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The album that time forgot

2016 May 16     
2 Bit Thugs

Due to an horrific motorcyle accident, Kovsh AKA Rivet's startling new album sat undiscovered on a hard drive for nearly a decade

Riddle us this… a body of work was written between 10 and 19 years ago, yet it sounds thoroughly contemporary. It has the flow and dynamic of an album, yet it was never even intended to be an album. It’s been released this month, but the artist thought no one had a copy of it. Including himself. So how did the release even come about? More’s the point, what is this album and who is it by?

We'll tell you. Hilt is by Swedish artist Kovsh... his real name's Mika Hallbäck but you’re more likely to know him as Rivet or, if you go back further, Grovskopa. Sonically, though, Hilt is a far cry from the straight-up, uncompromising techno he makes under those names. An experimental, industrial-edged, fractured beat-infused archive of dystopian ideas and stark concepts, the album has come to light through the deep-digging diligence of one Damon Kirkham.

Like Mika, Damon operates under various aliases, such as Kid Drama, Mikarma, Jon Convex and one half of HeartDrive, an Autonomic halftime drum & bass project with DBridge. Having stumbled on the album - which he found lurking anonymously on an old hard drive - he noted its very similar aesthetics to the HeartDrive project. So he made it his mission to track down who was behind it.

"I think he gave it to me around 2009 on iChat. I was probably under one of my many aliases, and so was he!" laughs Damon. "But, to be honest, I slept on it. Totally forgot about it. When I found it, I was like, ‘Who the fuck is this?’ I had no idea who’d made it, who’d sent it to me, when they sent it or anything.

"So I tracked it back to Rivet, eventually, and worked out that I’d been speaking to him as Jon Convex. I got in touch and asked if he’d ever written any tunes that were like these ones. He said ‘Yeah but I’ve never sent them to anyone!’ I told him that, actually, he had.”

As contemporary and as relevant to D&B’s exciting halftempo experiments as a lot of the album sounds, the work actually dates back as far as 1997 when Kovsh was just a teenager and stretches to 2006 when he was, in his own words, “a narrow-minded douche.”

You see there's a twist in this tale. After writing these immersive, intriguing and at points plain perplexing sounds, Mika experienced a horrendous motorcycle crash in which he suffered seven major broken bones, muscle and brain trauma and resulted in him being unconscious for two weeks, hospitalised for almost two years and physically affected for life.

It seems Mika’s story is as unique and complex as the album itself. Get to know….

You don’t remember giving the album to Damon all those years ago, do you?

"I didn’t even know the tracks had been put together as an album! But no, I don’t ever recall talking to Damon back then. My memory isn’t reliable since my crash… I have complete blanks and there are people who I know I used to work with but don’t even recognise now."

What happened with the crash?

"It was April 2010. I came off the road on my motorcycle at high speed and it was major. Really major. I was totally out for two weeks, then spent a full year in hospital, then in and out rehabilitating for another two years. I’m never going to recover really, unfortunately. I’ve learnt to live with it."

Can you remember coming out of the coma?

"It was very blurry. I had an IV of morphine and 12 surgeries. I don’t know how long was between them, it was all a blur of events."

But you can remember the first time you went back into the studio…

"That I can remember. Before the accident I was doing all right in music but I still kept my job as a blacksmith. As I was rehabilitating, I realised I couldn’t be a blacksmith any more. It was too demanding on my broken body. Physically, doing music full-time was the most reasonable option; so because of the accident, I'm now a full-time musician. I’m a completely changed person in many ways because of the accident. Prior to these events I was a bit of a narrow-minded douche."

In what way?

"Back then I was very strict and conceptual and idealistic about music: how it should be done, how it should be presented and what you should be like as an artist. It was limiting me musically and socially. I was calling people out for selling out or doing something wrong. I said it openly. I thought I was doing the right thing, but the only one who paid for this was myself. I wasn’t changing anything or anyone."

What was the vision you were so insistent on?

"It was how techno was when I started getting into it. It was 98/99 – the Birmingham stuff, Regis, Surgeon, all those guys. They were big idols for me but I didn’t know what they looked like and I loved that. It was how techno should be done: not about image, not about money, just about the music. I thought it was less narcissistic than any other genre.

"Whenever anyone deviated with cheesy press shots I was calling them out as posers. Today it’s the normal thing - if you show me a picture of shoes then I can probably say which DJ owns them! It’s silly but that’s how it is. I’ve accepted this now but I couldn’t before. I’d get so mad I couldn’t sleep. I still have those thoughts now, sometimes, but the past reminds me not to entertain them."

Back then you were known as Grovskolpa, and your techno was serious, underground stuff. So Kovsh was like a secret experimental bit on the side?

"Yeah, it was a counter to the strict industrial techno I was making. Occasionally I’d have the urge to make something more melodic or, well, musical. But I didn’t want to include that in my releases. I couldn’t include it in my releases. So I would make these in parallel and I planned to never release it. It was just for fun and to get those urges from my system."

Surely you thought you might release it at some point? As an alias or a side project?

"I honestly never thought I would. It was a personal thing that allowed me to focus on my techno and not deviate from what I wanted to achieve with my vision. They were a bi-product of ensuring my techno was pure, if you like."

The tracks are untouched since you made them, but they stand up pretty well against modern productions...

"Ha ha, talk to the mastering engineer! He is to thank for that. Engineering is my weakest strength as a producer. Especially back then. I knew very little. There was no processing, no limiting, no compression, no anything. Maybe a little EQ on individual channels, that’s it; there’s nothing there. So the mastering engineer brought it up-to0date and there’s the style. It's borderline industrial, so it’s okay to sound like its broken and decaying."

Were you aware of the Autonomic sound and its relevance?

"Oh yeah, totally. I don’t think Kovsh sounds contemporary myself, though. When I listen to it I hear my young self. I hear the past and all its mistakes. I can’t be objective about it and I can’t make the parallel to drum & bass, but it doesn’t matter. It makes sense to Damon and Darren and their listeners, and that’s all that matters."

Do you think you will return to Kovsh?

"I don’t choose what happens. If I make music that sounds like Kovsh then sure. Whatever comes out, comes out. I can’t control it. I’m not theoretical and I’m no longer strict with any particular vision like I was back in the day… I make what I make and try to express myself as clearly as possible. Who knows?"

Words: Dave Jenkins

Kovsh pic: Niklas Lagström

Hilt is out now on Convex Industries, and you can get hold of it via Bandcamp







Tags: D&B, halftime, techno, Kovsh, Rivet, HeartDrive, Jon Convex