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Music for beaches (ep. 190): Colleen in conversation with Dave Howell

Updated: Apr 8

Dave Howell interviews Colleen Cosmo Murphy about her life in music, from her high school radio show to headlining some of the biggest and best parties around the world.

 

LISTEN BACK


Listen back to the 190th episode of Music for beaches:

 

INTERVIEW


[Dave]

Hello, and welcome along to another edition of Music for Beaches with me, Dave Howell. On tonight's show, it's with great pleasure that I welcome an extremely special guest to Music for Beaches. For the next hour, I'll be chatting with one of the most widely loved and respected DJs. She's also an accomplished radio show host, a producer, a remixer and a purveyor of beautiful music in all its forms. If you're listening to this show, there's a good chance that you've heard of the Balearic Breakfasts and Classic Album Sundays, and if you have, you'll know that I'm talking about none other than Colleen Cosmo Murphy. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and I hope that you do too, so let's get into it.

Here's Colleen Cosmo Murphy on Music for Beaches. So Colleen Cosmo Murphy, welcome to Music for Beaches; it's a pleasure to have you on the show. I'd like to start by asking you how your trip to Australia and New Zealand was because you were here recently; we managed to meet up. We never got the chance to do this in person, but we're doing it again now. I'm really interested to find out, you know, how you found the place because it was your first trip here, wasn't it?

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, first trip. Now that we're something of empty nesters, we had the time to finally make it down under, and it was just wonderful. We're already planning to go back. I learned so much in terms of, you know, the history and the culture, but also met a lot of great people, including yourself, you know, hooked up with some old friends, and New Zealand was wonderful too. I think New Zealand may be the most beautiful place I've ever been.

 

[Dave]

Even more so than Australia?

 

[Colleen]

I think so, more so than America as well, you know, and I have to say it just blew me away and we didn't even go to the South Island. But it just whet our appetite to go back and we're working on that now because we just absolutely loved it.


[Dave]

Excellent.


[Colleen]

And the wine was fantastic! The wine was fantastic. I just have to say I didn't really, I wasn't much of a Chardonnay drinker before because in America it's very oaky so I just kind of stopped drinking it, and I fell in love with it especially in Melbourne and also in Adelaide as well. It was just wonderful vineyards.

 

[Dave]

So you're coming back just for the wine by the sound of it.

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, I know. It doesn't make me sound too good, does it?! (laughs!)

 

[Dave]

Did anything surprise you about the place down here?

 

[Colleen]

Yes. So the first thing when I learned that the Aboriginal people have lived there for 60,000 years, I honestly still can't get my head around that. It blows me away. And then, when you look at Australia, and it's so much of it is desert in the middle and people survived there for 60,000 years.

 

[Dave]

And they didn't mess it up.

 

[Colleen]

And they didn't mess it up and they worked with nature and how they, it's really interesting. They have a lot, I think, to teach us. And I also had a great time going to the... it was the art gallery, the museum in Sydney, the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

 

[Dave]

Yeah, yeah. My favourite place. Yeah.

 

[Colleen]

Oh, it was fantastic. And went to, excuse me, we went to check out some of the Aboriginal art and it was absolutely incredible. And it was just really interesting. And I really want to dig into that more when we do go back. Not just the vineyards, but actually the culture! (laughs) So that was really, you know, really interesting to me. And I'd just like to find out more.

 

[Dave]

Excellent. You're originally from the US and you started your career in radio at high school, I understand. And you eventually became programme director and DJ at WNYU, the college radio station at New York University. I was just wondering, you know, what inspired your initial love of music and then your decision to really go on that path? What's, you know, how did all that fall into place?

 

[Colleen]

I was pretty obsessed with the radio growing up. I grew up in a really small town in New England, and everybody basically listened to classic rock and Top 40. And luckily, because we were on the outskirts of Boston, we're one of the suburbs, we had great radio. We had incredible college radio stations because Boston has the most colleges and universities out of any other city in the United States, and we had pretty progressive commercial radio stations as well that covered a lot of different kinds of music. And I just always had a very, very open ear.

So it was really the radio that first kind of intrigued me and drew me in. And the second thing was the record collections of my aunts and uncles. You know, growing up in an Irish Catholic family, you know, a lot of aunts and uncles, they were all teenagers when I was growing up.

My dad was the eldest of six. And, you know, we all lived in the same town. And I would go raid their record collections and it was just, you know, I'd find out about Kate Bush or even if it's just, you know, more run-of-the-mill stuff like Pink Floyd, Fleetwood Mac and Beatles and Doors, Rolling Stones.

But that was really what really kindled my interest. And luckily for me, our high school had a radio station. It was a 10-watt radio station. And in fact, one of my uncles was one of the students that helped found that station, maybe about 10 years before I started in the same high school. And another cousin of mine was doing a radio show and she asked me to come up and be a guest. And I did. I went that day. I was 14 years old. And I remember they turned the microphone on and I screamed and ran out of the studio and across the library (laughs)!

