Since his arrival on the electronic music scene, James Rockhill, better known as Kove, has established himself as an artist that's equally at home modulating heavy basslines, engaging the soul with impeccable melodies, flipping pop tunes into dance hits, and often all three at once. Although best known to DnB and house heads, he's an artist with roots in rock and metal that seems to do no wrong no matter what style he sets his sights upon.
Kove returns unapologetically to the DnB scene where he first rose to prominence after catching the ear of heavyweights like Andy C and Chase & Status. No longer an unknown, Kove's aptly titled EP, In from The Cold comes to us by way of Drum&BassArena after a deep period of creative hibernation. EARMILK had the opportunity to chat with Kove about what he's been up to and where he's headed.
EARMILK (EM): This EP marks a comeback of sorts for you, what prompted the break and how did you spend your time away from actively releasing and touring?
Kove: I really felt like it was myself telling me that I needed to try out some changes, something different. I was getting lack of inspiration and that sort of thing. I was finding it very hard to get music to you know, click for me. So yeah, I decided let’s draw a line under it and try some different things. So I’ve been working with other people. I’ve been doing production and songwriting. A whole host of things. Aside from that, I've been sort of getting my life back together in a regular way and spending time with my family and my dog and that sort of thing rather than the whirlwind life of touring which can get quite tiring after awhile. So it’s really been a time to reset and reassess what I was doing.
EM: When you finally did decide to come back in and really start producing your own music again, did you feel out of practice at all?
Kove: Uhm, not really. It’s a little like riding a bicycle. When you’ve been making drum and bass for as long as I have, you sort of. . . you’re used to doing the same things. You know, it’s muscle memory. It comes back as it seems to do, especially when you take a break from something. You get reinvigorated and you want to go back to what got you inspired in the first place. So it really wasn’t hard at all.
EM: What were some of the things you drew inspiration from for this EP?
Kove: For this, I really wanted to go back to what got me into Drum and Bass in the first place. Those styles and that era about ten years ago, of drum and bass, that’s what really got my love for it going and that sort of sound. I wanted to go back to that and write something that was quite raw and dance floor ready, and sort of what I consider my sound, rather than do anything sort of multi-genre or anything housey or anything like that. I really wanted to make it all about drum and bass really. I hope I have.
EM: In the two middle tracks on the EP, I definitely caught a throwback vibe. Being a long time listener to drum and bass myself, the second track took me back. Almost had a bit of a Pendulum sound to it, to me when I was listening. Had the same kind of energy to it and just took me right back to that era, so I can definitely feel that.
Kove: The trend now for sort of making the craziest sound design that sort of thing, which I think is important and really has its place, but at the end of the day, for me, I think you can’t beat like a good riff, that sort of thing.
EM: The third track has a heavy two-step feel to it as well. That’s an era I would say that’s even longer ago than ten years.
Kove: Well yeah, I was listening to a lot of RAM Trilogy records and that sort of sound and that very sort of raw sort of Moving Fusion-esque sort of sound. I do love that so it was nice to make something that raw already because I’ve never dipped sort of that far into that sound. I think it’s something I’ll pursue a bit more.
EM: I love both of those two tunes. They bring back a sound that’s maybe not something you find on the top of the charts these days. How do you balance making a commercially accessible, hopefully successful, track with your desire as an artist to push yourself creatively and feed your passions musically?
Kove: It’s a funny one, the commercial style of things. Having sort of been down the route of going beyond that to radio play and all that sort of thing, for me it’s almost a little too commercialized, but good music will always speak for itself. I think, especially with what I do, I’ll always have that groove and that melodic thing, and hopefully, it’ll always tip on the side of commercial success.
EM: I definitely feel good music will always speak for itself, no matter what style you decide to produce. It’s something that’ll sound good now or years from now.
Kove: Yeah, Yeah, certainly.
EM: For the studio geeks, what production tools are you using these days?
Kove: I’ve been a long long time logic user. Since I started, the first was logic 7. I think I got that when I was about 16, eleven years ago now. Aside from that I’m totally in the box. I mean nothing out of the ordinary. I use a lot of massive, a lot of alchemy, which is sort of part of logic. Nothing remarkable at all or any different at all from what you’d find in your box standard studio.
EM: Given that you grew up playing guitar have you ever considered adding a live element to your show?
Kove: Hah, it’s one of those things where I feel like, there are so many live drum and bass shows at the minute that I don’t think it’s something necessarily that needs another one. Especially when it comes to how live is it actually, getting a live band and that sort of thing. Personally, I don’t think it’s something that I’d pursue because I think the logistics and the stress in it would end up being too much. For the minute I think I’ll stick to DJing.
EM: Having seen a couple of live productions, like Netsky’s live show, there’s definitely a lot that goes into it and certainly does sound stressful. So I can understand your hesitation.
Kove: Yeah, having toured with Netsky, I know the stress that goes on before a show, and it’s totally different from DJing. So I think I’ll stick to the decks for the minute!
EM: One of the things I don’t see done so much in today’s drum and bass world is a full album. Most of your releases have been on singles and EPs. Do you find albums to be a dated concept, or do you think that it’s something you might try to do one day?
