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The Rhythmic World of Coflo: A Conversation with the San Francisco House Music Maestro.

Kono Vidovic April 7, 2023 276 4 5


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Local Talk Records are soon to release their 13 years Later compilation. Label regular, soulful house producer, and San Francisco based dancer, ‘Coflo’, forms part of the star-studded cast on the comp. Here we have a little talk and get to know some more about this very talented and very humble guy.

Coflo interview

Hey, thanks for talking to us.  Where are you today and what are you doing with your time?

I am in the San Francisco Bay Area, California (USA)…in my studio; doing some “admin stuff” today. Taking care of my Bandcamp followers with some communication, getting some tax items in order and figuring out my project schedule for the next week.

Where are you from originally?

Born and raised in the East Bay of the San Francisco area in California.

What was going on musically where you grew up?

It’s the Bay Area, so we have pretty much everything. Growing up, my parents were musicians (not professional) and their band played a lot of folk / singer songwriter type stuff.  Their record collections were a lot of southern rock; psychedelic rock, folk, traditional country and of course 60’s/70’s pop…Beetles, CCR etc. Of course, being a child of the 80’s and 90’s Hip Hop was huge, West Coast and East Coast Hip Hop was a major soundtrack to popular life. 

As a dancer I was exposed to “club and rave music” which ranged from Drum n Bass to House and Freestyle High Energy.  Where I grew up bordered the South Bay Area (San Jose/Santa Clara county) and there is/was a huge Mexican and Central American population. House Music and Freestyle High Energy was everywhere in households and folks I hung out with…so even as a kid “dance music” was a daily thing.

What was your first introduction to music?

My parents for sure. There are pictures of me as a toddler holding a guitar. I’ve never not known a life of music. My initial introduction to “dance” music specifically was around 12/13 years old. I fell in love with dance and became a life-long student of the club dance arts. The music was paramount to how we express ourselves. It was truly a lifestyle (still is). There is more to that story but that’s a good place to leave off.

Can you remember the first record that you bought? 

Ha! I had a lot of tapes that were compilations and singles but I can’t recall specifically what was “first”.  The first CD I ever bought (well I convinced my mom to purchase for me) was Selena’s final album Dreaming of You. I was in love with Selena…viva Selena!!!!  Past that, I don’t recall the first “dance record” I ever bought that fed into my mild addiction to music collecting.  

When did you first start to dj? 

My initial jump into “DJing” was in 2002-ish. A good friend and long-standing DJ legend here in SF, Jayvi Velasco, allowed me to hang in the booth with him and gave me a real-time lesson in what the DJ booth does and the equipment it holds. I would practice at home and play at house parties (parties that weren’t in club/rave venues) for a few years before playing at an actual club in 2007/8ish called “Mars Bar”.  After getting a taste for “gigs” through the next year or two, I decided DJing wasn’t for me and stopped playing out until recently I started up again in 2017/2018.  I never stopped “mixing” or “collecting”, just stopped booking (locally…never really had anything else outside of the Bay Area).

What kind of stuff were you playing?

House music. My ear has always been drawn to things with complex rhythms and syncopated accents. I actually have a distain for 2-4 accented backbeats in “dance music”.  Unless it’s done with a sonic characteristic that isn’t just “easy” or “obviously”. I digress…lol.  I really enjoy things with movement and surprise. Stuff that feels like improvisation made it into the recording. House that has a wide sonic pallet…broken beat and nu jazz.

Who were the artists you were into at that time?

I was playing everything from MAW to Ron Trent. A lot of Joe Claussell stuff, Osunlade, Kuniyki Takahashi, Vick Lavender etc.. I also played a lot of Broken Beat/Nu Jazz. The likes of Bugz in the Attic, Mark De Clive-Lowe etc..

Coflo Q&A

What is the first production that you made?

In 1999/2000 I made a song called “daaataaa”. It never saw the light of day lol. My first production that was released was a remix I did for a friend Stephen Rigmaiden called “Take Chances”, I think it was released in 2012 or so. My first original production that I self-released was called “Wolf Tickets” in 2014.

Which of your releases do you feel has been the most notable?