But that kind of, I started playing, that time I was playing kind of 1960s music. And I just got the bug. Yeah, I just got the bug. I had been making mixtapes and things like that at home. And I just, I just fell in love with it. And then I started working in a record shop in 1984.

So even throughout high school, I had a radio show for four years. I was working in a record shop. And, you know, I was also buying records too. I was going into Boston and going to the second-hand shops. And, you know, back then, it was pretty hard to get my hands on, you know, the NME or Melody Maker. But every now and then I'd flip through one at Newberry Comics because they had import magazines. And I would also listen to what other people were playing. There was a really great radio show called "Nocturnal Emissions" on Sunday nights, hosted by Oedipus, who I later worked with. You know, my adult life, I ended up working with him on syndicated radio shows. But he's the one that turned me on to a lot of different sounds like, you know, Brian Eno, and once I heard one song by an artist, if I was intrigued, then I would just go to second-hand record shops and you could listen to records. And I just started building up my collection that way. And it was the only way to really find out about music, where I was from. We didn't have the internet. And none of my friends were into this. Yeah. So it was a huge, huge kind of journey of discovering music. And then once you work in a record shop, you're working with music obsessives because nobody works there for the money! (laughs)

 

[Dave]

That's true.


[Colleen]

You know, no one works there for the money. It's because you're an obsessive. And everybody had their own kind of area that they had a lot of knowledge and expertise. And so that's another way that I learned before I even left and went to university.


 

[Dave]

You're listening to Music for Beaches. And on this show, I'm in conversation with Colleen Cosmo Murphy. "Music for Beaches" is produced at the studios of 2SER in Sydney and heard across Australia on the Community Radio Network.

So you went to university in New York, and then, it sounds like this thing kind of grew arms and legs when you did that. You were telling me some interesting stories about the various people that you got to meet at that time and the interviews that you did. And it sounded like pretty much a hit list of, like, who's who, you know, all these sort of names that we know now.

So, you know, I was kind of just wondering, you know, what are highlights from that period for you?

 

[Colleen]

Oh, there's so many. You know, I was basically, I was the program director at WNYU, which was one of the biggest college radio stations. And I started interviewing there. But right after that, I landed a job producing syndicated radio shows that went out to a couple hundred college radio stations in the country, and then later 50 commercial radio stations. Basically, Nirvana, NeverMind, changed everything. And Nirvana, you know, we played Bleach on college radio. And we all got these advanced cassettes of Nevermind before it came out. They had just signed to Geffen, Sonic Youth had. And of course, you know, the indie kids were like, oh, they're selling out, they're going to the majors.

But hey, I can understand it as well. But then you listen to this album and it was just unreal how good it was. And you just kind of knew, we all knew this was going to change everything.

And I saw them at the marquee, I want to say it was September, right the week that the album came out. And I had them over to the studio on the weekend to interview them. And, you know, that was quite an incredible interview in the sense that it just was a turning point.

You know, the band were going to be completely different. You'll never see them in a small venue again. They'd be playing stadiums. And it will change the landscape of American radio. And that's really what it did. Because, all of a sudden, Nirvana and Sonic Youth and R.E.M. had already done it in the 80s and U2 had already done it in the 80s. They had left, you know, they were broken on college radio and then they went to commercial radio. But we still had album-oriented rock stations and top 40 stations, and this kind of music didn't really fall in. Something that was kind of a bit more like, you know, screechy guitars, like Soundgarden or Nirvana or even the more poppy stuff of Sonic Youth. So it was really Nirvana that changed that. And all of a sudden overnight, you know, some AOR stations became alternative music stations. And then I had another job, because then I was producing 50, you know, sending syndicated radio shows out to 50 commercial stations as well. So Nirvana was a really big one just because it was so culturally significant. It was just massive. And I had been a fan and seen their progress, we all played the sub-pop stuff on college radio.



Personal favorites also included Brian Eno. I was a massive fan and I listened back to that interview a few years ago and it was really interesting. Urichi Sakamoto, Butthole Surfers. I was a big Butthole Surfers fan. And I just had a great like hour long conversation with Paul Leary. He just mainly had a monologue. I remember the meat puppets being really funny as well. But I also loved people like Guru from Gang Star. I thought he was such a great guy and such a gentleman as well. There were so many great artists.

I remember hanging out with Noel Gallagher for Oasis. And he was so cool. I really enjoyed my conversation with him. So there's a lot of interesting people, but there's so many. Robert Fripp. And then there was the interviews that were really rare interviews, like Kevin Shields from My Bloody Valentine or Richard James from Apex Twin.

So they were really interesting as well. But yeah, there's so many great bands. Oh, Mark E. Smith. That was a classic. He was actually really funny. He was so funny. And we just got on really well because he had just started DJing. He took over somebody's office. He's at this big desk up at 75 Rockefeller Plaza in New York. And he's sitting behind the desk. He was just really amusing and really charming, actually. I got a great interview out of him.

