Beyond the Booth 001: Coyu goes to bat for the cat cause
Beyond the Booth is a feature dedicated to the hidden side of artists that exists outside electronic music— a side rarely discussed with those outside their immediate circle. We venture “beyond the booth,” so to speak, and dive into their deepest passions that tie into their unique personalities. After some self-introspection, each participant then returns to the booth, providing an exclusive mix for the Dancing Astronaut audience.
Ivan Ramos, known by fans as Coyu and his colleagues as “The Big Cat,” has become a highly-respected figure of the underground since breaking through with heaters like “El Baile Alemán” with Edu Imbernon, “Mami Wata” alongside Uner, and more. His unrelenting passion for all things electronic led to him create his Suara in 2008, where its growth skyrocketed to the point where its releases are consistently charted by fellow artists and in polls by sites like Resident Advisor and more. The label is beloved by fans for both its caliber releases and its cat-centric artwork.
More recently, Coyu has taken Suara to the next level, setting up a physical merchandise shop in Barcelona that also hosts the occasional private event for things label-related. The new responsibility has hardly deterred the Spanish native, however, who continues to take his label deeper into the underground while also holding down a special residency each Sunday at the famed club Privilege in Ibiza.
What people might not know is who the man is under the surface of this burgeoning empire. One might be interested to find, in fact, that there is a deeper side to Coyu that is far more dedicated to felines than simply using them as album art. His girlfriend of over a decade happens to be a cat veterinarian, and together, they own the Suara Foundation. Their mission is to collaborate with local shelters and organizations to help find forever homes to cats in need, and in general to help give them a better life. The entire second story of his Barcelona Suara store is a dedicated “cat house” with eight cats currently occupying it — most of which happen to be named after famous DJs. Furthermore, he proudly owns several cats at home as well.
The way Coyu talks about this non-electronic passion is inspiring — compassion drips from his tone as he happily recounts how he came to name his current flock of foundation residents, his favorite things about the species, and the work his foundation does for their welfare. It mirrors the enthusiasm he displays when getting into detail about his known passion of electronica.
Without further ado, Dancing Astronaut takes Coyu “Beyond the Booth” and dives deep into his deep connection with the feline species, before returning back to the booth with an exclusive mix, recently recorded at Berlin’s Watergate club.
Venture beyond the booth with Coyu below.
If you were a cat, what would your cat name be? You can’t say Coyu.
No, it’s Coyu! I’m the big cat. I have a name, and that’s Coyu.
You have a second favorite cat name?
What is your favorite type of cat?
I would say Lion. I’m a Leo, so yeah!
What do you like most about cats?
I think cats are very independent. They’re almost like people! For example, let’s say you and I are really good friends, but maybe you hate someone I really like. Cats are the same way — they can be my best friend, but can hate my girlfriend for example. This actually happens a lot with one of my cats at home; she loves me a lot, but doesn’t care about the rest of humanity or the world. She only likes me and wants to stay with me all the time. If I’m in the studio, she’s in the studio. If I’m sleeping, then she’s sleeping, and when I’m not at home she’s sad and crying by the door. But she doesn’t have any connection with my girlfriend, or any other people! This is goes back precisely to why I love cats and their independence; they’re not like dogs who just like everyone. They’re selective! I mean, I used to and still do love dogs and all other animals. We even have a beagle at my mom’s place. But, cats are my soulmates. They are really a reflection of who I am. And that’s why I love them so much!
How many cats do you live with at home currently?
At home we have four cats, and at the cat house we have seven. Through the foundation we have two more cats – one named Ellen, after Ellen Allien, and another named Digweed, who are in foster homes and waiting to be adopted. In total, that’s thirteen cats.
Do you have any favorites of the 13?
Ha – yeah! I usually have more of a connection with the female cats than the males. Right now for example, Bagheera is one of the cats we have here at home who’s not named after a DJ is super cool and friendly — she wants to be with you all the time and loves people. Not only me, but all people. Also Cassy, who is a three-legged cat, and Nina, who is shy and doesn’t usually like other people, but she likes me. Cassy and Nina are my favorites for sure. But I also love Maceo, who is the boss of the foundation. I love him as well! The cat that I mentioned before, Nincheta, is my favorite cat.
What about making music with samples made by your cats? Have you ever done that?
Not really, but I did make a tribute track for one of my cats who was deaf and passed away 1.5 years ago. I recorded it when he was alive. He was deaf, and I don’t know why, but he liked to be awake at night, and he cried almost every night for one or two years. So I made a track about that, but I didn’t use samples of a scratch or purring or anything. Sometimes in my sets, however, I used to use cat meows in the introduction.
Going back to your foundation and your recently-opened store, what inspired the full transition to having a Suara store and full foundation for cats?
