Project from Russian producers Nikita Korobeynik and Artem Frolov
Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Dima Alivanov
Pre-order the "NITE NRG" EP - HERE. Out via Monnom Black.
What have you learned from one another?
Nikita: Artem taught me the right way of building melodic constructions in tracks (I’m mainly talking about the bass parts), which he obtained from the countless number of foreign and local pop songs he listened to. In this matter, the biggest influence was the Russian artists of the late 90s – early 00s, such as Линда, Монокини, and various other projects of Max Fadeev, and, of course, Tatu. After all, pop consists of a lot of producer experience over the years and a lot of music secrets and tricks are hidden under the ‘veil’ of cheap ‘mass-market’ music. I would recommend the book “The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory” in order to delve into this topic – it describes the work of Western music production centers and, in particular, how pop guru Max Marting created the most high-profile 2000s hits written for Britney Spears, Ace of Base, N-Sync. Often he described my bass lines as “viking” because my ‘hairy’ rock and metal background affected them too much and they sounded somewhat archaic and warlike. The second important thing that I’ve learned from my counterpart – I can name the use of the wrong “non-musical” elements, which at first may seem out of place in the composition, but they create the right variety and roughness, which makes the tracks unique. I often tend to do things too “accurate”, but sometimes you need to be able to break the rules. He explained this to me on the example of this particular great track by Modeselektor and Thome Yorke – ‘The White Flash’, remixed by Trentemoller.
Artem: Attention to detail first and foremost. Often when working on new music, I tried to build a concept around a musical thought, and it made the process rather chaotic. When I first started working with Nikita, his approach was too much for me, because we couldn’t get to work until the room had the right lighting, or if the sequence was not arranged in the correct order, and if I had a bad hair day. But in the end, I believe that creating the right atmosphere and paying attention to such details, both in the music itself and in the things outside of it, became a very important element in the development of our production.
Nikita: Haha that’s all true, I can’t focus and get into a serious music mode if there’s a naked person wearing a bathrobe next to me.
Who will your music resonate with?
Nikita: Firstly, our music will appeal to people who share a similar attitude, to those who seek clear energy in music, a certain force, and those who want an emotional roller coaster in the realms of dance music. I’d say you can call it an everyday emotional lifestyle, rather than a set of emotions that are experienced just once. We always try to tell a story in each of our tracks, by compositionally building instruments in the best traditions of theatrical drama. We believe that this approach creates a unique mood in the clubs and stands out from a large number of other dance tracks.
What is your artistic destination? Is there a particular goal you strive for?
Nikita: Our priority has always been in sharing our musical vision and philosophy, to form a circle of ideological associates, whether in the form of fans or colleagues. According to our many years of observing the music industry, we came to the conclusion that we definitely have something to share with the audience. Our music has it’s own style, due to our diverse cultural backgrounds. In the future, I’d like to try myself out in producing a couple of great pop bangers, I think I would be capable of doing that. Also, we are drawn to soundtracks for games and films in the neo-noir and sci-fi aesthetic, I would really like to try myself out in that area as well.
Artem: We spread like a virus.
What was the wisest thing you’ve heard?
Artem: It’s difficult to point out one thing, but if choosing something general, then I’ll go for what is now called the Occam’s razor principle, ‘Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate’. One should not multiply entities without necessity, or to say it in a simpler way – less is more. Usually by following this principle one can significantly ease up life and aid in making the right decisions. It also relates to the process of making music where every detail must make sense.
Nikita: I, in turn, really like one of the design postulates of Virgil Abloh, the creative director of Off-White and the Louis Vuitton men’s line, – the 3% approach. He believes that the creative interest resides in the urge to improve something that already exists with the help of one’s personal signature, rather than completely discarding everything that is old for the sake of the new. [You can check out his full lecture at Harvard about his design approach here.]
Do you have any disagreements when working on music? Do you compromise?
Nikita: Constantly, because the truth is born when you are in conflict. Even though we are like-minded people, we are still two different people who have two different visions on certain issues. But at the same time, the final result should satisfy both of us.
Finding a compromise is an integral part of our creative process.
Artem: As a rule, the person who was more convincing gets to decide what the compromise is.
