Lower East owners Cozzy D and Lee Brinx discuss the progress of their label
Lee Brinx and Cozzy D are the duo behind Lower East Records, a label that initially supported a largely UK-centric sound and roster. Over the past year or so their profile has grown and with it they have received plenty of music from outside the UK, helping the label to grow in stature and increase its universal appeal. A few weeks ago, I sat down for a few beers with Lee and Cozzy for their first ever face-to-face interview to discuss the label and their own backgrounds, as well as file sharing and the way in which the music industry has changed over the past decade.
I wanted to start off with piracy and file sharing, for label owners like yourselves it must be such a pain.
Cozzy: It definitely makes you value the hard work that’s gone into it, from the artist’s perspective and the label’s perspective – putting in the hours to do things right, so people can have this music and buy it. It is really annoying that someone’s just gonna go and leak a low-quality file.
Lee: We’re pretty tight on how we sent the tracks out and how we go about it, who gets stuff because, when we started, we were just doing it ourselves. But then things were getting out so we narrowed down the list, things still get out, so you trim it down some more and then things start slowing down and you have an idea about who the culprits are, but you’re never gonna really know.
Cozzy: It’s a weird situation because at least if your tracks are getting leaked it means people want them, and there’s that buzz about them but at the same time people are getting them for free.
Lee: Whenever I go abroad the promoters or the resident DJs are always asking me to share or swap promos and I’m like, “No”. Then they go, “But I’ve got all this stuff here that I’ll give you” and it’s like “Nah, you shouldn’t have that stuff anyway and I don’t want it!” I pride myself on the fact that I’ve never downloaded anything illegally, not any music whatsoever.
Cozzy: That’s it because we’re producers as well, we value the work and money that’s gone into making the music. To pay two quid to buy it is nothing.
I interviewed Luke Pompey recently and he was saying the kids that he teaches download stuff illegally without a second thought.
Lee: What it is now is that music is so accessible. When we got into dance music, the ethics of how it worked and how was it structured was completely different. I was 13-years-old when I first got turntables, I got given some vinyl by a cousin and someone else, then I was on it – saving up to go and buy records every couple of weeks, paper round money and pocket money. Because you put all that effort in, you valued that product, that was YOUR tune, you’re not gonna give that to anyone unless they’re re-cutting from a DAT.
Cozzy: If you had it, it wasn’t like, “Oh throw me a copy”, if you had it, it was yours. A lot of them were limited as well, like white labels. Like, 500 got pressed and once they were gone, that was it.
Lee: We talk about this all the time. It was different because you would have something that went out on test press, and if you dropped it on radio people would be like, “Ah no, where did you get that from?” Phone would be going mad and everything. Now, it doesn’t matter because as soon as one person has it, someone else has got it. And, as soon as you put it on sale, everyone’s got it. Unfortunately, I do believe that within five years, maybe sooner – definitely within ten years, no one will pay for music, I really don’t think they will. Because the way it used to be was, producers didn’t really DJ. DJs were DJs and producers were producers, when I used to make garage we never ever went out doing DJ sets and we were making a lot of records and selling different records under all kinds of cheesy aliases, taking RnB vocals and doing bootlegs.
Cozzy: It didn’t matter about building a profile under one name.
Lee: We were making dough out of it, you didn’t worry about DJing – we’d DJ with our mates or maybe some small party or something but DJs were DJs and producers were producers. But now, because there’s no money in producing, it’s the touring, merchandise and everything like that where your money comes from. You’ve got to do everything to survive and make some money from it.
It’s similar to the pop music business model, the music that leads to the tour, that leads to merchandise and so on.
Lee: Exactly yeah, it was alright back then because some DJs were just DJs. People had fun with it more when it was vinyl because they made money with the product, they weren’t bothered about building up a certain profile. You could have fun with things, one-sided things – and, later on, you’d find out that so and so did this, did that, and that and that.
Going back to garage, is that how you two met?
Cozzy: Nah, we both had parallel lives up until a few years ago. We met through partying round here [Brick Lane]. I started DJing in ‘98 when I was 17, I got some second-hand decks off a mate at college and started getting into playing garage. I never did anything big, I was just a bedroom DJ and then I managed to get a couple of seasons playing out in Malia in Crete. I had a residency at Street Pub, it was known as a garage pub – we’d always get loads of London and then south-east in there. It would always go off, rewinds and everything! [Laughs].
Lee: At the same time he was doing that, around 2000-2001, I was out in Ibiza. I went out there for the Millennium. I’d just turned 18 and I was like, “Right, is this what Ibiza’s about?” and it wasn’t at all, I was there on an 18-30s holiday! We went down the West End and we went to Es Paradis for New Year’s Eve. Around that time I was starting to get into production with a couple of mates, doing garage and I decided to go back out there in April, took a bag of records and managed to get a residency at Milk Bar, which some guys had just opened. It was open six in the morning til 12 in the afternoon, so it was after-party central, all the wronguns in there, proper character place – I played there every single morning, it was conditioning… playing those hours, you either woke up super early or just cracked on from the night before, so the latter was always the one. Eventually promoters from all the big garage nights started coming in, guys from the Cosa Nostra, Twice As Nice… by the end of the summer I was resident at Cosa Nostra, did three gigs for Pure Silk. I was part of BM Dubs on the production side of things and just used the name Brinx when I was DJing.
Yeah I remember you telling me about BM Dubs when we met in Barcelona – I was like, “Yes bruv!”.
Cozzy: [Laughs] Yeah I was the same.
Lee: I came back from Ibiza, the boys had been doing other stuff while I was gone and I came back inspired after spending so much time at the garage raves and everything. One time Heartless Crew came down to Milk Bar and Fonti had disappeared, but Bushkin and Mighty Mo came down – they ended up using a pair of headphones as a microphone, proper old school. Loving it! I came home and signed up with their agency when I came back. Garage was a good time for music, we were the last generation that saw that old school musical model. Young people now get everything free, films, everything.
Cozzy: Yeah look at Blockbuster video and HMV. It’s sad, I used to work in a record shop in Edgware, it was wicked – best job I ever had. That’s a coffee shop now!
It’s a sign of the times.
Cozzy: [Laughs] It’s so true. The internet has come along and revolutionised things, it’s revolutionised the world.
For more of this interview, visit my website marcusbarnes.comCozzy D, Lee Brinx, Lower East
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter