Scott Colothan

15:10 27th April 2005

Erol Alkan

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, he’s a man that’s keen to dismiss reviewer’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 “work”, articulate, intense, but not quite with it, Alkan rubbishes his lofty position in certain magazines’ annual polls: “I know how good I am. Accolades and lists are an obsession of modern culture… it’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, you’re only as good as you last gig.” Astute words, indeed.

It’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 it’s taken so long to commit his live sound to plastic he simply states that in the past he equally didn’t have the time and didn’t even have the urge to do one. He explains: “The whole concept (of mix albums) is good; don’t get me wrong there have been some incredible mix albums… (But) it’s a strange concept to do what you create on a CD what you do in a club. I’d be the first person to admit that I work for people.” He goes on to hint that it’s hard to judge how to work spontaneously and fuse tracks without directly seeing the “sound” and “movement” of “People’s reactions” – 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; “I made a decision that playing to a couple of thousand people at once is more than enough. I’ve played huge cavernous rooms; it’s just soulless when you get to that point, it’s not where you want to be where the audience are just dots. I’m not one of them (kinds of people). I’m not about that, it’s not where I am.”

Coming back to the album, distanced from a lot of conventional mix CDs, ‘A Bugged Out Mix’ is a work of two very distinct halves, featuring a mix that endeavours to mirror Alkan’s sets at the club, whereas the second ‘Bugged-In’ mix is, pardon the term, an ‘after-hours’ selection of gems from his sprawling collection. Alkan admits the second CD is a more personal affair: “The album’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 heart… It’s two totally separate things like cartoon and film.” Alkan suggests that ‘Bugged In’ may be against what conformists may have been expecting from a ‘dance’ mix: “It’s not even mixed in. The whole beauty is in the distance and silence… I know a second CD of minimal electronic music would have probably been more celebrated.” 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 Alkan’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: “I’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 don’t think someone has done that yet. The footage is unique in that it’s filmed from a DJ’s view of the crowd. It’s kind of pop has eaten itself.”

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: “Trash is more of an institution than a night club. If we did a CD I’d like to include live tracks that bands have played rather than DJ sets… Trash isn’t about money or getting people through the door, it’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 night’s about.” Best to steer clear from the idea then hey?

Throughout the interview it’s transparent that Erol is equally passionate about so-called ‘dance’ music (as covered in the Bugged Out mix) as, say, the more eclectic music he plays at Trash. Indeed, he’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; “It’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. You’ve just got to get wise to it and ignore people like that.”

Arguing his corner aptly, Alkan continues: “I mean what’s your definition of dance music? You can’t have a single word that sums up the efforts of thousands of different people... It’s true that certain clubs have died and some DJs have creatively died, but that doesn’t mean dance music has died.” Far more seriously, Alkan sees foreboding claims as having the potential to influence more impressionable members of society; “It’s (dance music is dying) a dangerous thing to say, it may stop people into thinking what they’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 don’t believe what people say.”

Conversely, with the release of Mylo’s album ‘Destroy Rock ‘N’ Roll’, some critics eagerly blurted that the Scottish electronic prankster was the ‘saviour of dance music’. In keeping with Alkan’s views, if dance music hasn’t died, how can someone be the saviour? Logically, Erol feels slightly sorry for his friend from over the border; “Mylo has made a really good album, but you should never call anyone that (the saviour of dance music). It’s wrong to label a person with such a thing. There’s a lot of pressure on him, it’s a good idea not to throw that at people.”

Always ones to dig for controversy, Gigwise asks whether there’s any bands he hates or would refuse to play in his sets at Trash. He laments; “There’s about 5 bands out there without a morsel of anything interesting about them.” Prompted, he refuses to divulge any further, adding; “I don’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 can’t think of who buys their records… but fuck it, I don’t like them and they don’t matter.” We couldn’t have summed it up any better Erol.

Photos by: Giovanna Ferin

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