Cooly G finds therapy in lustful confessions
￼With pillowtalk vocals and titles like Your Sex, I Like, Want and So Deep, a carnal intensity pulses through Wait Til Night, the latest album from UK dance veteran Cooly G.
“My mind was in a fantasy land,” she tells us on the phone from her home in South West London. “I had two weeks to myself for the first time, the kids were at my mum’s so I was able to have a different way of thinking, instead of changing nappies and doing all that mum stuff.”
It’s been a long journey for Merissa Campbell, and growing up with dub, soul, hip-hop and acid-house blaring from her family’s soundsystem has had a lasting impression on the Hyperdub producer; “listening to reggae and remembering how beautiful it sounded to me, listening to it now it still feels the same, I still feel young”. After heading straight to the studio on her last day of school at 16, she cut her teeth across South London by DJing deep house at clubs in Brixton. “The crowd were Brixton people, like girls and boys you’ve grown up with,” she remembers. “And they’re just looking at you on the decks like ‘rah, is that her?’”
Cooly G’s diverse sound attracted wider attention back in 2009 with the Narst / Love Dub EP on Hyperdub, the label she’s now closely associated with. Going on to release her intimate debut album Playin Me on the label in 2012 and now the yearning, RnB-flavoured Wait Til Night, Cooly G’s increasingly unpredictable nature as a producer has won her fans across the board.
Wait Til Night sees Campbell fully finding her voice, drawing from traditional song structure more than ever before. “I’ve always asked people to come and sing on my beat. And they’re not hungry enough, that’s what made me record my own.” A subtle blend of house, RnB and reggae soundsystem culture mingles with punchy guitars to produce silky, sticky alt-pop. “The track Your Sex, when I was playing around with the guitar, my mate started doing another line on the synth, and it just felt sexy,” she tells us.
With stark delivery, intimate fantasies lie alongside delicate insights. “It’s just shit that goes on in my mind at night, that’s why I called the album Wait Til Night,” she says. “I can’t really be horny in the day.” The title track is based on a true story of her first date – “just being in a whole different world, like of someone making you feel nice” – and the album’s tone remains deeply personal throughout. “The last track, Three Of Us, is about my daughter. Well it’s based on her dad … being a wanker,” she snipes. “He just basically chatted shit and said he would be there or whatever, and now I’m looking after my baby, and my son, on my own.”
Fiery as ever, it’s this introspective ache that melds the album into the singular project it is. “When I finished I thought about all the people that listen to my broken beat sound or whatever you want to call it, and it’s not got anything like that on there. But I don’t care. I’m totally 100% happy with it, because I got to express myself.”
It’s difficult not to draw on Campbell’s domestic life in interviews, as being a mother is obviously a huge part of who she is as an individual, and as becomes evident throughout our conversation, it’s also integral to who she is as an artist. But how does she actually feel about being asked about her work/life balance all the time? “It gets a bit dramatic sometimes for me – ‘how do you make beats and have kids and go on tour and whatever?’ I don’t know. I just do it. I don’t have an answer for that kind of stuff.” When asked what her kids think of the album, she’s much more forthcoming. “They love it!” she chuckles. “It’s funny because, say, that tune Freak You, I play the instrumental all the time and the baby’s actually humming the melody and she’s singing, and we’re just laughing at her.”
In between domestic life, producing and writing a book about her experiences in music (“all sorts of shit; good shit, bad shit, crazy shit, just everything”), Campbell can be found DJing regularly alongside the likes of Kode9, Laurel Halo and Scratcha DVA for the run of Hyperdub showcases, which have been touring the globe this year to mark the label’s 10th birthday. “It seems like a real celebration when we do these shows,” she explains. “For me I’m humble and I’m oblivious to things, so something like this makes me see that they’ve achieved so much.”
Over the years Cooly G has expressed her truly personable character, and this album gives us a glimpse of another side to her bright personality. Though on first listen her motivation may seem strictly below the waist, there’s another impassioned force behind Wait Til Night’s lusty swagger. “It’s given me hope, and it’s made me feel nice again. I had a stage where I thought I was ugly – fat and ugly – for a long time and it wasn’t good.
“I was listening the other day to I Like and as soon as the bassline dropped, it just hit my heart and I was just crying, because I was so happy that I managed to do this album and this sound. About 15 years ago I was into that sound, I used to do RnB and hip-hop tracks back in the days. So it was more like me finding myself again, doing it with better knowledge, better skills … I’m hoping people make some babies to it!”
Wait Til Night is out now on Hyperdub