“I don’t think DJs define themselves, I think people now define DJs”
“Even I don’t know why I’ve been doing interviews. I don’t see the purpose.” Erol Alkan may not like giving interviews because what he really likes is to communicate through music. He only does so, for people to get to know who he is in places he has never been to before. It’s hard to believe he has never been to Athens, Greece and we are more than excited to finally have him here. Last time we saw him at Coachella and London we danced our feet off and we expect nothing less tonight (4/5) at Koo Koo club in Athens in a event organized by Kormoranos team. Before his long-awaited gig, Erol Alkan talks to La.Ga.Sta. about (almost) everything.
All you need is three people max
I’ve never seen myself as someone great, because I always just feel that whatever I do I need to keep reinvigorating my own sprit. I’m scared of it being a job. What really counts for me is the excitement when I complete something. I have to begin with me. I have to make sure I like it of course. Then I have to impress a couple of people around me. There are only a few people on this planet that I think I understand enough. There’s a base, like three people in my life who I want to make it work in their head, in their eyes, in their ears. Their judgment would help me form what I want to achieve. If it works, then it’s enough for me. I don’t care about reaching lots of people because it’s out of my control.
Make music for yourself
Whenever I work with a band I am suggesting they make the record for themselves. I think that the only thing that matters is creating something that connects what you like. Not trying to please the people who loved your previous work. Never do that. I never really tried to please a fan base. I think fan base comes and goes faster than you realize.
There is a sense of nostalgia in dance music nowadays. If you look at dance music there are always areas which are completely original, inventive and forward thinking. Some eyes look backwards, some eyes forwards. All depends on what eyes you are looking at. There are people who make great music that sounds like it was made twenty years ago. You have heard it in rock as well. It’s just a balance. There are bands who sound retro but they bring something fresh to it, enough that still sounds like it has been made now. You have to just acknowledge the present. For instance, The White Stripes. Take something from the past then try to make something that still sounds fresh in the future.
Whenever I do something I never care about a ‘good’ sound. I try to make something that I think it is going to sound ‘dirty’ in years to come. I never try to base on current sound. None of my records ever sound like a certain time. I try really hard for that because I like the idea that you can still play one of my tracks from five years ago and still sound good today.
Destroy and Create
I like some nu-disco, the same way I like some Dubstep, Techno, Hip House. I think heroes of the past should be ‘abused’ a little bit. I like the idea of something that sounds familiar, yet ‘abused’. Destroy it in a way to make it sound futuristic. What I don’t like is hearing someone who’s trying too hard to sound like a certain record. In nu-disco music people try to adopt a style from the past and that is a little bit embarrassing. You can take the best elements, but you should put something new into it and make it new, rather than somebody else’s. Even a small thing that has your signature sound is enough, but I don’t really see that happening. There are tracks right now that I can say they all sound like the same bunch of artists.
Think outside the box
Everybody has the inclination to play the records that they love. But I don’t really think that’s being a DJ. I think you can play records and entertain people. It’s like saying everybody can be a doctor if you can cure a headache. That doesn’t make you a doctor. If you want a reduced role of a DJ in society, then, yes, everybody can be a DJ. But I believe everybody have it in them to present the music that they love to other people, but that isn’t necessarily DJing. That is playing records. I don’t really care about people who call themselves DJs, they can do what they want. To be honest, anybody could download twenty hot tracks and play them and make a room dance. That is a kind of DJing. But to me the DJs who I call DJs and I really admire, are always looking for music, thinking outside of the box and always changing people, the same way artists do. I don’t think DJs define themselves, I think people now define DJs. People choose what they want by getting to a club, by listening to a radio show, by buying a mix cd. If they don’t want DJs to have that role in their life, then it will die out and all they will be left with would be, lots of people playing the same records from computers.
Three hours sleep, then off to the next gig
I feel very lucky. I get to play records that I really love and people come and dance. I can’t emphasize how grateful I’m. I try to make sure that everything I offer to people is valid and good enough. I’m not interested in constantly repeating myself. I am not changing my sets gig to gig, or city by city. It depends mostly on the size of the venue or if I played there before. Every gig has a different dynamic. There are some places that I go and I have to play a certain type of set. There are some others where you have never been before, and people want to hear you play certain records. London is always good fun for me. I love to play in Fire very long sets. I love to play Mondo club in Madrid, that’s brilliant. I like playing gigs in Barcelona. I like playing at the Social Club in Paris. In America things have been good for me, because the scene has been constantly involving and changing over there. You never play at the same place twice. The time you get back, the club you played last time is closed down.
Pack and go
Toiletries, headphones and clothes I suppose.
I don’t play with the MAC because I don’t want to take a laptop in the club. I love the USB, it’s great.
A matter of time
I don’t have enough free time for myself but to be honest with you, this is what I love doing right now. It’s not a problem for me. Sure, I have time for my friends, but most of them are people involved with music, so when we’re together… we chat about music. I’ m very lucky in that way. Usually your social circles are defined by places that you go to or the music you listen to. I have relationships with people who admire and share a mutual appreciation of music. After doing it for so long is a good thing. Don’t see that as a negative point. It’s my choice.
In the driver’s seat
I have a car for like two years. It’s from the 90’s with a cassette player. I have a lot of cassettes from my youth and I listen to those which I love: noisy guitar music, My Bloody Valentine, Public Enemy, things like that.
Keep it a secret
I never tell people my favorite artists and tracks, neither my future plans. I think it is healthy to have surprises. Lots of information is just too easy to get these days.
In case you missed it, check out Erol’s third 6Mix residency on BBC 6 Music here. Two hours of beats, bleeps and bass. Amazing!