Monday, 29 July 2019

Straight Outta...Russia - Exclusive Interview with ANT TO BE (Kniteforce Records)

It was around 2015 when I found about this great producer and same time around to the release of his personal digital EP on HC Recordings. An EP entitled 'Beatz From The East' offering pure hardcore breakbeats and got me playing it out a lot on my Generation X [RadioShow]. Deeper to the East side of Breakbeat and the city of Kirov, Ant To Be (a.k.a. Aleksander Kstenin) is one of the ideal representers of what's raving hot and underground throughout Mother Russia. I'm in great contact with him over the years as well as lots of others incredible producers/DJs that keep the vibe alive, namely Mana Boom, Psychosomatic, ISE, DJ Pink Champagne, Spotovsky, BR selecta etc.

The humble 32-year old Alex, has just released his third personal 12" Vinyl EP on Knitebreed Records. Exciting news that have to be shared and spread from a family member of the new breed of the legendary Kniteforce, resident radio dj of Kniteforce Radio, running also lots of other various music projects all around.
Let's dive to know him better and straight outta...Russia!

GK: Alex first of all let's take it back to your youth age and the city where you grew up and now living, which is Kirov (Киров).

How were your early music years and when was the 'Play' button pressed deep inside you?

A2B: My first meeting with the electronic music was in 1994, when I was 7 years old. At that time my cousin Zhenya and I, pretended to be Radio DJs of a local radio station and recorded our "airs" on cassette tapes. It was mostly pop eurobeat stuff, like Ace Of Base, E-Type, Ice MC etc. By the way, one day I found one of these cassettes, picked it then and recorded a phrase by my cousin on our 'show' saying: 'It's real music, believe to me' and I've put it at the end of my recent remix on Jimmy J & Cru-l-t 'Six Days', cause this tune is based on music that we used to play on our radio back in the day.

In the '90s, the electronic dance music was just starting to appear in Russia, as well as in my city. Kirov is about 1000 km from Moscow, and anything new comes after a very long time to us.

I came closer to music in the late '90s - early '00s. I was interested in different styles of music, not only electronic, and at some point I realized that I like Breakbeat rhythm, much more than 4/4 rhythm.

That time I was fascinated by the videoclip of 'No Good (Start The Dance)' by The Prodigy, as I've watched that accidentally on MTV. I was a teenager and spent a lot of time in the so-called video game clubs (these clubs were popular in the '90s in Russia, where the guys gathered altogether playing different games on Sony PlayStation 1).
These games had also superb soundtracks in Breakbeat style from masters such as Junkie XL, Crystal Method, Fatboy Slim etc.

I got the Music Creator disc from a video club like these and started making music after gaming, trying to get myself keen on this one. Later when I got a PC, I started to learn a full-fledged DAW. I tried to make a Breakbeat rhythm and had no idea what's breaks, I wasn't so good.

In the middle of 2000s I started to visit the main night club of our town, called POBEDA. There were parties with Drum & Bass music that had become very popular in Russia at that time. So I've made my first completed DnB tunes (mostly it was liquid funk dnb stuff) and started to learn DJing. From this time I started my musical countdown.

GK: You've been into production & djing over the last 13 years. Do you remember your first attempt making a tune and which tune was that?

A2B: My first attempt to make a track was with Music Creator 2000 and it was around 2002. I wanted to make something similar to the track 'Everybody In the Place'. I had no idea how this style's called, and the fact that I needed to take the right samples as well. I didn't have them, but what I made as far as I remember; I've recorded this track on a tape cassette player and danced to it in my room (lol).

DJing at Yaroslavl (2018)

GK: How was the 'Ant To Be' picked as a name? It's widely known that Russians are a very devoted & strong fan community of The Prodigy and the ant is the band's symbol due to its power and hard teamwork, despite its small size (as the boys have already admitted). Is there any kind of this idea behind your project?

A2B: Yes, you're absolutely right, my nick is associated with this band and this Russian forum as well. In 2006, I got the opportunity to use the Internet, it was a GPRS connection via my mobile phone, and I began searching different information about electronic music and artists and of course I got myself on this forum. GPRS connection was not very stable and when I decided to register myself on this forum, I wrote 'Ant', and I've also added 'To Be', just to have some good luck and not losing the connection.

Well, maybe this nickname looks silly in English speaking, but this is the random story of it and I love random stuff. I believe that all good things can happen completely by accident.

GK: You also run a great variety of music projects apart from your known ID as Ant To Be. Instant Antimateria, Osipenko Bus Stop and The ASK are parts of yourself too. Would you like to introduce these 3 other monikers and how much they express you?

A2B: I like to learn and try making music in different styles that I love. I like when producers use a lot of aliases for different sorts of music, being versatile is cool, it allows you to keep yourself fresh. The first was Ant To Be. The second project is Instant Antimateria and it's my expression in chillout music, calm music, sometimes naive and simple. Also me and my mate Denis have launched net label called UP Musik (, where we release different music stuff available on free download.

The ASK is the acid house project, it had several tracks, but now most likely I will transform it into another alias and maybe release a whole EP.

Osipenko Bass Stop is the alias for one track, maybe I'll use it for my 2 step garage stuff. I have several other aliases, including secret ones on which I've been already releasing music. One day I will talk further about these things.

UP MUSIK showcase @ Freak Out Shop (2010)
GK: Name me your top 5 labels & producers at the moment.

A2B: I can't say the exact top 5, but at the moment I like the music produced by Phineus II, Globex Corp crew and Pete Cannon and I would also to advise you all to follow Wacky Gee and Aeon Four. I like their stuff too.
And about the top 5 labels: Green Bay Wax, 7th Storey Projects, Burelom Music, Trigger Happy, Jedi & Kniteforce of course!