 

[Dave]

Is he as scary as he looked?

 

[Colleen]

Yeah. I think because we connected on the DJ world. He was into dance music.

And I was already a DJ, even though I was doing this stuff as my main job. I was already DJing at that point, dance music. And plus I knew the Fall stuff. So I knew all the I Am Curious Orange and all these great records they had put out. And I always thought there was some kind of dance ability to some of the Fall stuff anyways.


 

[Dave]

You're listening to Music for Beaches and Dave Howe, and I'm chatting to Colleen Cosmo Murphy. So what's that transition then? If you did a lot of radio work, how did you transition into being a DJ? Was that just a natural progression?

 

[Colleen]

Well, yeah, it sort of was, because I had started going out to different clubs and also to David Mancuso's parties and started collecting that kind of music while I was still working more in indie and hip-hop. And my day job, I was going out on the weekends and hearing this kind of music and buying it and collecting it. So I started a different radio show in the 90s.

I was asked back to WNYU because they actually needed DJs at the time. And I started a show called "Soul School". And then I became a resident on one of the anchor shows, "Club 89", which is more like a live house mix show. And then, through that, people started asking me to play. And it could be community-led things like parties in the park in Brooklyn. I remember doing an African street party and it could be little bars on the Lower East Side.

And also being asked to either play with other people. David had asked me to play one-on-one with him, even though that was a private party, not a club. And I wouldn't say it was DJing. It was certainly part of my experience. And then I started working at Dance Tracks as well. So I was working there weekends during the syndicated radio shows during the week.

And DJing at night, I was working seven days a week.

And then I finally, once the radio shows finished, the syndicated shows, because eventually the sponsor pulled out. It was a record club that sponsored it and things were just changing.

The musical landscape for physical formats was already starting to transition in the 1990s, especially from vinyl to CD and then to digital to Napster. But in any case, so I started working full-time at Dance Tracks and then also Spiritual Life Music. And I just started DJing a lot more around the East Coast.

And then I was getting asked to play in Philly and then Boston and Atlanta and then Chicago and then different places around the US. And then I started playing internationally in the late 90s. And yeah, I think it was from the radio that that really happened.

 

[Dave]

Fascinating journey, because I was thinking about, I mean, you live in London now and you've had all of that stuff going on in the States, particularly in New York. And, you know, a lot of the things that you do are so well known, and have got fantastic reputations. And I was just, you know, the Balearic Breakfast stuff, Classic Album Sundays, all the Loft Parties, the remixes, the whole thing, right? I was going through this list and then I read somewhere that you didn't plan any of this?


[Colleen]

I didn't! What would happen if you actually had a plan?! (laughs!) I know. And sometimes I feel like, would it have been so much better if I had a plan? And, you know, I admire people. I mean, there have been short-term goals. I remember going into the radio station at WNYU and saying, I want to be program director here one day. I just knew I did in my head.

So it was a short-term goal. And then I was the first woman to have that position in the history of the station. So there were some things, but they were kind of short-term, short-term goals.

I never really had the long-term goal, except that, you know, I ended up just staying in music and radio and doing all the things that I do. But I think you have to be open to change as well in anything you do, but music is constantly changing and how music is kind of exposed and played and presented changes, the nature of radio has changed, the nature of consuming music, I hate that word, or selling physical products. It changes constantly, so much more than so many other kind of professions, I think.

And especially in my lifetime, it's actually a relatively new profession, if you think about it, recorded music didn't, you know, it's just over a hundred years old. So, hum, yeah, it's something, I think you would have a hard time planning out. I never wanted to go the corporate way. I had been asked to work for major record labels. I said, no, that was never an interest of mine. I'm not great at working at, you know, for the most, since I've been 30, pretty much onwards, I've worked for myself, but you're always working for somebody.

I work for the people, the people who follow me, that's who I work for, you know, that's, I mean, that's, that's, that's who that's, if they like what I do, then I, and I have an audience and I'm, I'm blessed because they're the ones that support me. So I do kind of work for them, but I don't have a boss. So, yeah. And I just also knew that I'd rather make my own way and remain as, you know, as independent as I can, to some degree, while still making a living, obviously. So, yeah, I feel quite lucky. I feel very lucky that I do, I am in this position, but I've also worked very hard to be in this position, and worked very long and worked, you know, a lot for free. And also, you know, it has to be said, I've worked in a male-dominated industry, you know, until the last few years, there hasn't been any affirmative action. And there's, you know, and it was, it was a very different landscape and very challenging, but also very, I had great support as well from the majority of men in my life, whether they have been my mentors, my colleagues or my supporters.

So I've been quite blessed in that way. But yeah, I've had some challenges too along the way, but I feel I'm just really happy to be where I am. And I think, you know, if you just put your head down and work really hard at what you do, you have a better chance of getting more opportunities.

 

[Dave]

You make your own... luck.

