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Eoghan Barra catches up with Erol in a vacant Tivoli Theatre to discuss his latest project and how music can piss him off
"It’s just like any other relationship you have in your life – you know if you love something you have the capacity to hate it at times as well." Erol on his fluctuationg relationship with music.
He’s the man behind the influential London club ‘Trash’. He runs his own record label, Phantasy, which plays host to such artists as Daniel Avery, Ghost Culture and Connan Mockasin. He’s produced albums by Late of the Pier, The Mystery Jets and Klaxons.
Most notably, he’s known for producing a catalogue of consistently excellent remixes of songs by artists like Tame Impala, MGMT, Daft Punk, Hot Chip, Metronomy and Mylo. The list really goes on.
It’s no surprise then that Erol Alkan’s latest release is yet another stellar notch on his belt.
For ten years now, he’s been working alongside Richard Norris under the moniker of ‘Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve’, a project rooted in the fundamentals of psychedelia. Their long-awaited debut LP, ‘The Soft Bounce’ has just been released, and it’s a truly original and genre-defying take on the established idea of a record, or, as the liner notes say, “a trip album in the wildest sense.”
Eoghan Barra caught up with Alkan in an empty theatre above District 8 at this year’s Dublin City Block Party. Here’s what he had to say.
I have to say that I’m loving ‘The Soft Bounce’. Can you tell me a bit about the thought process and narrative behind an album that transcends genres so well…
Myself and Richard, we’re fans of a lot of different types of music. We consider music to be language, not fashion, in a sense. So I suppose what this record wants to do is speak in different languages. But there is an underlying message, there is a theme, there is a journey within the record. And that’s the one thing that we feel is valid for an album in the modern age.
Tracks that run into one another and almost pollute one another so even if you don’t listen to the track after, you kinda end up hearing it anyway by hearing the track before. We try to make it as much of an immersive and magnetic experience that it could be, because we don’t want anyone to tell us what a record should be.
No one should tell you what your record should be. You tell the world what your record is and you take that gamble, and that’s your record.
How do you go about choosing songs to remix?
It’s always changed. For me, music has always been about how something feels rather than how it sounds, and there’s a big difference between that you know. And by that I mean you can have music that doesn’t sound very good but feels great, and there’s a lot of music that sounds incredible but feels terrible.
So for me it’s picking up on those things that create a feeling and working around those, and sometimes it can be a reverb off an instrument, or sometimes it can be a mishit on something, it could be anything, and the thing is really, it’s about being instinctive. And that’s what everything has always been about, whether or not producing other artists, or remixing things, it’s just decision making and instincts and you know when something’s right because you feel it. And if you’re kind if tuned into yourself and you trust yourself the same way you do with many other experiences in your life, then maybe you’re going to reach what you want to reach when making music.
Your own label, Phantasy, brings together an eclectic mix of great musicians too, From Daniel Avery to Connan Mockasin. What is it that unites you all as artists?
The one thing I didn’t want Phantasy to be was something that was like… a travelling circus of identikit artists or anything like that. I think we need to embrace each other’s individuality, and let everyone get on with what they really want to do.
The only thing that unites it all is the obvious passion and drive to be the best that we can be at what we want to do. I think that’s the one thing that’s the uniting factor for it all. We’re not a very good brand in that way, you know? We could do more things that make it a stronger brand, you know, in a real ‘marketing voice’, but we don’t want that.
We want the music to talk, want the records to do that, and the great thing is that I know of people a while back who had bought Dan’s album but had bought Connan’s album before, and not realised it was the same label, or assumed it was the same label. And that is a compliment.
That is what all my favourite labels have been like, from Factory to Island, you know they’ve always been like ‘that’s different to that’. The only think that they have in common is that you like them both, and that’s our modus operandi.
The London club scene is an ever-changing landscape, and you were obviously there during the golden age of it all. What’s it like for you these days? What’s left?
The thing is, it’s like the cycle of life in general. I mean there’s gonna be institutions that will be around for a long long time, like The End was or like Fabric is, and there’s gonna be clubs that come and go.
For me what’s important is… alright, if a club has to go, if it gets turned in by developers and stuff, I’m sure the people behind it would be doing their best to keep something going in their own way.
So you’ve got to trust in them to salvage something if it’s possible. But if it’s not possible, you’ve gotta hope that something else starts up. And also you’ve got to sort of accept that some things are for your generation and some things are for the next generation, you know. So it’s great how there’s clubs that so many generations have passed through and enjoyed. That’s a great thing. But sometimes you need to lose one for something else to spring up.
"You’ve got to sort of accept that some things are for your generation and some things are for the next generation"
What about festivals? How do they fit into the whole scheme of things for you?
It’s tough because, ‘festivals’ is quite a wide brush stroke. There’s so many dynamics within what a festival is or can be now, so it’ hard to have an opinion on festivals as such.
You know, there are some that I think are amazing. I went to one the other week called Down the Rabbit Hole just out of Eindhoven in Holland which was a beautiful festival.
The audience there were incredible, so brilliant, really refreshing. It felt playing a club. But then there’s other festivals which thankfully I don’t really do, but I have had experience of, and they’re ones that you kinda don’t want to go to really. So It’s the same dynamic as what you have with clubs. I think they’re harming as much as they’re helping and vice versa.
I read somewhere that you said at times you hate music…
It’s just like any other relationship you have in your life – you know if you love something you have the capacity to hate it at times as well. So you know if you depend on something, it’s going to disappoint you sometimes. And music can frustrate me greatly, not just in a creative sense but also in a sense where as your taste develops, you’re always looking for different things in it, and sometimes you’re chasing something to find something else and you can get frustrated with it. But sometimes music just pisses me off sometimes, massively… definitely.
What sort of audience do you like to play to? We’ve been told the Irish crowd are nuts…
It’s relative really. Sometimes when you have really enthusiastic crowds, I think some people feel that they need just just play music with the greatest impact to push and drive that audience as far as possible, whereas sometimes I feel like if you’ve got that audience then you’ve got the opportunity to do something different. Not just seek glory as a DJ.
I love the challenge within DJing, because there’s always one.
What music are you loving at the moment, new or old?
So today let’s say, I really like a remix by DJ Koze for Mano Le Tough. Ehh, got a really good remix of a Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve track. Dan (Avery) has done a remix of the lead track on the album. I like the new Avalanches album, I really like it actually. There’s some really good bits on it.