Ivan Ramos, otherwise known as Coyu, is a trendsetting DJ, producer, ‘fashionista’ and feline philanthropist. Born and raised in Barcelona, Coyu has been a prominent player for many years in the dance music scene around the globe. But Barcelona is still home for this eclectic electronic DJ; home to him and his Suara project which consists of the record label, fashion brand, cat charity and a newly opened Cat House, a fresh initiative that he has started where he allows the public to come, relax and enjoy the company of his cats.
Clubber Confession caught up with him at the start of the month in Barcelona at the Cat House which is situated above the Suara store in the El Born district of town. We interviewed him and spoke to him about how he found his passion for electronic music, cats and fashion, and also asked him about his creative musical preferences alongside his future plans for 2018.
The interview took place in a very relaxed atmosphere, credit given to Coyu’s cats and their Zen like behavior.
Hi Coyu, it is a pleasure to meet you. You have become known as a bit of legend in the dance music scene over the years, can you tell me a bit about how it all began, your upbringing in Barcelona and how you found your love for music?
Coyu: I found myself connected to electronic music from the age of 15 when I started experimenting with some tracks in my bedroom. It all began with me using Virtual DJ to put together some sets of classics just for fun.
My influences at the time were artists such as the Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim to name a few. I loved the music and the style and I decided that I want to start DJing. I took a job as a baggage handler at Barcelona airport. I did this job solely so I could afford some turntables and mixer. After I got my equipment, my passion for it all came naturally.
After some practice, I started to play records at some small clubs and bars in Barcelona, and at the same time I worked as a music journalist for a magazine in Spain called Trax which is quite similar to Mixmag. I did this for 5 years. Through this I gained connections into the dance music world and thanks to this I gained a lot of opportunities to play outside the comfort of my bedroom, this even led me to play on radio where I had my own show for some time (Coyu presents Suara PodCats). I managed to become quite well known in Spain and I travelled the country a lot playing in clubs.
But I would say my big breakthrough was way back in 2009 when I released my first great track, El Baile Aleman on the German label Liebe Detail. This was one of my first tracks and it became the most sold track in 2009 on Beatport. Two months after releasing this track I released the Baby Raw EP on the Diynamic label and a short time after that I managed to release 4-5 more tracks that got very high on the charts on Beatport and it all basically took off from there.
We are sitting here in Barcelona doing this interview while stroking some cats at your newly opened Cat House. You have a unique and interesting story in how you have combined music, fashion and charity. Can you tell me a bit about Suara, the label, the store and the animal rescue charity for cats that you have set up? Tell me briefly how this all began, its vision and what direction you hope to take it in and also please tell us about the new Cat House.
Coyu: Everything I did in my life came up in a very natural way. Really very natural. I like cats, I like fashion and I like music. Suara as a label began in 2008 and is still going strong. My girlfriend is actually a feline veterinarian and she was a big part of it when it comes down to the cats. We started the Foundation for cats in 2011, and then we started the online store of eclectic cat focused merchandise in 2013 and then the physical store in 2016 in Barcelona.
Now, we have the Cat House which we opened officially at the end of November 2017. It’s a place where people can come and relax and hang out with cats on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It is a small project and we want to keep it that way so we don’t stress out the cats.
We heard that you have just returned from playing in the United States somewhere that you travel to a lot to play. Many people think that compared to Europe dance music culture in the US is still finding its path, do you agree with this?
Coyu: I like to play in the US because they are quite open-minded over there. They don’t really care about if its house techno or trance, they just like music and they don’t have the perception of what is mainstream and underground like we have here in Europe. Electronic music is quite new for them, they are original creators but it picked up in Europe much more since its creation. They have a few big festivals like the one in Detroit but for example after this one week, there isn’t much of a scene left there. At the same time it is interesting because in the US and be a fan or Eric Prydz and at the same time a fan of Chris Liebing. I like it because I have a different style of fans there and I love playing out there just as much as I love playing in Europe.
Can you be more experimental when you play there?
