Signal Path Podcast: Coby Sey
Listen to the latest SIGNAL PATH podcast with COBY SEY, a producer, vocalist and DJ from southeast London helping to define the new ‘post-genre’ club music.
Hear the stories behind the sounds. Join Zakia Sewell as she meets world-renowned sonic innovators to explore those defining moments that influenced how they think about sound.
Episode 060: Coby Sey
For the latest episode of Signal Path, Zakia speaks with Coby Sey, who after years spent buzzing around the DIY artist circuit of southeast London has developed a distinctive presence as a performer and producer offering a shifting, disorienting vision of club music on his groundbreaking debut Conduit.
Zakia Sewell: With everyone that I've been speaking to, it's always fascinating to go back to the very first encounters with music. What were the first things that spoke to you artistically and why did they resonate with you?
Coby Sey: Prince. I got really into the Batman soundtrack. I'm not sure when exactly, but I remember listening to it when I was like four or five and I rinsed that CD. I think I definitely credit that particular record for providing me context for different sounds and different kinds of music that I otherwise might not have understood until, like, my teens or something, or late teens.
Can you tell me about that? I've not heard the soundtrack, but what's it like, sonically. And what was it as a four-year-old that really kind of captured you?
The opening track on there, it's a song called ‘The Future’. That you could imagine being heard in somewhere like Berghain, or Corsica Studios at 3am. To hear that, hear the sort of ominous quality to it, to be followed by another track, which is just heavy rock, with a sort of ballad sound. It's all over the place in a good way. And it all made sense. I used to play that all the time.
I'm just imagining the young you just sat there. I had a similar thing with a very early Kelis album that I just used to listen to when I was a little nipper. But just listening in private in a bedroom, you don't really understand what it's about, but there’s something that's calling out to you. What other sounds did you grow up with that were really influential?
Pretty much all of the artists on the Space Jam soundtrack, Jay-Z was on there, Monica, Barry White and Chris Rock –– which actually brings me to a tape that I’ve got with me, a cassette tape, because it was one of the songs that I pretend DJ’d as a kid with my younger brother, who's like six years younger than me. During the summertime, I used to pretend to be a radio DJ. I don't know what inspired me to do it, but it's probably because I listened to the radio a lot.
So you’ve brought it with you. For listeners who can't see, it is quite a hefty piece of equipment. And this is a tape that you recorded when you were how old?
I can't remember the exact date. I'd say I think I was eleven or twelve. I think it was like 1999. I'm giving my age away. Yeah. 1999 or 2000 or something
This is the young Coby. Unreleased tapes, unreleased demos. Let's have a listen.
[plays a clip from an old cassette tape]
Oh, my God. You're a natural radio presenter.
I'm trying to find that person. He sort of appears when I perform again.
You can just hear the love and the excitement. Is that your little brother?
Yeah, Benjamin. If he hears this, he's not going to be happy.
From that tape, you're hearing it's a family affair. So did you grow up in a musical household? I know that your brother has also been really influential on you and a big influence. So tell me a little bit about that family connection to music.
My parents, especially my Dad, he'd collect records. He was big on buying a lot of vinyl and he was very early into buying music on CD. And my mom, she grew up as a Lovers Rock fanatic, which was the thing in southeast London. Lovers Rock was synonymous to it. But no one, until Kwes (musician, artist and Coby’s older brother), to my knowledge, decided to take music fully as a career. My maternal Grandad played Tuba when he was young in Ghana, but he didn't pursue it as a career. And I guess it's within that sort of migrant narrative, to take music as a career. It's better to be a Doctor, Lawyer, Engineer, blah, blah, blah kind of thing. So, yeah, I don't know, we are just kind of rebellious in our own way. But at the same time, my maternal Grandparents did buy loads of instruments to keep us occupied around the house and to keep us occupied from distractions going on, growing up in Lewisham. So it was one of those things kind of like, of course it would happen. You’ve got all these keyboards around, you’ve got these acoustic guitars around. We're going to pick it up.
Listen to the full interview with Coby Sey and subscribe to Signal Path with the podcast provider of your choice below.
Coby Sey’s debut album ‘Conduit’ is out now, listen and buy tickets to his autumn tour here.
Host: Zakia Sewell, Producer: Alannah Chance, Creative Producer: Joshua Thomas, Creative Lead: Ty Stanton-Jones, Music: Yip Wong, Agency: Commune, Photo: Ksenia Burnasheva