Tomas Fraser

Off Peak exists as a new collaborative feature between record label 48k and Insert which aims to tap into those recreational tracks that DJs and producers listen to in their down time, giving an insight into the sounds they feel, but don’t fit into a club context. The guidelines for this feature are challenging for the artist but important for instance, a certain portion of the tracks should be from non-male identifying artist and at least 25% created by people of colour.

Tomas Fraser is a wearer of many hats. He’s a music publicist—he recently left an agency job to do in-house public relations at Atlantic Records UK—and a writer with credits in Fact, Dazed, Mixmag and more. But he’s perhaps better known as the head of Coyote Records, a label which in its six years has ardently taken its rightful place at the vanguard of experimental grime. He sent us a playlist that charts a course through global pop and UK rap and drill from the perspective of a highly well-trained ear. We talked with him about the direction of the list, the landmark year he’s had, and what’s next for him and for Coyote.

This playlist is perhaps the most pop-oriented one we’ve gotten yet, and it’s pretty far removed from your work with Coyote in a lot of respects. It’s an interesting direction and a welcome surprise! What inspired it?

I’m glad you think so! A lot of it has been inspired by stuff I’ve been exposed to working at Atlantic, especially bands like Twenty One Pilots, but I’ve also found myself shifting more toward song-based music in my own listening time, whereas a few years back I’d listen to mostly instrumental stuff. I reckon a lot of that comes down to shifting more towards Spotify and streaming, but it’s also the fact that a lot of labels pushing grime a few years back have stopped, and the flow of music I would usually tap into has slowed. I’ve also got really into rap and drill, so my beat preferences now lean towards that booming, sludgy, Murda Beatz kinda sound.

Cheers! It’s very different, but working at Atlantic has been a big step up in terms of industry visibility and responsibility. The work is essentially the same, but there’s a lot more riding on it when you’re of a wider story from the off, whereas I felt when working at an agency, labels, managers etc. would view you very much as a service, something they could pick up and drop whenever it felt necessary. As far as Coyote goes, it’s been harder to keep up with, but I always plan ahead so projects are lined up in advance which takes some of the strain off. It’s also been nice to feel out of the loop, if you like, too, because I’m not really influenced by what the ‘scene’ is doing or pushing anymore, so my responses to new music are clearer and feel less cluttered and overthought. I was really hesitant about making the jump, but it’s been great so far.

This year has been a big one for you, with a string of terrific releases on Coyote and a big career move to Atlantic Records. How has it been so far, and are you settling into the new normal?

Do you have any favourites from this list? Any artists in particular that you recommend we keep an eye on?

I love everything on it, but I’d pay particular attention to Dark0’s ‘Terra Gang’, which I think is comfortably one of the most emotional and compelling pieces of electronic music I’ve ever heard, and ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division. I was obsessed with Ian Curtis at university—I even named a pet mouse I had Ian—and that track is probably the one that resonated the most with me, in terms of feeling totally at a crossroads as my uni experience drew to a close. I was lost, and ‘Disorder’ summed everything up for me at the time. Oh, and there’s ‘What Time It Is’ by Katie Pearl, which is a UKG classic – the instrumental, ‘Ghetto Kyote’ by Treble Clef, is the main influence behind calling the label Coyote Records. In terms of people to keep an eye on, I’d pay close attention to Suspect—the guy is an enigma.

What’s next for Coyote and for yourself heading into the end of the year? Anything you want to plug?

We’ve just announced our last record of the year: Drone’s ‘Light Speed’. It’s his debut record with us after two-and-a-bit years of back and forth exchanges, parties and radio shows, so I’m chuffed we finally landed on a record we’re both really proud of. He’s an excellent producer, very much in the Bristol mould, and it’s nice to be able to welcome him on board officially. That aside, I’m also working on something special for Christmas, so fingers crossed it all comes together in time.