Why did you start making music?
Nikita: My parents and my aunt are huge music fans. I’ve spent my entire childhood listening to A-ha, Sade, Joe Cocker, and the great MTV of the late 90s – no one could drag me away from the TV screen since I was 3 years old, especially if Aerosmith ‘Crazy’ or Bon Jovi ‘Always’ was on. At the age of 5, I was incredibly fanatical about the band ДДТ, I knew all their songs by heart. I went to their concert with a hockey stick as if it were a guitar and stood in the middle of the room yelling, pretending to be Yuri Shevchuk. Subsequently, the hockey stick was replaced by a badminton racket, ДДТ by the band Кино, and Shevchuk by Tsoi. At the age of 6, my father took his acoustic guitar, which one of his friends had, and gave it to me, along with the Кино and Машина Времени songbooks (lyrics + chords for the guitar). I never liked the latter band so I never opened their songbook. But I used to played Кино songs non-stop. Because of swimming and basketball, I temporarily stopped playing the guitar. But at the age of 12, when I was in summer camp, I realized that the coolest guys are the ones that can perform Фактор-2 songs by the fire. So I got back to playing the guitar, and since then there hasn’t been a day when I haven’t played music.
Artem: To make the answer short – there could be no other way. I started making music when I was 6 years old. My parents took me over to their friends’ apartment and I refused to leave because they had a guitar. So my parents sent me to music school. I have a vital need to write music. A day when I don’t use Ableton is very rare, I feel the need to work on even a primitive beat on days off. Nowadays this necessity is truer than ever.
How did your journey as Fractions start?
Nikita: Before Fractions, we were involved in a project with a softer sound and vocals. At a certain moment, we felt a desire to write instrumental tracks oriented on the dance floor. After we finished several tracks in the dance format, one of our close friends suggested we created a separate project for this direction. And so we did. Later, two of these tracks ended up on our first EP ‘Control’ which was released on Fleisch Records.
Was there ever a moment in your life when you were fed up with music?
Nikita: The first time we really felt “burned out” was when we worked on our new release that is coming out this year. It was the first time that we faced strict record label requirements and were expected to deliver high-quality material. The creative pressure affected our day-to-day psychological state, and the mood swings were generally downhill. A lot of material was cut loose, which left us feeling stuck at times. Hence we took a short creative holiday and took time off from writing new stuff until creativity comes knocking at our door again.
Do you delve into memories in your creative process or do you prefer to focus on the present?
Artem: I frequently reflect on things, but not during the music process. If not taking into account the production experience, then my focus is usually 100% on the present moment and the emotions those particular sounds awaken in the process.
Nikita: Most often, my memories and past experiences transform into a reflex memory of sorts and they alter my way of thinking, which automatically affects future actions.
What do you feel looking back at your life?
Artem: This is where I can delve into self-analysis.
I don’t know whether a person can truly be satisfied with his past. You can’t just look back and think that everything you’ve done was perfect.
Like most people, I tend to analyze errors. It’s particularly difficult to acknowledge that the time for certain things is long gone. Coming to terms with that realization helps you become 10 times more effective than you were before.
Nikita: I look back at my life with a slight and pleasant nostalgia, because each segment of my life was unique in it’s own way in terms of new sensations and experiences I’ve felt, and none of it can happen again. Yet at the same time, every year I have this feeling of revocation of my old life and my past efforts – I have new tasks and desires that I have to fulfill, so I prefer to look forward rather than backward.
How do you rid yourselves of negative thinking when it overwhelms you?
Nikita: We instantly try to turn any negative thought or emotion into a joke and laugh at a particular situation – humor is the best psychotherapy for us. We would recommend people to cope with life’s difficulties in a humorous way, it really helps and even heals.
Do you care about being trend-relevant? Does it affect the way you approach your art?