Kove: I think Dance music lends itself to the single. Purely because it’s music that’s meant for the club at its base level. I think you get guys, like Camo & Krooked for instance, their albums, the way that their sound has evolved, it's now a full-length journey. I think that when you take stuff that’s dance floor, straight up, bass, hard drops, I don’t think that necessarily lends itself to album form. Especially now the way we consume music. Spotify, you just want to take one or two, or iTunes you want to download one or two. So that thing when I was young, of getting a CD or something and listening to the whole thing in one sitting, doesn’t exist anymore. And I think now the way record deals are going, you’re seeing less album deals. Now it’s people releasing singles upon singles. I think you have to see it from both sides. Rather than ramping up a whole marketing campaign and that sort of thing, you just keep stuff kicking over with a constant stream of new and lose the peaks and troughs that come with albums. So I think it’s just the way the industry is going at the moment. I think personally I’ll be sticking to singles unless something massively changes.
EM: In the opening and closing tracks of your latest EP I did catch a very cinematic vibe. Any interest there in doing movie soundtracks or productions of that nature?
Kove: Oh, I’d love to, I’d love to! But I think it’s the case of time. Although I’ve done one thing a long time ago, a pitch for a trailer for a game, it’s a totally different thing. It’s not as simple as sitting down and writing music. Putting it on something is a whole world of thinking up the video and I think it’s something that’s a huge learning curve. I’ve got a massive amount of respect for the guys that can do that. I think that’s something for when the kids come and I get a bit older and I’ve sort of settled down and yeah, I’d love to, but not for the minute.
EM: As an artist with extensive output in both DnB and House, do you find that to be an issue when you get booked for a show? Like a promoter gets in their head that you're one or the other when in actuality you're capable of doing both? A lot of artists will have one name for doing drum and bass, another for doing house, another for doing trap, but you seem to release everything under Kove. Do you find that to be a good thing or limiting?
Kove: It’s not something I’ve really tried to explore, I’ve done it under one roof. At the end of the day, I think it’s about the music. And as you say, when it comes to promoters, sometimes you get booked for a night and it’s totally wrong for you because say you put one house tune on an EP and you endup at a house night and people come to see you play drum and bass, but are you just playing house or people come to see you play house and you’re just playing drum and bass. So it’s a little confusing. It’s a hard thing to do and a hard thing to balance. I think for the minute I’m really enjoying drum and bass so looking forward I’m just going to come to that a lot and just really get back to my roots in that sense.
EM: Before you stopped to pursue music, you were in Uni for a period of time. Did you have a favorite subject? If the music thing hadn't panned out, do you think you might have pursued that further?
Kove: It was pretty much just music. I didn’t really do anything else. If you look at any of my report cards it would just generally have no interest in this subject, but then music I was obsessed with. I think there was a point where my parents just gave up and accepted that I was going to end up in music or nothing else. They were very good in letting me pursue that solely. I went to university briefly to study music but, it’s changing now but, universities aren’t really geared towards anything sort of electronic or dance at the moment. That is changing with the online courses, but the standard university is not geared towards dance at all and I think that’s something that needs to change.
EM: That’s actually quite interesting to hear because I have a number of friends here in the US that have gone to music production school specifically for electronic music. There are quite a lot of schools that cater to that here in the US, but I guess we’re good at commercializing everything, and sometimes ruining it.
Kove: Hahaha, in the UK it is changing, you know we’ve got things like Point Blank, and they are really encouraging that sort of thing. But when I was in university, which is over ten years ago now, it was very archaic in that it was very much geared towards spending your life in a studio as an engineer. It didn’t embrace dance music at all. That was something I really learned myself.
EM: You’ve mentioned that you don't like the traveling aspect of the DJ life so much, but have you found anything away from home that you're fond of eating? Favorite burger joint? Something you can’t get at home?
Kove: It’s not a case of I don’t like traveling, it’s just the fact that whenever I’m traveling and DJing, you think it’s glamorous, but it’s not. You’re just staying at the airport about half the time on a few hours of sleep. I’m trying to think actually. You know you just end up eating hotel food half the time. I remember being at some place, oh in Austin actually, we went to a barbecue place and did ribs. It was ridiculous, and I’ll always hold that in my memory because of just how full I felt. So, that was incredible.
EM: It’s almost the end of 2017, so what can we expect from Kove in 2018?
Kove: I’m just writing a load of new music at the moment. So as far as I’m going, I’m going to try get as many new singles out next year as possible. I’m not tied down by anything, so I’m looking forward to seeing where I can get my music placed, and yeah, just seeing how it goes. I’m feeling invigorated and I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and playing some shows again!
EM: Looking forward to all the new music that you’ll be putting out, and welcome back! I’m looking forward to seeing you when you come stateside.
Kove: Thanks man!
Released earlier in November, the cinematic lead single "Ain't no Love" opens with mountainous vocals coupled with gilded strings and a churning bass undercurrent sure to evoke frigid feelings. Speak words of affection into a cold morning and watch the shadow of your breath dissipate into nothing to get a sense of where Kove's 170bpm soul is about to take you. With "Dig it" Kove rewards the smart listener with a throwback vibe reminiscent of the late 2000s era of drum and bass in which Pendulum found superstardom and Kove began to discover his love for the genre. With sharp breaks and industrial melodies, this one is sure to keep bodies moving on the dance floor. Next up, "Give 'Em Hell" is a cerebral techy two-step groove that teleports you into a side room at a late 90s warehouse party. Kove saves his most ambitious effort on this EP for last in "Valkyrie." He delivers signature Kove sounds and melodies layered on top of the kind of rolling DnB beat that made him famous. With distinct movements within the track, it's equal parts theater and dance floor anthem, all without any vocals. Welcome back, Kove!