Sunset Sessions, Sankeys & Sax.
13 May 2020
Ancoats resident Nkosi Inniss aka DJ Coast2Coast is a former club DJ who’s taking the wedding scene by storm. He recently gained widespread national media attention for ‘Ancoats Sunset Sessions’, a rooftop DJ set which aims to bring positivity and love to the community, 15 minutes at a time. We spoke to him six weeks into the Coronavirus lockdown about what makes a good party, the best Thai in Manchester and reconnecting with his local community.
How did you start out in music, Nkosi?
I was really into music when I was a kid. My Dad plays the violin and the cello, he wanted me to play an instrument too. I went from recorder to clarinet to saxophone and found that I had a natural rhythm for it so I taught myself the drums and became my school’s jazz drummer. Looking back I was such a complete band geek. I’d have three concert band sessions a week as well as lots of lessons on the sax.
What was your path to becoming a professional DJ?
I grew up listening to what my mum listened to which was soca calypso, reggae and my sister was into neo soul, Aliyah, that type of stuff. And then my cousins were into hip hop. That’s where my influence came from and I was just obsessed with DJs.
A lot of people now just decide they want to be a DJ and ask me how to do it. It’s so easy to be a DJ now, whereas back then you had to spend - I was doing paper rounds for months and months to buy one deck. £600 on one deck! And then save up another good few months to get the other deck and ask my parents to chip in for a mixer.
Do you remember your first gig? And when you first got paid to DJ?
Paid!? In the beginning I didn’t really get paid. I suppose it was when I went to uni at MMU Cheshire. One of my mates, who is now a pretty big DJ, was the first person to give me my first proper residency. He wasn’t even really a DJ at the time. He used to run the doors at all the events. Great guy. He gave me my first spot, and we are still great friends to this day.
Did you ever play Sankeys Soap?
Yeah, that was one of the main places to go growing up. I remember being at Sankeys when Wu Tang were on - it used to be sick. I played there at a drum and bass event, it had an incredible atmosphere. I loved playing there.
What made you make the switch from club DJ to wedding DJ?
When we came back from backpacking on our honeymoon we moved back to Manchester. The nightlife had completely changed after five years of being out of the city and getting back into the scene was a bit overwhelming so I decided to try a different avenue. Getting into weddings seemed like the perfect alternative and it meant I could have a more family orientated lifestyle rather than being out until five or six in the morning all the time.
What’s your style, what makes a DJ Coast2Coast party special?
I’m a DJ that loves to mix and to make people smile and dance, I am constantly developing my style.
I can play pretty much anything. I’ve been a house DJ, drum and bass DJ, I’ve done a season in Ibiza. I love funk and Motown, soul, indie and rock, bhangra. I like South American music from when I travelled there. RnB, charts, grime whatever works really.
When I was younger I wanted to be an artist but for me now it’s all about the people, not art. Once I realised it’s not about me as an artist, the transition to DJing at weddings was really easy - it’s all about them. I will always create a bespoke set that suits each individual wedding or event.
My passion for DJing is in the art form of mixing, scratching and putting in lots of practice. I practice all the time and I put myself under a lot of pressure to keep developing. I’m a technically better DJ now than when I was playing in clubs five nights a week. When I got into wedding DJing I had to put brain back into that mode when I was 17, when I practiced all the time.
What have you learnt along the way that you wish you had known at the start?
There’s a few things but its hard to tell someone who’s much younger and I wouldn’t have listened anyway. I had the drive for it but I didn’t know how to make it into a business, it was just 100% passion. I would go back and tell myself to set it up and present it as a business and people will treat you like a proper business. Recognise the market you are going for.
Secondly, you need to appreciate what your value is. If you don’t value yourself, people won’t pay you what you are worth. If you give it out for free, people will take advantage of it.
And save. You’re self-employed, you need to save. There’s so much equipment to buy and associated costs that you don’t always realise straight away.
How do you go about winning new work?
I think mainly it comes from creating good content for Instagram and Facebook. I don’t have a huge amount of followers but being able to tag, hashtag and all that allows people to find me. My clients are awesome, they regularly contact me and I like to have a personal connection with them. At the end of the day I am basically an extra guest at their wedding!
It’s obviously a difficult time for any small business, particularly one that depends on large crowds of people. How are you coping?
There’s still stuff in July that I have booked and I’m holding out for. Thank god I have other income streams coming in from elsewhere. I would love to get myself a job in radio in the future.
How is your mental health after more than six weeks in lockdown?
