Originally from London but currently based in Tel Aviv, COHN specializes in stripped back house and disco music heavily influenced by 90s sounds. He has released music on labels like Ed Banger, Bunkaball and Maison Kitsune, as well as putting out a number of his own mixtapes. His latest is the self-isolation inspired COVID-909 EP: four tracks of woozy, lo-fi house packed full of hazy vocals, shuffling percussion and languid basslines. With the EP out now, we caught up with COHN to discuss lockdown life, electronic heroes and his love of the TR-909.
Welcome to DMC! What’s the record that got you out of bed today?
Great question and thank you for having me! There’s a track by Fakear called Tadlo that has such a great morning feel. It’s a rolling post-garage track that also has a lot of emotion to it and sounds really London, despite being produced by a Frenchman.
Where in the world are you, and how’s the lockdown situation wherever you are?
I’m in sunny Tel Aviv right now. We are just coming out of our lockdown and the bars are opening up, which is a strange but very special time. It’s amazing to see people so grateful for the little things that we all took for granted. We’re all trying to enjoy having a beer with the people around us who we love, with the looming knowledge that it could all be taken away at any moment. At the moment, for me, the city is a small oasis in a world that seems to be struggling on so many fronts.
What first got you into electronic music, and when did you seriously consider a career in it?
I got into electronic music when I was like 13 when someone gave me a compilation of Classic Euphoria; if anyone remembers those? I just loved hearing music that could take you on a journey without being so in your face about what you were expected to feel. With regard to a career, the honest truth is I started taking music seriously as a career quite recently, I’ve been producing for a while, then recently my therapist went on maternity leave and I decided to take that money and energy and invest it in something that I feel really passionate about.
Who are your musical heroes?
I love anyone who can make something super catchy that makes you want to dance with as few elements as possible. Daft Punk, Omar-S, J Dilla, are all big influences. Rick Reuben’s philosophy on production is also something for which I have immense respect. He likes to keep the elements to a minimum and focus on building something catchy and interesting nonetheless.
Tell us about the new EP… was it all produced since the coronavirus pandemic started?
Absolutely. I was basically sitting in my apartment trying to process everything that was going on and I heard the sample for U Always On My Mind and suddenly felt this rush of productivity and creativity. I made the whole thing in like a week or two. I feel very lucky that I had the freedom and the outlet to escape into that. It’s not something I think is trivial.
The EP has a very consistent sound. Do you have any go-to bits of studio kit or hardware that you always find yourself returning to?
As the name suggests, the TR-909 has a sound I just love right now. If you blast that through a Korg MS-20 it creates this distorted, super-rich lo-fi sound that gives the drums a lot of character. This means I can focus on getting the samples as crisp as possible and still keep some of that 90s sound. My production is always a battle between making something sound interesting and a bit gritty and still keeping the mix as clean as possible. I imagine I’ll struggle with this for as long as I produce.
Do you use reference tracks when you produce? Or do you prefer to start from a completely blank canvas?
I don’t really use reference tracks. I basically hear a sample, usually in a bar or a movie, and I’ll hear this snippet and my mind starts racing. Once I’ve put that first loop down on the DAW and found a nice B-part the rest of the song usually kind of writes itself. My tracks usually aren’t that interesting in terms of narrative or dynamics; I focus more on finding loops that make me smile and want to dance.
Is there anything else on the horizon from COHN that we should be looking out for?
I have another EP coming out later this year called Wine & Reason that will have a lot more disco sounds to it. It was intended to be an EP that came out for the summer because it’s just got a really fun vibe that fits really well for day parties, but with everything that’s going on right now, it just doesn’t seem like the timing was right.
Finally, what’s one record you are in total awe of and wished you produced?
Again, I love tracks that revolve around really simple loops that you feel you could just listen to and dance to forever. With that, the two that jump to mind, which might sound cheesy, are Stardust – Music Sounds Better With You and DJ Koze – Pick Up. With both of those tracks, the second you hear that loop, you know you want to hear it for ages and just get up and dance.