“to be honest, we hate interviews,” eddie krilov and sasha kaline, new york-by-way-of-saint-petersburg producers known by their stage name, alka rex, laugh wholeheartedly. it’s around 1 pm on a grey sunday, and the three of us have been chatting over skype for a half hour before the pair confess that interviews make them uncomfortable. not that you could tell. after more than a decade of friendship, and almost as much time spent as creative partners, sasha and eddie are so at ease with one another that they’re finishing each other’s thoughts. even before i ask my first question, both are telling me about when they met – in seattle, almost 20 years ago – and how well they work together. i scramble to get the my voice recorder turned on in time to ask them if, after all this time, they’re sick of each other yet: “not yet,” they both chuckle at once.
sasha, you must be so excited to be coming to montreal for the hushlamb party next weekend!
sasha kaline: yes! i’m super excited. it seems like the party is going to be amazing. the venue looks great, and of course, the crew is very special.
eddie, we’re all so gutted that you’re not able to make it down for the event. sasha, you’ll be representing alka rex solo at the hushlamb event – will you be doing anything differently to prepare given that eddie won’t be coming with you?
SK: we’ve been working on the set together. it’s going to be a DJ set but it will incorporate our own music as well – some new, some old. i’ll be playing on my computer, so it will allow me to play mix and match a bit, and incorporate different bits of tracks to create something unheard of. eddie is more of a vinyl lover, though.
eddie krilov: when i play, i play only vinyl. it preserves the original sound, the original format. i try to support the vinyl industry as much as i can. even when we do our own releases, i strongly recommend that the label does both a physical and a digital release, otherwise it seems lost. you have this physical object to touch and feel and put on the wall. you see the artwork, too. it’s more special.
SK: he’s a vinyl junkie! you should see his collection! [laughs]
you know, people say that the age of vinyl is over. what do you think about that?
EK: well, some people are right. but the last couple of years, a lot more labels have been doing vinyl-only releases. there’s a lot of people that are really holding on to that.
SK: we went through that with cassettes, then CDs, and now vinyl. but it’s such a unique medium that the industry is still holding on to it.
EK: vinyl sales have actually gone up in the last couple years!
yeah? that’s surprising because we’re so much in the digital age right now.
EK: well, that’s a factor, too. because a lot of music can be downloaded illegally now, with vinyl only releases, you force the consumer to actually buy your music. you’re more in control of consumption.
so, how did you connect with the hushlamb crew?
SK: i met jesse [ana+one] a long time ago. the first time i was ever playing in montreal was for musique risquee. we met outside of the club and had a quick chat. we met again at mutek, and that’s when he introduced me to sarah lamb and alicia hush and the rest of the crew. that was maybe five or six years ago.
you’ve played in montreal a couple times, then.
SK: yes. and i love montreal. i love the city, i love the people, i love the vibes there. i’m always super excited to come there. it always puts a smile on my face.
he’s right. there’s something special about montreal – it’s more than just the dancefloor, the music. there’s something in the air here. the hushlamb event that sasha will be playing is sure to live up to the standard. as the first proper hushlambjam since the label’s founders, sarah lamb and alicia hush, relocated here from toronto, the event is drawing crowds from toronto, chicago, and new york, as well as the usual suspects from here in montreal. with sasha headlining as alka rex, the event will also feature siteholder labelmates/founders billy dalessandro and brian ffar, alongside zaid edghaim and zeina, and local heroes yes ma’am (ana+one and alicia hush). visuals from ombossa provide the finishing touch.
currently, you’re both based in new york, but sasha, you’re making the move back to russia very soon. i think that, given recent situations, the country has a bit of a bad reputation. is there a side to russia that we don’t know?
SK: there’s been that cold war barrier for a long time and russia developed to be isolated country with its own unique culture and strong traditions. people are a little different, they have a different points of view and mentality. russia has been changing rapidly from the communism years in past 15 years and its completely different place now. every summer i go back and i see better changes which i really like. but the most important is people they are kind and peaceful and definitely against any wars.
what’s the music scene like over there?
SK: russian people love entertainment, especially music, so there’s a lot of great clubs and venues also interesting festivals. it’s emerging. it’s also close to europe, so that’s a benefit. moscow is becoming a second berlin with events that feature interesting and very selective line ups.
EK: it’s more advanced than new york. new york falls behind big time. it’s not the best place for musicians of our kind, who are into sound engineering and sound design – it’s not really appreciated here. new york is becoming more and more commercial. montreal is on a higher level than new york in that respect. montreal has less people, but the music is much more interesting.
do you think your sound will undergo a change when you move back to russia?
