Alexander Akov: Part man, part bear, part vodka drinking presidential candidate… Part rapper?
This month sees the release of Bristolian-in-Vienna’s first EP of the year; U Want It on Eatbrain. Following the destructive wake of last December’s Symbiosis single on C4C, not to mention last summer’s 12-minute genre-blurring opus Exodus, it’s a broadsword bundle that once again widens his creative parameters…
Flexing from glitch-riddled oily tech funk to purring cosmic steppery, the four track EP features Alex on vocals in a variety of ways; Blind, a tune so vast it comes in two contrasting Moon/Sun versions, sees him take centre stage as a singer (something he’s only done once before on Constellations)
The EP title track, meanwhile, sees him debuting his skills as an MC going toe-to-toe with Black Sun Empire’s MC of choice Mr Multiplex. A sharp-flowing, spike-tongued diss at the entitled wannabees of the game, he’s not serving up half-baked cheesy party rhymes like most first-time MCs, either… He’s got something to say.
But if you’ve been following his social media videos, you’ll already know Akov – an artist who first emerged in 2013 on Neurofunkgrid – is never short of things to say. Or jokes to make. Most recently he’s been sparking up hippie dicks and teaching us about interstellar meditation, last year he went the drum & bass equivalent of ‘viral’ with a daft mock presidential campaign video to encourage votes in the Drum&BassArena Awards. Whether he went through to the next round because of it or not (it could just be that he’s a consistent and heavyweight producer who’s released on the likes of Eatbrain, Bas Taste, Titan and Viper not definitely not short of ideas or character) Who knows? But this is where our conversation with the English Russian begins…
Was that real vodka? Pretty sure it was water, but you make this weird noise that makes me wonder…
Ha! No, it wasn’t. I did worry though that I’d A) reinforced the stereotype of vodka drinking Russians and B) falsely advertised myself as a big drinker, which I’m not.
Did you experience any backlash? You’re half Russian anyway, right?
Yeah I am and I don’t think my dad’s that impressed to be honest.
Have you discussed it with him? Perhaps at the dinner table?
No. He doesn’t use Facebook so it’s only just made its way through the grapevine to him.
You went viral man. How was that?
I’m not sure the videos went viral but they resonated with a fair few people, which was cool.
Some artists seem like they’re being forced to do these videos at gunpoint but you lend yourself to it. It seems like you enjoy it.
I guess it’s all entertainment really. I do feel very comfortable doing it and it wasn’t until some friends of mine who are artists remarked on my videos and said they didn’t find them very easy to do because they’re shy or just not confident in front of the camera. I think I’d taken the fact that I’m quite happy to take the piss out of myself and chat any old shit for granted. Let’s not get it twisted though, social media is an absolute fucker. It creates more negative than positive but it’s the world we live in and you have to use it to its benefits.
Your MouthBass project is an example of using it in a good way. You’re creating a two-way thing and collaborating with people on the page.
For sure man. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the fact that many drum & bass fans are also producers and artists and DJs themselves. Probably more than any other genre. Most people who buy it are DJs or they’d listen to it on Spotify, everyone seems very involved and engaged so it made sense to do something like this.
What type of noises have you had so far and how many?
Loads! I’ve got 200 emails I have even checked yet. There’s all kinds of mad stuff. People recording them on their phones and sending them in.
Will you keep them clean so people can recognise their own contributions?
I want to keep it close enough to the original sounds so people can identify their submission but obviously a bit a processing will go on. I’ll keep a list so everyone knows for sure too.
You like to do things differently, don’t you? The videos or that epic 12-minute tune The Exodus last year for example.
There’s just such a sheer volume of stuff coming out all the time. I have to think of ways of keeping people interested and, maybe more importantly, keeping myself interested too. Otherwise we’re going around in circles. But yeah, it’s not like I’m trying to do things for the sake of it, it’s just how I do things.
Like moving away from one of the biggest drum & bass cities in the UK as your career is taking off?