 

[Colleen]

You make your own luck, yeah. To some degree. I mean, that might sound like, of course, here I am sitting in the UK. I'm not, you know, in a war-torn country right now. You know, so there's a lot of things that are just luck, this luck that I was born where I was born. It's luck, you know, and I take that, that's privilege. And that's, there is that, there's that as well. So as long as you can recognize it.


 

[Dave]

You're listening to Music for Beaches and I'm talking to Colleen Cosmo-Murphy. You touched on it a little bit, just, which was, I was wondering, you know, you're an extremely successful woman in this business and it's a very male-dominated industry like most places, right? I'm just wondering if you, you know, for the women that are listening, have you got any advice that, you know, for somebody trying to make their way in this game?

 

[Colleen]

Well, my advice would be kind of the same to everybody in terms of you have to put your head down, do something unique, try to do something. You have to find something that you've created that resonates with people. That's for anybody. There's no path to follow because everybody's is different. But I think with integrity and practice, whatever you're doing is like just be the best you can be. And for women, we've had to be, you know, from my generation and before, you did, actually, because you couldn't afford to mess up because you would have messed up because you were a woman. So you really couldn't. And, you know, don't let – I mean, there are still boys clubs, sadly. I'm still experiencing some of it now. And it's really hard to know that you'll, you know, never be part of that and that you're being excluded for certain reasons. But you just have to put your head down and turn off the noise, and just take a higher ground. Like, a friend of mine said to me, the higher ground always wins. And it can be really difficult to like bite your tongue. But sometimes that's what you have to do. As long as that's nothing horrific happening. I mean, I haven't had anything horrific like in terms of sexual assault. But that's a different story. That's a very different story. And so many women have, both DJs and punters. So I'm in a privileged position there that I haven't had that. And so there's been terrible emotional stuff.

But, you know, suffering makes you stronger. It does.


[Dave]

It does.


[Colleen]

And it makes you learn.


[Dave]

Yeah. I've got to ask you about David Mancuso and The Loft. And couldn't not talk to you and not mention that. So I'm just wondering, because there's probably quite a few people listening that don't know who David is or was. And maybe haven't heard of The Loft.

I'm just wondering what you could tell the good people of Australia and around the world, you know, who David was, like how you met and how that all came to be. And also a little bit about your friendship and how that shaped what you do now.

 

[Colleen]

Sure. I mean, David, I could speak about this for hours. So I'm going to really condense this. You know, otherwise we'll be here all day (laughs)!


[Dave]

There's the challenge for you (laughs)!

 

[Colleen]

Books have been written about this! So basically, David started doing parties in his own home, actually in the late 1960s in New York City. And they were just parties he'd put on for his friends. He collected records, had a great sound system. He was really into audio. And then on February 14, 1970, he started to formalize these private parties. He called them Love Saves the Day, and they were rent parties. That's how he paid his rent. So people would make a contribution.

It was mailing list only, only invited people. That's how he got around the ways of, you know, that's how he challenged the legal authorities who tried to close him down. He said, it's a private party. I'm not selling alcohol. People are paying a contribution for a reservation at my house, you know, to put the party on. And he won a landmark case with the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City and the New York Times and everything. And he set a precedent that became the – it's still in force! So that's why you can't have social clubs and members clubs in New York. In any case, his party became more and more popular. And the thing that was so great about it is that he welcomed people from all different backgrounds. And this was very different at this time. So he was really into civil rights, women's liberation, and gay liberation, as a gay man himself.

And he invited people from all different backgrounds, economic backgrounds, races, sexual orientation, gender, to his home. And people started making friendships that kind of crossed a lot of these boundaries that were still very much in place at that time. And he helped dispel those boundaries and break down those boundaries, and people built these kind of lifelong friendships that they made on the dance floor. He also kind of forged a canon of music that became very popular with other New York club DJs as well because a lot of the DJs would come to David's party, whether it was Larry Levan, Frankie Knuckles, later David Morales. You know, that's where they would hear – get turned on to new tunes, because records – David had a great ear for music. He also had a great ear for sound. He could tell how well the record was mixed and mastered and pressed, and he taught me all about that.



[Dave]

It's quite an apprenticeship, isn't it?


[Colleen]

It's quite an apprenticeship, yes, yeah. In any case, he started like kind of the template of nightlife clubs as we know it, even though he had a private party and he was known as a musical selector, not a DJ. He did not call himself a DJ.

He called himself a musical selector, musical host, party host. So he wasn't – he did try mixing at one point. He wasn't that into it. It wasn't his thing. It was all about the sonic purity of the system. So I can't – I'm not going to go on and on, but, you know, horn speakers, Koetsu moving coil cartridges (ed. which are no longer produced), Class A amplifiers rather than Class AB, great preamp, a Mark Levinson ML-1, which is known as still like a cult preamplifier, like an audiophile world.

So, yeah, that was kind of the recipe, the formula, and then other people were inspired and followed suit. So Nicky Siano started The Gallery. Another thing was called The Tenth Floor.