Coyu: To be honest at this point in my life I play anything I want. I used to think more that the crowd was a huge factor to the how the set should sound, but I have found that the music that I really want to play gets a good reaction from the crowd, so I am going with this flow. I don’t play more experimental, more underground or mainstream in America more than I would in Europe. I just do what I feel like doing at that time.
For example, if a DJ plays before me and plays more housey i will adapt and play more housey, if the vibe is more dark and techy I will adapt to that. But nowadays I play what I want to play whether it is in America or in Europe or anywhere else. I think that people buy a ticket to see and listen to me so I feel I have to offer them what i want to offer them not what they are probably expecting. I just try and express myself the best way possible each time.
Back in the day I thought a bit differently about this, but nowadays I just play what I feel like and try to adapt to the atmosphere I am in.
Now back to Europe; can you tell us about how the future of dance music is evolving in your opinion here. Nowadays there are so many genres to describe this kind of music on the continent, can you tell us if and how your taste has changed over the years?
Coyu: Yes, for sure things have changed. I am quite an eclectic person and artist and used to class myself more in the tech house kind of genre, but this genre has evolved quite a lot, and I have come not to like tech house as much as before. This is because I feel that it has become quite generic, so generic that today some EDM djs are even starting to play some tech house.
Nowadays there are millions and millions of records and so many more people who are making music; this is both good and bad. It’s good because more people are getting involved and sharing their talents, skills and vision for electronic music, but it is also bad because everybody wants the same, everybody wants to be a superstar dj and everybody wants to play at Awakenings, Creamfields and Tomorrowland. With respect to this, I think that there is a lack of respect for the music these days.
When I was younger, I never thought that I could be in the position I am in right now, playing music around the world every weekend with my own store and my own cat house. I liked the music, I was clubber, I bought records in the record shops, I loved to play records, but never thought I am doing this because I want to be here in the future. Now I feel that there is lack of creativity in the music today, and I have to admit we are partners of crime of that, including myself and Suara: we have in the past released more mainstream style stuff sometimes, but if you want to be a big label it is impossible not release a few mainstream records.
Now, it is quite different. Nowadays I only want to release underground and I am thinking less about the sales than in the past. Economically it is probably not such a good thing because the sales of the label today are not as good as they were in the past but I am a happy man, I probably have less money than 1 year ago but I am doing what I always wanted to do and I am thinking this way these days as I feel that this road will take me to bigger opportunities and a better life, one in tune with my passion.
Do you think that the type of music you produce has evolved over the years that you have been producing?
Coyu: Absolutely. I have gotten a little bit older now and probably because of this I am making the kind of music that I really want to make. I am now working on my first album, I have been working on it for quite a while, almost 6 years, but I have decided that 2018 will be the year to release it. It’s funny because I always wanted to have a proper album, not just a bunch of singles put together. An album is an album and for me that is different where you have to explain to the people with this expression who you really are. With a single, you can show that I am a DJ and I play records and I can make you dance on the dance floor but with an album you can make other things, you can explain to the people who you are and what angle you are coming from.
That is why I have tried to utilize a number of different styles to express myself including elements of pop, hip hop, trip hop and other styles. I plan to release the album in the next 6, 8 or 10 months. I am a techno artist so people want to listen to my techno, bit I have a lot of music made in other styles for the dance floor so for sure the album will have some different kind of tracks.
As a follow up to that, do you have any advice to bedroom Producers and DJ’s of today?
Coyu: Keep trying, perseverance is very important. It’s very difficult to break out onto the scene but it is even more difficult to stay relevant in a good and high position because there are so many upcoming DJs and producers who are trying to find their place and fight to keep it.
My best advice would be to try to do something different. If you are making the same style of tunes that that everyone is making with the same sounds, it will be impossible to stand out. You must offer something different, something more interesting.
Obviously we are sitting having this interview in Barcelona. Suara is based in Barcelona and you also live and grew up here. Can you tell us about what you made of the recent political tensions in this city?
Coyu: I have my opinion and I think that artists should speak more about their lives and voice their opinion on important issues. For sure if you speak about politics you can lose some fans. Let’s say I have 2000 fans in the US and 30% of them are Trump fans if i don’t like Trump and I say that and they get offended they may not listen to me anymore or come to see me but I think your opinion is important and I firmly believe that.
