This is ‘The Spotlight.’ Many artists pass through D.C. on a weekly basis, but this column highlights one specific artist who happens to be playing in the district during the week. That way, you may join their journey in influencing the house music landscape.
There is no question that London based artist Erol Alkan has helped shape dance music as we know it today. As a DJ, he needs little introduction – in 2006, he received Mixmag’s renowned DJ of the Year Award. Nine years later, he shows no sign of slowing down – he still plays approximately one hundred shows a year. As the label boss of Phantasy Sound, Alkan has helped bring artists such as Daniel Avery and Ghost Culture into the limelight. Alkan has gained respect from his fans and peers alike as a producer and remixer, and he has even been called the inventor of the mash-up.
Before his show tonight at U Street Music Hall, we had the opportunity to interview Erol Alkan. You will find the interview along with one of Alkan’s mixes below:
PB: In an interview with Red Bull Music Academy Daily, you said that your earliest memory of music (which may be your earliest memory) was sitting on the floor of your old home with your toy Dansette player. For our readers who aren’t familiar with Dansette players, they are record players. Most children play with firetrucks, dolls, or stuffed animals, but you were playing with a Dansette player – how did this happen? Who gave you this toy and how would you play with it?
EA: It’s true, the Dansette player is the only thing we had to keep me amused. It belonged to my parents. I don’t recall really having many toys when I was younger.
PB: When did you first know that you wanted to be a DJ? Was it an epiphany, or did you come to realize your passion over time? What inspired your decision? How old were you? Were your family and friends supportive of you becoming a DJ, or did they want you to pursue another occupation?
EA: Maybe around 2006 when Mixmag made me ‘Dj Of The Year’.. It seems weird but before that I treated it quite differently, when that accolade was given to me it made me realise what I’d achieved through quite an honest pursuit.
PB: In that same Red Bull Music Academy Daily interview, you said that your “uncle remains the person who seems to be the most enthusiastic about music.” How did he continue to support and influence you as you gained popularity as an artist? Would you say that he is your greatest influence? Who or what else had a significant influence on you as an artist?
EA: He was. unfortunately he died around 14 years ago so he didn’t really see where my love of music took me. Everything influences me in some way. Much of what I do is driven by what I dislike rather then tracing what I do like.
PB: What’s the most moving piece of music you have ever heard? What about it moved you?
EA: Impossible to answer.
“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Elvis Costello
PB: In an interview with Miami New Times earlier this year, you said that you “don’t read any EDM-natured magazines or websites … I live next door to a very illustrious and famous writer, and he knows I’m a DJ. I fear what he thinks I do, as his perception of the ‘DJ’ may be informed by what EDM and the media has created. I feel the need to take him to one of my gigs so he can see what it is I actually am.” Over the years, you have had an enormous impact on dance music and DJing. You have even been credited with inventing the mash-up. So why distance yourself from a scene that you helped create? What is it that separates you from EDM DJs? Is it your style of DJing? Is it the style of music you play? If not a DJ, what are you and why do you want share this with your neighbor?
EA: I’ve not followed EDM so can’t really answer this.
PB: If you could change present-day EDM in any way, how would you change it?
EA: People seem to enjoy it, so I wouldn’t wish to change something which others enjoy solely because I may not agree with it. My whole career has been focused on creating something I want to exist, and with that comes the acceptance that others can do the same.
PB: Thank you for your time. We look forward to hearing you at U Street Music Hall tonight.
Swiss DJ/producer Specialivery’s recently uploaded Autoremix of his track ATON on Safer at Night is a trip to the gates of techno heaven and back. Although Specialivery (a.k.a. Swiss Armed Forces Militia Lieutenant Carlo Bernasconi) received classical training in a conservatory setting, he didn’t start producing until 2011. Spanning twelve minutes, the Autoremix of ATON uses automation, tuned percussion, and a driving bass line to captivate the listener’s attention. Listen to and download for free here:
Italian artist Karasho (a.k.a. Luca Gasperoni) is an interesting character to say the least. For starters, the man goes by “Luca the Rice Eater.” He did not choose this unusual name for his love of the grain; rather, he goes by “Luca the Rice Eater” because he spends all of his capital on studio gear and only has enough money left to purchase rice for his meals. Luca’s investment in musical equipment paid off – the sounds coming out of his studio are spoiling our sound system here at Blisspop. His most recent uploads to SoundCloud are melodic and atmospheric techno, reminiscent of Tale of Us and Mind Against’s music, but with a distinct Karasho flair. Listen to Karasho’s music here:
Berlin-based techno duo Pan-Pot (Tassilo Ippenberger and Thomas Benedix) have a reputation for their dark, heavy, and at times sinister sound. In their new release, The Other One EP, Ippenberger and Benedix create an out-of-this-world soundscape, and for that we love them here at Blisspop. If I’m ever abducted by ET and his gang, I can only hope that The Other One EP will be playing in the background:
BLISS 5 is a recurring series where we ask respected DJs and producers to contribute a 5-track playlist of tracks that they are currently drawn to and/or have been playing out. Dancing then ensues.
Underground house slayer Ypset has been circling the DMV scene for quite some time. Based primarily in Baltimore, Ypset is one of those DJs who can sum up a room within seconds, oftentimes obliterating the dancefloor with very calculated song choices that range from soulful, rich deep house to chaotic techno perfect for a camp at Burning Man. Needless to say, when he said he was willing to curate a playlist for us, we jumped at the opportunity. This is Ypset’s BLISS 5.
1. Justin Jay, “You Give Me Butterflies”
I’ve pulled this back out of my crate for this summer to great reception from the crowd at shows. Listen to the track for more than a minute and its summer vibe and blissful leads will be clearly apparent. The drums and rhythm of the track still have that distinct Justin Jay punch that keeps booties shaking. I love darker sounding tracks typically, but this one keeps it level in a lot of sets.
2. Guy Mantzur & David Seaman, “K9 (Solee Remix)”
This remix from Solee I simply adore for its pace. That keeps at it the entire track and the industrial electric sounding repetitive stabs that start around a minute in to the track instantly grabbed my attention. I can’t seem to get tired of this track.
3. Demarzo, “Ojon”
Such a simple, but effective hook synth line mixed with some soul vocals. This track absolutely SMASHES. Irresistible in my opinion to sit still to it, I just love how minimal this track is, yet still cruises at a peak hour of a set.
4. Mark Slee, “Teraxicum (Light Up the Night)”
I’ve always liked strange and peculiar sounding music that gets spacey or just downright weird; this is a great example of it. If you listen through the track, just promise me you make it to the break that begins at 3 minutes with the eerie robotic voice that sounds like a wise sage giving the backdrop to the beginning to a cosmic dance party. When the track comes in after the line “Let’s light up the night,” I get chills every time. Weird is good!
5. Mikey Lion, “Tribute”
I was fortunate last summer to meet and share the decks with one of the founders of the Desert Hearts crew who’s making huge waves in the west coast house scene. This track was off his EP released last year. It is an absolute monster tech track that has a certain hard edge to it with mesmerizing punchy drums. Another track that’s not complex, but instantly grabbed my attention with its cruising pace and “take no prisoners” vibe.