Erol Alkan (FABRICLIVE 77)
I was born in London. I have lived all my life in the North of the city, growing up in Archway. My earliest childhood memories include discovering my parents’ record collection (a mix of 60s and 70s pop, rock and soul, alongside Turkish and Greek folk and psychedelic music) by playing the records my mother requested whilst she worked in our one room bedsit. I was able to recall certain records by the labels and coloured vinyl (many old Greek pressings were on quite incredible splatter pressings) long before I could read. Even though I was born in London, I didn’t speak English until I joined a local nursery at 5.
My father and uncle were two of the greatest musical inspirations I have ever had, both were avid record collectors. My father would regularly sing at our relatives’ weddings and my uncle was responsible for some of the pivotal moments in my early musical life. One I still remember clearly is being called into his room where his towering Hi-Fi system was set up: I recall a huge vinyl collection, various EQs, a solid state JVC turntable, chrome cassettes and a homemade light organ which responded to the music being played. He told me to keep an eye on the LED meter which was on the front panel of the amplifier whilst he carefully put the needle on a new vinyl purchase. The LEDs fluttered and pulsed with an intensity I had never seen before, the pattern was repeated for what felt like an eternity as I sat staring transfixed to the red lights flickering on and off, on and off, each time slightly different to the last. Behind the kick drum a synthesizer started rising until its volume matched the DMX kick drum. At that point the entire track fell out of the speakers which were almost twice my height. The light organ pulsed perfectly synchronised to the music. I had never heard, seen or felt anything like this in my life. I was around 9 years old. I must have aged 5 years in the few minutes it took New Order's 'Blue Monday' to go from the opening beat to its end. It still remains one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had with music.
My first infatuation was Adam Ant. I recall asking my teachers to not use Erol as my name any longer, from here in I was Adam Ant. And bless them for a few days they did. Registration would include my teacher calling “Adam Ant?” Me: “Yes Miss.”
After that it followed a familiar path for many pre-teens in the early to mid-80s: Madness, The Human League, Duran Duran… My uncle would push various records under my nose, The Jackson 5's 'Can You Feel It' and Imagination's 'Just An Illusion' are a couple of examples. Many Trevor Horn productions would get regular airings on his Hi-Fi, both of us in awe of the energy within these records. Of course now I can recognise this as the hallmark of Horn as a great producer, but at the time we were subconsciously drawn to these records.
My next musical transition came when I was 14: a love for Run DMC, Public Enemy, Bomb The Bass, S'Express, and the development of acid house drew me in alongside many other teenagers in the late 80s. Hearing records like 'Voodoo Ray', 'Break For Love' and 'Acid Man' alongside chart fodder on the top 40 countdown on Sunday afternoons clearly signalled me towards the music I wanted to explore. Around this time I saved up enough money to buy an Amiga computer and a digitizer which allowed me to sample a few seconds of sound. These were my first fumblings into production, sampling the music I was recording off the radio. I still have the tapes of what I made somewhere...
Shortly after, my first Saturday job on a market stall in Archway allowed me to be able to buy records from the shop directly behind where the stall was set up: Pure Groove. I recall buying Altern 8 'Infiltrate 202', LFO's 'LFO', Renegade Soundwave's 'The Phantom', various Depth Charge releases, records by Man Machine, Forgemasters, a couple of Italian house compilations, all financed by the money earned selling flannels and bootleg Fairy Liquid.
At 16, an infamous edition of Top Of The Pops featuring Happy Mondays performing 'Hallelujah' and The Stone Roses realigning the musical taste of almost every teenager within 3 minutes by the way of 'Fools Gold' led me to collar a friend in my class who had long been singing the praises of alternative guitar music to me. I asked if he could record me those bands respective albums. A day later that cassette arrived (featuring Happy Mondays' Martin Hannett-produced 'Bummed' and The Stone Roses debut album) and would almost never leave my walkman.
