Ever since his legendary night TRASH emerged kicking, screaming and wearing eye liner during the height of electroclash, Erol’s gangly frame has been writhing at the centre of underground club culture.
While those earlier hedonistic days at TRASH and later Durr and Bugged Out saw him climbing atop the turntables proffering vodka and even DJ equipment to the crowds, he’s since shown a discerning ear and uncanny ability to distill the DNA of a throbbing dancefloor into his music.
While he’s been behind killer rewirings of Hot Chip, Franz Ferdinand and Justic he’s also produced critically acclaimed records for Mystery Jets and Late of the Pier. 2013 has seen him concentrate on his label Phantasy with a killer album from new boy on the block Daniel Avery and a debut solo EP in his own name.
M quizzed Erol about why the time is now for him to release his own music and what makes a killer remix…
Which were the first records which inspired you?
The first record which caught my imagination in a big way was Blue Monday by New Order. It didn’t encourage me to make music as I was pretty young, about ten years old, but it certainly was the one which made me aware of the different dimensions music could have. Until then I’d been into a lot of chart and sixties music, songs I’d been surrounded by while growing up. But when I heard that, it was a major moment which really opened my ears.
How did you start making music?
I’ve always been immersed in music. The very fact I ended up playing music in clubs or started making music was just an extension of listening. It’s never felt like a career or a conscious decision. It’s something inside me which I had to fulfil.
Can you remember your first clubbing experiences?
The first club I went to was my local indie night in Tufnell Park. There was a lot of guitar music, but it was the first time I felt that sense of community, that whole aspect of clubbing. It’s a world away from dance music but that’s what I really latched onto. That feeling made me think this is what I wanted to do. This is what I wanted to be.
Your debut Illumination EP has just been released - why now to start releasing music as 'Erol Alkan'?
It’s only now that I actually felt I’ve kind of touched upon something that I wanted to put out under my own name. I’ve never put pressure on myself to achieve certain things. If I hadn’t gone without releasing any original music, I don’t think I would have been disappointed.
You’re known for your dancefloor remixes – do you approach them differently to your own material?
Yes as you have a starting point in place already with a remix. When I remix a song, I try to find the charisma, heartbeat or nucleus of the song, then expand on it. It can be anything. A sound or melody, or word – the secret of a good remix is finding the bit you like and building out from there.
When you’re making music, you need to be prepared to rip it up and start again with it – or take one element and focus on that if it’s not working. My advice has always been to never throw anything away. Because if you’ve spent time working on it, it means there’s something in there which you like.
What have been your highlights of 2013?
It’s all been great. Phantasy has been going really well. If there’s anything I’d like to celebrate, it’s the diversity of the music on the label. But that’s always been a key thing for me. What I like in music never comes down to one thing, theme or sound. I’m just happy that people have been able to appreciate all the different types of music which the label has presented.
How did you hook up with the Phantasy artists?
With Phantasy, I tend to work with people I know. Ghost Culture, Dan Avery and Nadia Ksaiba are all friends. I don’t go out looking for people to sign. It’s all quite natural. I kind of see how we can all help each other or work together. I’ve always felt we’re more of a collective than a label.
Do you think dance music is in good health?
Yes I think there are always good things happening. You’ve just got to look for them and be positive because the glass is always either half full or half empty really. You just need to look harder if you can’t find what you’re looking for as it’s out there. Get your hands dirty and search.
Do you still get as excited about new music and DJing as much as you did previously?
DJing has just been an extension of my love for music and it’s down to me to be excited/inspired. I need to go out and look for this music. I can’t just expect it to fall in my lap.
Have you any words of wisdom for new producers?
I’d just not release anything until you’re completely in love with it. If you’re putting on clubs, planning events, then do something that caters for the people closest to you. You don’t have to put on big gigs to do something of any note. That’s how I started doing things. We just did what we felt was missing in our circle. And that’s what I still do in a way, especially with Phantasy. I still feel it needs to exist as it satisfies things we want to achieve.
Are you working towards an artist album?
I’ve got the next EP almost ready. I’m hoping to release a few EPs of club music, then my one thing about a long record is whether it’s going to be electronic in nature or something else. Making an album is a big statement and I want to get it right.
Who has been getting you excited this year?
I really like Unknown Mortal Orchestra. I think they’re brilliant and their album has been the pick of the year for me.
Check out the video to A Hold on Love from Erol's debut EP.