, because it created its own infrastructure. It's not really just a Hip Hop thing though, we feed off the energy in scenes such as Grime, South Africa's Gqom music, the Chicago Footwork scene, Batida in Portugal, the Afrobeats movement in south London.. the list goes on.. they all have this focus on uncompromising, raw emotional energy, on the whole they avoid anything too deeply conceptual, you don't need a thesis to understand the intent behind the music. It's about giving a voice to those who might not have had one
The most important aspect of a Cotch Night?
The crowd. It sounds a bit cliche, but without having an open minded crowd of people supporting the artists and music, we have nothing.
How has the influence of pirate radio impacted Cotch?
Pirate radio feeds into the DIY culture we previously mentioned, it's where sounds can develop without commercial pressures, a breeding ground of raw expression. I think anyone that was a child in London in the 90s was affected by the pirates, it defines our generation.
Why Rye Wax?
Peckham is our home, and Rye Wax is the HQ. A couple of us have worked or still work there, and the founders are all old friends (as well as being sick producers and DJs in their own right). Apart from being a hub for local producers and artists, and a dope record shop, it's a small, dingy basement with a kicking soundsystem, a really open-minded and mixed crowd, and when its popping it's without doubt the best venue in London.
How has Cotch evolved itself and its associated scene?
In a year of existence things have moved pretty quick, not just for us but for the crews that we consider family. Seeing the likes of Born N Bread rise up has been great, as well as all the artists and DJs around us. We're not really trying to start a scene or a movement though, just connect with people who have a compatible perspective to us and catch some good vibes on the way.
Where do you want to take Cotch - what are your next moves?
The next step is definitely the label, we've been putting in a lot of work around that and have 7 releases lined up over the next year, all being released on full-artwork vinyl and physical formats as well as digi. Out first release is due mid-September and features 6 tracks from Jumping Back Slash, who's originally from Wigan but has been living in South Africa for a long time. He's really immersed in the scene out there and has collaborated with two amazing vocalists, Nonku Phiri and Hlasko, to create this amazing blend of downtempo RnB, Kwaito and Gqom beats, and UK club pressure. It works in the club and at home, and kinda shows what we do in a nutshell.
Why do you guys think opening communities to international sounds is important?
There's just more music exiting music being made in this world that the shit you get fed through the main channels. In an age where most people have access to some kind of internet and a cracked copy of Fruity Loops, international music isn't 'world music' in the traditional sense, there's nothing exotic about it, its just straight up dope music that can be put next to the best we have to offer and hold it down. Apart from that, we just want to keep the energy high at the parties and maybe roam around the other parts of the country and the world and spread the love a little.
Onoe Caponoe headlined our first Cotch event, and as well as being an long time bredren, he's an absolutely dope performer. Nobody really does it like him; hip hop is way too loose a term, he's more like a post-pirate radio incarnation of the Funkadelic movement... his thoughts operate on a completely different plane, and he's almost like a shaman when he's on stage.
Larry B is the embodiment of our ethos towards DJing.. He's not about playing the most upfront exclusives, or a set full of £200 discogs holy grails.. With him it's all about energy and expression, making you dance and testing your boundaries at the same time. He'll make you dance to stuff you never thought you would!
Cadell is one of our top selected grime MCs, he's got that chaotic energy that makes grime so electric. He came through for the second show and then turned up announced and shelled the mic a couple times more over the year. A serious talent and someone we consider Cotch family.
Ms Banks was definitely one of the most hype shows we had, she just commands a stage and lets loose with hard edge bar after hard edge bar. She let us DJ for her and we managed to sneak in a couple of West Coast Jerkin' beats, which she absolutely killed!
Merky ACE, the blue borough don. Lewisham has always been a hotbed for grime music, from the days of Essentials and OGz up to the new wave of youth coming with their own flavour. We always make sure to reach out to the local soldiers!
It was an honour to bring Keita Juma over for his first UK show, without doubt one of the most exciting talents about at the moment. His blend of Toronto flows and beats drawing from his early childhood in Bristol make for a really fresh sound, that draws for disparate vibes without sounding forced. He had the crowd going mad!