Larry Levan started The Paradise Garage. Frankie Knuckles, you know, It's the Warehouse, and all of these sprung from David's party, really. This is where people got the idea to really get a great sound system because it wasn't like that before. The systems were second – you know, not really thought of and the same kind of – the same attention to detail and putting that much money into it. David would make money and just put it back into the sound system, almost to a fault. At one point, he had too much stuff, and he ended up selling some of it off. You know, too many amplifiers, too many – he started paring down and making it more and more pure, took out the bass, the sub bass, and all different things. In any case, I'm digressing. It even inspired Studio 54, which you would say Studio 54 and The Loft are actually the polar opposites in terms of vibe. One's uptown, one's downtown, one's exclusive and elitist, one is not and is open. But Carmen D'Alessio was a regular Loftie, and she was the first big promoter, I believe. I think the first or the major one at Studio 54.

And one thing she did take from David is even though they were choosing people to tour, which isn't very nice, what she did do is try to get an eclectic mix, and that was based on David's parties as well. So it influenced so much of nightlife culture and club culture. So that's where David fits in. When I met him in the early 90s, he was losing his building. Not many people were coming to the party. It was on East 3rd Street. And I started going 91, 92, right when he reopened because he had taken a little sabbatical. And he had lost a lot of his following, had gotten married and moved to the suburbs. And they didn't want to go to the space where he was then living, which was a big heroin neighborhood. I looked like a ragamuffin. No one bothered me. So no one cared.

It was just like, body bag, body bag. That's what they would say to you. That wasn't the name of one of the heroines. Awful. Body bag. Can you believe that? Terrible. In any case, for the other people that are 20 years older than me, of course they probably looked a lot different than I did, and they didn't want to go to those neighborhoods. So he was really struggling.

And I just kind of knew stories about the history. There was no Internet. I found a few articles of Vin Celletti trying to find old articles of his because he documented the scene in real-time.

And I found a few things, but it was mainly word of mouth. But I was just into helping David, so I brought him up on the radio show and he selected the music, was too shy to talk. We started building up a friendship.

 

[Dave]

He didn't want to talk.

 

[Colleen]

And I would tell people, no, he was too shy.


[Dave]

Wow.


[Colleen]

Too shy.



 

[Dave]

You're listening to Music for Beaches, I'm Dave Howell, and I'm talking to Colleen Cosmo Murphy. Music for Beaches is produced at the studios of 2SER in Sydney and heard around Australia on the Community Radio Network.

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, this is also early 90s. So this is before we did the compilations and where he started to really do interviews and things like that. Things changed. But he wasn't a really, I mean, a lawyer. He had given a lawyer a power of attorney and this lawyer stole his entire building out from underneath him. And this is like right when gentrification is happening. And he had this beautiful theater space. And then he was popping around the East Village trying to rent places where he could throw a party. It was just becoming more and more difficult. We were doing fundraising parties. If it was my birthday, it would be a fundraising party. We were doing all sorts of things. I was trying to get the word out there to the community. David's still doing parties, so I would announce it on the radio. Hey, for all the lofties out there, David's still doing stuff. And there was a bunch of other people that helped as well. And we all did it for free because he really was struggling. And, so that was how our friendship was going.

It was more like me helping him out.

But it was really the big kind of eureka moment. I had been asked by Nervous Records to do a compilation. I did my first mixed CD in 1998, and it was called New York After Hours, A Later Shade of Deep. And whilst I didn't get paid very much for me to do it, it was quite an opportunity. I was happy to do it anyway, so it helped break me as a DJ. It was a good thing for my career. I thought someone like David should do a compilation because he's broken so many tunes. There's loft classics and staples, and plus there had been this whole bootleg series. And David was really anti-bootlegs. I mean, to his dying day. Hated them. He really didn't respect people that did them because he thought you were taking money away from the artist. And he had a lot of integrity on that side. So there's a bunch of bootlegs coming out of the UK. He wasn't into that. There's a bunch of bootlegs coming out in New York that were of old tunes. And there was a series called Loft Classics that he had nothing to do with. I even bought them in the early times. I didn't really understand that. And I've gotten rid of all of them now. But I didn't understand what bootlegs were. I didn't know. And it was really upsetting. So I said, you should do a compilation. You should go, a label I'm sure would sign to a compilation with you in an instant. He said, I only want to do it with you.



[Dave]

Right.


[Colleen]

And I didn't have the money to start my own label or the ambition to start my own label or even probably the confidence to start my own label.


[Dave]

It's quite an undertaking.


[Colleen]

It's quite. And also, just to give people an idea, this is 1998 that we talked about this. Really to get a compilation like that out there, it's about 20 grand right there.


[Dave]

Yeah, easy.