Without a doubt, my song is called “Stress Relief”. This is the one with the hook that I am singing over and over saying “Don’t F**k with me right now”. In American culture it seemed to really hit the nail on the head. I went from a producer that, I think, was making some cool productions to an actual artist in the eyes of fans of house music.

I became known outside of a very small bubble of people and my reach expanded in America.  It didn’t “blow me up” as they say, but I certainly obtained a new level of notoriety within the American house music community. People from Chicago, Detroit, New York etc.. knew who I was. That is a big line to finally cross for a little guy like me.

Which of your releases do you feel slipped up the radar a little and should have got more love?

Sheeeeit. I make and FINISH so much music and fortunately also release a lot of music.  The majority of my music on an annual basis over the last 3 years has been slept on. I would like to think my music should be on more people’s lists to “check for” but it isn’t….YET!  Music is art, so opinions vary widely (duh), depending on when you put something out and who has their ear tuned in at that time can make or break how far that song goes.  If it were not for the late, great and wonderful Paul Johnson my “Stress Relief” tune may not have gone where it did…he played that shit around the world.

To not make a long answer longer….the last year 2022 I had two BIG remixes that I felt checked all the boxes for certain sounds that didn’t do as well as I thought.  I remixed Karizma and Nicholas Ryan Gant’s cover of Gypsy Woman (which the original was a HUGE tune)…and I smacked it. Also, I remixed Tamara Wellon’s “You Are” originally produced by amazing Pirahnahead.  I reharmonized it and took it to a new level and it just didn’t go the places I thought it would. I do set the bar pretty high for myself….which is why I work so hard…Juno maybe they did better than I thought.

Who do you think is making great music right now?

Dance music….Stefan Ringer, Ron Trent (after a million years of killing it); Joe Claussell still pops up with limited tunes that are untouchable. Osunlade still cranks out tasteful grooves.  Everything that comes out by the Attias brothers (Alex and Steph)…especially their taste of their imprint Visions Recordings. Laroye and Emmaculate have a range that is unrivaled.  They can make pop-disco music and crushing dance-floor “tracky-track-head” tracks. Glenn Underground somehow keeps spinning my head after decades of dance-floor jazz. Alma Negra, Kyodai, Floyd Lavine…. I need to stop typing…because the list is foookin’ endless for real.

Where are you based these days?

Same area, ain’t nothing changed. Still in the Bay.

How is the health of the music scene in your town?

Music scene is wide and healthy…for what I am into … on average it’s not a HUGE thing, but then again I like to dance. There is a lot of great music and great bookings; but for the right vibe and place to hit a cypher, it’s not always the right party. There is a big difference between a good party and a dancer’s party.  Dancer’s parties are always good, but a good party isn’t always good for dancing. This is something only dancers can really explain.

Are you playing out locally at all and where?

I am! Finally! Right now, I kind-of have a residency in San Jose at the Continental Bar on 1st street.  I am playing just about every other month. Looking to build more.  The South Bay shows me so much love, I feel so welcomed and accepted with my folks out in that area.  They show an East Bay kid a lot of good times. Besides that I do get maybe 3 or 4 bookings locally a year beyond that. I’m not super popular at this stage in my career amongst promoters in the Bay Area.

My wife and I have taken our Pandemic “Twitch show” called “The Simmer Room” and turned it into a REAL LIFE party. Our first event was in San Francisco at the Foundry and it was an absolute SMASH. The outcome was fantastic and in a perfect world the Simmer Room can exist in each major location of the Bay Area (South, East, SF etc..) on a somewhat regular time period (quarterly or something). Def looking forward to organizing the next Simmer Room for this spring/summer.

What’s coming up for you gig wise this year?

At the moment, end of April I will be in Mexico City for La mera mera conexion fesitval (my first time in CDMX). I am going to be a part of the Yoruba Records showcase at Movement in Detroit; then I am playing at the fantastic party called Love Language in Denver at the end of June. Past that I am planning a few trips to Europe (London, Paris, Amsterdam) but nothing has been “booked” just yet; well see if anyone will have me. Past that I have many events/trips planned this year to a lot of new places. I hope I will find some work to play on those trips but at the very least I will certainly be dancing in a lot of new places 🙂

What kind of vibe might we hope to hear in a Coflo set?

