On the 9th of February I spoke with musician and graphic designer Blxckovt about his album, the current mindset of the music scene, and his ongoing rest and recuperation.
For someone who projects such a spectral character in much of their work, Blxckovt cuts a surprisingly human figure across my phone’s screen. “We got the vibe lighting on!” he quips, the changing colours illuminating a calm face, half covered by a flame-embroidered beanie. We get to talking almost instantly, and whilst he chooses his words carefully there’s clearly a lot on the mind of the young artist. “At the minute I’m studying. [I’m] making music next week so hopefully [I’ll] release some more tracks, I’m excited to be part of this new collective called Starplayer…”. While there is a lot going on in Blxckovt’s world, he’s far from satisfied to just carry on through each day; “I need to get back to music. I feel like a lost puppy without it, I am focusing on studying but it doesn’t complete me”.
Blxckovt expresses a frustrating and involuntary sense of distance from music, the intersection of his creative talents. He’s at the tail-end of a self prescribed rehabilitation, one he announced and detailed on his 2019 debut “REST & RECUPERATION” (hereafter referred to as “R&R”), opened and summarised by its titular lead single. On the song, Blxckovt sings “I’m too sick to dance, ring around the rose, don’t know where to go when the sun is getting low… and I need to fucking rest and recuperate”, which offers some background to his recovery-focused mindset. Clearly, the withdrawals of creativity are getting to him; ““The Lighthouse” really inspired me to make, like, music videos and stuff, I’m really in the mood to make music videos – I’m definitely influenced by A24 at the moment, I think what they do is so different to every other film company. I feel they put thought into every little scene. Every little design choice should have some meaning behind it; you need to have context. I feel like I had context in “R&R” as well, I was using it as a therapy session to be honest, [to] spill my thoughts out. I don’t know if it worked very well, I still had the issues after… but I‘m slowly feeling rested”. On hearing this I think back to seeing Blxckovt perform live in June 2019 – when we first met he seemed well, but on stage he had the aura of a falling ghost, arms lifted as if by strings. “When I was with you I had only done R&R the song” he admits, placing that performance dead in the centre of the album’s process. “”R&R” is mainly a self critique” he later adds, “at the time I’d stay inside all day, it was getting to the point where it was very unhealthy”.
Debuting an album after years of singles and EP’s rewarded Blxckovt with thousands of streams for the records two singles and hundreds for its other tracks, but going forward his prerogative is stealing and keeping the audience’s attention. “At the minute I want to concentrate on singles – they’re the most satisfying to make, there’s more emphasis on the music. When you release a project sometimes people lose interest quickly, [with] singles it’s easier to gain interest”. Again, Blxckovt talks about his work and his influences in the same breath, which should tell you how close together he keeps them; “No Rome, MISOGI, The 1975, I’d love to do something like that”. We both take a second to fawn over the 1975’s video for “Me & You Together Song” and their work in general. “That’s an influence some people in the scene might find a bit ‘white girl’. I think they’re important culturally and sonically, the things they are speaking about affect us as a generation” comments Blxckovt before honing in on one of these generational issues, perhaps provoked by the drug-addled aesthetic of The 1975’s songwriting. “Personally I don’t take any drugs besides the odd marijuana (laughs)” his tone becomes careful, “I don’t understand the fascination with any antidepressant, or ketamine. I feel like I have enough human chems to keep me high. I want to feel pure, always. It is quite scary that uh, it’s kind of a crisis in this scene especially, people talk about drugs too much. People think it’s the thing you need to do to fit in with the scene, people don’t understand what [they] put in their system”. It’s a hard sell to a scene that sees “Codeine Crazy” as sacred text. He does later add; “I don’t want to be a preacher of anti-drugs, but I don’t want to be responsible in influencing someone for drug use, especially as it’s not something I can write about honestly”.
By this point in our conversation the only recurrent theme is honesty. Blxckovt speaks openly and mostly unprovoked; “My anxiety stemmed from – it’s still around – its the fear of death. It’s the only guarantee. I like using music as a vent, I want to fill my life with as many experiences as possible, [so] coming to terms with mortality is such a massive thing for me. Sometimes it gets a bit… I don’t know, overwhelming definitely. It’s gonna sound stupid on face value; I was in Camden Market and felt really faint, I was only fainting but I was thinking “what if i was actually dying? What would be the last thing I feel?”. We both pause for a moment. “I don’t like change but change is necessary. Portraying more of a character than yourself it’s hard to express yourself as a person. People are going to connect more if they know who I am”.
The internet is the ocean on which every underground artist sails, and technology is the ground on which they walk. Blxckovt is no exception – his graphics capture the essence of pleasantly failing tech, glitchy, with either absent or explosive saturation. His instagram is full of artificial light, images of smartphones, dog filters, angels, all brought together and cast out onto the wireless sea. Musically, his voice is roboticized by pitch correction and made artificially massive by reverb plugins. Beats from 5v, Deathlike and others bring the warped plucks and beeps you’d expect of Ripsquad or Yung Gud to the front of the mix (see “MEDICINE” for a perfect example). The internet exudes a diffusing and pervasive influence on these works. Blxckovt sees it as a tool to be controlled and expeditiously employed; “The internet is an amazing tool to network. I wouldn’t be who I am right now [without it]. I’ve known 5v since i started he’s been my brother through all this, crazy how u can be talking to someone overseas and feel so close – and of course it’s such a niche genre of music. It kind of happened naturally, I didn’t go around trying to create a community, it just… did” he says with a muted sense of pride. He comments as an observer of the internet’s effects, too; “The power of the internet is you see the people who are successful and think “I want to be that”. They should be using their so-called ‘power’ for good. The amount of messages I get about my artwork, it’s crazy. I’m not a big artist in any sense of the word but even if I can make one day better its wild, seeing stats from far off reaches of the world. [It] started off as just a way to get my emotions out, now it’s more of a craft I guess. I can’t explain, it’s more of my personality, I used to think of Blxckovt as a character and now it’s more just me”.
