Don Cotti on moving to Jamaica, dubsteps early days and running a label

Reggae | Monday 12th December 2016 | Arren

From growing up immersed in Brixton's sound system culture, to spending time at the root of it all in Jamaica. We speak with Don Cotti.

One of the first names on the early dubstep scene, Cotti serves his low end bass riddims with a-more-than generous portion of reggae. This combination has seen Don Cotti and his sound still going strong. Guestlist caught up with him on the beginnings of dubstep and how his musical hertiage shaped his sound.

Hey, how are you?
Hey yeah, I'm bless. Just drinking a cup on mint green tea listening to some deeper dubstep vibes.

Describe your current state of mind?
My current state of mind is hungry & extremely creative with a thirst for collaborating with serious producers and artist. I’m aiming to leave UK for good to live in Jamaica, where the sun shines every day & the food is fresh!

Nice, don't blame you! What been happening with you recently?
Well I'm not long got back from living in Jamaica for a year, which was amazing in every way! Since I've been back I've played about three shows, including one in Poland. But been mostly working on my Don Cotti album, which will be out 2017.

Can't wait to hear the results. So lets talk your history - you've been involved in the music scene from the early 2000s, how did you first get involved?
I first got involved when I was making grime with my crew, back then 4N 4Mat. I use to frequent Big Apple Records - even when it changed in to mixing records. That’s where I met my good friend DJ Chef who introduced me into the scene and eventually even got me a show on Rinse.FM back in 2006.

I first started making a name for myself with my boy, Cluekid who I had been making music with in 4N 4Mat, we met up with Loefah & Mala (DMZ) who invited us to play at their DMZ night, and the rest is history really.

What were the early days of dubstep like?
The early days had a real feeling of unity within the sound, coupled with young hungry & very talented producers just doing what they love and sharing the vibes with others. We had more and more small events popping up where we could showcase all the new tracks we had been working on and most events were quite small and intimate with a good sound system.

Nowadays, dubstep has become mainstream and the whole vibe, even the sound has changed - mostly not for the good, to be totally honest.

Did you ever think back then that dubstep would go and become what it became?
Lol, no I never had a clue to be honest! Back then many people just did not get the sound and frowned upon it like it was some kind of nonsense for hippy nerds!

Then it went on to being the most trendy sound on the planet and all those people that used to look down on it wanted a piece for themselves.

Now especially, but even in the past you've managed to tread the line between dancehall, reggae roots and deep dubstep. What artists inspired you to make that sound?
Listening to King Tubby & Scratch Lee Perry, plus my dad & his close friend used to produce reggae & even played in many bands when they were younger.
Then also there’s the fact that I just grew up on reggae & dancehall living in Brixton and growing up around sound system culture.

You've built up a big discography over the years, what are the tracks that you believe most define you as a producer?
I think that the tracks that define me as a producer are tracks like ‘Sensi Dub’, ‘The Legacy’, ‘Calm Down’, ‘Rise The Temperature’ & ‘I Don’t Give A Dub’. All released on vinyl and incorporate the reggae dancehall flavour within the productions & or vocals.

You have your label Sumting New, tell us a little about that.
Yeah I started Sumting New back in 2009 with the first vinyl release in 2010 featuring myself & DJ Chef. I had a label before that which I released ‘Calm Down’ feat. Doctor & 'Mozart 3000' with Kromestar called ‘Bassface’ Records but then decided to start a new label with more meaning & a better name!

I think the proudest times were when I put on label events with producers and DJ that were on the label, we had them in London, Dan Haag & Utrecht & they were all full of supporters having a good time.

Recently you've been championing upcoming artists with Sumting New's Allstar series. Have you enjoyed pushing the lesser known artists?
To degree yes, I have enjoyed pushing the up and coming producers although some really relied on myself and the label to make their careers.

