‘Magazine’: it’s words, it’s letters, it’s pictures, it’s music. Even though the latter seems to be the odd one in this order, it is not. Istanbul based artist Alican is the new master of musical prose and combined track writing with a literaly named musical piece simple called ‘Magazine‘. Ahead of newly founded label Isolate‘s second EP from the co-founder himself, Torture the Artist spoke to the humble producer, who’s been part of the electronic music in his hometown for nearly 15 years and helped the city to further the city’s reputation of being one of the most appreciated places for both: enthusiastic crowds and internationally renowned artists. With Alican we finally had the opportunity to get to know the local scene as well as its pulsating nightlife a bit better but also were keen to find out the producer’s ambitions. Furthermore the artist was kind enough to introduce us to general and personal places to visit or hang out. And to top it all you can listen to the upcoming title track ‘Magazine’ which has gained huge support from several DJs like Âme, exclusively.
Torture the Artist: Hello Alican, tell us something about your day.
Alican: Hello, It’s the first Monday of the New Year – I’m currently at home in Istanbul having a coffee and going through my e-mails, and planning the releases and events for Isolate in 2019. I’ll be going to the studio to work on music later.
I realized that I wasn’t happy when I was away from the studio.
Torture the Artist: You’ve been involved with electronic music for almost two decades now, but your name was not a household name outside of your home country until 2016. In the latter years you released some of your music on Engrave Ltd, Multinotes or Get Physical. How did this come about?
Alican: Actually, I’ve been producing and releasing music since 2004 under different names, but these have never been my priority. I was working as a producer at a radio station and at the same time I was running the Indigo club in Istanbul with my friends for almost 6 years. I realized that I wasn’t happy when I was away from the studio ormaking music, so I quit my job and fully focused on my productions.
Torture the Artist: Istanbul has always had an affluent nightlife with various clubs and venues that attract internationally-known DJs. How have you been (and still are) involved in the local scene?
Alican: Istanbul has always been an entertaining city. I‘ve seenall the ups and downs in the electronic music scene for the past 20 years. When we started running Indigo around 2011-2012; the scene was almost dead silent then. We thought, if it’s done in the right way, we could help the scene grow again. So we did every Friday & Saturday in the club, open-air summer events and introduced quality music to the people. For me, it’s all about the music.
Now I am happy to see lots of new promoters, clubs and also DJs who used to come to our parties, who have now started doing their parties / playing music. This means we did a good job. <smiles>
Nowadays, I’m not involved with any particular club, instead we are focusing on our brand Isolate – we’re doing club nights, parties and festivals.
People here are very passionate about electronic music – as soon as they start going to parties and listening to the music, they feel very involved.
Torture the Artist: What do you appreciate most about the electronic music scene in Istanbul and how would you say has it developed over the past years?
Alican: I think one word that would describe what I think: Passion. People here are very passionate about electronic music – as soon as they start going to parties and listening to the music, they feel very involved. I see the scene is growing day by day, with new DJs, promoters, parties, and even new booking agencies. Some will fade away of course but I am sure some of them will be successful and known internationally. But for me one thing is missing – record labels… that’s why I wanted to start our label Isolate, so we could show that there’s good music coming from Istanbul!
Torture the Artist: As a non-local, what places would you recommend to visit in your home town, and where do you hang out?
Alican: I think we need a special interview just for the city. <smiles> It’s huge! There’s so many things to do and places to recommend.
As a non-local, I think it would be interesting to visit the old town. Beyoğlu – Sultanahmet – Karaköy will cover all your tourist needs… Art galleries, beautiful buildings, museums, mosques, and churches.
I live in Tesvikiye and my studio is in Levent – one of the main business districts of Istanbul. So most of the time, I’m hanging out in this area.
Also, Bebek is one of my favourite neighbourhoods; it’s located on the shore of the Bosphorus, and it’s a very nice place to hang out, with stunning views of Bosphorus in both directions.
I think very few people paid attention to producing music.
Torture the Artist: What are possible reasons that, from all these quality events in Istanbul, rather few local artists have gained international recognition?
Alican: I think very few people paid attention to producing music. It’s the key to success (to gain international recognition) for your career. But now I see people understand the importance of creating their own music. I think this will change soon. <smiles>
I see music as universal – as long as the music is good I don’t think it’s important where it’s made.
Torture the Artist: What would have to change – in your opinion – so that electronic music made in Turkey could be more widely known?
Alican: To be honest, I see music as universal – as long as the music is good I don’t think it’s important where it’s made. I think electronic music is still a new thing here, but has a big potential to grow more. I’ve been talking about this a lot with younger producers; the key is to work hard and be yourself.
Torture the Artist: Following the aforementioned, to what extent do you consider yourself a trailblazer for up and coming DJs and producers, and also the Turkish electronic music scene, in an international context?
Alican: I am one of the few DJs/ producers here that play and release music internationally. From time to time I run workshops to meet the up- and coming DJs and producers and talk to them about my experiences. I am happy if I can be an inspiration for people!
Torture the Artist: Isolate, the label that you just co-founded with Murat Uncuoglu and another friend, could be an approach to help local artists to present their music to an international crowd as well as it serves you to do the same as well. What’s the label’s philosophy, and do you see Isolate as a platform for local artists or rather a label that gives home to a circle of friends or artists you appreciate, meaning it is not necessarily tied to local artists?
