Ceri @ Koko, London
To say Ceri is a multifaceted lady is something of an understatement. Aside from her much-respected work as a DJ and Producer, she also passes on her expertise to a whole new wave of budding producers via her Find Your Own Sound Masterclass, and regularly gives talks and masterclasses about Music, Meditation, Creativity and Health.
We are excited to talk about her life, where wellness – and of course, music – are at the very heart. As a renowned selector, she’s played alongside a host of legendary DJs, from Ryan Elliot to Move D, Paranoid London and Chez Damier.
Ahead of her gig alongside Jeremy Underground and Kerri Chandler in London’s iconic Koko on 4th February, Ceri supplied us with a fantastic recording (which you can listen to here) from her last gig at Koko, where she played alongside Optimo and Floorplan. To give us a bit more of an insight into her world, we sat down with Ceri herself for a quick chat…
How’s your year been going so far? Are you someone who makes resolutions?
Good, thanks. I don’t really make ‘resolutions’, but I love to do intention setting ceremonies, if that counts!? It’s really important to set intentions ‘for the highest good of all concerned’, also stating ‘this, or better’, because that leaves it open to even better things coming and makes sure we are doing this from a positive place, and not to change the free will of others. This is the rule to be a good witch!
You split most of your time between London and Ibiza. Is Ibiza somewhere that still retains its charm and mysticism for you after all these years?
It definitely has a magical energy which pulls so many people here. I love it in summer and perhaps even more in winter! It is a totally different place in winter, a great time to create and get inspiration. I love the peace and calmness and the beautiful nature. You can go to the beach in winter and be the only person there. Some people might find it boring but I love it, and I still have the London life and travel to other Cities regularly as well, to get my arts and culture fix and obviously in summer it's all about the parties and fun times as well.
You’re a big advocate for mental health and wellness, which we think is fantastic. What advice would you give to people in the music industry - and beyond - who are struggling at this time of year?
Thanks. I guess the most important thing is to know your own mind, and know your own body. And that symptoms are messengers. For example, if you’re feeling depressed, that is a messenger, that something needs to be changed. Most people associate depression with a mental health issue, and sometimes it can be a product of negative thinking or mindset, but it could also be a symptom of a vitamin, mineral or iron deficiency, or a Thyroid problem, (amongst other things). Which is why it’s so important to know your own mind and body well enough, to be able to discern where it is coming from. And if you need help with that, I highly recommend Naturopaths / Functional Medicine Doctors, as they integrate the mental, physical, emotional, environmental and spiritual sides of healing which is so important.
Was there one moment or situation in particular that prompted you to adopt this new way of life? And how was your life changed since you switched your mentality?
Yes. I got really sick around 6-8 years ago, which is also why it’s 6 years this year since I gave up alcohol. I was told by doctors it was ‘incurable’, there was ‘no reason for it’ and I had to ‘accept that’. Luckily for me I have a distrust of authority futures and good intuition, so I knew that wasn’t true, and swapped digging for records, for digging for research and cures.
Thankfully I made a full recovery, (until I got the C which then turned into Long C which is another story! I am writing a book about it and there is also a link in my bio on Instagram to an article I wrote to help others going through similar things too, if anyone is interested in reading it.)
Did you find clubs and festivals difficult to adjust to at the beginning? At what stage did you begin to feel more comfortable and at ease?
Clubs no, as long as the music is good. Festivals, yes. Only because I actually need to sleep at festivals now, which I find really hard as such a sensitive soul / light sleeper, especially without alcohol to knock me out. So now if I go, I try to stay off site, or do a 24-48 hour in and out job.
You’re similarly well known for your Find Your Own Sound Masterclass. Can you tell us about some of the success stories that have come through the course? And indeed, how does one define ‘success’ in this area?
I created the course for people who are finding it hard to get their tracks sounding unique and phat. As well as people who find it hard to finish their tracks and get ‘stuck in the loop’. I’ve had a mixture of people from people, from hobbyists to professional full time DJ’s and Producers. Some of the producers who’ve attended in the past have gone from not being able to finish a track, to having their track signed and released, students have had DJ Mag premieres, Beatport genre top 10’s and made albums, so I am very proud of them.