We started the Suara foundation in 2011, then the store came a little bit later. We just love cats; especially my girlfriend, who’s a feline veterinarian. One day we just decided to help some of the cats that were living near our place, and after a few months it became a more serious operation. We weren’t just feeding the cats — we were also neutering them, vaccinating them, and everything else. So, we started to collaborate with other shelters and cat associations, and then we decided to create a proper foundation. At the same time, we thought that we had a very good and creative designer, named Gaz, and opted to open the online store because he was already painting all the album art for the label. It was a good way to bring the art, fashion, and cats together. Then, three years later in 2016, we opened our first store in Barcelona. It’s a very nice store – the first floor is for fashion, music, and events, while the cat house is upstairs. I’m surrounded by seven cats as we speak – very normal! It was the natural move for us. We needed a proper place where we could have some cats here for people to see, and it would make it easier for people to adopt our cats. At the beginning, we only had the social media channels. Now, people can come and see the cats and bond/have fun with them, and if they fall in love with them, they can adopt them!
How do cats come to your foundation?
We have collaborations with cat shelters and veterinary associations, and also people like friends and family who know us, or fans, who contact us to share pictures of the cats that they find on the street. But mostly the cats in our foundation are cats from shelters and other places.
We noticed that you name a lot of your cats after DJs – how do you decide the name that goes with the cat?
Actually, I think it’s easier for our followers to learn the names of the cats if they’re named after DJs. But yeah – some of them are very happy having a cat with their name! Sometimes, I try to assign the right DJ name for the cats. Dixon [the cat] is a good example – he’s a very beautiful cat, super handsome. He’s quite shy and a bit mysterious, so I knew I needed to give him the name of a typical handsome, German tall guy. He was impressed!So in short, yes — we try to find the right DJ name for every cat!
Do you use cats from your shelter as album art for the label as well?
Sometimes we use them! Or, sometimes our designer Gaz will see a beautiful cat and decide to paint him. But yeah – sometimes!
Final cat question: what is something you’d say to a non-cat person to make them want to “give cats a chance?”
Well, we do work in the foundation with standard people who don’t know about cats. We tell them that cats are cool and the perfect pet, in my opinion at least. Cats can be super friendly, and can be your best friend so for sure they’re great for being pets! I think the connection you can have with a cat is impossible to get with any other animal, or even some humans. Some of my cats are my best friends, and it’s hard to get that kind of connection with others. I suggest that anyone who doesn’t have a cat to adopt one – I’m sure they’ll be happy.
Onto some music things – let’s talk about Moby. Suara was one of the labels putting out a huge remix package for his work. How did you get involved in this project?
I’ve been doing Moby remixes for awhile. I did one remix in 2015 because Moby really liked one of my tracks. Then my management got in touch with Moby’s management, and we soon became one of the first labels to do remixes for him. It was very easy – we commissioned Victor Ruiz, Julian Jeweil, Oxia, and Reiner to do the remixes, releasing Reiner’s first and then the rest a few months later. Working with Moby is amazing because I’m a longtime fan of his – not only because he’s a great musician, but he’s also a really good guy in general. We’re actually currently working on a track that will be on my album that will be the second single (the first one comes out on August 14). I’m really happy to be working with someone like him!
Our interest is piqued! Is it going to be an ambient or a dance-floor track?
It’ll be a mix between classic Moby and my music, but definitely more on the electronica side. More for the car or at home, you know?
Sounds like it will be a fantastic listen. Now, going back to your album that you just mentioned, do you have a specific concept in mind?
It’s my first album, so it’s really important for me that I put together all my roots and emotions together so that people can understand who I am and where I come from. So it’s going to be a mix between dance music and at-home listening. I’m still working on it – it’s not quite at 100%, and I’m still deciding which tracks work best for it, but I’ve been working on it for five years and I finally decided to put it out. It’s a big job for me because this is my first album. I imagine the second one will be much easier. I don’t want it to turn out to be like a bunch of singles all together. For me, an album means something bigger and different than the status quo – a true mix of everything.
Speaking of eclectic and having a bit of everything, another thing we’ve noticed recently is that your label has been putting out different sounds that feel darker and even a little more progressive in nature compared to past releases. What has inspired you to go down that road?
Suara has been an eclectic label forever, but now I’m having an underground moment and I feel that Suara has to take a more underground path as well. To me, it’s very important nowadays to show that my sound and the Suara sound are made of artistic, quality music. For example, when speaking of techn house, I got very bored of it because all the tech house songs coming out lately are very similar. It almost sounds like they were made by the same guy! I felt I needed to escape it, even though Suara was the best tech house label on Beatport at one point and now the sound is huge. I’m not sure if we’re really going darker per se, but simply more underground. We have music coming from techno guys like Steve Rachmad and Truncate, but also more melodic guys like Fur Coat or Johannes Brecht. Then we have Booka Shade, who are more housey. Ultimately, I don’t care about styles; I just care about quality music. But right now I feel that tech house is turning into the new “EDM” in a way. Creativity is lacking now in that area. That’s why we decided to go back in a house and techno direction at Suara. We aren’t related to any specific style though.
Stream Coyu’s exclusive mix for Beyond the Booth below, recorded live from Watergate in Berlin.