This year, bass-oriented producer Merrisa 'Cooly G' Campbell will be taking her low-end funk to Lovebox, closing out the women-led Smirnoff House stage. We'd love to be able to tell you what to expect from her set, but all we can say with any real accuracy is that it will be full of surprises. Across two full-length albums, about a dozen EPs and many more singles besides, the Brixton-based producer and DJ has gone further than most in her explorations of bass music's outer limits. Though wildly experimental at times—her work with VR technology and wearable tech like the SUBPAC, for example—she always keeps one eye on the club.
Amidst towering bass lines, distorted midrange and dizzying vocals, you can often find a bouncy UK funky rhythm or a smattering of UK garage snares to guide your feet. We caught up with Campbell ahead of her set at Lovebox (July 13-14) in Gunnersbury Park to talk about her love of hardware, creating art with her mother, and her exciting plans for the future. One thing's for sure: if you thought her current creative output was adventurous, you know the half of it.
I saw you say that your mum made the visuals for "Digitally Higher". What was that experience like?
Well, my mum does VR and graphics and creates avatars etc. She also does interior design, where I got that skill from myself—I do that as a hobby—so I'm very much into the design and now video stuff. She kept sending me bits for her exams for my approval and I was impressed, so I originally told her to do some visuals for my live show I'm creating. Then the Night Slugs [10th anniversary] release came to mind to just do something small, to just have a mini video to go with it. My mum pre-recorded her own view of VR so we used that on the video. Then I asked what does she need to get us to create VR for the people to view it in VR; it's a special camera, so we were deciding to buy that so mum can make the next video in VR for glasses to be used or move phone around while watching. It was a long process, but getting it done was a fun experience—as was working with her on it. She's my my mum, innit! [Laughs]
Have you created art or music together before?
Yes, my mum came to the studio and I taught her how to make beats and put them together. I helped her create and engineer a track she made and sang on it. We filmed it on Vine and, within a few hours, we uploaded it for free download and it got over 4,000 downloads in two hours—which was very exciting. Then it was tagged in online mags where they included the Vine videos and links to download. The excitement of Cooly G & Mum in the studio that day was super good! I still play it: "Hurt Me" by Latty Benze and Cooly G.
How did you get interested in VR?
I've been into it since I first heard about it. I was invited to do a live DJ set in VR and there were a lot of VR cameras and a main one in the middle. My kids were having this experience with me, which was totally fun, and that was when I thought, "I need more of this in my music." Hopefully, my live set gets finished soon and I will organise a VR live show. It'll be small capacity, with VR glasses for all attendees when they buy tickets for the show so they can have a wonderful experience with my visuals, live singing and beat-making. I'm looking for more people to help with this project to get it perfect.
I saw you got involved with the SUBPAC project recently. Would you say you're more of a hardware producer?
I just love creating, so whatever it takes! I'm into hardware as well. That was fun because I really love bass from the soundsystem days, in the late '80s and '90s. When I saw the crowdfunding idea I was like: "Nahhh, I need that!" Imagine when they contacted me, I was like: "OMG! Heavy."
What other new technologies/hardware have you been getting into?
I'm super gassed about my new synth; it's called Peak by Novation. I recently done a short film about production with them. It's not out yet, but yeah—that's my new toy and I'm very happy with it because I need to create new sounds.
It's been four years since your last project, Wait 'Til Night. When can we expect a follow-up?
Four years? Oh my god, no way! Yeah, I had a few releases during that time, but I had a traumatic experience with my partner having a bike accident and is now paralysed from the chest down. So I was doing a lot of caring, and dealing with a lot. He's now more confident, so now I'm back out here doing my thing! I got signed to Coda Agency and now I'm in the process of creating, new sounds and ideas are coming together. Also, I'm waiting for that click about the songs I will write and sing. So I'm putting pieces together and leaving it down to pure vibes. I'll probably do 12-14 tracks for that project so, hopefully, by the end of this year or early next. I'm also making dubs for my DJ sets. I'm working with three female artists, producing some music for them on the side and I've also made a few hip-hop bits for some unsigned artists just to help them. I'm into collaborations now, so artists: holla!
We're halfway through the year now. What have been some of your personal highlights/triumphs?
My biggest highlight was being named an artist to watch in The Grammy Awards magazine. That felt nice. I also enjoyed teaching in New Delhi, India, and having my team of girls open up my show as new DJs. It was so nice to see my team gain confidence in such a short time, so big up them and the British council. Another highlight is that I'm hosting my own stage at Butterfly Effect Festival in Croydon on the Producer's House stage. It was originally an event I used to run in Brixton, with over 2,000 people attending, so I'm bringing it back. I'll be doing more events as well. I want to host more stages at festivals all over with my house and funky dubbage crews. A superb triumph, obviously, will be closing the Smirnoff stage at Lovebox this year. I'm so happy about that and I'm making a few exclusive bangers for it.
How do you feel about Lovebox moving from East to West?
Well, I thought it was going to be at Brockwell Park for some reason—don't know where I got that from!—but that would have been great in South, next to my dad's house. But hey, I'm not too bothered about it. I just can't wait to shut it down and bang some big tunes and have my kids by my side with their earplugs in seeing me live, instead of live streams [laughs].
What have you got planned for the second half of the year?
More music, running a regular night, more gigs and hopefully seal a good publishing deal, which is in talks right now. Apart from that, I'm thinking about 2019 projects. I will, for sure, release more music and I have merchandise in progress—sunglasses and tees—which I'll make a wider range of in 2019. Also, I'll have a library of music for more labels, so yeah: I'm ready to license some music. I'm just putting it out there and production for artists to spread the word and all the different sounds and styles. I want to get into scoring films, too.
Anything you'd like to add/plug/shout-out?
Big love to God! Love to my kids and to Marcus, who is super excited to join me at Lovebox Festival; it'll be his first festival wheelchair bound. My dad, my mum, and I also want to shout-out my uncle, Eric, for getting me a keyboard that's compatible with my Peak so I could use it. Big up my dog Mitzy and cat Catty—you have to say it in a Jamaican accent! [Laughs] Big up Night Slugs for the release and big up my day one family, Hyperdub, and future working partners.