My love for guitar music grew. There were many outlets to discover new and exciting music from both sides of the Atlantic. The NME became the weekly gospel, Snub TV would broadcast strange new sounds, John Peel widened my musical palette with each show whilst The Camden Palace and the Boston Arms in Tufnell Park would play host to some of the most magical moments I've ever shared on a dancefloor (which I would only seem to leave to ask the DJ which record had just been played). The walk home would often be spent talking about what we had just heard…
I played guitar in a few bands during my teenage years and early twenties. An interest in production grew as I began to record our demos along with sessions for friends’ bands. I had basic equipment: a Tascam 4 track, a couple of microphones and some FX pedals, so I had to make them go as far as possible. By the time I'd opened Trash, there was barely any time to concentrate on being in a band and all my creative energy was spent on building the club and eventually taking it from a 180 capacity basement to the (now missed) End club, which was a venue and dance music institution I had long admired. Trash ran for exactly a decade. It hosted some of the first UK live shows for LCD Soundsystem, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars, Metronomy, Peaches, Gonzales, Bloc Party, Klaxons, The Rapture, Ikara Colt amongst many others, as well as early DJ shows from 2manydjs and Justice to name a few.
LABELS & PRODUCTION:
I released my debut solo record on Phantasy in November 2013. The Illumination EP contained 'A Hold On Love', 'Bang' and 'Check out Your Mind', 3 tracks which are all quite different from one another but all of them featured heavily in my DJ sets.
After closing Trash I produced albums for Late Of The Pier (Fantasy Black Channel), Mystery Jets (21) and The Long Blondes (Couples) all within 14 months of each other. More recently, I played an executive producer role in and mixed Daniel Avery's Drone Logic, and co-produced and mixed the forthcoming Ghost Culture debut album, both of which are released on my label Phantasy. Also recently I produced and co-wrote 2 tracks on the latest Klaxons album ('Rhythm Of Life' and 'The Dreamers'). My approach in production is to be the conduit, enabler, facilitator, believer, technician, writer, therapist or whatever the artist needs in order to make the best record they possibly can. The role needs to be as flexible and variable as possible as no two artists or situations are the same.
As well as various remixes as Erol Alkan (recent ones include Margot, The Emperor Machine, Manic Street Preachers and Tame Impala), I also remix under the name Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve with Richard Norris. We have recently 'Re-Animated' Daniel Avery's 'New Energy' and Temples’ 'Move With The Season'.
"Even though I have had the benefit of playing all 3 rooms on a regular basis, this mix feels like it was designed for Room 1. It’s influenced by the sight lines from the perspective behind the decks, the lights, the fact that sometimes all you can see are hands reaching into the booth, as well as those behind you dancing alone in the corners."
The story of how I fell into playing dance clubs begins with fabric. I had become friends with Johnno Burgess who is behind Bugged Out and, at that point, was also involved with Jockey Slut. He had written about Trash and was a champion of me as a DJ which led to us having long late-night conversations about the parallels between alternative culture and the dance music we were fans of. A few drunken evenings at his old flat ended up with me playing records into the early hours and something must have encouraged him to phone me at the last minute and ask me to fill in for David Holmes in Room 3 at fabric who had missed his flight from Holland. I leapt at the chance. I was halfway through my set that night when Johnno came into the booth and asked if I would like to be a resident for Bugged Out. I agreed. 2 days later I joined Decked Out who have been my agents ever since, and the rest is history.
I certainly didn’t want this mix to be a flyer or advert for me as a DJ. I feel this mix is quite specific to fabric as they are all records I would want to play in that environment. fabric is very different to many clubs I play week to week. I feel these records would walk the tightrope between something which is considered and cerebral, yet able to take the roof off the venue. There are many moments in the last 10 or 15 years which have thrown up those records which sound strange yet exciting, unpredictable yet weirdly familiar. Records which are simple, gloriously mindless and naive and those which have a huge heart and able to unite a room where the tension is tangible. In the last year or so I've been privileged enough to have shared a few moments in this way so it was essential for me to try and embody that feeling in the mix. Even though I have had the benefit of playing all 3 rooms on a regular basis, this mix feels like it was designed for Room 1. It's influenced by the sight lines from the perspective behind the decks, the lights, the fact that sometimes all you can see are hands reaching into the booth, as well as those behind you dancing alone in the corners.
The fact that fabric is a London club is also very important to this. I feel that Phantasy is very much influenced by this city, and I hope that what we do reaches across the globe.
I did not choose records from a specific era, or claim that any of these are exclusive or upfront. They vary from the mid-90s through to tomorrow. The exclusive track I produced for this mix 'Sub Conscious' was almost tailor made for this mix, even though it dates back to before I was asked.
I will have begun my second EP by the time you are reading this and Phantasy continues to grow.
FABRICLIVE 77: Erol Alkan is out now.
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Photography: Jimmy Mould