[Colleen]

Just for the manufacturing, licensing, everything you need to do. I did not have that. And plus, I was moving countries. I was moving from the US to the UK. So I thought, well, if you want to do it with me, we'll have to get another label. But we'll do it together. We'll co-produce it together. And I'll be the intermediary between the label as well. And I had a better commercial idea of what would be good for the dance music scene because I worked in record shops as well. So I had a lot of different angles that I could bring to it. I wasn't just a DJ. I've been on the sales point. I've been on that side of the record labels. Yeah, I'd worked in three record shops by then. I'd worked at a record label. I had done my own mixed CD. And I just had an idea of what the scenes were like in the US versus the UK and Europe and Japan. So I had traveled and DJed internationally by that time. So it was a good... I can now understand why he wanted me to be involved. It did surprise me at the time though. And that's how I got Newphonic involved because I had a relationship with them through "Spiritual Life Music" because we used to send a box of Spiritual Life promos to Nuphonic to send to the great DJs or like-minded DJs in the UK. And they would do the same, sending a box of stuff from Newphonic to the US. And we'd distribute it on that side. So we already had a relationship. And that's how the compilation started. And that was really when David's story first got out there. And then it changed his life. So he started playing in different places.

He was going to Japan. He and I started playing different places in Europe. We did a party here at 93 Feet East for the compilations. And then that inspired starting a party here with David in 2003. So it was a lot.

And then once we were here, we bought our own sound system. That's even when my mentorship became even more intense because then he taught me how to set up the whole sound system by myself. And we were listening to records at my house four times a year. Sometimes he'd stay with us, but he was always here for a full day. We would listen to all these new records and old records on the system because I had Klipshorns here. And yeah, so that's when it really intensified. And that's kind of also when he started talking about the board that he has wanted to put together. And that's in about 2009 is when he asked me to chair a board to first be his vice chair and then chair it in his absence.

 

 

[Dave]

You're listening to Music for Beaches and Dave Howell and I'm talking to Colleen Cosmo Murphy.

What a journey!

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, so that was quite a journey! You know! But in the meantime, I had my own thing going on. That's the interesting thing. Even some of my colleagues in London had no idea I was involved with the compilations...


[Dave]

Wow...


[Colleen]

Because I just still was doing my DJ career. I started Bitches Brew. I was making my own productions. I was doing radio. So I always had my own thing going. And then it was like, you know, the stuff people didn't really know about my involvement with The Loft. Unless you lived in New York and went to The Loft, you wouldn't know. Or you heard me on the radio just trying to help David. But it was all the other things I had that were more public-facing. So I had all that going on as well. So The Loft has always been kind of...


[Dave]

You've been really busy!


[Colleen]

Yeah, well, you know, I love what I do.

So I am driven, but I also love what I do. I feel like the Loft part of what I do is... I don't want to use the word charity, but it kind of is. Because I don't really make money from any musical hosting parties. It's kind of the thing that I feel needs to... Well, David wanted to continue, wanted me to help continue that. And he wanted these parties to go on after his passing. So it's important for me to uphold that. But also for many other reasons. Also spiritually, it's a big part of me.

But yeah, it's kind of the thing that I feel is important to do and to keep and to uphold. But I also have all these other things going on too (laughs)! Which are just... I've built my own communities as well. Because Classic Album Sundays is its own community. And it's worldwide. And same as Balearic Breakfast. I think I would have built those communities whether or not I had ever heard of the Loft or when. Because it's just the nature of what I do. But I certainly could see the likeness with David creating a Loft community and the Balearic Breakfast community where people have a say. They're involved. It sparks them off to do their own thing as well, which is really great. Same with Classic Album Sundays. It has inspired a lot of people to start listening to bars or whatever, all sorts of stuff.

So it's something that is really important to me. And then, David, even the way I listen to music, David has helped influence that. Especially what I choose for my DJ sets in my regular party settings. I think we all go through... I've listened to so much music, working in music my entire life. And my ear is probably better trained than it ever has been.

And things that I find overly derivative. But it's an energy that I look for. And I can't give you the exact...


[Dave]

There's no formula.


[Colleen]

There's no formula. It's a feeling.

And I do feel when I'm playing at a party situation, it's different. On the radio, it's a different setting. I always think of where the listener is, or where the dancer is. So what's the setting of the place that you're playing? If it's a club or a party or a festival, what's the setting of the radio station? What day is it on? What time? How long? Who else is around?

Context is everything. Number one. And what I would normally... What I might play on the radio may not be what I'd play at peak time on a dance floor. So it's knowing the context is number one. But the actual music itself... You know, I want the music to uplift people. I'm not saying you can't play sad songs because some sad songs can uplift people because was that all it was, Gene Karn? We all sing it. It's tearing on our heartstrings. But we know that other people are feeling the same pain that we felt and that makes us feel good. So it's not just about, hey, everybody, I'm so happy. It's not like that's what I mean by uplifting songs. It doesn't mean the emotion. It has to always be about, I'm so happy. But there's a healing kind of force to music, like even an instrumental song. So it's... Yeah, so that's really the ear. And I think for a while, like many DJs, you get drawn into what's cool. Who are the cool DJs right now? Who are the cool producers? Oh, everybody's playing this record, so you should play it. And you feel like you have to play it because all the cool DJs are playing it. But I don't feel that way anymore. Sometimes, you know, there are those... I just spent like two hours this morning going through different DJ charts, seeing, trying to find music that I would like. And even though I like the DJs, does it mean I necessarily might like everything they're playing? And that's fine. And not that everyone likes everything I'm playing either. And that's totally fine. Everybody has their own personal taste. I'm happy that I have enough people that enjoy what I do, that I can do this, you know, as my vocation. And I understand not everybody does like the way I play, and that's fine too.

