Top Tunes with Jonny Cotsen

Hi Jonny Great to meet you. Can you tell us about yourself?

Hello. Great to meet you too! I call myself a Consultant, Theatre Maker and Facilitator in the Arts. I like to make interesting things happen. I work with theatre/arts organisations and venues to develop their work to be more accessible to deaf audiences /members which gives me a lot of satisfaction.

As well as giving talks on access and running inclusive workshops, I am a facilitator. I work with people of all ages with different abilities,  exploring ways drama can be inclusive, accessible and more importantly … fun!

I am also a performer and I am just about to tour my solo show, ‘Louder is Not Always Clearer’, starting at Chapter Arts Centre in February and then on to other venues across Wales. The show is being produced and directed by the brilliant ‘Mr and Mrs Clark’.

This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to?

I am currently listening to ‘Royalties Overdue’ which is a compilation of songs from the record label Mo Wax. It’s a double sided compilation with various artists that have been assigned to the Mo Wax label founded by James Lavelle.

The album was released around 1994 when I was at Art School and I heard one of the artists DJ Krush collaborating with a jazz artist, Ronnie Jordan’ at a gig and I was blown away so I had to buy it. It was released around the time when Hip Hop was really starting to evolve into mainstream music; artists such as Massive Attack, Portishead, Morcheba etc were influential to the Mo Wax label. Although its been nearly 25 years since it was released, I still love listening to this album!

I am deaf and I’ve always struggled with music especially understanding lyrics but I think it’s the deep and slow beats that makes this album more accessible to me. It’s just the way I hear music. The last year or so, I sort of lost my way listening to music and even stopped attending gigs. This was partly because I am now more involved with theatre which is more accessible to me as I can watch interpreted or captioned performances. However, very recently I bought new hearing aids which are not only super-powerful but I can play music from my phone to my hearing aids via bluetooth. So I have the added advantage of not wearing headphones (which are such a pain when you are a hearing aid user!) but also the clarity of the songs is so much better through the hearing aids. It will never be perfect, nor can I listen to music like a hearing person but it is definitely making a difference!! Thanks to my new hearing aids, I have started to enjoy listening to music again. ‘Royalties Overdue’ was the first album I wanted to listen to with my new hearing aids and I have been stuck listening to it ever since! I just can’t stop listening to it!

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why?

This is a difficult one as it changes every week! Here we go…

Duran Duran – Rio. This was the first album I ever bought. The lyrics were always printed on the back of the vinyl or in the in-lay sleeves which was brilliant as I was able to follow and learn the lyrics to all the songs quite clearly. This album has been my favourite of all the Duran Duran albums. I still enjoy singing ‘Save A Prayer’ tunelessly around the house much to the annoyance to my neighbours!

Red Hot Chilli Peppers – Under The Bridge. When I was at my lowest, this song reminds me how much I have achieved since then. I was in a dark place and this song was playing on the radio and I needed do something about it and I did. I saw RHCP live in Cardiff and I had a very emotional connection with the song when they played it.

Matisyahu – Live At Stubbs. I went with a friend to see this American guy who was a Rabbi with a huge beard and dressed in black. This Rabbi can sing and he was good!! Incredible voice and possibly the best gig that I have ever seen. People have compared him to Damian Marley and I think that is a huge compliment. Matisyahu can rap, sing and beat-box. I love listening to this album whenever I have a dead-end moment and it gives me a buzz. Matisyahu doesn’t have a beard anymore, or wear the black clothes but I still like him!

Beastie Boys – Check Your Head For the obvious reasons Beastie Boys are so much fun to listen to. My older cousin always used to play Beastie Boys stuff when I visited him. I never really got ‘rap’ as there was no way I could follow or understand the lyrics but this album uses a lot of instrumental stuff in the songs. Yes, I’ll admit I did steal the VW badge off a car and tried to wear it just to be as cool as the Beastie Boys.

James Taylor Quartet – Do Your Own Thing During my university days I listened to a lot of jazz, acid jazz, trip-hop and hip hop but JTQ were my favourite. They are a British four-piece jazz funk band, who were renowned for their live performances. Their live sets focus on accessible rhythm driven music which I have always enjoyed listening to. I think they set the standard for the coolest sounds in funky acid jazz and amongst all their brilliant albums, ’Do Your Own Thing’ is my favourite of all them.

Thanks Jonny, just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this?

I am going to use my deaf card and pretend I did not hear the question as I am going to chose this song – Happy 70th Birthday Bob Marley – Could You Be Loved [Acapella Version 2015] #MARLEY70. The song consists of different individuals doing an acapella/beat-box version of ‘Could You Be Loved’. All vocal and no instruments. When my partner was pregnant with our daughter throughout the pregnancy we played this song to her belly. We played it a lot and we never got tired of it. A friend told us about it and we are forever grateful. We still play it every now and then; not sure if our daughter remembers it from in utero but wouldn’t be cool if she did.

Jonny and his family

Thanks for your time Jonny

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