You define what success means to you. Comparison is the thief of joy, so only compare yourself to the person you were yesterday. To some people success means just actually finishing a track, to others it means getting it signed, to others having your favourite DJs play your music (that’s my personal one for sure).
Tell us a bit about what students can expect to learn from the course? What do you start off doing for example?
The first session is my top Music Production Tips, followed by a Q&A. The following sessions cover; Arrangement, Sampling, Remixing, EQ and Mixing, as well as how to find your own unique sound that's true to you. I also incorporate mindset and meditation into the course too, because it really compliments creativity and helps people focus more.
You have kindly offered our readers a discount on the course! Thanks so much, how can they get it…
Yes, I would love to offer a 22% discount until the 02/02/23 for the course. Just use the code: ILOVEHOUSEMUSIC at checkout on findyourownsound.com (Klarna payments are also accepted for UK residents). It would be my pleasure to have more amazing music heads on the course. It’s suitable for all DAW's and all genres really, but the focus is on all styles of house and techno.
I noticed you studied a Masters in Music Production. That must have been quite the endeavour. Looking holistically at music, what do you think were the biggest takeaways from that course? Did you have to do a thesis etc or how did the marking scheme work?
Yes, it was a long time ago now and I mainly did it so I could use the music studios! My biggest takeaway was that there are unwritten ‘rules’, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s coming out of the speakers that matters, not ‘how’ you did it. Yes, there are certain techniques that will help, but sometimes knowing too much can actually hinder creativity. We were told we had to synthesise every sound ourselves, and we were not allowed to use any preset sounds or samples. BUT… as I wrote in my dissertation, this is not what happens in the real world, in music that is being released. So I did use some samples, and showed examples of sampling in the real world, so they couldn't penalise me for it.
My final project was a dissertation I wrote about the History of Underground Dance Music, including how the associated technologies shaped the music, and how easier access to these technologies gave more people a chance to be heard, as well as creating a rise in mediocrity. As well as discussing payola and how house Music is a feeling.
Plus, the most important thing; how House and Techno music was a political and social Movement, bringing together people from all walks of life. Who at the time may not have engaged with each other otherwise, which is beautiful. The history of the music is so important for any fans to understand and honour, because it stands for inclusivity and acceptance of all people, no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic situation, or sexual orientation.
Do you make music for yourself or for others? Or is this something you’ve really ever thought about?
If you mean when I’m in the studio do I make music for myself, or for others to hear. I guess I make music for myself. I may be inspired by something I think someone else may like too, or a specific sound. But I have to be digging it myself for me to finish it. The tracks I've made that seem to just flow out of me effortlessly, that I love, also seem to be the ones that other people like too which is interesting. I believe you can feel someone's soul in the music they make, and whether that’s conscious or unconscious, people will resonate with the music that speaks to their soul.
You’re playing Koko on the 4th Feb alongside house music dons Jeremy Underground and the legend himself, Kerri Chandler. Does it affect how you DJ playing alongside industry heavyweights? Is there an extra need to ‘make an impression’ or do you ‘go with the flow’ as ever?
Yes, I am really looking forward to it, and I have played alongside them both quite a few times now, at places like Hidden and Printworks so I guess I’m used to it. I don’t think there is an extra need not to ‘make an impression’, it’s almost the opposite…
Don’t get me wrong: I love banging it out and playing peak time, as much as the next person, but I also love to do a good warm up, which completely changes depending who you’re warming up for. Being able to do good warm up set is one of the most important skills to have as a DJ, and you have to put your ego aside and ‘hold back’, which is why people like them, Chez Damier and Move D often request me to warm up for them. I think the art of the warm up isn’t fully appreciated or respected by some people, but it’s so important to help set the tone of the entire night.
Luckily, I also get a chance to play after them too, so I can really let loose and show my harder side. Like when Mr G asked me to close XOYO after him, which was a dream come true and still one of the best nights of my life!
In my opinion, a good DJ is like a good lover, feeling and reading the energy. Holding back at the right moment, teasing, and then going for it when the moment is right! DJ’s who just bang it out with no consideration for the others before or after them are probably bad in bed lol.
What’s your favourite Kerri Chandler jam? And why do you think he continues to remain so popular and influential after all these years?
Aw, there’s too many to choose from! I don’t want to be ‘obvious’ and say ‘You’re in my System’ but I do LOVE it so much. So I will go with ‘Super Lover’, which is one of his most amazing early releases. I love the rawness and the spaciousness of it. It also had a funny story about it too; there are only 500 copies of the vinyl in existence, and apparently Jeremy Underground outbid Kerri himself in an ebay bidding war for one of the copies. It’s currently going for €250 on Discogs with only 2 copies available.
How do you prepare for a gig? Are you meticulous in your planning or do you generally just bring a bag of records that you love and know and see where the night takes you?
I like to plan, whilst also being prepared to change and go with any eventuality, I always bring nearly my entire collection to every gig as you never know what might happen. I’ve been asked to fill in for massive headliners at festivals before when they had transport issues, or ended up at a random villa party in Ibiza playing eclectic Balearic beats. So it’s important to be able to adapt to any situation.
Usually when I plan a set, or a mix, I end up doing something entirely different. But if I don’t go through the process of planning then I feel unprepared. So I do it anyway. Usually if i’m doing a three or four hour set, I will plan 20 - 30 hours of music. I will usually tailor a few different playlists with different moods that could happen. For example; happy groovy, darker dubby, banging ravier… and then I might switch between them during a set depending on the energy of the crowd, and who’s on before or after me. I love a closing set too, and love ending on an old school banger or a cheesy (by my standards) guilty pleasure.
You’ve also provided an awesome mix for us which is a recording from your last gig at Koko. Tell us about that…
It was so good! One of my favourite gigs from last year. I was warming up for Optimo and Floorplan this time, whose music I absolutely love. So I got to play nice house music to set the vibe and it was great to see the club full early doors too, Optiomo were amazing and Floorplan were incredible. I can’t wait to be back there again in February for Kerri.
Koko was also the first rave I ever went to, back in the day when it was called the Camden Palais, so it holds a really special place in my heart. I told my parents I was going to a sleepover and went to Moondance which was a big Jungle / House music rave back in the day. Wearing baggy trousers and a string vest. So glad social media wasn’t around then! Ha.
What more can we expect from you over the next while?
Gig wise; the week after Koko I am playing Heideglühen in Berlin for the first time, I’ve heard it’s amazing! So I am very excited about finding out what it’s like for myself and seeing if that is true! It’s always a great crowd in Berlin. I have more gigs in London that I can’t announce until after Koko, as well as gigs in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Ibiza and Paris to be announced very soon.
Music wise; I am doing a remix for the amazing Ornate Records at the moment, as well as a remix for one of the house music legends mentioned above which I am over the moon about!! I am also very excited to be re-launching my label and running my masterclass again.
Life wise: I am getting back into things after the madness of the past few years, and looking forward to catching up with friends and family, and taking care of my body, mind and spirit, as well as learning new things.
Lastly, if you were to introduce yourself in three of your own tracks, what would they be and why?
Life Holstee - because it stands for my manifesto for Life. Look up the Holstee Manifesto if you want to know what I'm talking about. Musically it is also inspired by early Detroit Techno.
Truth - because I always believe in telling the truth. The track was inspired by a speech about racism, so I hope it helps promote the opposite of racism, which is what house music and true love stands for: inclusivity and acceptance. The words I sampled from the closing speech in the film ‘A time to Kill’ say…
“Until we can see each other as equals, justice is never going to be evenhanded. It will remain nothing more than a reflection of our own prejudices, so until that day, we have a duty under God to seek the truth, not with our eyes and not with our minds where fear and hate turn commonality into prejudice, but with our hearts. We are all equal.”
Acid Jam - because sometimes it’s good to be nasty (but be discerning with it). And everyone loves Acid.
I feel like I also need to add a fourth here to show my housier side too, but I guess the mix does that job! ;-)
Ceri plays Koko London on 4th February alongside Kerri Chandler and Jeremy Underground. Tickets for that one can be found here
Listen to Nightclubber Live...with Ceri below.