AKOV: A Word With The Space Bear
AKOV: A Word With The Space Bear Photo by Martin Schiefer

As if everyone in the drum & bass world didn’t already know about AKOV for his hard-hitting, almost-too-deep deep bass, his hilarious videos made as a plea for votes at the Drum&BassArena Awards in 2018 definitely put him on the map. Those who didn’t already know found that the Space Bear with the very serious basslines was also a consummate joker.

DNBA Awards aside, AKOV has really been blowing up the D&B world lately with releases on multiple labels including three tracks on C4C (one featured on C4C’s 20-year anniversary compilation), two on Joanna Syze’s upcoming Surrender LP, a track on the Viper 2019 Annual, and remixes on Kursiva’s recent Waveform Shapeshifter Remixed LP. That’s just in the last month.

Bassrush thought it was definitely time to have a chat with this high-energy bassline trickster, and it was just as fun and funny as one would expect. AKOV reads like he films: hilarious yet very self-aware and poignantly aware of the hard work it took to get him to this place. Enjoy our words with AKOV.

So how did you originally get into producing?
When I was 16 years old, I got a copy of Ableton Live from my brother and occasionally used it to record myself playing guitar. I also recorded the bands I was in but that was only dealing with simple audio. It wasn’t until I was around the age of 18 that I started to experiment with synthesized sounds. That all kind of coincided with the whole dubstep/brostep thing when it came around, and as that started to lose its integrity I was led to drum and bass. With production in general I’ve always been a control freak when it comes to my art, so the idea of having the skills to do everything myself was a dream come true. I think that was my main motivation.

This past year has been a pretty big one for you. What do you see was the catalyst for your success this past year?
Moving countries had a huge part to do with it; not that there was anything wrong with the UK, but I think psychologically it helps to have a clean slate. I built a new computer, stopped smoking, moved to Austria, and just kind of found my workflow from that point.

So you thought you were more productive after moving, or was it easier to work with EU producers since you were closer as well?
I was 1000% more productive in terms of contacts. I was lucky to already have AMC and Jade asking for tunes since my first free download tracks on the YouTube channel NfG it was just about giving them some decent content. It wasn’t until I booted up AKOV 2.0 that I could deliver the goods really. [Laughs]

What was the most important part of the AKOV 2.0 reboot for you?
I started making D&B in 2013. The tracks on the Construct EP were my first ever D&B tunes, so I definitely released a bunch of stuff before I was ready. In my mind now, my actual journey began with the Space Bears EP on Titan records in 2017. That’s when I felt like I’d finally developed my skills enough. I think if you’re lucky enough to get one foot in the door it all starts to snowball from there, provided you’re consistent.

When you have a particular idea in your head and you can translate into something accurately in [Ableton], there’s no greater feeling. It involved watching countless YouTube tutorials of American guys who take three hours to explain a five-minute technique.

It’s good that you had some labels to support you during that journey as well. Do you feel like you’re pretty comfortable with your process now and you have a little more space to play around with sound?
Yeah, Mindtech Records definitely had my back during that time. It’s a shame they stopped doing stuff. In terms of feeling comfortable, I definitely feel a lot more free, hundred percent. Now I feel I can just focus entirely on the creative process I can finally turn my manic thoughts into waveforms. [Laughs]

What does that creative process look like for you?
It probably just looks like me slouching in front of a computer with a vacant expression. [Laughs] But once I’ve put down the main idea, which could be anything from a weird synth sound or a particular rhythm, the rest of the song writes itself I just keep experimenting until it represents something vaguely interesting.

We don’t want you to give away all your secrets, but can you talk a little bit about how you arrived at that sound for your basslines and ambient bass sounds? It’s extremely different and heavy.
When making bass sounds I always try to achieve a kind of texture I guess. I need that crunch. Maybe that’s what they all have in common. The textures are important to me; gotta tickle the right part of your ear hole.

It’s both clear and crunchy, really. The resonance of the bass is really stark.
I’m glad you think so! I just try and make tracks that I would like to hear. If others like them then maybe we have the same fetish for certain noises. I just finished a collab with Billain; now that man has some sexy textures to sink your teeth into.

It’s clearly been a journey for you, culminating last year with your nomination for best newcomer at the DNBA Awards.
Yeah, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing; I nearly quit a couple of times. It’s such a competitive line of work but I had to simply remember to not think of it as work. It’s all about having fun in the end and that’s how I approached it with the DNBA Awards. At the very least that’s come through in my videos. At the end of the day I just like to be an idiot and make people smile, which is essentially what led to the promo video for the awards.

Drum& BassArena is actually run by lizards paid by the Queen who shapeshift inter-dimensionally. They would never let a Russian win an award.

How did you get the idea to do those videos?
You gotta engage people with a cheap laugh to get your music heard nowadays. But it just happened naturally, really. I always tend to goof around. I guess I’ve just become a bit more comfortable with filming it.

Did you expect the videos to blow up the way they did? It’s pretty safe to say they went viral.
I don’t think I was that surprised. It’s always the weirdest videos of mine that seem to get noticed. Still, it wasn’t enough to get people to vote the second round. But it’s all a conspiracy anyway: Drum& BassArena is actually run by lizards paid by the Queen who shapeshift inter-dimensionally. They would never let a Russian win an award. [Laughs]

So many people thought that accent was real!
I don’t make it easy for people, to be fair. My father’s Russian but I was born in England and I’ve lived there my whole life so I’m not actually a Russian—I just got the high cheekbones.

You’ve got quite a few tracks coming out on your own and with different collaborators like Joanna Syze and Kursiva. Which ones are you most excited about?
Ooh, that’s hard. I don’t think I can pick just one. What I’m most excited for right now is my venture into different sonic territories. I’ve got some 100bpm and 130bpm tracks to release his year. It’s always been my intention to just make music regardless of genre. I’ve always admired artists like Koan Sound who can apply their sound to anything. I never expected to end up being solely a D&B producer, so I aim to make a lot of different music like that.

Any upcoming tracks you can discuss?
I have my second EP on Eatbrain coming in May, which I’m psyched for, and of course the track with Billain. There’s some other bits I can’t talk about yet, unfortunately. I did also just make a Serum sound bank which is for sale on my website.

Any plans for shows and tours? Anything for the US?
I’ll be at Let It Roll again this year and there’s a high possibility of a couple American shows, but I don’t want to jump the gun and announce anything official quite yet.

AKOV’s most recent tracks on C4C and with Kursiva and Joanna Syze can be purchased on Beatport or streamed on SoundCloud or Spotify. Check Beatport for more AKOV bass style coming soon as well, and his Serum sound bank is available at Akovmusic.com.