You know, there's enough for everybody, you know. So, yeah.

 

[Dave]

You just touched on some of the things that you do, and I just kind of circle back to that stuff, really. And I'm thinking about, you know, there's the Balearic Breakfast, Classic Album Sundays, and some, you know, for want of a better term, some really big brands, right? I mean, these things are massively well-known and well-liked and loved by people.

And you've got a particularly impressive list of all of these things, which is absolutely astounding! But I'm just wondering, out of them, you know, is there one that you're particularly proud of?

 

[Colleen]

Oh, gosh. I guess the two, there's two. I would say it's Balearic Breakfast and Classic Album Sundays. Because they were both kind of ideas that just started with no intention.

 


 

[Dave]

You're listening to Music for Beaches, I'm Dave Howell, and I'm talking to Colleen Cosmer Murphy.

 

[Colleen]

To even become a brand, or necessarily a community, or it almost had no object, except that I thought it should happen (laughs)! You know, it's like, everyone's like, how is this? I mean, Belliric Breakfast developed out of another radio show called Summer's Vacation on Worldwide FM, and then Giles came back in September. He said, keep the Tuesday morning. It was September. I couldn't call it Summer's Stacation anymore.

And then I put the word out to the community for the name. But it was because I involved other people, because it became greater than myself. And it's the same with The Loft with David. So it becomes greater than yourself. Like there's a guy that took it upon himself to make a Balearic Breakfast blog, and he interviews people and members of the community and writes the whole write-up every week. Like, Wow. There's other friends who are part of the community who decided to start DJing or throwing a party because they didn't know they could before. You know, when I'm away, I'm getting members of the community to submit mixes, so they get heard as well, even if they're not a DJ.

 

[Dave]

It's often quite refreshing to do that as well, right?

 

[Colleen]

It is! Because there's so many people who are music lovers who don't do it for a profession. And they have great ears. It's very pure.

 

[Dave]

That's the thing, there's no tinge to it that's kind of, I don't know, infected by something else.

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, exactly! So I'm really proud of that, and I'm really proud of Classic Album Sundays, because when I started that, again, it was one of these things that I thought, this just needs to happen. It wasn't like I lost money. I had to hire a babysitter. My husband was sitting in a car with valve amplifiers, warm, sitting on our laps, because you can't pack them because they're too hot. We've got huge Klipshorn three-way horn speakers loading him in and bringing him upstairs to my friend's party (ed. Klipsch launched the AK6 in 2019).

 

[Dave]

It's a glamorous life.

 

[Colleen]

Exactly, people don't see all this stuff. And all these people, mainly guys in the audiophile world, you're never going to make... Why are you doing this? How are you going to make money? I'm like, I don't know. I just have to do it.

 

[Dave]

Yeah, right.

 

[Colleen]

And then all of a sudden, all the people... There were some people that were inspired by the idea, which is great. Then there were people that just copied. Right. And that was a little bit like, you know, same language. They might call it Classic Album Wednesdays, like really going and pitching what I was doing as if it was their idea to commercial brands to make money. And that was a bit disgusting. But hey, it's the way of the world as well. I mean, you know, whatever. At the end of the day, I'm still going. And, you know, it's like, you just have to go, OK. I mean, as long as it's not a copyright infringement, because I do have stuff trademarked, you know, it's just going to let it go.

One thing is, it's like, you know, it did open up the world to more listening bars and things. And that's a great thing, because that means there's more people listening to music on a great sound system. And that is good for the world. So, you know, any little part that I may have helped play in that kind of revival. I mean, it started in Japan, but a lot of people didn't even know about the Japanese Kissa stuff (ed.: Kissa meaning Cafe in Japanese) until they heard about Classic Album Sundays or listening bars that had been inspired by it. So, you know, I'm happy. I'm proud of that as well. So I guess those two things are probably, because I can take more responsibility for that. You know, David was the one who built the loft. And I learned from him and I'm happy to help engineer and shepherd that. I say shepherd's a better word, be a caretaker. But these two things are things that I developed. I also would say is, the other thing maybe I am, you know, I've learned a lot as a recording artist and as a producer. And I feel like that's something that I just love doing because it's so creative and it uses a different part of my brain and different skills that I have that I don't always get to use. And yeah, that I'm having a lot of fun with too.

I've been doing a lot more remixes in the last three or four years.



[Dave]

I noticed that you've, going back to Classic Album Sundays, that you've got something going on at the British Library coming up with Eddie Grant. Is that right?


