When I moved to Berlin, I did not have any connections and I did not know many musicians, but I also did not want to find already existing bands to play with, instead I wanted to create my own band and have things in my hands…I came here only with the idea and now I am doing it!
From the Middle East with Love: Interviewing Aletchko
Last month, thanks to Max from Postrwall, I spoke with a brilliant violinist Alexey Kochetkov, also known as Aletchko. Originally from Smolensk, a city about 350 kilometers southwest from Moscow, Alexey left for Israel to study music and is currently based in Berlin. He told me about his life as a musician in Tel Aviv, the challenges he had to face when he first moved to Germany and priceless moments that music offers to him. Please welcome Aletchko with a crazy mix of Russian virtuosity and Mediterranean temperament.
Are you from a musical family Alexey?
I come from totally unmusical family; no one ever played any musical instrument! My mother is a nurse and my father is an engineer.
How did you start playing violin?
I started playing violin actually by chance! When I was four I attended an activity group for children where we would just sing songs, clap hands (laughing –ed.). My pedagogue was a violin teacher and a couple of years later she simply asked who wanted to play violin. I raised my hand without actually knowing what violin was! At the age of 14 I started to be excited about music and I thought being a musician could be a great thing, so I went on studying classical music and practicing a lot.
Have you ever thought of changing the instrument and play something else?
On my musical way, I actually started playing some piano and guitar, but violin was always my Hauptinstrument (main instrument – ed.).
From the Middle East with Love
What brought you to Israel?
I was always looking for opportunities to explore the world. I also had a great opportunity to go and study music in Israel and I ended up staying there for more than ten years.
What did u do for living in Tel Aviv?
Well, I actually studied music in Jerusalem, only during my last years in Israel I moved to Tel Aviv. At the beginning it was hard, initially I was financially supported as a new immigrant by the government and then little by little I started teaching and mostly playing.
Where does your nickname “Aletchko” come from?
In Israel a diminutive variant for my full name is Aletchko. I simply loved this unique way of saying my name and I began using it.
Musician Wanted… in Berlin
Why did you decide to move to Berlin?
Do you really want to hear the whole story? Do we still have some time before my concert? (Looking at the watch – ed.) Oh yes we do! Also because in Berlin nothing starts on time (laughing – ed.)
First of all, in Israel in the last couple of years there is a lot of talk in the air about Berlin. They always bring Berlin as an example of a multicultural city full of creative minds. You know, Tel Aviv is definitely a vibrant city also full of artists and musician, but things are very expensive, renting is high, it is hard to exist in a harsh economic reality. As an artist you never have a stable job with a stable income, that’s why all these things started to pile up and so I thought why not Berlin – a city that is very welcoming to artists, international, all cheaper, all easier. I also think Europe offers many possibilities for musicians and it is a good idea to develop a career here.
So when you moved to Berlin you had to start everything from scratch?
Right. I did not have any connections and I did not know many musicians, but I also did not want to find already existing bands to play with, instead I wanted to create my own band and have things in my hands…I came here only with the idea and now I am doing it! I can’t easily say I have achieved all I wanted to achieve; I love the experience of living here, but there is still a lot for me to do. I am starting to fulfill my Berlin’s dream!
What project are you working on right now?
I have two main projects: one is my own band, the other project is called Hubrist featuring Aletchko – we have a couple of gigs coming up these months, a new professional video and of course lots of recordings.
On Nationality, German language and the meaning of music
For you as a musician how important is the concept of nationality?
When I introduce myself, I definitely say that I was born in Russia and had lived in Israel for ten years, simply because those places influenced my musical personality, less in Russia, I must admit. Instead, the experience of being a musician in Israel is very unique and now how I play is mostly thanks to Israel. So back to your question of nationality, whether I define myself Russian or Israeli or something else does not really matter to me, I am looking at that rather biologically (giggles – ed.).
How does your typical day look like?
Waking up, blaming that I did not wake up earlier (laughing – ed.). Jokes apart, I split my day into two parts: daytime I am doing all the organizational work like contacting people, making flyers and in the evenings comes the exciting part – I play violin!
Do you speak German?
Nur ein bisschen. Ich lerne Deustch… (only a little bit. I am studying German – ed.)
Does a musician need to know German to play his music in Berlin?
Yes and once again yes! I can’t stand these myths: “You don’t need to speak German if you are in Berlin or you don’t need to speak German if you are a musician.” It such a lie! At the end of the day, except playing music, you deal a lot with people and many people only speak German here, especially older generation.
My last question to you Alexey and I let you run to your concert. What does music mean to you?
There is a nice video on YouTube that explains what happens in a brain of a musician when he plays. When you play your musical instrument is like you say everything that you would not be able to say to people with words. It is like quintessential of your existence and such moments are priceless and unexplainable! When you do it you know why you do it!