Drum and Bass DJ and producer, AKOV (A.K.A the Russian Bear), has been making huge waves with-in the scene for 5 years now. He was recently shortlisted as a nominee for the Drum and Bass Awards 2018, and has released many singles & EP’s stacked with face-melters such as Mantra, Space Bears, Shapeshifter & Initiation.
We’ve been lucky enough to speak with him about his recent work and what we can expect in the future! So lets jump straight in to, the interview…
Hi AKOV! How have you been doing recently?
Yeah pretty good thanks man, things have been really busy so that’s fun!
You always seem to be having so much fun doing your job making all sorts of videos on your social media! What’s your trick to that?
(Laughs) Well I spend 100% of time doing AKOV! I love all aspects of the job so I’m glad it comes through to people.
I guess I just enjoy entertaining on all fronts. I’ve always been quite a DIY artist, I like to be able to make my own artwork, do my own videos, make everything myself. So yeah, it’s all just part of it for me.
Do you spend a lot of time on making videos & artwork etc as opposed to tunes?
I always prioritise the music but I find myself increasingly doing more and more surrounding my releases in regard to graphics etc especially when given the freedom to do so by the label. I’ve been a visual artist as long as I’ve been a musician and I feel to have a strong visual component to your music is really important, so it’s always important to me to oversee that. I designed my logo and film/edit all my videos etc. I have started to work with other artists now though, particularly Filip Vukoje who made the awesome covers for ‘The Initiation EP’ and ‘The Exodus’
Wicked, a man of many talents eh! So, moving onto Woolly Mammoth VIP & Symbiosis! Woolly Mammoth VIP recently got featured on Rene LaVice’s BBC Radio 1 show, that’s pretty cool!
Yeah it was cool, he’s been quite supportive actually, there’s been a couple of tracks that he’s put up before so thanks to Rene!
After the initial drop there’s 16 bars or so of another small build followed by a full time drop which has so much energy! How long have you had this in the works, has it been a dub for a while?
It’s funny actually.. I was never gonna do a VIP of it but me and Dubape did a podcast for Mainframe Records, and we wanted to feature an exclusive dubplate on the show so we made a quick full time edit of the track which we really liked so I returned to the project at a later date at really developed the idea. I love how it turned out!
Awesome, now Symbiosis sounds like such a complex tune. This makes me wonder when you’re creating a song, do you work with a bank of samples or do you create sounds on the go during the arrangement process?
Thank you! My music has been far more detailed since I meticulously organised all my samples and started to create my own sample packs and soundbanks. So much time is spent drawing out drum patterns and tuning snares, all things that I don’t really enjoy that much – my favourite part is the creation of it and coming up with interesting ideas. So that’s a thing of the past now that I’m more organised, I can get my drum tracks done in 20 mins on average now. I have a very particular work flow and it’s because of this that I have managed to produce so much music in the past year or 2.
Taking it back now to The Exodus, wicked tune which covers so many different emotions and takes you on such a journey. How long did it take you to get all of that down into a project and what inspired you to create it?
(Laughs) All in all it took about two months, which to some people sounds like a lot, some people not so much. The main inspiration for writing it came from the observation that songs seem to be getting shorter all the time and a lot of the heavier stuff is really noisy and lacking in chords/ actual musicality recently, so I wanted to prove to myself and everyone else that this is something within my abilities to achieve. Be the change you want to see and all that. (Laughs). I generally try and explore a range of emotions through my tracks, but they generally keep the same flavor throughout. It was fun to take on something that was always evolving and write in a more progressive way.
The exodus represents everything that I love about Drum and Bass. Because I’m not just into Neurofunk, I love the whole spectrum of it. It was surprisingly quite easy to make that journey happen – I actually started with the intro so it was kind of written in the linear fashion that you can hear it. It started off with just the chords and then just got heavier and heavier, and yeah, for me I think the easiest part was actually putting it all together. But the hardest part it when you’ve got that range of different emotions, to try and mix it all! The mixing and mastering process was pretty fucking difficult and that’s what I spent about a month doing, the creation of it didn’t actually take too long.
I remember you released the stems for it to allow other people to have a go at remixing it.
Yeah, I made it a community project and uploaded the stems. I was originally running a competition so I could put up my top three favourites, but there was only about 30 to 40 people that ended up remixing it and nothing really stood out for me so I didn’t go with a winner in the end.
For sure, it’s definitely quite a challenge!
It was not an easy task by any means and people had a really good shot at it! But for me, it was more a case of getting people involved in a community project than anything else and I didn’t want to publish anything that to me felt unfinished.
