Erol Alkan, the much-lauded DJ and founder of the legendary club night Trash, is no stranger to boundless superlatives from critics and clubbers alike. Refreshingly, however, heâ€™s a man thatâ€™s keen to dismiss reviewerâ€™s often ungrounded and misfired plaudits and instead thrives solely on interaction with the crowd when playing his virtuoso sets. Having just woke up at 2pm after a night of â€œworkâ€, articulate, intense, but not quite with it, Alkan rubbishes his lofty position in certain magazinesâ€™ annual polls: â€œI know how good I am. Accolades and lists are an obsession of modern cultureâ€¦ itâ€™s convenient. The western world is a hectic, stressful place and there seems to be a need to place everything. To me what happens in a club is all that matters, youâ€™re only as good as you last gig.â€ Astute words, indeed.
Itâ€™s therefore little surprise that Alkan initially seems uncomfortable when discussing the process of creating his first-ever mix CD - for the eminent techno night Bugged Out. Asked why itâ€™s taken so long to commit his live sound to plastic he simply states that in the past he equally didnâ€™t have the time and didnâ€™t even have the urge to do one. He explains: â€œThe whole concept (of mix albums) is good; donâ€™t get me wrong there have been some incredible mix albumsâ€¦ (But) itâ€™s a strange concept to do what you create on a CD what you do in a club. Iâ€™d be the first person to admit that I work for people.â€ He goes on to hint that itâ€™s hard to judge how to work spontaneously and fuse tracks without directly seeing the â€œsoundâ€ and â€œmovementâ€ of â€œPeopleâ€™s reactionsâ€ â€“ feedback that is essentially the crux of his art.
Understandably then, Alkan hates the vacuous feeling of playing massive venues where he cannot judge the audience; â€œI made a decision that playing to a couple of thousand people at once is more than enough. Iâ€™ve played huge cavernous rooms; itâ€™s just soulless when you get to that point, itâ€™s not where you want to be where the audience are just dots. Iâ€™m not one of them (kinds of people). Iâ€™m not about that, itâ€™s not where I am.â€
Coming back to the album, distanced from a lot of conventional mix CDs, â€˜A Bugged Out Mixâ€™ is a work of two very distinct halves, featuring a mix that endeavours to mirror Alkanâ€™s sets at the club, whereas the second â€˜Bugged-Inâ€™ mix is, pardon the term, an â€˜after-hoursâ€™ selection of gems from his sprawling collection. Alkan admits the second CD is a more personal affair: â€œThe albumâ€™s got two different sides of music on there with very different jobs. The first CD is music to dance to and the second is more from the heartâ€¦ Itâ€™s two totally separate things like cartoon and film.â€ Alkan suggests that â€˜Bugged Inâ€™ may be against what conformists may have been expecting from a â€˜danceâ€™ mix: â€œItâ€™s not even mixed in. The whole beauty is in the distance and silenceâ€¦ I know a second CD of minimal electronic music would have probably been more celebrated.â€ Indeed. Where else could you hear a recent Gonzales piano movement brushing shoulders with a stunning prog-rock opus from the early seventies?
Again, reflecting Alkanâ€™s symbiotic relationship with his audience, a film is being released alongside the mix, featuring footage shot from his own perspective at a variety of debauched gatherings across the globe. He explains: â€œIâ€™ve been filming for over three years and I had all this footage. I wanted to do something that reflected my sentiment to clubs, and I donâ€™t think someone has done that yet. The footage is unique in that itâ€™s filmed from a DJâ€™s view of the crowd. Itâ€™s kind of pop has eaten itself.â€
Naturally, representing the viewpoint of Trash regulars who may be wondering when Alkan will compile a related CD, Gigwise asks if he would ever consider making one. Immediately it becomes clear that such a step would be, for Erol, against the ethos of what the night is about: â€œTrash is more of an institution than a night club. If we did a CD Iâ€™d like to include live tracks that bands have played rather than DJ setsâ€¦ Trash isnâ€™t about money or getting people through the door, itâ€™s clubbing in the purest sense possible. If the mix album was a big success, it could detract from us. It could destroy the whole fabric of what the nightâ€™s about.â€ Best to steer clear from the idea then hey?
Throughout the interview itâ€™s transparent that Erol is equally passionate about so-called â€˜danceâ€™ music (as covered in the Bugged Out mix) as, say, the more eclectic music he plays at Trash. Indeed, heâ€™s keen to quash empty lazy claims by cynics that dance music is dying on its proverbial arse. Instead, Alkan sees it as just as relevant as ever; â€œItâ€™s everywhere, nothing just dies, energy moves. I never really listen to any of it, these are the kind of people that said rock music is dead in 98. Youâ€™ve just got to get wise to it and ignore people like that.â€
Arguing his corner aptly, Alkan continues: â€œI mean whatâ€™s your definition of dance music? You canâ€™t have a single word that sums up the efforts of thousands of different people... Itâ€™s true that certain clubs have died and some DJs have creatively died, but that doesnâ€™t mean dance music has died.â€ Far more seriously, Alkan sees foreboding claims as having the potential to influence more impressionable members of society; â€œItâ€™s (dance music is dying) a dangerous thing to say, it may stop people into thinking what theyâ€™re doing is valid. A kid of 17 or 18 may be won over by this bullshit. People should open their ears to it and donâ€™t believe what people say.â€
Conversely, with the release of Myloâ€™s album â€˜Destroy Rock â€˜Nâ€™ Rollâ€™, some critics eagerly blurted that the Scottish electronic prankster was the â€˜saviour of dance musicâ€™. In keeping with Alkanâ€™s views, if dance music hasnâ€™t died, how can someone be the saviour? Logically, Erol feels slightly sorry for his friend from over the border; â€œMylo has made a really good album, but you should never call anyone that (the saviour of dance music). Itâ€™s wrong to label a person with such a thing. Thereâ€™s a lot of pressure on him, itâ€™s a good idea not to throw that at people.â€
Always ones to dig for controversy, Gigwise asks whether thereâ€™s any bands he hates or would refuse to play in his sets at Trash. He laments; â€œThereâ€™s about 5 bands out there without a morsel of anything interesting about them.â€ Prompted, he refuses to divulge any further, adding; â€œI donâ€™t like naming them that would be petty. But these bands have had huge success and no one I know likes them at all. I canâ€™t think of who buys their recordsâ€¦ but fuck it, I donâ€™t like them and they donâ€™t matter.â€ We couldnâ€™t have summed it up any better Erol.
Photos by: Giovanna Ferin