Russian producer Nocow returns to Rekids with ‘Atoner’

Real name Aleksei Nikitin, Nocow is known for his versatility, producing a large body of genre-spanning work on labels like Clone Royal Oak, Figure, Fauxpas Musik, Gost Zvuk and Styrax. The St. Petersburg-based producer debuted on Rekids last year with his ‘Samaya Dolgaya Noch’ EP, a mellow release complete with vocal driven cuts as well as 2-step rhythms, and now returns with a myriad of productions in a fourteen track album entitled ‘Atoner’. – Rekids

As both homegrown local legend and a global driver of techno as a whole, Nikitin represents a new wave of artists who refuse to follow the rules. His passion for and dedication for the album is a lost art in the digital-focused world of modern music. To mark the release of his 8th LP and first ffull-length on Rekids, we spoke with the Russian artist about his approach to production, releases, and the local scene. 

Under the Nocow project alone you’re output is diverse, give us the highlights of you past as a producer.

Stylistic diversity isn’t an end in itself. I listen to and get inspired by different genres and it happens in a natural way in my creative activity. I used to be an MC, then switched to composing electronic music. I’m experimenting with vocals more and more frequently as of late. Eventually, I’m back to hip-hop, while also handling ambient, drum’n’bass and techno. I just find it difficult to do the same thing all the time. It’s true for me that music leads me and I just follow it. If you ask what am I going to produce in a year or so, I’ll have to answer that I simply do not know. That’s just how it is.

Your production were compared to Burial over 7 years ago, how has your sound evolved and how have the labels influenced that evolution?

It’s just how things go around in the world — you’re gonna be always compared to somebody until you make your own name. Burial isn’t the only producer who I was compared to. Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin might also be included in the list. I’ve appreciated different musical genres during different periods of my life. Some pieces left strong imprints, others made less pronounced impressions. But I’ve always wanted to come through with my own vision.

I’ve never ever stuck to any specific genre. I’m always able to compose totally different music during one day. As I mentioned, at the moment I’m working on a Hip-hop project as well as finishing some techno stuff etc. I seldom hear comparisons lately. And I keep getting more feedback with people praising my own style. And I would truly like to believe it. For sure, some points have crystalized over the course of time. And over the past few years I’ve started to notice my own ‘trademark’ if I can say so. I wouldn’t have said that labels shape my musical style. Of course I can make a couple of tracks to complete the upcoming release. But that’s not a general rule.

Recent tracks have been packed with driving techno and ominous vox, what’s your current approach to techno (for a studio perspective)?

When I make Techno, I personally think, that it’s not quiet Techno. Somehow, I can’t follow the genres’ rules to the letter. If I was to name the style of my Techno, it would be Cloud Techno. Haha.. Cause, some melancholic mood prevails in my music. Possibly it is explained by surrounding atmosphere, my cultural background, and, of course traits of my character. Also, I’m very lazy and it’s extremely important for me to jot down my ideas in a few minutes, otherwise I won’t be able to finish the project. A PC is of great help in this relation. Or, for example, a cellphone, which I use to record the vocals. I love the raw stomping stuff, but I also love mixing it with emotions.

Atoner clocks in as your 8th LP, that’s some crazy dedication. Tell us a bit about your passion for the full album?

An album can convey an idea or, in my case, give a hint of various genres much more fully. I cannot, however say that I’m focused on producing LP’s. I just make music and step by step everythig is just getting figured out all by itself. Of course, I sometimes get an idea and feel that I need to express it in a certain way. But mostly I tend to focus not on the format but rather on the content. It’s important for me to be satisfied with the result after rendering process is done.

This one was influenced by a specific location on Gulf of Finland near Saint Petersburg, what’s your history with this place?

I think every person has a place that has special importance for him. In my case, it’s the place where I grew up, the place which I feel closely related to. These grounds are almost wild, really low on population. For a long period of time visitors needed to have a special pass in order to get to my hometown, since there are many objects of military value and a nuclear station in vicinity.

Although it’s not far from Saint-Petersburg, you feel kind of isolation from the rest of the world. Time moves in a different way there, if it moves at all. It’s one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Swans flock up there two times a year. I think it’s the nature of that place that has had the most pronounced influence on my music. Even now, I use to return back there to get some inspiration or just to chill and have my mind rebooted, if I get such a chance.

For the past couple of years you’ve release across two labels with big bosses, how has the Radio Slave project influenced your own project?

When working with labels I always wonder if I fit their format or why did Matt or Len decide to release this or that stuff. As a rule, I cannot come up with a certain answer. The main thing is that they feel my music. It’s a very important thing. What intrigues me the most — they choose really different stuff of mine. Tracks from “Samaya Dolgaya Noch” EP as well as forthcoming album have been put together pretty fast despite of different concepts behind. I can not but rejoice about that. I’m inspired by creative freedom which I have while working with such labels as Rekids. And here I would like to express my special gratitude to Matt. When communicating with people like him you always have something to learn.

You’re a strong advocate of the local scene and often pack your set with Russian artists, tell our readers who they need to keep and eye on any why?

There are lots of interesting and talented producers in Russia. Quiet often, doing mixes is the only possibility to get European listeners acquainted with Russian producers. I’m not realy deep into finding new names. Mostly, my preferences remain unchanged. I would highlight Buttechno — a very talanted artist, who is also a decent designer. Many people know him due to a collab with Gosha Rubchinsky. I would also like to mention Flaty who has already expressed himself in a number of projects with very authentic production and Vtgnike — one of the main forward thinkers who has a great album on Other people. All these guys have played a very important role in the history of Russia’s most significant label

Live has always been a big part of the project, what’s next for the Nocow show?

At the moment I’m preparing for my shows in Saint-Petersburg and Moscow. Also, a tour dedicated to the Figure label’s 15th anniversary is going on right now. I have several gigs ahead in the course of this tour — Tel-Aviv and Beirut, which I’m eagerly waiting for, as well as a couple of other gigs across the globe.