Col3trane is one of Highsnobiety Music's Class of 2018. In this interview, we chat with the London artist about his rapid ascent, the year ahead and his surreal trip to Los Angeles.
"I’m holding auditions for my live band today, it’s pretty exciting, everything is a work in progress right now. We need keys, guitars; there’s a lot happening on stage," says 19-year-old songwriter and producer Cole Basta, aka Col3trane. He's fresh from releasing his debut mixtape Tsarina, which leveled 3 million plays via Spotify in its first month. The unsigned artist is now preparing for his first national tour, scheduled for February. Championed by every new music hotlist (including our own) as one of the most original and exciting voices of 2018, Cole remains low key about his burgeoning success. A perfect synthesis of everything buzzing and up and coming, Col3trane's murky, neo-soul-infused aesthetic appeals to anyone with original taste for intelligent, emotive, intuitive music.
Capturing the North Londoner's alluring presence more than anything is his first music video, "Penelope." Shot by Prince's personal photographer Nicole Nodland, the moody clip is a true representation of Cole just doing Cole; a distinctively sexy voice that creates the kind of ambient chill wave to fuel a deep-feeling, deep-thinking after party, illuminating a 4am sunrise with optimism.
His mixtape instills much more of the same. Amid references to The Odyssey in service of his own coming of age journey, Col3trane's project reveals a shadowy world, engaging a level of consciousness that blocks out what appears physically, supplanting it with imagined scenarios though transcendentally-layered chords and metaphors. To say the least, it's an astoundingly impressive debut piece. Highsnobiety caught up with Cole to discuss the mixtape, how he is comprehending his colossal hype and why LA is actually kind of terrible.
How does the experience of disciplining yourself to work for extended periods of time in the studio as opposed to working more sporadically affect the music?
I like making music a lot, the whole process is very dependent on the environment and the people I am with. I have to feel respect for those I’m creating with and I need to get that respect back. There must be good energy, good vibes, straight up; We may be together for weeks so it has to be laid back. Obviously the most fun thing for me is when we start something fresh, when you plant the seed and think ‘Oh, where can I take this?’ The most important thing is to take that seed and grow it into a finished product, so you have something to show for it. That is, in truth, difficult to do.
Do you enjoy performing live, and does the pressure of becoming one of the most hotly-tipped artists for 2018 intimidate you or inspire you?
It’s funny to even hear you say that, I don’t really know. I like performing live so I don’t even think about that stuff too much. It’s cool to hear you say that - I appreciate the positivity of the music. I’m not even gonna lie, it’s crazy to think people are listening to my music, just mad.
Are you a perfectionist?
100%. If it’s not good, it’s not good, I won’t listen to it. I can only hear good things.
You've been spending some time in LA working on upcoming projects but you tweeted about your disdain for the city... what left you you feeling disenchanted from the West Coast?
LA is weird, it’s a lot of people and a lot of egos. It’s not me - too intense, too showbiz lifestyle. When you walk around you feel people judging you, everyone is scrutinizing each other; the way you dress, the way you talk, then you find yourself reflecting those critical attitudes, and that’s not me. I like being in London where no one looks at you. No one even catches eye contact. I’m not shitting on LA, I met so many people out there, the kind of talent that l wouldn’t have been able to connect with in London, so many sick people. It’s a rollercoaster; one day you feel like it’s the best place in the world and the next day you hate it and you want to go home. It’s a very lonely place, so many people, but you can still feel isolated. I know I am going back soon but this time, luckily, there will be more people who I know as friends now, that I can chill with. If you don’t have that, you’re just stuck not progressing or having fun, because it’s so cliquey.
I was mainly working with producers and keys players when I was out there. I worked with this great duo called DJDS for a while, DJ’s turned producers. These guys are so wavey. Their talent on the computer is insane. I have never seen people use digital music software the way they use it - it is so cool. I worked with another guy called Rojay, he is the sickest keys player. I went to his house and there were 10 synths lined up on the wall hardwired ready to go right there for you; that’s the best way to work. If you get up in the spot with an idea you need to move quickly on it. It can really kill that spark of inspiration if things take time, turning all the monitors on, warming up the instruments. 20 minutes later when the set up is ready you might have forgotten your idea. His stuff is all good to go, then and there. He’s the craziest keys player I’ve ever seen.
You come across as leveled out and thankful on your social media. Who has instilled these core values, inspiring you to keep your focus expansive as opposed to introspective?
That’s definitely my mum. Hold tight my ma, she’s great. She’s very positive, very level-headed. Life’s just better when you're thankful for things. It’s weird trying to calm your mum down. She’s into the music - she’ll be playing the music when l get home. With just her friends, she will be listening to the music in the kitchen. She’s my number one biggest fan, 100%.
Do you have an idea of how you want that idea to evolve long term?
I fantasize about the future. But I’ll let you into a little secret: I don’t know what the fuck I'm doing. I just take it day by day. I have ideas, it’s just about editing out the good from the bad.
For more of our interview features, read our illuminating chat with G.O.O.D. Music impresario CyHi the Prynce.