Canadian producer Lessov, aka Kevin MacInnis, had a stellar year in 2011 – not only did he release on highly respected labels including Arrival, Lowbit, Nueva Digital and Spring Tube, he also set up his own label Portrait Digital and succeeded in attracting the attention of progressive fans, artists and labels alike with his unique brand of dreamily, intensely emotive melodic progressive house.
With both his own career and Portrait Digital going from strength to strength, I wanted to find out more about where Lessov came from, where he’s going and where he wants to be – and I’m very happy to say that he didn’t hold back! Read on for a really informative, insightful and no holds barred look at the life and loves of Lessov…
Hi Kev! First of all, tell us – how did you start out making music and why?
First of all Lucy, thanks so much for having me. It is truly a heart-warming and humbling experience to be offered an interview by a prestigious source such as Cheers Ears. I’d also like to apologize because I tend to write a lot. Anyways…
Like most producers, I started making music before electronic music even entered my thought process or became relevant to me. I had taken piano lessons on and off from various people, and took guitar lessons for roughly 3 years. I have 3 main stages in my pre-production years:
Stage 1: Nirvana. The Nirvana years were roughly grades 7 – 10. I was drawn to the band and the sound, I was drawn to Kurt Cobain, and I bought every Nirvana album, every DVD, and the biography of Mr. Cobain at some point. I picked up a guitar for Christmas one year promptly deciding I wanted to be a rock star, and started to enrol myself in guitar lessons. In this time period I was addicted to Nirvana, The Vines, and Weezer.
Stage 2: Tiesto. The Tiesto/Armin years were roughly grades 11-12. I had heard about electronic music on various websites, but I was so consumed in alternative rock that I never paid much attention to it. Then one day I caught a glimpse of the Trance Energy theme song by Marcel Woods and I kind of liked it. Seeing as Tiesto was the main trance guy at the time, I went out and bought the album “Just Be” and it changed my life. Songs like “Just Be”, “Traffic” and “Nyana” really impacted on me and I fell in love with trance and electronic music. I started downloading podcasts like Club Life, ASOT, FSOE, and really just became part of that community.
Stage 3: Daft Punk. The Daft Punk years were grades 11 – present. I was still very much into trance when one day as I was over at my friend’s place to play video games, he put on a song called “Robot Rock” by Daft Punk. Again, I was captivated by the sounds. I went out and bought “Discovery” and AGAIN my mind was blown. However, this time I was really affected by what was on “Discovery”, and it also affected me on a personal level with songs like “Something About Us” and “Face to Face”. I decided I wanted to try my luck at making electronic music so I asked around for ideas on where to start. I first thought I’d team up with my friend and buy samplers and whatnot, but that was too much money. Someone recommended a program called Fruity Loops, so I went out and “obtained” it from someone/somewhere and started making basic sounds. I started getting the hang of it, so I decided to make a YouTube account. Now I needed an artist name. My first artist name was “DJ Vine” in honour of The Vines, but that didn’t stick. I thought up the name “Frostwave” and that became my trance alias. I continued to make tunes and upload them, and built up a pretty good following. I remember always saying “progressive sucks. TRANCE FOREVER.”
… but then one day I heard a TATW show and they played some Dinka.
I dived head first into progressive and house music. I could really relate to this kind of music for some reason. I had listened to a lot of the more popular progressive stuff like Dinka, PROFF, and Jaytech, and I stumbled across Mango on YouTube. I think the first song I heard was “Kisses”, and it blew my mind. This was an artist I could relate to as much as Kurt Cobain, yet I knew nothing about Mango. It was his music that spoke to me – it connected with me. It reminded me of faces, places, and moments in my past. It was around this time that I had just broken up with my first serious girlfriend after 8 months, and I had so much feeling inside of me. I decided to make new tracks under my real name that were more house oriented. Then I decided to get more serious with progressive and make trance on the side. I needed another alias. I had a strange fascination with the Russian language and their culture in highschool. I played a lot of online games, and I met people from that area and they told me about Russia. Personal things also demanded that I find myself an identity because I don’t know where my blood kin is from, so I chose a Russian identity. I chose the name “Lessov” because it roughly meant “from the woods/from the forest” in Russian. I had been drawn to the woods and the sea every since I was a boy, and I had played there all the time. I had written short stories about what was in the woods, and always imagined there was some mysterious realm in a forest nearby. Therefore, the name Lessov made sense to me and carries on to this day.
So basically, I started out with Fruity Loops because I loved progressive house music
How would you describe your sound, and how long did it take you to find that sound once you started producing?
It surprisingly didn’t take me long at all. All I knew was that I wanted to be as meaningful to my audience as Mango was to me. I copied his style and invested huge ammounts of time into just exploring FL Studio and downloading various synths. I spoke with a whole bunch of producers such as Aiera, Juventa, Scott Batt etc and we exchanged ideas. We were the YouTube producers, and all we wanted to do was make ideas turn into sound. I would describe my sound as atmospheric and emotional. I believe music, like all art, should speak to its audience. If you want to feel love, listen to this. If you want to remember the feeling you had when you were a child, look at that. So I have an emotion or a feeling I want to tell my audience about, and I pick and choose sounds that make sense to me; ones that connect to the message very well. That process mixed together with drums, percussion, etc is what happens in most original Lessov tunes. It’s crazy to see some of my feelings turned into songs, and how much people respond to them. “Sunshine Girl” and “Whisper” are some of my most emotional ones, they’re very popular and I am so thankful for that. It’s what keeps me going to be honest.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations and influences?
