London born label Coyote Records turns 5 this year, and to mark it they're coming to Bristol on 4th August for the second time this summer with very special guest Mssingno playing alongside Coyote Records' mainstay Last Japan, London-based disc jockey Jetsss & the southwest newcomer Vio_l3t. From it's inception in 2013, label founder Tomas Fraser has worked tirelessly to craft a label with distinguishable attributes working across a spectrum of sounds sprouting from influences rooted deep in instrumental grime. We've brought him here to chat a bit about the label, listen to some of the tracks released over the last 5 years and see a few photos from past events in Bristol.
So from idea to inception, how long did it take before you released the first record (by Mella Dee) and what kind of processes did you go through to get there? Mella had been sending beats for a few months, but ‘CTRL’ resonated most with me for whatever reason back in 2012. I think I got that in the April and the record came out in July, so the whole process took more or less three months. I managed to get four remixes from Baobinga (now Sam Binga), Mr. Mitch, MA1 and Grievous Angel delivered in that time too somehow. I didn’t really know what I was doing then in terms of putting a record out, so lots of it was guesswork in terms of promoting it, understanding how distribution worked, learning about the digital side — there’s a lot to get your head around.
What was your initial vision for Coyote, do you feel it's changed much? The initial vision was to release grime for the club from producers who might not get a chance on bigger labels elsewhere. Back in 2012, there weren’t many outlets backing the music properly, so it felt like an important message to send at the time. It has changed since, in the sense that I’ve settled on a core group of artists for the most part and I feel like Coyote now has its own sound that people can recognise. That said, the majority of artists I release from are still new, completely unheard of or up-and-coming, which I kinda like.
Being a one-man label, do you find there's a a kind of inner turmoil that comes with making creative decisions on your own and how do you best deal with that? Yes and no. I’ve always been quite single-minded when it comes to deciding who, how and what we release but there are times when you think, ‘shit, this isn’t gonna do very well at all’. I wouldn’t say its a turmoil, but it does prey on your mind sometimes. Whenever it gets a bit much, I think about all the amazing stuff we’ve been able to do over the last five years and it resets my thinking.
As a label grows, or as a career grows in music, what do you think is most important to keep yourself or the brand grounded?
Remembering why you started in the first place. Sometimes it can be quite easy to think you’ve made it off the back of a particularly good record or a great party, but its worth remembering that the scenes we operate in are small and as a label like mine, your core global audience probably only really amounts to a few thousand people. It’s about understanding why you’re doing it I guess, not what you can get from it.
Since your EP launch for OH91 here in 2013, Coyote has continued to revisit Bristol with some of our favourite parties to date, what is it about the city that has led you to hold regular parties here outside of London? A chance party with PTS in the summer of 2015 to be honest. Tom E. Vercetti introduced me to Scott, who runs PTS, and he asked if we’d like to do a party with him. We did the first at Cosies and it popped, so came back for a second three months later with AJ Tracey and that was it. The reaction to Coyote — the artists on the label and what I’m trying to do with the line-ups — is absolutely incredible and actually really humbling.
Do you have a favourite party that you've held here? There’s two. The first was Tom E. Vercetti’s EP launch at Cosies with Faze Miyake, Wen and Odeko in January 2016. It was absolutely rammed from start to finish — one guy nearly knocked over one of the speakers — and the vibe was so friendly and perfect that night.
The second was the party we ran at The Crofters Rights in January with Dark0, Riz La Teef, Last Japan, Lovedr0id and VIO_L3T. It was the second we’d done at the new venue, Dark0 played with ‘Ghosts In The Shell’ playing on the projector and Riz played one of the best sets I’ve seen in years. The crowd were great and my dad was there too, which made it even more special.
Talk us through some of your releases over the past few years, are there particular records that you think signify a landmark for the label? There’s a few that stick out for me. I think over the last two years, Tom E. Vercetti’s ‘Future Perfect’ EP was a standout, purely because the tracks were all just incredible — ‘Future Perfect’ is still one of my favourite tracks of all time and Jack (Tom E. Vercetti) was and still is, an absolute pleasure to work with.
There’s also Letta’s debut album, ‘Testimony’, which took a year of work, A&R, back-and-forth emails etc. I took a hands on approach to everything about the record — the aesthetic, tracks, manufacture, design — and it was the first full-length project I’d released, so to see how well it did was a nice feeling. I was also really pleased for Tony (Letta), because he’d been through a shitty time in his life and the album helped him out the other side of that I think. I’m incredibly proud of what we both achieved. (answer continued below)
The final one is Last Japan’s ‘Ascend’ with AJ Tracey. We’d recorded it a full year before it came out in June last year, after AJ and Big Zuu sprayed over a Spokes set on Radar Radio, purely by chance. I was so impressed by his clarity on mic, but also his flow, so I reached out to him the next day and suggested we try and work something out for a record. I chose the beat from a batch Last Japan had sent over and we got the vocal down in about an hour and a half just a few weeks later. By the time we got the remixes in and everything prepped, AJ had blown, but he still came to play the release party at Cosies. I’m chuffed to say we put it out on wax, which also featured the first ever Silk Road Assassins remix.
What are the most surprising lessons you've learnt in running a label over the last 5 years, if any?
Never bank on anything. I’ve released music I thought would do great and it’s struggled and vice versa, likewise with parties and events. Always be mindful that working in music is never an exact science and be prepared for ups and downs, because there’s loads.
And is there any advice you'd give to someone looking to set up a label themselves? Go for it. I’ve said this in interviews before, but I speak to so many people with better ideas than I could ever dream of, who struggle to put themselves out there and actually start releasing records. The time you spend worrying is the time you could be spending building something special for yourself, in your own way and on your own terms. Running a label can be a tiring, thankless job on a day-to-day level, but it also opens up the doors to so many amazing new opportunities and friendships. Starting Coyote has been the best decision of my life.
So with 5 years down, what do you envisage for the label as you creep up to 10...? It’s crazy to think five years have passed already, but I guess I’d like to think the label will still be here! My main ambition is to be able to run it full time eventually — records, events, management and publishing — but weird and exciting music will always be at the heart of everything I do.
Listen to the latest Coyote release below from Marks.
You can find the next Coyote Records event on Facebook by clicking here
Interview and Photos by Beth Sheldrick