House music for the end of summer.
"The eclecticism part of it also comes from the fact that when you're DJing in Stockholm, you're playing in a lot of different places and at different times of the night to a lot of drunken people, as opposed to clubs for a lot of high people," Kornél Kovács recently told Red Bull Music Academy. "You need to have a broad repertoire of tastes and be able to switch between styles quickly. That's affected our DJing, which in turn affects our music." "Our" refers to Kovács, Axel Boman and Petter Nordkvist, three friends who together run Studio Barnhus. House music sits at the core of Studio Barnhus, but what appears on top of the genre's 4/4 pulse is a completely open-ended question; the group seems as inspired by Jeff Mills as they are by Eurovision.
Kovács' own music is the perfect ambassador for this desire. He set out his stall with subtly bubbling house tracks like "Baby Step" (which sampled the garage classic "RIP Groove") and "Szikra" (which featured the memorable vocal sample "Let's get fucked up") but more recently he's been really going for it. On Radio Koko for Numbers, his only full release away from Studio Barnhus, he swallowed a sample of the '80s Spanish synth pop artist Ivan and spat out "Pantalon," one of 2015's maddest (and biggest) club tracks. As if flaunting his range, the EP also included an excellent UK-funky-meets-UK-rave cut called "Malon." Last week he dropped The Bells, his debut album, which again embodies the rich, playful qualities that have defined both him and Studio Barnhus.
"He became the youngest ever former jungle DJ in Scandinavia by the age of 14," reads Kovács' biography. By the age of 20 he was a resident at Paradise in Stockholm, and he went on to host on the highly influential Dans Show on P3 radio, a station that Adam Beyer, Cari Lekebusch, Eric Prydz and Jesper and John Dahlbäck also passed through. His years of experience are obvious on RA.535, a 75-minute mix that has something new and interesting to say with every track.
What have you been up to recently?
Just came back from a week's vacation in Scotland. Apart from that I've been running around doing DJing and talking to people about the album. It's been fun.
How and where was the mix recorded?
I tried out different ideas and combinations of tracks in the studio and then I recorded it in the DJ booth at Under Bron here in Stockholm, before going back to the studio to do some editing and things.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
My aim was to do the best dance mix I could at the moment. It's got a summer groove to it but also some quite dark undertones and spaced-out vibes.
You wrote The Bells in a two-week session. Tell us about the process.
That's not entirely true, since some of the tracks on it were started as long back as in 2010. Another few are like one or two years old, and some I wrote just before going to Gothenburg's Nacksving Studios in February this year. There, my guru, Matt Karmil, and I worked non-stop during two intense weeks to complete the record. Us working together usually means me bringing a nearly-finished track to the studio and Matt doing a basic mix job on it, turning my wretched mixdowns into something almost akin to professional-grade dance music.
This lets me hear my work in a fresh way and I'll get new ideas for arrangements, add and remove parts, freak-out over details for days, then Matt takes over, works his magic, then I go back and ruin everything, then Matt, then me... It's a lot of back and forth until we run out of patience and/or money for studio rent.
Axel said the album will echo in "pop history." Was he just being playful, or do you consider the album to be grounded in pop music?
Look, if Axel says so it must be true. This is not a particularly playful man we are talking about here.
What are you up to next?
Got my first gig in Africa next week, at the Atlas Festival in Marrakech. More touring to follow, including a US visit in November. Trying to figure out what my next releases should be, and doing a few remixes in the meantime.