Justin Mumm

For a couple of years in the late '00s, Ill Cosby was more specter than actual presence in Seattle's music scene. Moving here from Pennsylvania in October 2007, Cosby came to thepublic's attention with his frequent comments on Line Out, The Stranger's music blog, consistently offering eloquently worded insights that suggested a ravenous hunger for quality music. But if we'd been haunting the same clubs, I sure wasn't aware of it. Nor was he blatantly self-promoting, like most of the world's musicians and DJs.

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So it came as a pleasant surprise when Cosby started to reveal his musical activities via Division, a Northwest electronic-music discussion list. Dude has been seriously busy, hosting the Cosby Show Nights on Glitch.fm (Tues 6–8 pm), running the digital-only Car Crash Set label, and producing tracks that haunt the peripheries of dubstep, Latin house, hiphop, future garage, and UK Funky. As a triple-threat facilitator of futuristic music, Cosby has become a contender for MVP in our city's bass-centric music sphere—and he's done it with a modest demeanor all too rare in this culture.

Cosby may be something of an ambassador for dubstep, UK Funky, garage, wonky, and its splintering sub(bass)genres, but he's pretty sly about it. It's telling that one of the inspirational tracks in his musical evolution is Coldcut's "More Beats + Pieces." "It was such a furious, fearless mix of different types of music that I was floored," Cosby remembers. The head-spinning, sampledelic approach and rampant stylistic shifts of that work inform Cosby's own aesthetics.

That being said, when it comes to his own creations, Cosby is very subtle about sampling, mutating the snippets beyond recognition into tracks that exude a mystery and spiritual depth while (usually) maintaining danceability (or skankability, as the case may be).

Being a DJ, a producer, and a label head (on top of holding a full-time day job) seems like an exhausting lifestyle, but Cosby finds some amount of synergy in the multitasking.

"Working on the label and being a DJ are definitely linked, and both roles aid one another," Cosby says. "I honestly don't have too much time to produce at the moment, as the label is really rolling along. But of the three roles I have (DJ, producer, label head), I find that producer is the role that is easiest to put on the back burner."

That's understandable, but it's a shame, too. Cosby's diverse productions skillfully fulfill many functions: move dancers, evoke cinematic moods, enhance drug experiences, fuck with people's heads, help techies to code, etc.

"Some of the tracks I make are definitely made with clubs in mind," he says. "Mostly, I make music to try to fit the sound I have in my head. If people can use it for other reasons, that's excellent, but I don't have a 'Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To' [as Spacemen 3 famously put it] motive behind what I produce."

As for his criteria for signing artists to Car Crash Set, Cosby strictly relies on satisfying his tastes. "If it sells or if it fits with other music on the label are not things I look at. To me, the most notable electronic-music labels in history (Warp, Rephlex, Ninja Tune, Hyperdub) are the ones that take the biggest stylistic risks."

The last few years have seen an eruption of stylistic innovations in electronic music; Cosby has been closely following these developments, of course. One wonders where the cutting edge can go from here. Will the wildly mutating dubstep diaspora spawn a handful of geniuses whose work will endure while the rest sounds dated by year's end?

"I attribute this continuing mutation and reinvention of music to the speed of the internet and blogs," Cosby observes. "The type of changes that would take a few months a decade ago happens in the span of a few weeks, maybe less, today. Once an artist pushes the boundary, it is like a call to other artists to push that boundary even further before someone else does.

"I am not sure that any one genre will have longevity in the way we think of hiphop having longevity," he continues. "Dubstep and like genres will continue to change, and even when they change enough for people to call it something else, its DNA will still be there. To me, dubstep from only five years ago already has a dated sound, but its characteristics can be traced to what is happening now."

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Cosby's near future promises more furious action. "I am going to try to continue to find artists working on new forms of music. I would like to continue my Glitch.fm show and continue DJing around Seattle, pushing new sounds and exposing people to music that no one can properly describe."

It's a pleasure to have this guy make my job more difficult. recommended