Codeko is currently juggling working towards a masters in material science at Cambridge University and shutting down nightclubs on the weekends. Talk about a full course-load.
In between traveling all over the world for huge festivals like Life in Color Shanghai and working on huge collaborations this year, I had the chance to sit down with Codeko at E-Zoo to talk a little bit about what the journey’s been like and how he’s handling the full-time responsibility of artist and student.
You used to be pretty involved in classical music.
Indeed I did.
How’d you get your start in electronic?
Ah, so… It was GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) Music, which is a nationwide exam for music in England for everyone who is 16 years old. At that point, you had to make a piece of music. You could either write it down by hand or record it on the piano or guitar with a microphone. I decided I wanted to sequence it because I wanted to do everything by myself on the computer.
I decided I really, really liked it, so I continued to do it in my spare time. That was about five or six years ago. I’ve obviously gone to college since then, and it just took off, so now I’m here.
So it definitely influenced your sound, then?
For sure—I think being grounded in classic music, having a proper musical training, really allows you to make the most of the musicality of dance music. Potentially if you’re making heavy music, you don’t really need harmonies and all of that, I suppose. If you want to make the music I value more, where it really speaks to people and makes an emotional connection, I think being classically trained and knowing how theory works is fundamental.
It’s your second year playing E-Zoo NY, but you’ve played other huge festivals like E-Zoo in Shanghai as well?
Indeed I have. It’s been a fun ride. I actually played Life in Color out in Shanghai a few weeks ago. It’s a pretty cool place to play. I also had Tomorrowland. I’ve been doing a lot.
What’s your favorite to play?
Favorite? Ugh, that’s a hard one for sure. I really enjoy playing Life in Color. Life in Color Shanghai was a memorable one. China is a really cool place to play because they have a great up-and-coming electronic music scene. It’s very different from America for lots of different reasons.
Do you have any wild stories?
Wild festival stories… hm, not repeatable ones. Let’s leave it at that. [laughs]
Do you usually travel alone?
If possible, my managers try to come to as many as they can. Often, my friends get to come if they’re able. Luckily, my friends are spread out quite a lot. For instance, when I go to China, I have friends who live there, so I can see them. I’ve got around ten friends here in New York at the moment. Obviously I have my tour manager who is instrumental in day-to-day activities.
Are you still at Cambridge?
I am, yes. I’m working on my masters. I have one year left to go. I finished my bachelors already.
Wha are you getting your masters in?
It’s material science, so physical and natural sciences and the subset is specifically material science. That is, as a translation, a cross between physics and engineering with a little bit of chemistry as well.
What do you want to do with that?
Nothing. [laughs] I want to do music, to be honest. When I applied to Cambridge, I was obviously focusing on academics. Since then, when I really thought about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, music is undoubtedly it. With the opportunity I’d been given and all the things that were coming up, it would make no sense to actually go into material science. At the moment, I’m able to do both, which is great. I wouldn’t want to give up my spot at Cambridge. The fact is, you don’t have to. You can do both. It’s gone perfectly well for me, last year was great. The next year, I might have to drop out. Hopefully I won’t, as we have a lot of music-oriented stuff coming up, but it’s definitely manageable.
Any advice for someone doing the same thing?
For sure. To the best of your abilities, you need to do both. Dropping out of school seems like a great idea, but it’s not something you should do unless you’re sure you have something to fall back on. It’s very much a gamble. It’s a gamble you hear that pays off for a lot of people, but that’s definitely selection bias because the people telling you that it has paid off are the people you’re hearing from because they’re being interviewed, and yeah, of course you’re hearing from them, because they’re there.
I think it’s really important from a realism perspective that you’re being sensible and realistic about what you’re going to be able to do. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your dreams, I think you definitely should, but you should have a backup if that doesn’t happen.
Can you tell us the story behind your name?
Codeko? Oh yeah. Again, this goes back to when I first started. I had made my track for GCSE, and I wanted other people to hear it, not just the examiners who I’d never seen before. I made a SoundCloud account, and I wanted people to be able to find it. My name ‘Ed’ unfortunately is not the most inspiring of names and if my friends were searching for it, it’s not that easy to find.
I was actually jamming together different words that I thought maybe sounded cool, maybe something to do with coding, so I added a couple letters on the end until you googled it and nothing else would come up. That’s where it came from, and obviously it took off and became a lot more serious than it was at the time, but it’s stuck.
You said originally your goal was Seven Lions-esque dubstep…
[sighs and laughs] When did I say that, just out of interest?
… but that it’s evolved. How would you describe it now?
It’s interesting. It’s kind of gone full circle. At age 15, I was into that sort of music. I transitioned out of that into the more trance-based stuff, with the common theme being the melodic side of things because of the importance of classical music to me. Now, it’s heading back towards almost where it started, maybe it’s more American-influenced, hip-hop, trap-y stuff, but for sure is more similar to the dubstep that I was producing in the beginning.
What’s most important to me is that it speaks to me on a musical level, not what speed it’s running at or the kick drum pattern. It’s ‘what does the piece of music mean to me’ and I think that’s the most important, for sure. Although, you could subset my sound into different sections. That’s the most important thing to me, for sure.
Would you say you still set out with a specific sound in mind for your music or let it take its own different process?
When I’m making music, I sit down at the piano. I will take out my phone and record. I’ll play for three hours just getting down any melody, harmony, or chord progression I think is good. I’ll take it to my computer, convert it to a file I can manipulate. I’ll build it all from that. It all comes back to the core musical idea being the most important part behind a track. It’s half production, half sound design, half technical stuff, how it hits together… Before I start all the production stuff, I’ll make sure the music itself is worth while.
It changes track to track, of course.
How does playing in the U.K. differ from the U.S.?
I actually only play a few shows in the U.K. as my music’s taste is strongly solidified in the U.S. market. I probably play 5x or 6x more shows in the U.S. than I do in the U.K.
U.K. is an interesting one. Music taste differs across markets and different countries. The most notable difference is that different tracks and sounds are preferred in the U.S. than in the U.K. If I were to play the same set in America, it could go down great, then play it in the U.K., it could go down not so great. I think it depends on the day, which crowd it is, and where you are.
Can you run me through your general day to day?
This is an interesting one. I’m split between college and music.
If I’m doing music stuff like this weekend and the next few weeks, of course it’s very busy. I had a show last night at Marquee where we debuted our new track with Austin Mahone. This morning I got breakfast, played the main stage, have a few interviews, and I’m going to play a show tonight. That’s the busy 24 hours.
A typical day at university is pretty different. I wake up at 8 o’clock. Lectures 9 to 1, project work in the afternoon ’til 5. Chill with friends, have dinner, maybe watch some TV. Very much normal college stuff, maybe have a night out.
Do you have a favorite go-to food spot around Cambridge?
I think the food is actually quite lacking around Cambridge. I much prefer New York because there’s so many cool places to eat. Cambridge has some interesting independent places, like the Cambridge Chophouse which has British pub-style food. There’s a lot more chains. I definitely prefer America for food.
Any dream collabs?
Upcoming collabs… hm, there’s a lot that may happen. Obviously, the Austin Mahone one will be coming out next month on Capital. We’ve been working on it for half a year now, going back and forth, making sure it’s exactly how we wanted it. That’s a big one we’re looking forward to.
After that, we’ve been sitting on a big bank of tracks. I can’t name names yet, but we have a lot coming out in the next year.
Anyone you can’t stop listening to right now?
Yes. When I listen to music, it’s either my full attention, or it’s on the back burner. I can’t do both at the same time. One of the only artists I can listen to while I do other things is Tycho. I’ve listened to all of his albums regularly because it’s background music I enjoy but it doesn’t distract me from doing other things. I’ve listened to his albums five times more than any other album right now, I’d say.
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