I’ll let you into a secret: these days, not all musicians, producers and DJs are happy to receive media coverage. While I understand the desire to gain coverage only in hyped publications or on websites that they believe will enhance their credentials with a certain type of listener/reader, it’s frustrating to see those in the early days of their career turn down more interview requests than they accept.
Thankfully, there are still artists out there who understand the value of media coverage and don’t try and tightly control the agenda. These are often those who have seen the highs and lows of the music business at close hand; musicians or producers who are grateful that they can still just about make a living in an industry that’s harder than ever to crack, with a listenership that demands everything for nothing.
Steve Cobby is arguably one of those people. He has been at the music industry coalface since the tail end of the 1980s. After spells in Ashley & Jackson and Heights of Abraham. the Hull-based producer became a well known figure in underground dance music circles in the latter half of the ’90s as part of Fila Brazillia. When “Fila” eventually split in the mid 2000s, Cobby found it increasingly difficult to get magazines and blogs to promote his work. He never stopped making music – the vast majority of which was up to his usual high standards – but started wondering whether he’d still be able to make a living as a producer in the years ahead.
Fast forward to 2017, and Cobby is not only the master of his own destiny, but is also undergoing something of a career rebirth. He has more DJ bookings in the diary than the’s had for many years, sells direct to fans on Bandcamp, and has made appearances on well-regarded (read: hyped) labels such as Throne of Blood and International Feel. It’s like a new generation of listeners has finally woke up to what he’s been up to, and the enduring quality of the hazy and mood enhancing music he makes.
I first met Steve at some point in the very early 2000s. I headed up to Hull to visit Fila Brazillia’s studio – then called, from memory, “Stunk Dusty” – where I got Steve and production partner Dave ‘Man’ McSherry to review some new releases for IDJ Magazine. I can’t remember all that much about the day, if I’m honest, though the stench of weed in the studio still lingers in my nostrils all these years on.
In the years since, I’ve interviewed or met up with Steve on numerous occasions. I distinctly remember speaking to him about his career a few years back during an informal, friendly chat, and he was on the verge of giving up music completely. The next time I saw him was down here in Bristol a couple of years back, where I had the honour of warming up for him at the Love Inn. He was on fine form, and was in the midst of the career rebirth that happily continues to this day. His DJ set consisted mostly of music he’d been involved with over the years, and the assembled dancers loved it. I made a mental note to play Fila Brazillia records in clubs more often.
This month, Steve has released something rather special on his Declasse record label: an expanded, six-CD edition of his debut solo album as The Solid Doctor, How About Some Ether. Featuring re-mastered, un-edited versions of the original 1995 album tracks alongside previously unheard material and largely forgotten 12″ singles (most of which I bought as a teenager when they first appeared on Pork Recordings), it’s a six hour set that contains a pleasing mixture of hazy downtempo grooves, saucer-eyed dream house, loose-limbed mid-tempo chuggers, hip-hop influenced instrumentals, and the kind of horizontal fare I’d describe as “vintage ambient house”.
The re-release of the album seemed a good opportunity to tell the story of Steve’s fall and rise. Happily, my Editor at IDJ Magazine, Russell Deeks, agreed. Head over to the IDJ Magazine website to read the feature.
If you’d like to buy a copy of How About Some Ether – and I’d recommend it – then head overt to Steve’s own website.