I’m okay personally but I feel like it’s particularly difficult for those that live in apartments without a garden or balcony. That is exactly why my neighbour Rich and I started the Ancoats Sunset Sessions in the first place. Since both of our businesses’ work had dried up we had the idea of a 15 minute DJ set for local residents to enjoy whilst being able to stick to social distancing. When people can just scream out of the window and let others know that they’re not the only ones on their own. If worst comes to worst you can scream out of your window and say look I need some help. That was the whole idea behind it.
It’s great that it's become so popular and it's receiving so much attention, it gives me something to sink my teeth into at a time when I have little else to do. At the same time I’ve had to learn about live streaming and social media. In my perfect world I wouldn’t even have a phone but once I got into weddings I started using it again.
My phone now gives me updates on usage. Since the start of the lockdown my usage has gone up from something like two hours a day, which I thought was a lot, to seven hours a day! That’s because I’m on instagram and emailing people back all the time but I know I need to stay on it. That’s now a crucial part of the job.
Where have you been featured?
So far, Sky News, Manchester Evening News, Mirror, Global Radio, LadBible and Pretty Little Thing. Another brand has also just contacted me to do a live stream on their Instagram. Things just keep popping up, people messaging me.
How long have you lived in Ancoats?
I moved here seven years ago. Back then the only place that was open was one shop on the square. It was a lovely shop, they were really nice, very Mancunian but the kind of shop that only sold one of each item. There wasn’t as many people around and definitely not as many blocks of flats.
We wanted a flat that would last until we had kids and we got lucky with the one we have. We were actually supposed to see another apartment but when we arrived the tenants wouldn’t let us in! The agent was really embarrassed and showed us a different property and we put in an offer straight away.
It almost feels slightly unusual to meet a Mancunian that has chosen to live in an apartment in the city centre rather than a house in the suburbs.
Well actually before all this Corona stuff happened we had started looking for a house in Chorlton. I’m from Chorlton, my sister lives in Chorlton, my mates live in Chorlton so now that we have a young family we wanted to be close to them. We were at the signing contracts stage about two weeks before lockdown began and we would have been left really financially exposed if we had followed through with it so thankfully we pulled out. My bookings have dried up, my wife has just been furloughed. We would have been living on bread and water, which actually would have been good for my waistline if nothing else.
Is the move to the suburbs on hold for now then?
What has actually happened since all of this started and especially with the Sunset Sessions, is that I have reconnected with my community. I usually like to be a bit under the radar but now I’m actually getting recognised just going down to the shop! It’s not that I didn’t want to see people, I’m actually quite shy. But now I’m becoming more involved in community projects in the area. I’m embracing it and it’s fantastic.
Right from the beginning of this difficult time, everyone has just been really nice, really open, friendly and it has made me and my wife fall in love with Ancoats again.
So you’ve decided to stay long term in Ancoats?
Yes 100%. When I really started thinking about it; we’ve got a nice flat, why would I even want to leave. The community is incredible here and everything is so convenient.
Do you feel a sense of community within Ancoats?
I think there is a growing number of people who crave community nowadays. Community has become digital and everyone can connect really easily. My own network has become a lot stronger and we’ve been looking after a retired couple in another block, doing their shopping and collecting prescriptions.
When we’re all allowed out to play again after lockdown where will you go to celebrate?
I think in the beginning I will just be happy to see my family and friends but I will be craving a big night out at some point. I would love to get to Warehouse Project or Soup Kitchen or something like that.
I love a good night out. It’s about being in the right environment with the right people. You might not be into techno for example but if you’re with a load of people that are really into that music and you’re in a massive warehouse with all of the ambience or a really small room where it’s intimate, you’ll love it .
Best places in Manchester to eat and drink?
Cottonopolis is my favourite - the Sunday Roast is fantastic. Mackie Mayor is really good, I love the bao restaurant and there’s a place that makes amazing tacos. Sugo here in Ancoats is really good. I wasn’t expecting to think too much about a pasta place but it is really good. Zouk, off Oxford road, is Indian fusion with a modern twist and is very high quality. The best Thai food I have had is in the Arndale Market, Hong Thai - proper Thai food.
What does the future hold for DJ Coast2Coast?
We’re aiming to keep Ancoats Sunset Sessions going for as long as possible and maybe I can do something within radio at some point. For sure though I'll keep going as a DJ for weddings and events - pushing myself to be the best I can be. And try to be a good role model for my son and a good husband for my wife.
DJ Coast2Coast is taking bookings for weddings and events in 2020 and 2021.
The Ancoats Sunset Sessions are brought to you from a balcony on Henry Street (you’ll be able to hear which one) every Saturday 18:45 - 19:00.
Interview and images by Christian at Blossom.