Interview: Erol Alkan

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Ah, Erol How do we L.O.V.E thee? Let us count the ways. For one thing, there’s the man’s fine ear for electronic music, which has gifted us countless remixes and DJ sets, all of them fresh and wrinkle-free. He also just about reinvented the mash-up, getting Kylie in bed with New Order as easily as he patched disco with indie with electro with pop with techno. And how about those unparalleled Trash/Durr nights he used to host at The End in London? Or his stellar production work for bands like The Long Blondes and Late Of The Pier? Or you know, his beard? Sexy! More reasons are also contained in Erol’s latest Disco 3000 mix, in the recent acid party tracks he made with Boys Noize, and in the mysterious tech-disco going-ons of Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve. What’s not to L.O.V.E? you’re still dancing, aren’t you?

What’s new with you, Erol?
I’m good! What’ve I been up to? I’ve been DJ-ing, making music and… kind of the same as ever really.

Surely you’ve got a special hobby outside of music.
I try to, but it’s hard because music always ends up consuming everything, you know. Things are always very much music-related – always music, music, music, but I try to dabble in different ends of it to keep it exciting for myself. And you’ve recently dabbled with Boys Noize for two tracks… Well, there’s actually more! There are about ten tracks actually. They’ve only put two out, but we work really fast together.

How did the collaboration happen?
I’ve known Alex for a while, like for a few years, so he suggested hooking up when he was in London to play some music, and I said, “Yeah of course, come by my house!” And it just happened. It was very natural. You know, working with other producers can sometimes not work, and sometimes it does. But if it works, it’s really easy and pretty good fun.

And what about bands you’ve produced, like Late Of The Pier, Mystery Jets and The Long Blondes – what drew you to them?
I love them! (Laughs) That’s all there is!

How different is it producing for indie bands, as opposed to electronic artists?
It’s totally different. It’s about understanding what has to be done, more so than just being a producer. And of course, working with one person is different to working with four or five people, because there are a lot of other things you have to take into account, like how to keep them all interested, excited and focused at any one time. But I had a great time and I really loved making those albums.

To what degree do your own influence and ideas come into play?
Definitely to some degree. By being a producer or being in a room full of people, you’ll end up editing them and to an extent, they edit you too. I think even if you have the same band with the same producer record the same song on two different days, they would sound different. A good producer makes that good band a little bit better. A great producer can’t take an average band and make them amazing, because the songs are really important and integral. More so, I would not take any kind of credit above what I think a producer should take.

So how do you see those albums you’ve done?
I’d like to think that the albums represent a fusion of ideas, characters and stuff, where we’ve all met in the middle to make something.

It’s also like that very nice fusion of indie and electronic music.
I think that’s always been in music, though. For me, the greatest fusion of dance music and guitar music has been the Stone Roses. ‘Fool’s Gold’, to me, is better than anything that… and I know I’ve picked a classic record, but it’s perfectly focused in condensing dance music and psychedelic music in a way that’s so original! It’s not an explicit thing, like just sticking a 4/4 underneath a song.

It’s that finesse…
Yeah! For example, the Late Of The Pier album was our fusion of dance music and guitar music – like, ‘Focker’, for me, is like a massive “f**k you” to the whole thing. ‘Cos when you listen to that track, it starts off sounding like The White Stripes being played on a Nintendo and then it goes into like, the greatest beat that Ed Banger never put out. Not to be arrogant, but that’s what I mean when I talk about merging guitar and electronic music right now. I think a lot of other people who would do that wouldn’t do it in that way. They’d try to bring them together but instead, we kind of pushed them apart. It’s not about trying to put this on top of that, but how you focus and present it.

Any music like that that’s interesting to you right now?
I think there are a lot of great people, like The XX and Memory Tapes, who are doing that, but it’s not the type of music that’s screaming with fusion. It’s like a very natural progression, like people making music in the only way they know how to make it, more than just trying to be relevant.

Are you proud of how your Trash nights (1997-2007 RIP) helped bring all that good stuff to the fore?
That actually started out with more guitar music before we brought electronic music into the fold in 2001 when electroclash started happening. And um… I’m really happy with it, yeah. But to say I’m proud would be a weird thing. I’m just glad it happened how it happened!

Will we see an album of original music anytime soon?
Yeah, I’ve just got to finish it! I’m always working on these different things. There are a lot of things there but I just need to focus… my biggest problem.

Will it be telling us what Erol Alkan is really about?
I don’t know… I really don’t know who the real Erol Alkan is! It changes all the time.

Text Min Chen
Image + Interview Courtesy of Zouk Singapore

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