Shit that wrecks dance-cyphers. Exclusive music that I am testing/working on.

Tell us what’s going on with Catch The Ghost Records these days?

CTG started because no one would fuck with my music. Between me and some friends we needed an outlet to publish our music. For those of us that made it past the point of having doors slammed in our face or are still making music; we look to CTG as a place where there are no rules or expectations. It doesn’t work like your normal imprint. Its family owned and operated; we release whatever we feel, whenever we feel.

With that being said, the LONG time overdue debut album of Lady C (going by the new solo project as CEE) will be coming out in June-ish. Her first single “Talk To You” is scheduled for end of April. The whole album is produced by me (along with CEE.) Its a lot of OLD productions in the electro funk and left field RnB vein. So it’s not gonna be DJ set club music; although the lead of single can certainly work in a dance set. I’m proud of her for sticking it out and deciding to release this material. She is a brilliant artist and I know its gonna get her doing more music.

Are you still part of the Soulshifters? 

Yes, Soulshifters is an artistry collective. Its origins go back more so to the dance scene in the early to mid -2000’s where some of the original members were trying to build a “battle crew” in the dance scene. It escalated into an extended family of like- minded artists chasing that “high” of “catching the ghost” in their respective art-forms. Be it painting, tattoo, music, dance etc.

We still exist but beyond maintaining our family of like- minded artists, the collective aren’t working on anything as a group. Rather I like to look at what the crew started and carry it as a philosophy to how I approach my art. Always looking for that key moment in your art, living for that moment, inspiration coming with improvisation and feeling it rather than forcing it . Rather than your art being purposefully architected with rules and boundaries. There is nothing wrong with structure; but a Soulshifter lives in the art and there is nothing you can do to predict what life or the art may bring to you.

Coflo

How did you hook up with Local Talk originally?

I had a few very special songs I had written and produced, one of which was called “Lux”. I originally had two imprints where I thought it may work out. Local Talk was one of them. I always admired and was a fan of what Local Talk was doing once they first found there way into my digs many years ago. I am not an OG in this music game, but I’m also not brand new by any stretch. I have always a very short list of imprints and people I’d love to work with one day.

Local Talk was one of them. I had asked my big bro, Carlos Mena to hook me up with their contact and I just sent Mats a “cold email” introducing myself, expressing my fandom and sharing with them I would love to demo some music for their label. The original release I pitched they weren’t really into and as a follow up I had sent them the original version of Lux. Mats was very warm and receptive regardless of rejection or accepting of any of my music…I lucked out; must have caught him on a good day…or he is just that cool of a dude all the time. Past that first email exchange and work with them, I was connected with Tooli and the rest is history…a quality duo they are.

How many releases have you had on the label?

Including this upcoming compilation they are launching (13 years later), I have 5. My first was “Lux” (which featured an amazing Kaidi Tatham remix), followed by a single with my dude Lee Wilson called Fool For you (which did well but I think was generally slept on for how dope it really was). Followed up by a string of more projects with Lee and I; “Rainbows” the 12” single and our final EP a two song digital only release “Quiet and Wait”. On the compilation I have contributed a song I call “Midnight”.

Why do you think that Mats and Tooli have been going for so long?

My guess would be their passion for music. These guys put a fair amount of care into their brand. It’s really inspiring. From the artist who they work with, to the range of quality tunes; the artwork, the continued effort to press wax. You gotta really give a shit to spend that kind of money and time into something that generally doesn’t always equate to big financial returns. So, what else is there but the love. That’s my thought….

Local Talk 13 years later

Can you tell us a little about your track MidNight?

Sure, my first song for Local Talk was written to be sung on a vocoder. When the fellas asked me to be a part of the compilation, I thought it might be fitting to try and give a little vocoded love as a theme to what originally started our journey. Also, when I think “Local Talk”, I think a wide range of styles and sonic ideas. MidNight was me trying to be more musical and not give up on groove; knowing I could try things that may be more acceptable on their label than other places….things like some basic key modulations and drastic changes in energy around harmony/melody. Ya know, actually writing a fuckin song with different parts and not just some kind of peak time banger with heavy drums haha. Giving space to all the parts to be “parts”. 

