Erol Alkan was a demigod when I was a graduate in London way back when Monday nights meant one thing: Trash. His night, along with a handful of other alternative parties like Nag Nag Nag, helped wrest London’s nightlife from ailing superclubs and beer-stinking discos. In 2005 he released his acclaimed Bugged Out mix, but, just when the mainstream was ready absorb him into its clammy embrace (Hello, Mixmag DJ of the Year 2006) he slunk off to produce indie bands.
That’s not to say he’s been taking it easy; this month sees a new collaboration with Switch due to drop on his label Phantasy and, intriguingly, he’s also had a second pop at putting together another Bugged Out mix. To mark this occasion we’ve got an exclusive track from the Bugged In disc, a rework of Mickey Moonlight’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’. We also collared him for an interview, ostensibly about the mix, but in reality it became something more interesting: a chance for the tastemaker to put the world to rights. Listen up.
It’s been five years since Trash stopped running but it seems like the clubbing landscape has changed inalterably; there’s less purism and terms like post-genre have gained traction. Is it something you’ve noticed as a DJ?
When people talk about what’s happening in the mainstream it doesn’t register with me, I don’t really pay attention. Sometimes I do take a look and see what’s going on and it horrifies me.
Distillations of what … I might have been part of a while ago and where it’s led. I think just being a DJ in general is kind of … [long pause] I’m trying to be nice … The best way of putting it is that being a DJ has become almost like an option for people who want to be famous. I feel the same thing about bands though. There’s a lot of a DJs, a lot of bands, there’s a lot of everything. There’s just a lot.
Do you think, now more than ever, it’s important to have some kind of quality control?
There’s too much shit out there, absolutely.
It seems to me that when we need those filters the most; they’re buckling under the strain.
Yeah, the screen’s too bright. You have the entire history of music on your mobile phone and as incredible as that is, it’s dangerous. It puts the individual at a loss because you don’t know what you want. Limitations are something to be embraced and celebrated; you then have to think on your feet. You can drive yourself into psychosis if you think about what you potentially have at your fingertips.
There was the recent news that teenagers’ were mainly listening to music via YouTube. I wonder what the ramifications of that will be.
Well, it ensures that any music that is made has a visual accompaniment – which is one positive. Sonically, at this point, it doesn’t sound good but that will change when bandwidth is wider. The negativity towards compressed audio will soon disappear. It could lead to audio and visual being approached in tandem, at the moment the visual is secondary, but how to make it less to? But whether or not kids are buying CDs? I understand if kids don’t want to do that, it’s not in their generation to do so, just like there were certain things in my generation that we didn’t do.
I was going to ask you what you of what you felt about this movement towards outsider’s making dance music – 100% Silk for example – the idea of this anti-purist mentality seems to align well with what you’ve done over the last few years.
Yeah, I have some of 100% Silk’s records, I like that all this stuff sounds like it comes from a fifth generation cassette. It’s quite skewered music and I’ve always loved that.
One of the things that has come out of this exposure to the entire history of music is that it’s allowed artists to try and recreate processes without really knowing how.
I love it when people try and do something and get it totally wrong, that’s how the best pop music is made.
I was intrigued to see that you mixed the latest I Love Techno compilation, it’s not something I would have associated you with, necessarily.
It was a challenge. Track wise, there’s stuff on there that you’d know from me but then there’s a lot of other records like a new one on L.I.E.S called ‘More Bad News’ and Blawan. I mean Blawan isn’t classically techno in a sense but he feels techno to me. That ‘Why They Hide Their Bodies Under the Garage’ track is like Chemical Brothers at their weirdest; strange, left field club music, as much punk as it is bass music or techno. That feels like outsider music to me. I don’t know what people would expect from me doing an I Love Techno CD but I wasn’t going to an 80 minute ascending synth tone with snare rolls. If I can go in and put these records out there of course I’ll do it.
We’re back to that idea of electing cultural arbiters.
We also need people to go out and stop being such fucking crowd pleasers. Be interesting.