What really caught my attention about Upstroke was that he was based out of Russia, but held that signature wailing 80’s and 90’s West coast hip-hop synths swagger, reminiscent of old school Dr. Dre. Adding some of his own touches, Upstroke’s music has one hell of a unique sound.
Being born in Russia in 1988, Upstroke says that he could only fall asleep as a child listening to old vinyls of British superstars The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. When electronic music started to sweep through Russia, Upstroke listened to a lot of music from The Prodigy and West coast hip-hop. When he started to produce a few years ago, it only seemed natural for him to take his early influences and create a self-described “combination of fat funky bass, hip-hop rhythms with a touch of 80’s disco”.
Only producing seriously for about a year, Upstroke has an extremely promising future. Already having massive releases signed for 2013 with MEXA Records, Sleazy Deep, Dance Till Death, Kumasi Music, Stop! Waiting Records, AND Funkpony Records, Upstroke is on the brink of blowing up. I had the chance to sit down with the rising young artist and asked him a few questions about growing up in Russia, influences on his sound, and who he would collaborate with if he had the chance to choose anyone. Upstroke is simply not an artist to sleep on, because as far as I know, he’s the pioneer of west coast G-house.
The Dankles: Hey Upstroke, thanks for taking the time to sit down with us to answer a few questions, why don’t you start off by telling us a little about yourself.
Upstroke: Whaddup guys! My real name is Aleksandr Tarkhov, Im 25, and I’m from Russia! I’ve probably been djing since I was 15, then I started to produce my own music, but it was mostly mashups or bootlegs because I was playing a lot of progressive house stuff at the time. I’ve been into the more underground music, you know, deep house and techno for the past 5 years. I started to produce my own beats seriously about a year ago, I think.
TD: How has growing up in Samara, Russia fostered your music? What’s the music scene like over there and what is your favorite part about your hometown?
U: There’s actually not much “Russian elements” in my music =). Here in Russia, people love the more popular music, songs that are played on the radio in the afternoon, are in all the clubs at night too, but I find this music so boring! My favorite part about my hometown is probably all my friends and family who I love.
TD: What did you listen to growing up? What was your first album? What was the first house show you went to?
U: To be honest, I can’t remember what my first house show I went to was, but when I was young I listened a lot of rock music; AC/DC, ZZ TOP, Ozzy Osbourne, Nirvana and a lot of that kind of music =). My first album was AC/DC’s “Ballbreaker”! I still love it today!
TD: You seem to be able to capture the West coast 90’s hip-hop vibe perfectly within your deep house tracks, how has the West coast rap scene influenced you? What’s your appeal to the “California sound,” and have you ever visited the West coast of the U.S.?
U: Ahh =) I left Russia just once on my honeymoon; my wife and I went to Spain ;). The West Coast vibe isn’t about being there, it’s a state of mind! But probably most of all, I am inspired by Snoop Dogg! He is a great artist!
TD: If you had the chance to collaborate with any other artist, who would it be and why?
U: Definitely with Snoop D-O-Double G =). He’s got that West Coast swagger
TD: When you sit down in the studio, what’s your formula for creating your tracks? How long will a track typically take you? What is the response you’re looking to receive from the listener?
U: I always start with the kick and bass! It’s the two most important things for me to start a track! Everything depends on my mood (and sometimes on the amount of vodka)! I can sometimes sit for weeks on one track, but the EP for MEXA Records I wrote within days because I was on an emotional rise! From listeners I like to hear support and criticism certainly! I’m not perfect 😉
TD: You’ve put out a ton of music in only a few months on SoundCloud, how do you manage to make so many funky tracks in such a short amount of time?
U: It’s all about my mood! One day I could drop a couple of my ideas to some of my friends from around the world and they can share with me their thoughts, globalization is pretty crazy! Now I have a lot of collaborative tracks through this process, practically all collaborative productions that I have on SoundCloud began with my ideas that I sent out to people!
I have a small problem, I am very lazy. Sometimes, I simply don’t want to complete any tracks because of my laziness!
TD: What’s your studio set up? What are you using for VSTs? What’s your favorite piece of hardware?
U: I got; my laptop, my headphones (Sennheiser HD 25-1 II), my midi keyboard (M-audio KeyRig 49), and me ;). I’m a Logic Pro user, so I have a lot of cool vst’s in Logic! My favorite VST is probably Sylenth, also I love Synapse a lot!
TD: When DJing live, what’s the vibe you’re trying to create for the dancefloor?
U: “Love to make your mama dance…” – Amine Edge. 😉 I love to play a lot of bassy music, some Uk bass house, and G House! I love when people don’t stop dancing for a second throughout my set!
TD: You’ve been signed to the likes of MEXA Records, Sleazy Deep and Funkpony Records recently, could you tell us a little about your upcoming releases and what you’re most excited to put out?
U: I love all my releases, but for me the “Dream Gurl” EP which is coming out on MEXA is what I’m most excited for! I don’t know why, maybe because this is my first ever Cali house tracks. SION (MTA Records, Kumasi Music) tells me I’m the pioneer in Cali House ;).
TD: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
U: The highlight of my career is still ahead…
TD: Any upcoming gigs that we could catch you at?
U: Only if you came here to Russia 😉
TD: Thanks again for doing this Upstroke, any shout outs?
U: I want say thanks to all people who support me day by day, councils me, and sometimes takes actions on my behalf; SION (MTA/Kumasi), Tony G (Thee Cool Cats), Michael Landy Perez (MLP), Luis Zuckre (NastyFunk/Cream Couture), Christoph Kassette (Click Click), Erik Christiansen (NastyFunk owner), Rob Made (Sleazy Deep owner), Marco Darko (Hot Waves), David (Clouded Judgement), Ben Clarke (Fresh II Death Records), Andrea Kinly (my homecity lad), Alex Rubio (I signed one of the most important releases for me thanks to him), to all the admirers of my music and to all my SoundCloud followers! Big Up!
Dankles rapid-fire questions:
Go-to track to revive the dancefloor:
Hard to say, a lot of great music can do that
Favorite 90’s hip-hop album:
Code Red (DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince album)
Favorite Upstroke song:
My joint track with my homie SION – KNOCKOUT (out 2nd April on Kumasi Music Volume 1)
Track that still amazes me every time I hear it:
Mobb Deep – Shook Ones
Artist who deserves more recognition:
My big friend – Anton Ishutin
Favorite G-House track:
Neeko – People Outside
Song that no one can hate: Perfect song to end the night with:
Justice – We Are Your Friends =)
Best track to open up a set:
DJ Zinc Feat. Jamie George – Love To Feel This Way