GK: Top 5 records of all the time for you and one word for each?

This list also varies a lot, I'll choose different releases and put random:

- 'Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92' [LINK]
Timeless classic of electonic music, I love every background noise there.

- 'Carbon Based Lifeforms - Interloper' [LINK]
I really like chillout & psy-chill music, one of the best albums in my opinion in this style from this Sweden band. I like especially the track: 'Frog'.

- 'Кино ‎– Кино (Black Album)' [LINK]
The last album of this legendary soviet band from red wave rock, before the death of the frontman in 1990. I like many songs, and this is my fav album.

- 'Эдуард Артемьев - Moods = Картины-Настроения' [LINK]
Well-known composer in Russia and in the whole world as well, he is also one of pioneers electronic music in USSR. I love his balance in music between live and electronic music, and the atmospheric pads sound superb there. He did many more superb soundtracks for films.

- 'Clifford Gilberto - I Was Young And I Needed The Money' [LINK]
Eclectic music. Breakbeat, jungle, funk, soul... all mixed up in one crazy thing.
I really like the tune: 'Brasilia Freestylee'.

GK: Kniteforce. An indisputable huge chapter within the Hardcore Breakbeat scene. The story so far...How did you firstly get in touch with Chris (Luna-C), your involvement in the label with the tunes & remixes, till we reach to these 3 amazing personal EPs on Knitebreed.

A2B: It's a whole story. I did a lot of liquid funk DnB from 2006 to 2015 and sometimes I still make things in this style. Sometimes I make early Hardcore and Jungle stuff just not to get bored. Also I knew some well-known stuff from Kniteforce, but I've never really dug deeper into the label catalogue to be honest. In 2016, I came across a sample pack of 'Luna-C - Edge Of Madness' and I decided to make an attempt remixing it in live with stream on YouTube. Then I went to check the info about the track and I've accidentally discovered about a Kniteforce remix competition on Facebook!

Then I thought, what a coincidence..!

I've been already doing a remix on one tune, and then I found the official competition which was announced by same label for another tune.
I jumped on it, remixed it, and Chris liked it, and now I'm proud to be part of Kniteforce family. It's amazing and a accident as always!

GK: 'Straight Outta Boondocks'. You've said that this new record is your best one so far. Why's that? Let's get deep into this record track by track. How would you describe each and what's your favorite one from there?

A2B: With every new release I try to move forward with my ideas. I start every new track from zero and I don't like to use things that I've already used. So every new release is the best one for me, for example this new EP sounds great on the vinyl; thanks a lot to Lawrie @ Curved Pusher for the brilliant mastering and cutting.
All 4 tracks are in a different mood as usual, so that everyone can get their favorite.

The first track called 'Just Anthem' is an inspiring piano breakbeat, with a bit of female vocals. A track with a very optimistic mood.
The second track called 'This Cut', has a lot of elements from reggae and dub. I really like dub music, thus I featured a phrase from the cult film 'Babylon' of 1980 and a frenzy breakbeat.

The third track is 'Kitchen Accident'. I wanted to make Dark Hardcore atmosphere tune, something between Breakbeat and Jungle, like 1993 style. The name of this tune came to me because I've originally started writing it while sitting in the kitchen and being in a dark mood and place; I called it a 'Kitchen Accident'.
The fourth track is called 'D.I.Y. (Rewind)' and it's my experiment of combining samples from some russian music and adding to them breakbeats in the traditions of UK Breakbeat Hardcore and Jungle music.

I've imagined that like: what if Russian music was put on dance rave tracks at the dawn of the appearance of this rave movement, but in the early '90s.
I'm really enjoying this. The name sends a thought to Do It Yourself, do not be afraid to try, just do it and believe in yourself! This is my favorite tune on this EP, by the way.


GK: It's been an amazing row of releases on Kniteforce especially over the last 3 years of reloading in vinyls, new acts, oldskool heroes back (e.g Sublove, Acen, Hyper On Experience, Liquid).
For a nuskool producer like yourself how much or in which level there's pressure on you in terms of getting right on time the new tracks?

A2B: Yes, it's amazing that our scene is alive again and more and more legends are coming back to produce music, and most important people are happy that these heroes are making new music again. As a producer I feel no pressure, but it makes me more creative, makes me try harder, and it inspires me also and gives me the opportunity to become better in production.

GK: What's the working equipment for your productions?

A2B: Now I'm using Adam A5x for monitoring and Sony MDR-7506 headphones, FL Studio 11 as DAW and Akai MIDI keyboard to play some parts. I'd like to buy some oldschool hardware, especially synths that have those wonderful atmospheric pads like Roland JV series or Yamaha TG500 etc. but I don't have a place in my room to put them yet. I hope it will be all sorted in the future.

His 3 proud personal 12" EPs on Knitebreed

GK: In your personal life you're also a proud dad. I've already watched some clips of the Alex JR through your socials. Your kid having his hands over the records. Seems he likes it too as his father. New breed maybe?

A2B: Ha, ha. That's possible. He sometimes stares at me as I listen and he also wants to put a record and I even allow him to do it. He selects records by the covers and labels, and I just watch him out not to damage the vinyl or needles. I would like to teach him one day all of these things, if he'll have a desire for it of course.

GK: Spasibo Alex. I wish you all the best! Any closing message to all the Hardcore community, oldskool heads and new people in the scene?

A2B: Pojalusta! Thanks to all who support Hardcore, the Breakbeat & Jungle scene, the vinyl revival, and anyone digging in stuff of new talent 'no name' producers , they deffo have some good stuff.
Warm Greatings from Vyatka/Kirov!



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