Here in Spain there is a massive polarization of society and especially here in Catalonia you can see that with what has happened recently. Situations like this are difficult because sometimes you talk about something, for example, here in Catalonia there are people who want independence and people who don’t want it.
So, if you say something about this situation it is very sensitive because you cannot please both sides. It is very difficult to balance this not only as an artist but also as a citizen and also as a human. It is so sensitive that you can have problems even with your own members of your family. But at the end of the day speaking what you feel is important and I think your fans deserve to know who you are in your personal life. I like to know what my favorite musicians, actors, etc. think about important issues. Even if it could be bad for their careers. I think generally people should be more honest about their opinions.
Ok thanks for shedding light on that. We have a technical question with regards to when you play out and also produce. When you go to a club what is your preferred method of communicating your music to provide the Coyu experience? And, also when you produce tunes what is your production setup like?
Coyu: For me, it all began with vinyl, but for the last 7 years or so I have been using my laptop with Traktor and a midi controller. For some people this is not enough. Some people think if you play with sync you are not a DJ. I do understand this way of thinking because back in the day when I was younger I always played records on turntable and never touched a CDJ. So when CDJ’s became a thing and when a DJ was playing a set on those, he/she wasn’t a DJ for me. But I was younger and I was not a professional and I played records because I liked it but nobody said to me at that time that I can offer something more, something better that I feel is a reality today with the way that I have chosen to play.
I can play with turntables and my records but today I can not only just play 1 track after 1 track after 1 track, I need more options. When i play with laptop and Traktor and my controllers, I have control over 4 channels. To do this with 4 turntables, unless you are Jeff Mills or somebody, it is very very tough to control 4 decks in 1 go and making a good job of it. I do what I do only because I feel it is the best way to offer a good show. If it was the case that people would dance more if I played on vinyl or CDJ then I would do it, but I am not going to change at this moment because I have found that playing with Traktor I can play differently. I can use parts from songs and cue up different sections on four channels and sometimes have all of these playing at the same time.
It’s also incredible how you can make a new song out of 4 songs when you loop the sections and I utilize this often in my sets. It gives me the ability to be unique every time. I mean you can do that on CDJ right now but I have chosen this way and like the way it’s going.
For my productions I always work with Ableton. I started with Logic for the first few months, but after that I switched to Ableton. As a producer, I do not use a lot of hardware, I use software and a MIDI keyboard and control pad. I changed from Logic to Ableton because I can work on the program faster. I find that the same thing you can do in Logic you can do in Ableton but quicker.
We are called Clubber Confession, and I always ask this to the artists I meet. Have you been a clubber before being a DJ and producer? And do you think it is necessary to be a clubber in order to be a good dj
You cannot be a DJ if you don’t like to hear and dance music in a club. You need to feel the music if you wanna play it. I became a DJ thanks to see other DJs making magic in front of me at the clubs. The rule #1 for a DJ should be, go out, get into the music trip and learn from the masters. My masters were the resident DJs of the clubs. They played opening and closing sets before & after the headliner and the music was always on point. Best music of the night were at the beginning with an empty crowd and at the end where they could explore and play music that you’re not supposed to play at the peak time
Great thanks for sharing. One final question, tell us about what is in store for 2018 for you? What can we expect from Coyu in coming months?
Coyu: Well I will be releasing a few remixes which are coming out very soon on Matador’s label RUKUS. To don’t forget I’ve just released a brand new EP with Bastian Bux now, another Barcelona-based DJ and producer. It is entitled “Son of Suburbs”, contains 4 original tracks, this release will show you a little bit of what I plan to release on my album in the future.
I will also continue to tour the world and play my tunes in 2018. Actually I am off to Lebanon, Armenia and India very soon.
Performance wise for 2018 I will begin with my NYE set at R33 in Barcelona.
But I guess the main thing will be that I will be concentrating on is releasing my album in 2018 and will be working hard on that, that is a huge priority for me as I have been working on it for a long time and want to have it done in 2018 so keep your eyes and ears open for that.
Interview by Armo Andonian