Alican: I co-founded Isolate with my good friends and partners Murat and Ali. It first started as parties and now it’s the label. The idea behind the label is to show some sort of a musical vision for our parties. Maybe you can consider it as a soundtrack to our parties. But it’s not necessarily party music with the music coming from Istanbul! It’s a platform for both – a circle of artists, and friends, who play for our parties and also up-and-coming producers from here. This year we’re going to be expanding our Isolate parties to other cities in Europe with some well-known names, friends and also up-and-coming local artists.
Do you want to be one of the thousands of electronic music labels out there or do you want to be different?
Torture the Artist: How much idealistic potential do you have to have to run a label these days?
Alican: Your label is a perfect platform to showcase your personality and music. It’s totally a choice you make with music, artworks and parties. Do you want to be one of the thousands of electronic music labels out there or do you want to be different?
Torture the Artist: Who is an artist you would like to feature on the label, and why?
Alican: I would like to feature an artist who would surprise me with their approach to electronic music. Someone who is sort of a game changer. Music should sound new but also familiar. <smiles>
Torture the Artist: Speaking of Isolate, after Murat’s first EP, ‘Dummy’, you are next on the label with your ‘Magazine EP’. The title track has already been supported by key-players like Dixon, Âme and Trikk amongst many others and it’s your first EP in a long time which you produced on your own. First of all, do you prefer to work with other producers instead of producing ‘solo’ like you did in the past and, secondly, what was the decisive point that caused you to produce a three-tracker almost solely on your own now?
Alican: I would say both… I love working alone without any interruptions, fully focused on what I’m doing, and I also love working with my friends in the studio and having fun!
I didn’t think about doing an EP when writing these tracks; I produced lots of tracks last year and I chose these three to be on this EP. The nice thing about these three tracks is that when listening seperately they all differ from each other, and showcase my varying tastes in music. But when listeningto all of them, they somehow sound all linked to each other.
Torture the Artist: What was a memorable moment when producing the ‘Magazine’ EP?
Alican: I love to work fast in the studio and get easily bored if the process is taking a long time. For the title track, ‘Magazine‘, I started writing it three years ago when we were moving into a new studio. So with the new computer and hard drives changing I totally forgot about the project. Two years later I rediscovered it and completely changed the direction of the track. My friends were telling me that the track was very good, I sent it to couple of DJ friends and saw videos of it being played by many good artists.
Torture the Artist: What headline in a magazine would you be most happy to read about the three tracker?
Alican: ‘Coolest EP of the year’ ???
You sit down to write a deep track and suddenly it changes into the complete opposite of its initial form.
Torture the Artist: ‘Magazine’ has a slight Indie-touch; what’s a genre or influence that you would like to cover with one of your future productions – also taking into consideration that you once produced Drum & Bass and Breaks?
Alican: I never think of genres when I produce music – you’ll never know what will happen in the studio. You sit down to write a deep track and suddenly it changes into the complete opposite of its initial form. ‘Magazine’s‘writing process was similar.
As a DJ, I like going through different sounds and genres during my sets, and I produce in the same manner. So who knows what will come next!
Torture the Artist: What was the standout track (and event) experience that tied you to house/ techno music back in the day and made you continue to produce and spin this music?
Alican: My first club experience was in Istanbul with Cajmere and Murat Uncuoglu around 99-00. I was 18 at the time and I had no idea about who these guys were… I had a good time and really enjoyed the vibe in the club, so I wanted to explore more about this music and the culture. I met some friends, learned how to make music, made a lot of terrible tracks and it took me 3-4 years to finally release my own music.
Music is the most important way to express myself.
Torture the Artist: What’s a moment from your past you would like to re-live again, and what are the reasons why?
Alican: I would like to re-live the moment when I first started making music, how I made the tracks without actually knowing anything; I’d like to see myself struggling to create something for a good laugh. Those tracks got released and made their way into the record bags of the best DJs that time that’s how I realized making music is the most important way to express myself.
Torture the Artist: What’s an artist you would like to work with in the studio?
Alican: I would like to work with someone like Roman Flügel or John Talabot, namely someone who isn’t limited to a particular genre when making music, but also has great experience for the dancefloor in terms of what works, and what doesn’t.
Torture the Artist: In a recent post on social media you said that in 2018 you ‘learned more’. What did you learn personally and what consequences have you drawn from it?
Alican: Every year is getting busier and busier. I travel more, get to play at new countries, new venues and meet new people. This teaches you a lot.
It’s extremely important to do what you love doing in this life. It’s the key to happiness. I met a lot of people who are not happy with their life because they are not doing what they like.
Luckily mine is music and I love every second of it (both playing and producing). It’s amazing to see how your music can touch people in different ways.
I’m a perfectionist and I never find myself 100% pleased with what I do.
Torture the Artist: What trait helps you to be successful with what you do?
Alican: I’m a perfectionist and I never find myself 100% pleased with what I do. I always ask myself how I should have played tonight, what were the things I did right or wrong, and how can I get better? It’s the same in the studio, I consider myself as a hard worker but at the same time I question myself about work a lot. This drives me to never stop and to always keep going. <smiles>
Interview by Holger Breuer