Artem: Well, no, not the slightest desire to follow trends, and I hope that the listener will never have the feeling that we are imitating something or someone. I think, in general, imitation carries an extremely negative connotation here, since it implies a certain imitation, that is, an attempt to copy without any added value. This, of course, is something that is annoying in music today, which is now everywhere, unfortunately, even among truly talented artists. On the other hand, I generally have nothing against trends as a phenomenon, on the contrary, I personally like it. If we are talking about electronic music, then I mean if someone took elements of a style that is currently out of fashion, adapted it to a modern sound and something interesting came out as a result, so it just combines elements of several music directions. We can see such examples with artists who use elements of the trance genre. We don’t live in a vacuum and what is currently happening affects us. Regarding the impact of the industry on our approach to music – yes and no. On the one hand, we are ready to take note of everything new if we like it and use it in our music. It’s best when the mood of the industry and your internal mood coincide. But, on the other hand, we never blindly follow the industry and are unlikely to ever do that- this goes against our philosophy.
Nikita: I agree, you should adapt trends with great caution.
The more you try to make your sound trendy, the faster it will become obsolete. One must strive to create a product that will serve for a long time, and for this we need the tools and techniques that have passed the test of time.
This was Quincy Jones‘s approach who produced Michael Jackson.
How did working on the “NITE NRG” EP affect you? What was your mindset in the process of it’s creation?
Nikita: To this moment, this is the most serious challenge of all that we’ve had to endure on our musical path. This led to the side effects that were previously described in one of the questions above. Along with the difficulties, this piece of work allowed us to significantly grow in the production aspect and to become morally strengthened. Since we long dreamed of getting on this label, the main idea was as follows: this is an opportunity that we have been waiting for and it only happens once, so for the sake of it we need to give it our best, not sparing ourselves, we need to demonstrate to the whole world the results of our many years of work in the studio.
Artem: Indeed, we had to use the entire music arsenal.
What emotions are the hardest to convey through music?
Artem: All the positive emotions. In this regard, Russian art is very close to me because everything Russian is always very sad, often even hopeless. Even to take, for instance, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Tolstoy, who are well-known in the West – all that difficult and heavy literature. Russian music is also very dramatic, whether we’re speaking about Rachmaninov’s music or contemporary music, you can trace a sense of drama everywhere. I think this is caused by the historical aspects of Russia and the structure of the soul of a Russian person.
Nikita: Yes, that’s true. Both our Russian gloom and lyricism does not allow for the use of major scales.
If you had to choose between sex and music for the rest of your life, with one excluding the other, what would you choose?
Artem: Well, if you look at the Maslow pyramid, then sex is at the bottom, and aesthetic needs are at the top. So probably sex, even though it would be a difficult choice. I hope it doesn’t come to that.
Nikita: I concur.
How to survive in the nightlife?
Nikita: Don’t try to “out-party” your friends and jeopardize your health. Go to parties selectively to see the artists that you really like. Don’t party just for the sake of yet another rave. Also drink water and get enough sleep after your long “night shifts”.
What do you like besides music?
Nikita: Since music is not the main source of our income yet, we can say that we like our career growth in companies that we work in (Artem works in the financial sector, and I work in the fashion and retail industry). Apart from that, we follow the world of martial arts (in particular, the UFC), we like to sing Russian songs in karaoke bars, play video games and read academic literature.
What film, game, book reality would you like to be a part of?
Artem: “The Matrix”! It’s my favourite movie and my favorite visual aesthetic overall, and it presents the unlimited possibilities of a simulation world. Regarding video games, then it’s definitely the Deus Ex universe. It would be fascinating to see a cyberpunk version of Prague. Books – “The Neuromancer” of William Gibson.
Nikita: Oh yes, I’ve always dreamt of looking like and fighting like Trinity.
Whose performance was the most memorable for you and what made it so special?
Nikita: To this day, I remember the powerful emotions I’ve felt during the Hurts concert when they just struck the world as if a thunder with a revival of the synthpop aesthetic. The way their production sounded and the way they looked was the greatest source of inspiration for our further musical development. Equally, we were influenced by Privacy and his DJ set and his track ‘Apex Predator’, which we heard on the Funktion-One speakers, and it made an unforgettable impression on how we see dance music today – a continuous stream of musical power and energy.
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would you answer?
Nikita: I will leave this task to the interviewer – and my answer will follow.
Artem: I’ve always wanted to be asked what lies in power and my answer would be – seeking pleasure.
Translation: Elena Savlokhova