We’ve sat down with up-and-coming talent Kotek to gain some insights on his recent ‘Aurora’ EP
Kotek talks about the remix that changed his career, his experience with Lowtemp, and what happens when you search his name of Google images
You may be familiar with Kotek already if you’ve been keeping up with our Weekly Addiction series – we featured his track ‘Aurora’ earlier this week, but after listening to the entire EP, we knew we wanted to hear more from this aspiring producer! We sat down with Kotek to pick his brain about his innovative and vast production techniques, as well as asking about some of his early influences and how he got his name.
Hey Kotek, thanks so much for joining us today! How’ve you been?
Thanks for having me! I’ve been great, the album has been picking up a lot of traction since its release so I couldn’t be happier.
Many people may not have heard of you before (of course, we’re hoping to change that!) so how would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Myself, or my music? If we’re talking about music I guess the closest I could get is
Industrial, Future, Glitch?
As for myself: Music, Music, Music
After hearing your recent ‘Aurora’ release, we have to say we were really impressed with your sound, and especially the immense variety present on the EP. Can you tell us a little bit about the concept behind the album?
When I originally pitched the tracks to Gramatik, I sent them with the hopes that he could help me promote one or two of the songs at least. So when he messaged me back and told me he wanted to sign all of them as an EP I nearly fell off my chair. I’ve always been a fan of listening to albums as a whole, so naturally I wanted to maintain a cohesive concept behind it all. Some of the songs had already been finished, and some were still in their early stages. This gave me some time to organize them and turn it into a full body of work. I decided to relate the album to my position in life right now, especially regarding my musical career.
It starts off with the track “Alarm,” an ode to the annoying buzz that wakes me up from my peaceful sleep every morning. It’s a love hate relationship because I love dreaming, but on the other hand, you need to get out of your fantasy and wake up in order to accomplish the things you truly want. I asked my friend Dylan (D-Lay) to write some lyrics for it with that concept in mind. He related it to the repetitive cycle of going to work, parties, and just trying to be successful in the world. No matter what you choose to do every day you’re going to start like everyone else, with the alarm.
Clutch was a really fun song to work on. The project was actually started by my girlfriend, and it inspired me to write what you know as “Clutch.” The title relates to your grip on everything around you. There is a lot of negativity in the world but you can’t let it weigh you down. In order to move on to a better state of mind, and ultimately a better state of being, you need to let go of the things that bind you. My friend Alan (Element) was visiting from toronto and I asked him to write lyrics to the track. He wrote from a cynical point of view that everything around can be taken in as negativity, but if you loosen your grip a little it might be easier to release the potential that’s really only being held back by your own mind.
This brings us to the soul search of “Falling.” Once you realize you have potential, its time to hone your craft and find what matters most to you. This goes back to my love of dreaming again, as I’m actually singing about falling asleep. Though instead of living in a dream world, I now have a blank canvas of opportunity on which I can paint my own vision.
The fourth track “Music” is a little self explanitory, and certainly the most literal song on the album. My search is over and I know what I want to do. More than anything in my life I have always strived to be a musician. Finding that path was an easy job for me, since I’ve been fascinated with instruments since i can remember, however It’s always been a struggle finding the best way to express myself. I’ve played many instruments and many genres. Though nothing has ever come close to allowing me to fully express what I hear in my mind as productively as the limitless ocean that is, electronic music. Which brings us to “Colourless”
The fifth track on the album “Colourless” is the state of limbo we experience when we know what we want, but we struggle to achieve it. It is every doubt you’ve ever had, even when everyone around you is telling you to believe in yourself. As you transition from one side of the spectrum to the other, things start to make sense and now you’re on the outside looking in. A sea of endless colour, endless people with endless potential, all moving in different directions. I feel like it’s my point to reassure people that we have all felt confused or unsure at times. You must always push forward in what you believe in if you are ever to transition into a state of peaceful awareness.
Aurora is my musical personification of this idea, self awareness. It’s by far the most complicated song on the album, but has the simplest description. Release your true colour and find happiness in understanding your full potential. In a nutshell, this album has one message.
Wake up! let go of what binds you. Dig deep into your own conciousness to find what truly matters and your medium through which you can express who you truly are.
We’ve read you have a background in piano and jazz – what would you say are your other biggest influences?
I’ve been playing instruments a long as I can remember. I took piano lessons for years but I’ve been primarily a drummer since I started playing when I was twelve years old. I’ve been playing drums professionally as a Jazz performer since early highschool. This is where most of my understanding of music comes from, so naturally it’s been a huge influence for me. However, when I started playing drums I was listening to bands like Slipknot, Linkin Park, and Alexisonfire.