Ha! Well Bristol’s the perfect place to fall in love with drum & bass; there’s inspiration floating in the air there. But it’s such an international genre people don’t realise how exciting the scenes are elsewhere around the world. I had such a good time here in Vienna I thought ‘fuck it, I’ve done Bristol, that was amazing, let’s see what else is out there…’
It seems like there’s a pretty tight community of artists in Vienna
It’s a tight community full stop. What’s different here is that drum & bass is the biggest genre out here. There’s a fight with techno like there is in every city but it’s no real competition. Drum & bass is massive out here and everyone in the smaller towns outside the city really love drum & bass as well. The biggest nights are D&B, without question whereas in Bristol every genre has the same size night, they’re all very popular.
I can’t think of another city where D&B is the only big genre. Even in London, with multiple D&B events happening every weekend at the moment, house and techno are still massive.
Yeah it’s great here! Prague is a close contender on that level.
That’s only down the road from you…
Yeah dude, I can get a train for an hour and play in Slovakia or a train for two and a half hours and play in Prague. Geographically, I’m in the sweetest spot imaginable.
What’s the feeling about Brexit out there?
Everyone in Europe is laughing at us and I’m often described as the Brexit immigrant by friends here. But Brexit did have a big influence on me moving. As an English person I’ve always been so proud of how multicultural our culture has been. Especially in music. I wanted to maintain what’s important about being English; which is being part of something bigger and being part of different cultures. I don’t feel the choice to leave the EU represents what I love about England and the UK.
Amen. You just mentioned music. You were involved on Joanna Syze’s album but this new EP is the first substantial solo release in almost a year…
Yeah, I’ve been writing loads though. There’s been several labels I’d been writing for and the process was quite long and drawn out. I was trying out different things, but the labels had a different idea to where I wanted the music to go and it didn’t work out. But that helped me improve my sound and think about what I do. I’m really happy with the new EP as a result.
You’re back on Eatbrain, too. You’ve said Jade is a bit of a mentor in previous interviews…
Yeah definitely. He’s an inspiring guy and has been very supportive. I’ve mastered the EP myself and he’s been really helpful with advice on that. He’s got a great ear for detail and hears things I didn’t even know were there.
Amazing. The EP itself is a development sonically as well. There’s some metal influences and more of your vocals on Blind.
Yeah it’s the first EP I’ve done singing and rapping on for the whole EP which is a big move in that direction. That makes it more personal to me.
Yeah Urso is me. And it’s Latin for bear. It’s something I’d toyed with before and have always loved hip-hop. I write a lot of the lyrics for MCs on my tracks, it’s always been something I’ve written but never performed it.
How do MCs feel when you put bars in their mouths?
No one’s had any objections so far. It’s usually me sitting down with them and developing things with them. I’ve had a knack for writing lyrics so it’s getting them more into song form.
Yeah MCs have bars for days but not all of them are recording artists
Some just haven’t had many chances to show what they’re like on a record. That’s why I’ve got Multiplex. He’s such a sick MC. I first heard him at this rootsy soundsystem night here and he was so tight and in tune I thought he was part of the record. I knew I had to get him in the studio, so having him on this EP was important; he’s got something to say and I want people to hear it.
That’s wicked. Blind is a bit of a big tune too… So big you did two mixes!
Yeah I was fighting whether I make it into a darker piece or not. It began as the Sun mix, a lighter melodic version which I was really happy with. But I usually make a few different versions of things to see what works or how I can do things differently and the mix that would eventually become the Moon mix worked really well with the vocal too. So I thought I’d keep both mixes.
Can we expect to hear more of your voice on future tracks?
I think so. It makes the tracks more personal to me. Not to take anything away from vocalists but I love being self sufficient and being able to do something myself. It’s creatively fulfilling.
What more creative fulfillments can we expect?
Kryptomedic has an EP coming out and there’s a feature from me. It’s kinda got a Prodigy vibe to it. It’s kinda breakbeat, rapping, heavyweight thing. There’s another whole EP with Bad Taste, including collaborations with Vegas and Billain.
Nice! When will the Mouth Bass project come to fruition?
Only time will tell… I need to pick my favourite noises and get to work. When you see the obligatory video on Facebook you’ll know it’s done.
Akov – U Want It EP is out on Eatbrain