Do you think you’d do something like that again?
I reckon so yeah, definitely. It was a great learning experience.
The Exodus has very atmospheric and theatrical vibes, you clearly love using instruments in your work which brings us to your remix of Forgive by Kaya Project. How did you come about making that remix, obviously they’re far from much drum and bass! Did you go to them or did they ask you?
It’s a funny story, because I’ve always listened to them – in my downtime I always listen to the most relaxing, chilled music possible since I’m constantly making really intense, hard Neurofunk! I think I’d go crazy if I just heard that all the time. Kaya Project has been a favourite artist of mine for 3 or 4 years, and when I was drunk one evening I sent him a message saying ‘Thank you mate you’re like the biggest inspiration to me ever!’ (laughs) literally just on Facebook, and he replies, ‘Hey, you wanna do a remix for me?’ and I was like fuck yeah! So it was like, challenge accepted I guess. I had no idea how to make it work at first, but then I took a lot of inspiration from ASA and Koan Sound kinda style, where they use a lot of classical mixed with some interesting basses.. So I went for that sort of vibe with it.
What other genre’s & artists do you like to listen to in your downtime?
Well, although I don’t listen to it so much anymore, before I was making drum and bass I was a massive metal head, so a lot of that influence comes from System of a Down & Rage Against the Machine. I think there is a huge amount of inspiration from that kind of style that comes through, more than people realise.. I also listen to a lot of hip hop – 90s hip hop, nothing new (laughs) – I’m not really into the whole mumble rap kinda stuff, I guess that’s where my love for half time comes from.. And yeah, I just try to pull inspiration from places that you wouldn’t expect to find them because I’ve only listened to Drum and Bass for as long as I’ve been making it. So that’s around 2013, and I think that’s sort of helped me and worked to my benefit in a way that I haven’t been overly influenced by what already exists. I like Latin music as well, you can get some cool rhythms from that!
2013 really isn’t too long to have been into drum and bass then in a sense, considering how far you’ve come! I’d say you’ve really developed your own tone as such, which makes your tunes very recognisable to the community. Is there anyone within DnB who has really stood out to help you to get to where you are now?
Thank you, I’m glad you think so! Yeah, there’s a bunch of people who have really helped me up to this point! Most notably the Cause 4 Concern guys have really helped me believe in what I do and given me freedom to express my music exactly how I want to! Even letting me curate the art and promotion to a certain degree which is a privilege. Also Jade from Eatbrain has helped from the very beginning. He heard my second EP ever which was a free download on Neurofunk Grid, and since that point he’s always been mentoring me and pushing me to do better and better so that’s been cool. I also can’t forget to mention my supportive girlfriend and friends who have always made me feel good about what I do and been there when I need them. But yeah, literally everyone I’ve come into contact with has helped in some way or another.
You’ve mentioned before that you’d like to collab with artists such as Koan Sound, Mefjus & Emperor. Is that any closer on the horizon that we have to look forward to there?
Fingers crossed! You never know what the future holds! I think a collab should always be an equal offering from both artists and I don’t know how much I have to offer artists of that calibre to be honest. It would be a dream to work with Koan Sound though!!
For sure, I think it’s important that in a collab that the artists contrast but complement each other, I’d say A.M.C & Turno do that quite well.
Definitely, yeah that’s a good example. But I haven’t really done much collabing, simply because I’m a control freak when it comes to the music! (laughs) I can’t reveal too much yet but there are some very interesting collaborations in the future to look forward to.
Well we’ll just have to keep our hopes up for the future then! With the year coming to a close, do you have any exciting plans for 2019, maybe a tour?
Yeah quite a lot of things actually, I just joined the MethLab Agency actually, so we’ve got a lot of exciting shows in the works. But the biggest things are I have a Viper EP coming in early 2019, which contains some of my most experimental tracks! . They’re like glitch-hop, breakbeat, all sorts of crazy stuff. Then there’s an Eatbrain EP later in the year already confirmed.
Ah, all over the labels again!
(Laughs) Yeah exactly! I also want to put out a deeper collection of tunes but that’s too early in development to talk about in detail yet!
Well we’ll definitely look forward to hearing all of them! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
That’s all I think!
HUGE FREE DOWNLOAD INCOMING!
As well giving you guys this amazing interview, AKOV has dropped his bootleg remix of Pendulum’s Tarantula as an XMAS GIFT! Click here to listen (and don’t forget to listen to that second drop!!)
CALLING ALL PRODUCERS!
Want to give your tunes that unique AKOV touch? You can also pick up his new Serum sample pack on his website, just click here!