Interview: Co. Fee

Photo via Juliana Bernstein

Over the past year or so, Diamond Bar native Co. Fee has established quite a following across the West Coast. The LA beat scene can get crowded at times, but he has managed to dig out a particular niche for himself somewhere between time-tested soul-sampling hip hop and modern club beats. We caught up with Co. Fee after his set at Kohoutek Music and Arts Festival (find our coverage from Day One and Day Two) and dished on his crew My Hollow Drum, the process behind his last EP Easy Listening, opening for Erykah Badu at Low End Theory last April and his love of Bollywood samples. Look out for Co. Fee’s debut LP in late Summer/early Fall and an EP with Ohio MC Note. You can cop Easy Listening over at Alpha Pup. Find the rest of the interview after jump.

First off, do you want to introduce yourself to our readers?

This is Co. Fee, I just played right now. This is my first college festival playing, and there was a lot of good energy. I wasn’t expecting that much energy. It was dope. I saw the Young Rapscallions, they were good.

In our opinion, Easy Listening was one of the best recordings of last year. What went into the process of making it?

It was interesting. It was kind of a compilation album, because almost all the songs were meant for other projects and compilations, but my crew MHD (My Hollow Drum) wanted to start our own label and we needed a release, so I had all these tracks built up and I just compiled my favorite tracks that I made from the year before, and that was pretty much the Easy Listening EP. But it came together, like it sounded like one thing.

Yeah, there’s all sorts of different sounds in there, but it’s cohesive.

Exactly. Like I’m working on my album right now, and I want it to have that same feel. Even though Easy Listening was kind of a mistake how it ended up that way, it was for the better, and it worked out, so for my album I’m following that same type of template.

How’d you get together with My Hollow Drum?

It was kind of a MySpace kind of thing. I met Teebs on MySpace like… ’06 or something, over five years ago. I’m from Diamond Bar and he’s from Chino, so I heard his music and was like “oh, crazy, someone from my area is making experimental music.” So I hit him up. We formed a group called Bearded Baby, you probably haven’t heard of it. Then his friend Chad, who’s also from Chino, wanted to start a crew, so he said, “hit up your friend who’s in Bearded Baby and see if he wants to join MHD.” And that’s pretty much how it happened. It’s ten of us. It’s been the best, because I used to just do hip-hop, and then I was with all those guys and I felt I got way better as a producer. I wanted to keep up with them, so it really opened my mind.

What was it like to have Erykah Badu come out at that Low End show?

Ahh, yeah that was nuts. I found out she was gonna play there like the day before. And i thought it was a rumor, but then I was setting up at Low End, and I saw the crazy line and all that, but it was just supposed to be a My Hollow Drum night, my EP release party, so I’m setting up to do my show and Erykah and her entourage go through the crowd, like a minute before I’m supposed to go on, and they sit down on the side of the stage. I’m like, “okay, I’m gonna perform…” And I was debating like, should I play my remix of her or not, the whole show, and then the last track I was like “alright, I’ll play it.” So I played my remix. It was a crazy night. It was epic for all of us.

I loved it.

A memorable night!

You have sort of a Bollywood sound about your music. Where does that come from?

I love Bollywood films a lot, I’ve always been into them. It reminds me of kung fu movies too, because it’s real animated and just crazy. They’re like three hours long, and there’ll just be all these musical numbers in them. But the drumming in it is really good. It sounded like hip-hop. I got into it especially because of the Beastie Boys and Dan The Automator, he made like a compilation, and Madlib who sampled it a lot. A lot of producers I look up to, they all sample Bollywood, so I went and dug for it, and I’ve been hooked. I’m always gonna sample it.

You can definitely see the Madlib in your music, but also the more club-oriented stuff.

Exactly. I try to mix both of them, you know?

For sure. Do you consider yourself to be a hip-hop producer?

Yeah. Well I started out mainly hip-hop, and then after I joined MHD I just started making instrumental stuff, and I was surprised, the first time I went to Low End, how you can do instrumental music and command a crowd. I’d never seen that before. So then I just got into making more instrumentals.

Definitely. Are you looking to work with any MCs?

I am. I’m working with a rapper named Note, he’s from Ohio. I played a track tonight of his. I just finished up the beats for this EP we’re working on, and he needs to finish up the vocals for it. But I’m still open to working with rappers because I see myself as mainly a hip-hop guy. I’m pretty much a hip-hop geek, so I just know a lot about hip-hop.

Who would be your dream collaboration?

Oh man, there’s so many. Ludacris is up there, Redman too. I’m trying to think of some newer ones. Danny Brown. He really reminds me of Redman and Ludacris. There’s a lot of rappers out there.

Definitely. Any interest in working with the Black Hippy dudes?

Yeah those guys are really good. Kendrick Lamar, I was kind of late in hearing his album, like a few months ago, but I’m really into it. Schoolboy Q too. I’d be down.

What should we be looking out for in the next couple months from you?

Yeah, look out for the album with Note. And me and Note are on Huh What & Where, and we’re gonna put the EP out on there. It might come out in the summer. And then I’m working on my album right now, the follow-up to Easy Listening. I’m hoping to finish it in time for late summer or fall, I’m hoping I finish it in time. Pretty much the same type of steeze. I had a lot of fun doing it.

You gonna be at Low End any time soon?

Yeah, they hit me up out of nowhere usually. And it’s just like “alright.” I can’t say no really, I mean, it’s Low End. It’s always epic playing there.

Any last words?

Look out for new music, I hope you guys feel it. I hope you guys have fun. My whole thing is having fun and making animated music, so I just wanna make more of that.

Well thanks so much for talking with us.

No problem. Great to meet you guys.

It’d be great to have you back at Kohoutek sometime.

Oh yeah, I’d be down to come back.

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