Born 1985 in Stockholm to Hungarian parents, Kornél Kovács’ perambulations in music began early and have continued at pace ever since. Raised on that classic, enviable diet of “proper” music training plus parents with killer music taste, Kovács’ daytime lessons were given texture at night as everything from Kraftwerk and Art Of Noise to King Tubby and Boogie Down Productions wafted through the house.
Applying the Stakhanovite work ethic of his heritage, Kovács started knocking on as many of Stockholm’s musical doors as possible, teaboying in the city’s record stores, stalking its DJs, working his way through the local library’s selection of dance music records. Kovács, then a “strange nerd who got to hang around the older cool kids if they found me funny”, even managed to wangle a few DJ gigs on the back of an intense early teenage love of mid-90s drum’n’bass, turning him into “Stockholm’s youngest former jungle DJ” by the age of 14.
After a few years in this exquisitely premature retirement, Kovács picked his headphones up again in the mid-00s, and exciting things followed. Kovács was already writing about music, for his own mp3 blog and various culture and music magazines – this was joined by a DJ residency at Stockholm’s legendary Paradise night, as well as a weekly radio show on P3, Sweden’s Radio 1 equivalent. An unsurprisingly important stint at Red Bull Music Academy in 2008 was followed by the formation of Studio Barnhus with his Stockholm acquaintances Axel Boman and Petter Nordkvist. At first a studio space, soon enough a DJ trio, and eventually a record label, Studio Barnhus has now charted 50 releases and counting – the initial Good Children Make Bad Grown Ups EP was Kovács’ first appearance on vinyl.
The collective’s successes have drawn reams of prestigious press coverage in the years since and worldwide DJ dates for its three members, as well as giving Kovács the artistic space that eventually fostered 2014’s Szikra, the track Kovács admits was what made him realise he could “actually make music that people appreciate”. Given all this, it would be wrong to describe 2015 hit Pantalón, on Glasgow’s Numbers imprint, as any kind of “breakout” moment. Its irresistible, snapping drums and Spanish-language vocal did get people talking and dancing though, while an appearance on Hamburg’s esteemed Smallville label in the same year saw him connect with another of Europe’s electronic music powerhouses.
Kovács’ debut album, The Bells, was released on Studio Barnhus in August 2016, having been recorded during an intensive two-week session in his friend and mix engineer Matt Karmil’s Gothenburg studio. Giving your debut LP the same name as the most influential techno track in history certainly takes balls. But after hearing how the album draws together Kovács’ natural festive musicality and his long-standing love of club rhythmics, then factoring in the juggernaut trajectory that’s taken him from teamaking record store jester to globally acclaimed producer and DJ, you can certainly forgive his confidence. Described by Thump as a ”dizzying, kaleidoscopic and rhythmically adventurous release” – The Bells featured at 2nd position in Mixmag’s top 50 albums list, no. 5 in DJ Mag’s, and was named one of top 20 electronic albums of 2016 by Pitchfork.