The fact is that it takes a lot of work and effort networking to make a career from this music ting, but all in all yeah it’s been good bringing new producers to the table and releasing them. Producers & artist can get involved by firstly making sure their work rate is up to scratch and then by humbly networking with others in the scene to build relationships that can really help, don’t be afraid to hit up record labels with your music but again make sure your tracks are up to a good level of production before you do this.

Last month you released the Mr Prolific EP - marking the end of your free series. Tell us a little more about this series.
Oh yeah I started that series while I was living in Jamaica and just wanted to get my work rate up to a high standard to prove to myself that I can actually have consistent releases. In the years prior to that I was very slow and inconsistent with releasing the music even though I had so many tracks & a label to release them on.

Also with that series I was delving into the world of being a vocal artist myself so it was a really good way to find myself in that field too, as I’ve always been able to spit lyrics but never really focused or developed it. Where as now, a year on from recording lyrics seriously, I feel I have fully found myself as a recording artist as well as a producer & label manager.

Why did you decide to give them out free?
I decided to give them out free because many of the tracks I first started to vocal were known tracks by other artist like Vybz Kartel, Movado, Popcaan 7 - many producers from other genres like grime, dubstep & hip hop. So it started out quite like how the Americans do there mixtapes with random beats from which were hot at the time.

The support for them has been huge! How far did the reach go?
Yeah they have been downloaded in well over 50 countries worldwide from Japan to South America the Middle East & countries all over Africa with close to 10K downloads throughout the whole series.

What have you got planned for the future?
Well I just dropped a brand new EP, Best Style on my new Dancehall label I founded while in Jamaica. I have the first single taken from my upcoming Don Cotti album, along with remixes and music video I shot while in Jamaica which will again drop on my ‘Bun A Badmind’ label end of December/January - with the full album to follow a few months after.

I’ll be DJing in Paris early February with Dubstar records for their 10th anniversary in conjunction with 193 records with more dates to follow.

What is the worst job you have ever done?
Working for my uncle cleaning second hand cooker when I was like 15, although I did manage to save some good money to buy my Sega Saturn and a big screen TV. It was hard work working with some very strong chemicals!!

What are you most in love with right now?
That’s a hard one to decide really... music is always close to my heart and family is always number one to me anyway. I have four daughters and a son on the way now so I'm extremely excited about that right now!

What's the worst trouble you have been in?
Well growing up in Brixton as a youngster I did get into quite a bit of trouble, I got charged with robbery & assault twice unfortunately and had to go through court systems for quite a long time. But my solicitors managed to get me off both times so didn’t go to prison thank God.

But since then I vowed to myself and God that I would be a better person, then I got into music and started a family which helped keep me grounded and focused.

What would you fill a swimming pool with if it could be anything?
Erm that's a funny question... I would be happy to just fill it with water as long as it was in Jamaica in the sunshine <3

What would you do to make the world a better place?
Get rid of the need for money, the world has more than enough resources to feed, clothe & provide a good standard of living for every last human on the planet. But money and greed cause inequality across the globe in a profound way and it’s just so terrible to be honest.

What ideas changed your life?
The idea that we all have the ability to program our own minds into whatever state we want and that we all untimely can control our lives more than we actually know by the regular choices we make & the habits we keep. The idea of karma even after death in this life is another profound idea that changed my life.

Funniest person you know?
My youngest daughter is deffo the funniest person I know right now, she is two, nearly three, but her character is so large - she amazes me every day and gives me so much joke.

If you had to start a new life in a new country, where would you go?

Come on that’s easy!! Jamaica... I will make it back there with my family one day trust me, I’ve seen another life and know it’s much better for our children as well as myself & Mrs.

Favourite song of all time?
That’s way too hard to answer... I can tell you my fav artist of all time are ‘Big Pun’ & ‘Bounty Killa’.

Who would be in your ultimate band?
Hmm.... Chronixx, Major Lazer, Lupe Fiasco, Bounty Killa, Ghostface Killer & Akala.

What’s is your life motto?
Treat others how you would like to be treated yourself & always look on the brightside of life.

Something you have to do before you die, which you have not yet done?
Go to on Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia & als.

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