Usually once an artist has released a debut album there tends to be a quieter period in their release schedule. In its place are remix EPs, tours, promo, all major distractions from returning to the studio and getting back to the source.
But Black Barrel is no usual artist. After several years honing his craft, scaling the fortress walls with low key releases, he’s been like an AK74 stuck on automatic since 2017. From last October alone Barrel (real name Evgenii) has released a full album and three substantial EPs. The releases span the full glacial, rolling tech funk terrain he’s made his name in but not one track has been a dummy round. Shots fired on some of the most respected labels in this sound: Dispatch, Sofa Sound and now the mothership. Metalheadz.
A bucket-list EP for Evgenii since he first turned up at the firing range, ‘Elevate’ was written over the course of two years (during which his profile has skyrocketed and he’s become a father) and shows a deeper, more contemplative sound he’s not expressed before. At points brooding and cosmic, at others soulful, at all times emotional, it’s a whole new side to the young Russian. And it comes our way while he’s neck deep in the process of his second album. We’ll say it again, Black Barrel is no usual artist.
Mr Barrel. Where are you in the world right now and what have we interrupted?
At the moment I’m waiting for Outlook Festival and getting ready to move to a new apartment with my family. I have a lot to do and not much time. This is due to the fact that at the moment I’m writing my second album for Dispatch Recordings and also I started a video blog in which I’m trying shoot all of my gigs. Of course, it’s nice to talk about main event of this year for me. Let’s go!
So we last spoke when you released your debut album. You’ve since given us three EPs on Dispatch and now this Metalheadz EP. That’s a lot of quantity but no skimping on quality. You cool with me calling you a machine?
It’s funny to hear that from people. I’m not a car, I’m Russian (laughs) It seems recently I realised where my productivity came from. This was when I sent my wife and daughter to the sea for three weeks. I noticed that when I had a lot of time, I did nothing. When they returned and I again had little time, I began to work faster and better. This is strange, but it seems that I need to have some special conditions in order to constantly be in good shape.
I get that completely. You use your time in a much more efficient way. So where does the Elevate EP fall in your recent flow of releases? How long have you been working on it? And have you been putting special tracks aside for the project?
The release was formed within a few years. In the intervals between my usual style, I sank into nostalgic moods and wrote these tracks. You know how it happens when you get bored and you want to do something else.
Yeah sure, and you’ve been stashing them persy. How important has Headz been to you as an artist and music lover? And what was the first Headz release that really hit you hard in the heart?
This release means a lot to me. To be here is probably how to get back to Zion. Connect with the root of the genre in which you work. It’s definitely a dream. It seems the first release that I heard with Metalheadz was Hidden Agenda – Swing Time. It definitely impressed me, but don’t stop there. The label catalogue contains a whole bunch of diamonds for which special thanks to the artists and Mr. Goldie!
Amen. It’s quite a statement piece. It’s yet another side and depth to your sound and pays homage to the Headz blueprint. That’s really important for you isn’t it?
Yes, I was very interested in what the audience would say when they heard another side of my taste. I hope the surprise is good. Indeed, the music was written through the prism of the sound of Metalheadz in my concept. I was deeply in the process of writing and literally put my soul into each track. For example, before I wrote the track Hear The Sound I reviewed all available documentaries and interviews with Goldie. I tried to understand what kind of person he was and what he wants from the music on the label.
I sense you were in a good head space when each of these tracks came to you. Anything significant going on in your life during the process?
Everything was in the usual rhythm for me. Work, family and nightly drum & bass sessions. Each track has its own story. I think it makes sense to tell about everyone, in the order in which I wrote them….
Which was the first one?
Leah. It was the very first track written when my wife was pregnant with my daughter Arina. I really wanted to give her the name Leah, but you know how it happens … So anyway I dedicated this beautiful track to my daughter.
What came next?
I decided to do something combining the Headz classic sounds and Hear The Sound was the next track I put my soul into. I showed it to Kid Drama, Digital, Scar and Om Unit and got really good feedback. After I showed it to Ant TC1 and got feedback saying he didn’t feel the track and he didn’t really like it (although he later he told me it’s okay) That was a real blow from a real English boxer.
After I came to my senses, I decided to make a track that everyone would definitely like and wrote the next track. Symbolically it’s called Again but, after KSR wrote the lyrics, we renamed the track to Elevate With Me. Then, after a long waiting time when I was not sure that I would sign all these tracks on Metalheadz, I was just glad that I made music that I sincerely love and still listen to. I thought that it doesn’t matter what happens to music, because it already exists and makes me happy. With this mood, I wrote the last track – Lost Meaning. The process lasted for a long time with different moods, but nonetheless, all the tracks sound good in same EP.
I love the fact it celebrates Headz more cosmic, astral side. I’m getting strong shades of Alex Reece, Hidden Agenda, Photek, Source Direct, Seba, Sci-Clone…
Yes, I also think that this is a little refreshing for label. All this is very close. As for the mood of the tracks – I looked towards Adam F, Hidden Agenda, Photek, Paradox as well as the Partisan Recordings label. I want to pay special attention to the track K.M.C – Space Echo. To this day it is for me the quintessential atmospheric of 90s drum & bass. I was very inspired by K.M.C when I wrote Lost Meaning.
Speaking of meanings… I’m gonna assume you’ve had some wise words and motivation from the bossman? Most Headz artists I interview have had a late night call or two from Goldie, did you?
Yes, I was no exception. When I sent him the tracks, he called me in the middle of the night directly to Russia. My hands shook, I picked up the phone and the first words were Black F*cking Barrel. He said that he really liked Again (Elevate With Me), we talked about Metalheadz vinyl, the records that inspire me, he also told me many compliments and said to keep the landmark in the direction of Hidden Agenda. It seems that I will remember this phone call all my life…
So going back to the first track you made. That was a while ago as you talk about becoming a dad in our last interview.
Yes, Arina is now almost two years old, and I love her so much. On the vinyl artwork, I even asked to write under the name of track that it was “dedicated to my daughter”.
Ah beautiful. Give us some elevation to wrap up… How else has this EP lifted you? Leave us with some type of inspiration to elevate us all.
This EP is like a step for me. I have a family and I have matured. And now I have this release on Metalheadz, where I have developed as an artist. Follow your mood and interest, I promise the road will be fascinating. Hasta la vista, baby!