[Colleen]

Yes!


[Dave]

I mean, that's to, you know, for those people who haven't been or know what the British Library is, that's kind of like a massive institution. That's quite something, isn't it?

 

[Colleen]

It is! I love working with them. I started working with them maybe 10 years ago. It was around 10 years ago. And I started, I've done so many sessions there with the Damned and the Buzzcocks to Jazzy.

 

[Dave]

The Damned were just in, by the way.

 

[Colleen]

Oh, Captain Sensibles. He's really into prog as well. He's so great!

Dave Anion.

 

[Dave]

Went to see them the other night.

 

[Colleen]

Oh, really? That's great. And then also, you know, then like Jazzy B. I've had Dennis Baptiste, who's big on the jazz scene here. I've had Ken Scott doing, talking about David Bowie. I've had John Grant, Paloma Faith, a bunch of great artists. Roisin Murphy as well. Louis Vega, François K. And Eddie Grant has been on my list for a while. I met him 20 years ago. I was invited out to dinner with him and a bunch of people. It was an Indian restaurant in Soho called Red Fort. Great place.

 

[Dave]

I know the place. It has another name as well!

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, it's such a good place. And I went to, I was talking to him. His manager was there.

And I was talking to him, I said, you know, I love all the Coach House Rhythm Section stuff. I've been playing it. And he turned to his manager and said, she knows more about my music than you do (laughs)! So it's a real joy to be able, like, you know, 20 years later. Actually, it's even longer, I think, since I met him. I was around, yeah, definitely over 20 years.

He has so much history, starting with the Equals. About 60 years of history. Yeah.

That's been genre-crossing. It's been; he's invented things. He's created new ideas.

He's been a platform for other artists. And, he also seems like he's very astute. He owns his music. He's had his own recording studios. He understands the business side. And so many musicians at that time, in the 60s and 70s, just never got their heads around it.

And he got his head around it real quick. So I respect him as an entrepreneur, as well as a musician, and an artist, and, you know, everything else. So I'm really looking forward to it.

I don't know how we're going to do it in two hours. That's going to be difficult!

 


[Dave]

So we're just about sort of running out of time. But I do want to ask you, like, one more thing. What's kind of next for you? And what's happening? Is there anything that we should be aware of that's coming up?

 

[Colleen]

Yeah, well, I'm just working on more remixes. I'm working on a remix for Joe Goddard at the moment. And he and I are working in the studio together.


[Dave]

Nice.


[Colleen]

Something interesting.


[Dave]

Excellent.


[Colleen]

Which I'm getting excited about. You know, Balearic Breakfast, you have Balearic Breakfast 3 compilation is coming out on Heavenly. And I'm still doing my monthly streams every Tuesday on my MixCloud Live from 10 to 12 in the morning.

 

[Dave]

That's a nice time for us down here on the other side of the world.

 

[Colleen]

It is! You know, it's interesting because during the pandemic, I had a lot of people tuning in from Australia. And I said to my husband, what's this thing is?

We've got to get to Australia. So I manifested it. I visualized it, manifested it.

 

[Dave]

And here we are!

 

[Colleen]

And here we are. And Classic Album Sundays, you know, I'm thinking of kind of expanding it again. It kind of, you know, we had a lot of different satellites before the pandemic and then pandemic happens. So it's just kind of getting that out there again. And yeah, there's just a lot of different things, you know, a lot of different things I'm involved in. But yeah, nothing that's too crazy changing everything, but things are just continuing. Yeah. Things are continuing and rolling along quite nicely at the moment.

 

[Dave]

So again, there's no plan...

 

[Colleen]

There's no plan... What I decide is like, you know, I hope I'm still working in 20 years, you know... We'll see.

 

[Dave]

It never ends.

 

[Colleen]

You know, I think as long as you, as I said, When you put your heart and soul and expertise into things for the right reasons with the right intentions, you know, that can go a long way.


[Dave]

Absolutely.

 

[Colleen]

Yeah.


[Dave]

Colleen Cosmo Murphy. Thank you for coming on the show. It's been a pleasure chatting. I could go on and on and on, but we've run out of time. So just thank you very much indeed.

 

[Colleen]

Thank you. Thanks for having me.

 

[Dave]

So that was my conversation with Colleen Cosmo Murphy earlier this week. Hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. What a fascinating journey through a musical life. Wonderful, wonderful stuff. So we've just got a few minutes left. I wanted to play out with this track. This is Jakub Gurevich. Elevation in minor. It's the Cosmodelica remix. Colleen Cosmo Murphy herself on the knobs on this one. One of my favorite records. And again, once again, a massive thanks to Colleen for coming on the show. And hopefully she comes back to these shores very, very soon. You're listening to Music for Beaches. I'm Dave Howell.

As always, if you want to catch any of the shows again, you can find them at mixcloud.com slash Music for Beaches and at musicforbeaches.com as well. Thank you.



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