Haha well I think I may have already answered this one, but I forgot a few: Nirvana, Weezer, The Vines, Rammstein, Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Above & Beyond, Mango, Dinka, Mossy, PROFF and Owsey.
Do you DJ too?
No, I don’t DJ live or anything. I have an all in one mixer with some really awesome speakers my parents got me for Christmas, but I don’t play live because I’m not exactly into playing club music which is popular these days. If I could just play progressive that would be really cool, but I don’t see that happening.
Who would be your dream to remix/to remix one of your own productions/to collaborate with (answers to all 3 please!)?
To Remix: Mango/Shoreliners
Remix My Own: Mango/Shoreliners, PROFF, or Matao.
Collaborate: I don’t work very well with others, but I think I’d work well with Mossy.
How and why did you come to start up Portrait Digital?
I started Portrait Digital for two reasons: the first was because I didn’t believe there were enough labels around to properly promote all the excellent music that was unsigned at the time. The second was that I wanted to have music go hand in hand with visuals. This quote by Samuel Butler sums up a lot of why I started Portrait Digital: “Every man’s work, whether it be literature, or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself.”
People like Roald Velden had a surplus amount of excellent tunes lying around unreleased. The only other label that was willing to take on any of these people was Arrival, so I decided to make a label myself. I contacted Jesse from L8 Night Records and he set me up with the basics and taught me a lot about how to manage a label. I drew up a few basic ideas with my friend Ryan Petersen (Aiera) which included a logo, release artwork, that kind of stuff. I soon after signed my distribution contract with Believe Digital and then I officially had my label. Roald and I had been talking for a while about collaborating, and when he heard I was starting a label he said he was a graphic designer, and that he could whip up a few covers. I said sure why not, and now you see the work he has been doing for me. He is an excellent graphic designer, musician and label partner.
Now we see labels like WeRecommend Records and Neuroscience Deep sprouting up, so there is more variety, but my goals for the label still remain the same regardless.
Lately Portrait Digital has been accompanying the EPs with music videos, created by Wahed Achterberg from Sunset Melodies on YouTube. He does a fantastic job with those and I want them to be a core principle in every Portrait Digital release. I also want to expand on this idea of music + visuals, and I want people to buy an EP or listen to music – whether it be from Portrait Digital or Lessov – and associate it with an emotion or a feeling. If you’re having a bad day and you want to be lost in something, my idea is for you to just browse the Portrait Digital catalogue and open up the music video and enjoy.
What would you say is the label’s USP, and how do you make it stand out from all the other progressive labels?
I’ve never thought about a USP for Portrait Digital. I just try and release great EPs that mean something. I guess the fact we release HD Music videos with each release is unique, but besides that it’s all about good music!
With the digital music market currently struggling in terms of sales, how do you think labels and artist should/will evolve to deal with the situation?
Well there’s a lot of debate between two sides on this subject: 1. People who make music invest a lot of time and energy into their productions. They feel they should be paid for it, and that illegal downloads deter them from continuing. 2. Music is made for everyone, and it should be shared freely and openly. I believe that it doesn’t matter. People will do what they please with what resources they have. If they want to buy the tracks then they will, if they don’t want to they don’t.
This is a hobby to me. It’s a very passionate hobby, like any hobby is for someone who’s passionate. It was collecting cards when I was younger, but now it’s music. For labels, I say just continue what you’re doing because there’s no big money in progressive or melodic house music. For artists it’s the same thing. I say branch out wherever possible and try and get as many people listening to your music and message as possible, because we’re all artists and as artists the ultimate goal is to represent metaphysical concepts or past memories to people trying to get by in everyday life and trying to connect with something…or that’s what I think anyways.
What’s coming up for both you and Portrait Digital?
I have a bunch of tracks coming out on labels like Arrival, Macarize, and Undertechnical. I’m also planning on starting my artist album for Spring Tube sometime. My goal with Lessov is to reach as many quality labels as I can, reach as many people as I can and try to help people if I can. By the way, I have a formspring account you can reach me at and ask me anything you want, whether it’s related to music or not.
For Portrait Digital, I plan to release more and more EPs and reach spots on various charts and get some major radio support. That’s all I can hope to do, and I hope people will join in along the way.
You’re obviously still quite young, so tell us – what’s your ultimate goal that you want to achieve in your musical career?
Well I’m in college right now going to be studying music industry arts (business, producing, recording etc). I guess I’ll just complete the course and see where it takes me. I’m an ambitious guy, so I’m confident that wherever I go I will be happy and successful.
My ultimate goal for a “music career” though I guess would be…well. I’ve always wanted to work with movies. I believe music and visuals should go hand in hand, and I experience so much emotion while watching a film with captivating soundscapes or music. Movies and music are such brilliant forms of art that really connect with people, and I guess my ultimate goal, both as a musician and as a human being, is to change someone’s life for the better in one way or another.
Thanks Kev – I think you’re already well on your way to that!
Lessov’s new track ‘Atlas’ is released on 4th March on Undertechnical.
Lessov on Soundcloud
Lessov on Facebook
Lessov on YouTube
Lessov on Beatport
Portrait Digital on Soundcloud
Portrait Digital on Facebook
Portrait Digital on YouTube
Portrait Digital on Beatport