As my musicianship grew, I wanted to explore more complicated concepts. My taste started branching deeper into more progressive music, mainly artists like Tool, Dream Theater and extremely complicated artists like Animals as leaders. All this while studying and listening to Miles davis, Coltrane, and so many other great Jazz artists.
The ones that really stuck with me were Tool and Linkin Park. Linkin Park had that wildly over produced tone. A crisp, almost computerised sound that caught my attention. And Tool grooves so hard, with the most complex of rhythmic intricacy. Yet they can hone so deep into a thought that they can create an epic cinematic masterpiece of music out of one singular idea. Much like Deadmau5. Both of these bands had one thing in common. The explored a different direction by incorporating electronic and organic, sometimes industrial sounds to their music. Much like we do today with with sound design.
Those are where my roots were formed. My current influneces are producers like Porter Robinson, Zedd, Gramatik, The M Machine, Mat Zo, Rezz.. Just to name a few favorites.
You gained a lot of recognition after winning the Splice remix competition last year – how does remixing a tune compare to writing original tracks?
Great question! This has been a very interesting discovery of my own self through this process. I have always been writing songs, it is by far my favourite thing about music. Though being a drummer, I was always more of a back seat driver when it came to actually contributing my own pieces of work. However, I would always deconstruct my band members songs. Rearrange them, add new parts and basically ask them to re-learn a bunch of stuff they really didnt want to. This translates directly to remixing.
When I hear a song, the first thing I think to myself is, “This is how I would have written it.” I try to avoid think this when I hear other peoples music, but It’s a like an involuntary reflex. So naturally, when asked to remix a song, I listen through it and take notes of everything I think. By the end of two or three listens, I pretty much have the whole thing mapped out in my head. The idea’s come easy, the execution is the difficult part, I still have a lot to learn about sound design and mixing before it becomes second nature.
When it comes down to writing my own songs, It can be a lot more difficult. There is nothing there for me to deconstruct, It’s like trying to climb a mountain but you haven’t decided where you’re going to start from. With remixes you get somewhere to start from.
These days songs will usually come to me in sections. I can hear a melody in my head so I’ll go write it down. sometimes the next part will come autmoatically, sometimes I have to wait a little while before my brain tells me what is supposed to happen next. Other times the entire song will show up in my head from beginning to end, then I have to get out of bed at 2:00am and write it down. These songs tend to be the good ones.
Winning that competition also lead to you being signed to Gramatik’s label, Lowtemp – how has that affected your career?
Ultimately, this is the best thing I could have ever asked for. Splice has hosted a lot of remixes, with some pretty big names but I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better time to win. The grand prize originally included having my remix shared by Gramatik, but after talking with him at Mysteryland, Denis told me he wanted to sign the track to lowtemp. It meant the world to me that he truly supported my work and didnt just pick a winner at random. The remix helped boost my following a lot but I knew I needed to keep the momentum going.
I sent Denis everything I had as soon as I could because for the first time, I actually had someone who was willing to listen. He has been a major help in getting career moving in the right direction. Combined with the release of my EP, and the unparalleled support from Denis and the Lowtemp team I would say they are the catalyst that will now pave the way for my future.
If you could collab with anyone on Lowtemp, who would it be and why?
Grizmatik, can i say Grizmatik? I just want to have a jazz session with Denis and Grant.
Winning that competition also gave you the chance to play Mysteryland Festival last year – what was that like? If you could play at ANY festival across the world, where would it be?
Mysteryland was amazing. I’ve never had an artist pass at a festival before so the experience was almost overwhelming. I didnt know if I should spend my time exploring all the places I’m not usually allowed to go, or trying to see every artist I could. Overall it is an incredibly addicting experience and I can’t wait to do it again.
Any festival? Shambhala or Burning Man.
We want to know a bit more about the name Kotek – a quick google returns a large number of cat pictures, was this intentional?
This was a hilarious coincidence. I’ve had a lot of different artist names, but none of them seemed to stick. My girlfriend suggested I just use my last name, but my last name is Mlikotic. I’ve had that name butchered in the worst way possible by everyone trying to pronounce it. So she suggested I get rid of the first three letters. Kotic, eventually I modified it to Kotek because I like symmetry.
I did a google search on the name to see if it was already taken by someone. When I couldnt find any artists who were seriously using it I took it. It wasn’t until after I was branded with the name that I tried searching it in google images…
I’m quite ok with the outcome considering Kotek is about one letter away from returning some more questionable results.
And one final question – what can we expect to see from you in 2017?!
You can expect a whole lot! I’ve got a couple more releases on the way, I’d like to get them out soon. Maybe another Ep? Aside from that, I’ve got some ideas for a live setup that I’d like to show off at some more festivals.
Thank you so much for sitting down to talk with us today, and can’t wait to see what’s next!
Thank you so much for having me!