Maya Jane Coles: London House Phenom Taps Punk Rock Childhood
"I'm not someone who likes to jump around onstage and be the center of attention."
Who: Tattooed, flame-haired, London-bred producer and DJ Maya Jane Coles stormed the floor with 2010 deep-house jam “What They Say,” rising from relative unknown to cult hero, and lending a hot hand to remixes for everyone from Little Dragon and Gorillaz, to Florence & the Machine. And though she’s quietly commanded some of the world’s largest stages since that track’s arrival (from Coachella to Ultra to Fuji Rock), Coles eschews the spotlight and rarely tours. “I’m not someone who likes to jump around onstage and be the center of attention,” she says, while preparing to play Richie Hawtin’s night at Space in Ibiza. “It’s still pretty surreal to me, being in front of thousands of people and getting that kind of reaction. I don’t think I’ll ever be standing there thinking, ‘Oh, this is normal.'”
A Family Affair: Over the past five years, Coles has released a breathtaking torrent of genre-skipping records, fluently spanning deep house and and tech house, bass and dubstep. Her tastes are varied — she cites ’90s R&B and trip-hop as chief influences, though she cut her teeth making rap beats at 15. She was encouraged to launch her musical career by her father, Mike Coles, a graphic designer who worked closely with seminal U.K. punk band the Killing Joke and ambient house pioneers the Orb. “I had all of those people around me, here and there,” she says of her childhood. “It’s funny because you don’t really realize it when you’re a kid, ’cause it’s just people that you grew up around. It’s only when I look back now that I see that it influenced me when I was growing up.” The year Coles dropped out of university to begin her music career in earnest, she did so in good company: Her father was in the midst of launching a similar endeavor, officially resurrecting the Orb and Killing Joke’s esteemed label Malicious Damage, which he now runs on his own. “When he started to do that full time, I started making music and decided that it was what I wanted to do with my life,” she says. “So, we kind of set off at the same time.”
Everyone’s a Critic: Hearing Coles describe her early experiences with music, from the balcony of her hotel in Ibiza, it’s hard to imagine her career turning out any other way. “My first vivid memory is me jumping around my living room when I was five, listening to these heavy metal tapes that my dad’s friend used to make for me,” she says with a laugh. “My dad used to play a lot of reggae and punk as well. He used to say that I’d be really fussy with what tracks I’d let him play, like ‘Play this one again! Play this one again!’ and then there’d be ones like ‘Skip this one!’ I guess I was quite fussy with what I listened to from quite a young age.”
Escape From Clubland: Coles handles virtually every aspect of her musical output, producing, engineering, providing vocals and instrumentation, illustrating and designing, and even self-releasing her debut LP, Comfort, which hit shelves in July. Everything is carefully curated, nothing left to chance. Her newfound fame, however, is less controlled. “I can never really go to a club in the same way that I used to, or go to parties and stuff,” she murmurs, the way a lead actor culled from the ranks of the crew might sound. “You can never really enjoy a night out like before. But I don’t really mind that, to be honest, because in my spare time these days, the last place I ever want to be is in a sweaty rave.”