Being young and new in the music industry can be exciting as well as a difficult time for any artist. But a deeply rooted passion and lust for music help this talented producer going strong. Chekov’s 2017 debut on Shanti Celeste and Gramrcy’s Peach Discs label draw quite a bit of attention towards their music. Now, with more experience and new perspectives, the DJ comes out with a new EP, Aerated. Different experiments with melodies, a brightness of colours and dub influences are something we can expect from this release. It’s a beautiful collection of five records that created and inspired a new chapter in Checkov’s musical journey.
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Getting started in the music industry at a young age can be difficult. Dealing with rejections and criticism. How do you stay motivated to make music and gain recognition from the people around you?
With difficulty, at times! After my first time at an open decks as a teenager, I felt so embarrassed that I left the pub as soon my bag was re-packed. Of course, it wasn’t the disaster I’d made it out to be in my head, and I went on to make friends in the local scene I’d started following. Lots of similar experiences since then have taught me to try and avoid reflecting on things in a wholly negative light, but instead as a chance to work out how I might better express myself next time. I still struggle to remember this sometimes, but I wonder if it’s something a lot of artists can ever overcome completely.
How do you think your sound has evolved from the first EP to your upcoming one, Aerated? Why did you decide to explore playing with sound and melody on this record and show the more emotional side of your production?
I’ve tried to add a few more splashes of colour to my sound palette since writing the tracks on Rotlicht. My priority at that time was definitely on music for dark and sweaty clubs, as I’d just spent a year running around smokey Leipzig basements! When I moved away from the Leeds 6 postcode a couple of years ago (where the majority of students live), the slightly slower pace of life gave me more time to sit with different feelings and ideas for music.
At the same time, I’ve found myself spending less time in clubs than in the past; partially to save money and partially for mental health. Indirectly, all of this has made me re-evaluate how I relate to club music and what it is that really moves me, whether physically or emotionally. The moments in a night that tend to stick with me longest are those that combine the two, so playing with that balance has been more of a focus for the last two years.
Do you think your music reflects your personal and artistic development, and what do you struggle with the most while working on a new project?
I’d like to think so. It’s inevitable that your creative process will be influenced by what’s going on elsewhere in life, so I try just to roll with it and not overthink things when writing. It tends to be a few months later that I can listen back to a track and more properly work out what was going through my head.
Confidence is something I struggle with a lot at the start of a new track. It often takes me a while to finish things so it can be hard not to feel overwhelmed at the sight of a blank Ableton project sometimes. Personally, I feel this pressure a lot more acutely when trying to write ‘club tracks’. I find it difficult not to get caught up in the constant bustle of the industry, but I try to remember that the fierce competition we sometimes feel benefits only the markets, not the culture!
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UK’s clubbing scene is a home for many talented artists. Who are some people that inspired you as a teenager and influenced your musical style?
The extended Irie Vibes and Herbal Mafia family in York guided my introduction to clubbing in the flesh – shouts to those who remember Lawrence St days! More generally, it was the wonky patchwork sounds from labels like LuckyMe and Hyperdub that drew me deeper into the rabbit hole. As the ‘scene’ lowered its BPM over the years, so did my record collection. The likes of Hessle Audio and Swamp81 came to have a big influence on me around this time; I used to watch all those early Boiler Rooms obsessively when trying to work out how to DJ. By the time I was going to clubs more regularly (and in other cities), I’d started learning more about the roots of house and techno in the United States, but I think it’s safe to say that the ‘post-dubstep’ splintering of UK club music has had a lasting impact on me.
Being a part of Peach Discs label and working with Shanti Celeste and Gramrcy must have been a great experience. How did they help you grow as an artist and what was the best advice you received from them?
One of my least favourite things, looking back at the ‘post-dubstep’ era, is the way in which unreleased music was often given more credence, while at the same time, its shelf-life wasn’t necessarily considered in the same way as ‘dubplates’ moved from acetate to digital 1s and 0s. There’s nothing wrong with this at all – and I love how instantly ideas can now be shared with a dance floor – but the transition period left me with a mindset where I felt constantly ‘behind’ everyone else, like I had to race to make the next ‘hot’ track.
I know Shanti and Gramrcy share this background so it’s been really affirming to work with them as they’ve encouraged me to be more patient and take my time with writing. It means the world to have that confidence placed in you as an artist in the long term, with zero pressure on forcing anything along for the sake of it. As social media now dictates so much of how we interact with the music we love and create, it’s important to remember that there’s more to it than the quick hit of a ‘drop’ or Instagram like.
Playing at events and club nights can be a hectic lifestyle. Do you have any other hobbies or passions apart from music that help you relax and stay focused?
Not as many as I should! I’ve been swapping recipes with my parents a lot recently, and video games have re-emerged in my life during the Covid-19 lockdown. In all honesty though, hunting for music still takes up most of my time. I find it helps to try to create some kind of separation in my mind between music for DJing and home-listening (although the distinction is now more irrelevant than ever!)
As one example, I’ve been listening to a lot of rap in the last year, particularly from around Atlanta and Houston. I’m super late to it but the trend of rappers and producers twisting sounds in a particularly psychedelic way is really inspiring to me. It feels distant enough from the music I write and play, however, that I don’t catch myself analysing it to death.
Do you have any artists in mind that you see yourself collaborating with in the future?
Keep your eyes peeled for something written with my good friend, Skins!, Carlos [Equaliser/Cong Burn] and I also wrote some music together last year, which I really hope we can expand on soon. There are other projects I hope will still come together one day but nothing concrete to share just yet…
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