SK: we’ll still be us. we’re planning on working together after i move to russia, we can swap working files back and forth. but also i have family and friends in new york, so i’m planning on coming back often, and during these times we’ll work together in our brooklyn studio.
EK: we’re planning on working on pieces separately, sending them back and forth, or working on them together once we’re in the same city.
do you think that will be a challenge?
EK: maybe because we’ll be distracted by other projects, other things. but we’re in an age right now where we can send things back and forth digitally, or work music together over skype. the same way we’re doing with you and this interview!
SK: thank god for skype! [laughs]
sasha, i read that you became interested in electronic music in the 90s, but that previously you were more into acoustic. was there something in particular – a track, a record, a sound – that drew you to electronic music?
SK: in the early days, i was drawn to ambient sounds. from there, i became interested in microsound. the computer was becoming a new tool, with sound processing capabilities and sequencing. that instantly piqued my interest! it was all new and exciting to experiment with electronic sounds and patterns. back then, i was recording music on dat cassettes and mini discs which are now a completely outdated medium [laughs]. now that i’m packing up my stuff to move, i’ve found all these old recordings. i went through them and it was like using a time machine! the sound took me back to those days and many memories unfolded [laughs]! i might even try to release them!
the conversation quickly veers off into another direction. the pair share an interest in sound installation art and engineering, and the three of us get lost in a lengthy discussion about a five year old line records film project called camera lucida. sasha and eddie speak about the project – a light camera that intersects ultrasound with hyper light – with a kind of passion that’s interspersed throughout our whole interview.
a lot of people who don’t understand electronic music will argue that because computers aren’t technically instruments, producing isn’t “making music.” what would you say to that?
SK: you know, sometimes i listen to the beatles, for example, and back in that day, they had to come together each with their instruments. they have this jam session, and they record. but now, it’s different, and the computer has become a major tool, a universal instrument. with digital, things are different. you could be a one man band – designing sounds, sequencing, layering parts, using effects – and create really unique results. the only thing computers are lacking is aesthetic in a live performance environment.
EK: it’s a different approach, that’s all.
SK: a couple years ago, i was at a concert, and this one sitar player came on stage. he dedicated his performance to his father that had passed away recently. he played so emotionally, and so beautifully that everyone just froze. his soul was with his father, and you could feel all of that just through this one instrument. when you play a live instrument, you put in this direct emotion – whereas when you’re programming music, you put it together piece by piece, it’s different.
do you think that playing with your soul, like you just mentioned, is not really possible with electronic music?
SK: no. it’s possible, it’s absolutely possible.
EK: squarepusher is proof of that ! did you see that video of his 78 finger, 22 arm robot – it plays the guitar and the drums. squarepusher is proving that electronic music can definitely be emotional. instant emotion. you can teach machines to deliver that instant emotion.
SK: you have to have the touch.
as alka rex, sasha and eddie have the touch. their creative history together speaks to that, that much is clear. with releases under sasha and david last’s konque label, as well as siteholder, multi vitamins, thema, airdrop records, archipel, and musique risquee, alka rex has established themselves as leaders in intellectual techno.
your sound has a bit of a funk to it. why would you say that’s such an important part of your music?
SK: the whole purpose of creating this kind of music is to make people dance! it’s also a style that we’ve developed based on what we like – jazz, funk, soul, etc – alka rex is kind of a projection of that.
EK: it’s a reflection of our character too! you know, we approach music production and music in general very seriously. but we’re goofy guys, too [laughs]. that’s why our music pulls in a lot of different, unusual, original sounds. funk softens everything up. we make music for ourselves, it’s all about having fun, and we try to represent that with our music.
what other words would you use to describe your particular brand of techno?
EK: [long pause] science funk? a lot of the time, the sounds in our music reflect the science fiction movies we’re inspired by.
SK: if i had to represent our style of music with a person, i would say einstein [laughs]! he’s very thoughtful, very deep, conceptual. but he’s a goofy guy, too.
lastly, i think one of the coolest things about being a producer or a music lover is being able to find music in anything. what is your favourite non-musical sound?
SK: the sounds you hear every day. the sounds that we get used to – nature or urban sounds – we don’t really pay attention to. but sometimes, i’ll be walking down the street, and i’ll hear a bus starting up with this sound that’s like vrrrrooooommmmm! and i’m like “my god, that is a cool sound!” [laughs]
EK: for me, it’s nature. when i go out in nature, i never bring headphones or any kind of device that plays music. i just go out and listen to what the world has to offer.