The song is about me as a one man band, putting on a fancy suit and playing all the parts…then dashing back home before I turn into a pumpkin and people see how I’m not the musician they thought I was. The story of Cinderella, if I am being cheeky…stroke of MidNight..time to go!!!!! haha.

Have you listened to the full comp? Do you have any other highlights?

Sure have! I think both “parts” are dope, but if I was forced to pick some highlights I would say Part 1 it’s the Shaka, Alex Attias & Sohan Wilson and Laroye tunes that stood out.  Shaka’s tune is so musical…I want to be in the band. Part 2, where my song is featured, Damon Frost comes with a tune from outer space and of course Wipe the Needle are always amazing.

The James L’Estraunge Orchestra’s tune is the kind of music I would like to make one day on a music ability front. Rico Herrera also has a soulful smasher. Really both parts 1&2 are filled with quality stuff. It’s funny because I tend to be attracted to the music I want to make but don’t feel like I can (automatically), so I list those first…but make no mistake, all of the songs serve a purpose on this project.

What other projects are you working on that we should look out for?

So much!!! I work so hard, I just want to be as dope as possible so I can contribute some more amazing tunes to this world filled with INCREDIBLE music. I have remixes and little projects dropping every month this year. Immediately I have a set of remixes for Hallex M and Rona Ray where I did some dance floor damage for their tune “Can’t Turn Back Time”.  My first “EP” on Yoruba Records also releases very soon called “Throwbacks EP”. It’s a very personal set of music, which departs from some of the tempo’s people know me for. 

Osunlade curated and almost forced my hand for that one. He was playing all the demos before they were finished. Aside from those, the other BIG projects coming with no specific date are the debut collab album with my bro Tomahawk Bang, our new alias “THE BAANGBROTHERS”; our full length album on Ocha Records. Also I am launching a new alias this year with Yoruba Records with a debut album under the name of “Rawb Boss”. It’s something different from “Coflo” being that it’s a new mood and even less fucks given than normal…ha!

What do you like to do when you’re not making music?

I study dance and Capoeira. I have been dancing for over 25 years and continue to practice and maintain my health with dance. I am also a Formado in Capoeira; which has been a very big part/influence on me as a quality human. I don’t really separate music from either of those practices as they all are TIGHTLY wound into the practices, but that’s what I do besides “make or practice music explicitly”. I enjoy spending time with my wife, Tsunami, and our fur-children; Patife and Idalina (cats). We love to travel and chase music, our art and spend time with our many friends around the world.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about you?

Hmmmm I guess I would like to tell you how grateful I am for the opportunities that have been presented to me in supporting the art I make. I don’t take any conversation, comment or bit of support for granted. Even with interviews like this; how lucky am I that someone cares enough to hear me out! I am the type of person that lives off of inspiration of what others do, say or make. So my role, especially in my music, is to hopefully provide back into that same energy/world of inspiration. If you come across my music and you’re not really into it, don’t give up on me. I may have something else you like or may find my way to make something you like in the future; give me a chance…I work hard and I’ll never stop studying to become better.  I love peanut butter, pizza and cats…that is all for now. Thank you for the interview!

coflo interview

Our final words.

Wow, what an amazing chat we had with Coflo! From his roots in folk and singer-songwriter music, to his love for West Coast and East Coast Hip Hop, and his passion for dance music and club culture, Coflo’s musical journey has been nothing short of incredible. As a soulful house producer and San Francisco-based dancer, Coflo’s unique perspective on house music and its evolution in the Bay Area is truly fascinating.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know Coflo and his music, and we encourage you to check out his upcoming release on Local Talk Records’ “13 Years Later” compilation. As Coflo would say, “let’s break the backbeat and embrace sonic complexity in house music!”

Thank you so much, Coflo, for sharing your time and insights with us. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors and can’t wait to see what the future holds for you!


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Kono Vidovic

DJ | MUSIC CURATOR & SELECTOR | PODCAST MAKER | BLOGGER Professional online interpreneur. Coffee practitioner. Electronic music culture maven. Total music guru. Infuriatingly humble problem solver. Food & sports fanatic.

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