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Artist Spotlight

Gray Area Interview: CODES

Maria Marcano

4 min read

When it comes to authenticity, one artist does it right. New York-based DJ and producer CODES is an artist who defies the meaning of staying true to oneself while trying to make it in this competitive industry.

For him, it’s all about making the art he wants to make. It’s all about creating the melodies he wants to create. It’s about playing the sets he wants to showcase to his fans and nothing more.

While many artists out there attain their inspiration from living in massive, music-loving cities, he lives in Rochester, upstate New York keeping him close to where his passion for music began. The tight-knit community he grew up around inspired him to pursue a long-term career as a musician. His father played a tremendous role in instilling such a profound admiration for music as an art form.

CODES with his father and sister

CODES with his father and sister

He spent hours of his youth observing his father bringing out his extensive music collection and playing with various instruments at home, inspiring him to pick up the guitar and follow in his footsteps. The music industry was rapidly evolving in the early 00s. MTV was still in its heyday, and underground raves were booming, CODES became even more intrigued by the thrill of it all.

Since he was a teenager, watching DJs perform on programs like MTV’s TRL always fascinated him. Turntablists like DJ Skribble gave him a spine-chilling feeling that he couldn’t quite explain but laid the groundwork for CODES to explore scratching and cutting.

Young CODES at the Big Jar in Rochester, NY

Young CODES at the Big Jar in Rochester, NY

When a cousin took him to his first underground rave, it was game over. He continued to explore the rave scene and immersed himself in record crates and mixtapes, soon realizing a love for jungle. That’s when the exceptionally curated CODES sound was born.

“Jungle music is what really got me at first and is what progressed me to loving what drum & bass is now. I bought this DJ Venom Return of the Jungle Warrior tape and hearing this tape was like reading the bible to me. As soon as I heard it I was like, ‘this is what I want to do. This is what I’m going to do forever.’”

Down the line, he experimented with intertwining jungle, hip-hop, funk, house, and disco into his DJ mixes. He figured, “why not mix all my favorite genres and turn it into my own signature sound? There are no rules to this profession.”

CODES was a DJ before he was ever a producer, and he decided that if he were going to make it in the production realm, he would make a living off creating the music he wanted to make, not what the labels or anyone else expected of him.

CODES

CODES

Luckily, as his presence in the scene evolved, he crossed paths with industry mainstays who could help shape his career. Over the years, he’s released his twist on house music on renowned labels like REALM, Dirtybird, Night Bass, STMPD RCRDS, and Box of Cats. He’s performed at some of the scene’s favorite festivals, such as Electric Forest, Elements Music & Arts Festival, Dirtybird Campout and CampINN, and many more. Yet, despite his accomplishments, CODES longed for something of his own.

Today, he’s the proud founder of Holy Molé Music. Before bringing his vision to life, he knew he wanted to bring something to the table that defied genres and allowed his expansive artistic vision to shine.

“Although I was releasing on all these great labels, I wasn’t doing as much as I wanted to be doing,” he explains. “This idea and vision that I had a long time ago was kind of just put on the backburner. But once I put time aside to come up with the whole vibe of it, the look of it, the name of it, etc., records started signing right off the bat and it’s been a beautiful process.”

After struggling with what to name the label for quite some time, the name Holy Molé just felt right. His intention to showcase his one true love: music, had to be reflected in its name. A symbol of something he loved deeply that felt close to home. Growing up, his grandfather always used “holy mole” as an expression, and his family was big on guacamole and getting mole poblano everywhere they traveled. The mole-making process goes hand in hand with what CODES’ sound is about.

“To make mole sauce, it takes lots of love and dedication. It takes days and all these different ingredients. You have to roast it and grind it and it’s a 24-48 hour process. You can make it rich or spicy or tangy. There’s just so many variations. That’s where the inspiration for my label name came from. That process resonates with my own creative process.”

Codes @ Elements 2021

CODES has managed to design his own perfect, one-of-a-kind recipe that continuously prepares sensational, genre-defying records that appeal to a wide-ranging audience. In CODES’ house, there are no rules. There are no genres. There’s just great music. With a little bit of creativity, a little bit of experimentation, and a whole lot of passion, he’s managed to spice up the house music scene on his terms.

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