Having followed Blxckovt for some time, I now feel as if I’m well under the surface of his persona. He speaks with purpose as we take a broad look at the future. “I remember thinking [that] when I get to this point I could consider myself happy, and now I’ve got there I don’t wanna take my foot off the gas you know? You can see how hard work pays off with my friends and stuff, because they put in the work all the time, that’s why I haven’t been releasing music – because I’m trying to get this degree, and hopefully get a job to support this. I’d love for music to become my source of income and my life, but I want to have a solid route to go down. it’s a hit or miss type thing, I think it’s quite savage, the music industry is quite savage”. In the present, Blxckovt’s ideas are a mix of general concepts and elaborate plans; “I want to start producing more for myself, if I could produce for myself I could just make exactly what I want to make, but I haven’t got the raw skills, like obviously I produced “R&R” and now that’s one of my favourite songs. At the moment it’s more floating, I’ll be home for the week next week, I wanna make music next week. Like A24 I want to put emphasis on detail into music rather than the ‘fast food’ style of just throwing vocals onto the beat and hoping it does really well. I feel like there’s no passion there. For me music isn’t something for stats, I don’t wanna sound all whimsical, but it’s a massive part of life”. The need to become an auteur is evident from Blxckovt’s dismissal of cheap and easy options. The scope of his discography is rather large, but his output, especially recently, is limited by the want to do better. “But you know, I’ve got a long road to go” he concedes, “[and] obviously I’ll have the support of bigger artists – it’s nice being connected to a group of artists who know what they’re doing… I don’t think I have the tools to reach my full potential. I hate the feeling of wanting to do something but not being able to”.
The name “Blxckovt” represents more than music of course, and the visual end of the project is developed by an ongoing degree in graphic design. Blxckovt remarks that “at one point of the course [he ]wanted to quit”, but is soon singing the praises of “visual communication without having to say anything at all”, a concise summary of the medium’s benefits. “It was definitely the long run. There’s more roads opened up by graphic design than music, even more than just cover art. I want to do editing, cinematography, color grading – that’s so fun to do – there isn’t anything stopping me from doing [it all]”. A designer’s mindset runs through his speech, reflecting that which runs through his work. “Everything you see is designed to an extent. Any object and piece of art, any poster, it’s all had some thought. Even a fucking deoderant can… it’s all aesthetic quality. I think it’s kinda shallow to just focus on the aesthetically pleasing, but it brings me joy to make something that looks nice. At first, anything going on with my life I’d just try to make it into art or music… it’s weird to talk about to be fair. [I] never talked about it on a deeper level”. Monotonous settings backdrop much of Blxckovt’s work, on album cut “BAD NEWS” he highlights the sameness of urban sprawl across continents, singing “I’m in London feels like I’m in Asia”. The same could be said for his visual art, it’s a search for glamour in streets of grey.
The most obvious influence in Blxckovt’s aesthetic is that of Bladee and Drain Gang, from the autotuned techno-trap default of his music to the “20XX Solar Boys” tag stamped on some of his covers. “Everything in the scene we are in stems from Yung Lean and Drain Gang” he declares, embracing these artists as innovators and door-openers. “The tides of culture shift constantly, maybe we’ll become the influencers for other artists. Maybe one day I’ll get my own type beat.” A fair defence against any accusations of cloning, though that’s not really a worry as in the present day Drain is essentially its own artistic movement. Artists such as Kiryano, 100gecs, and Drux routinely make Drain inspired or adjacent music. “The weirdest thing that ever happened to me regarding Blxckovt, I was in a Bladee queue and someones like “hey are you Blxckovt?” – I had done art for him the week before. He said “you even sound like Blxckovt!” (laughs). The community is so tight”. Blxckovt appears happy to exist in a space where this fanbase will appreciate him.
The future for Blxckovt is energetic. He’s very obviously in need of a creative outlet as we talk, and his track record shows that whatever comes next will be an improvement, however incremental, on what’s been done so far. “[I] need to move to FL Studio… it’s about time. I think I’ve mastered Garageband now, sorry for all the terrible mixing I’ve done” he laughs, “I could maybe get some professional help, get a sound engineer, that’d be epic. It’s been a self teaching kinda thing. I wish I’d started on FL… [but] I like the rawness and basic Lego type feel of Garageband. All you need is EQ and reverb, lots and lots of reverb (laughs), just drown the vocals”. Sarcasm aside, Blxckovt does have a focused vision, an immediate plan for the crucial days ahead; “I’m in a bit of a cocoon. I’m ready to come back, [but] I don’t want to come back unless I’m ready, I don’t want to give 50%, I want to go hard with it. It’d be such a shame to give away everything I’ve built up until now… when I come back it’ll be the best Blxckovt yet. I needed a metamorphosis stage. I needed a rest, that’s why I called it that, I needed some time off – let my subconscious work it out. I’m starting to miss it too much”.
“I need to come back”.
Listen to REST & RECUPERATION here.
– Jamie (@youngjade1216)