EXCLUSIVE: Erol Alkan Vs Kindness

The musician and label owner/DJ go head-to-head in an exclusive interview ahead of the Phantasy x Durrr night in London

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Having released his stunning debut album 'World, You Need a Change of Mind' earlier this year, Kindness will be playing a hotly anticipated live performance at the Durrr x Phantasy FABRICLIVE this Friday in London. Ahead of the night, Dazed presents a snippet of an in-depth musical conversation between Phantasy's labelhead Erol Alkan and the dreamy pop musician about their nerdy musical influences, Neil Young covers and trance in Sheffield...

Kindness: Did you used to try to blag it into clubs?

Erol Alkan: Well I was DJing in clubs as soon as I was going to them, there was only a short time that I was going into clubs for the social aspect, when I was a teenager I never went out much. So my reason for going to clubs was actually when I managed to blag my first DJ gig. I was always making tapes for kids at school and it kind of dawned on me that it was just an extension of doing that, of being able to force my taste on my friends. That kind of informed my character at that stage, because I didn’t really have many other interests apart from music, and it just seemed natural that if I can get in charge of the record player. I would always call my friend over like, “this is that track I was telling you about”…

Kindness: What’s quite sweet, in some ways you’re essentially doing the same thing, you’re still saying “hey my friend, this is the track I was telling you about”... I think there can be a real generosity to DJs and they traditionally were about helping people discover things, as opposed to just being entertainers... [Like,] I don’t like trance, but it used to make me quite happy that a bunch of kids in Sheffield would go and lose their shit at Gatecrasher and that’s great. It’s not my taste in music, but if someone wants to dance to seven hours of Eurotrance then good on them, enjoy it.

Erol Alkan: The thing is, I don’t blame other people for their tastes… At the end of the day it’s like what you do doesn’t cater for those people then. I know the 10,000 people that went to Alexandra Palace to see a huge DJ over there wouldn’t particularly care about coming to see what I would play as such, but then again there are how many millions of people on this planet, so don’t worry about that 10,000.

Kindness: We were talking about this, saying that it would be sort of incredible to turn up to a show and there’s only seven people in the audience, because we’d probably play the best fucking show of our lives... to make a personal connection with every single one of those individuals. And you know that they’re there because they really want to be there, they’re not embarrassed to be the only seven people in a 1000 person room. But also, I guess in those situations you end up playing a lot more for yourself, it’s not like you’re dictated by the crowd anymore... Alex/Bok Bok from Night Slugs is in Tokyo right now and he told me he’s playing at Dommune? It’s that tiny bar where it’s a 50 capacity but 20,000 people are watching on uStream at home.

Are you guys serious? Is this some kind of prank? You can’t play a floor tom with your hands in Fabric Room 2, it won’t handle it, please what are you doing?

Erol Alkan: I played there. It’s... Strange. They’re real hardcore fans that are in there. But the problem is, it’s almost like instead of [reading] the room you have in front of you, someone puts a mirror between you and the room, and you’re just left looking at yourself, because 1. Are you playing for the 50 people in the room or are you playing for the 20,000 people online?

Kindness: Well, especially with Alex and guys on Night Slugs, they come from a pirate radio background, where you were always DJing to no one, getting text messages and calls, but there was never a crowd there…

Erol Alkan: That’s the thing, when I do the 6 Music show, [they're] records that I want to kind of feed to people. They’re all mixed, but it’s not the directive to make people particularly dance, or to build that energy...

I first heard Kindness on Myspace in 2009 I think... I actually sent you a Myspace message, just saying, I really love Gee Up. I heard of you a little bit because Rory might have mentioned it and I was like this is brilliant. And then you played Fabric, which was one of my favourite shows, purely because it felt really unhinged, but really sincere.

Kindness: That sort of sums us up…

Erol Alkan: … And I think the thing that really made it for me was your song choices of what you covered that night… but then you did a Byrds track as well…

Kindness: We did Neil Young thinking about the perverse enjoyment I was getting from doing a really soft drumless version of Neil Young in Fabric at a club night. And even in the soundcheck, because we didn’t have a drummer at the time and we got them to hire us a floor tom, because it’s easier than a kick drum to play if you’re doing something else, and Ferry was playing the floor tom with his hands because we didn’t have any drum sticks, and the in-house sound engineer coming over going, are you guys serious? Is this some kind of prank? You can’t play a floor tom with your hands in Fabric Room 2, giga mega watt soundsystem, it won’t handle it, please what are you doing?

Erol Alkan: What else? Stardust… I think it was just the choices, there were just such... disparate kind of choices and they were all really great songs…

Kindness: It’s become less unusual now. I meet a lot of with a similar variety of influences on display now, and considering how people listen to music and that genre blindness that exists now, I think it will become more common that you’ll have someone perform an Aaliyah track, followed by their own song, then a mix between Black Sabbath and Jimmy Cliff or something, these are all completely brilliant solid musical influences that everyone should have. Also everyone should have that breadth of knowledge in music, you’re missing out if you don’t like all that stuff.

Erol Alkan: I remember with David Dewaele from Soulwax it was one of those things where when I first met him we were talking about music, they were playing at Trash really early like ‘98 or ‘99, and we just hit it off immediately. They were DJing at their aftershow party in Dingwalls when I first met them I went and said I think you’re going to DJ at my club soon and they were like “oh great, can you look after the records for one minute we just need to run backstage”, so sure, they just left me on the decks - and they used to travel with huge crates of records, literally eight crates of vinyl from Belgium to London, and they left me on the decks, and I was going through the record collection and I had every record in their collection, and I was like we’ve got the same record collection, the exact same taste, and when I played a couple of records they came back and were like cool man ‘hey we’ll DJ together’, and we ended up playing for 2 or 3 hours together… It was like wow someone else who hears the same way I hear things, or maybe not the artists, but what you hear in those records and how it’s presented back in that way.

Kindness: I think that feeling of musical kinship can be really quite overwhelming. My friends at Night Slugs asked me to DJ the release party for the Jam City album and I was a bit nervous, I felt like the granddad playing for the young people, they were all 5/6 years younger than me. I’d been to Night Slugs but I’d never been to see the warm-up, but I played the warm-up [set] and after I finished they said that’s so weird because you played all the same records that we normally do. But you’ve never seen us do a warm-up before. And I’m not even a DJ anymore, but there was still that kind of kinship where, even though we all ended up making music that sounds completely different, our core influences are still the same, or even just that appreciation of music that you can love, Romanthony and Timberland and also the Belgian acid techno…

Even though we all ended up making music that sounds completely different, our core influences are still the same, or even just that appreciation of music, Romanthony and Timberland and Belgian acid techno

Erol Alkan: That’s another thing as well, talking of Belgian acid, a while ago, you sent me the link to your Youtube channel and you had Something Scary on there by Zsa Zsa La Boum, I spent ten years looking for that record. I used to listen to it on pirate radio station called Fantasy.fm on there and you used to have to page the DJs and my pager name was ‘Pioneer’ on it, I’ve actually still got some tapes from Fantasy.fm of the DJ going “shout out to Pioneer”… But I’ve never known anybody else to even know that track.

Kindness: Credit where credit’s due, my much nerdier friend who lives in Berlin posted that track and I thought it was incredible… The thing is, when I got a new computer I deleted my iTunes, there’s probably years of music, in hard drives that I have already, that I will never get round to listening to, so why am I acquiring more? I should really make the effort to listen to the albums I’ve already got and get to know them really well. It’s a bit like that old culture, the thing that I say about people and the perceptions of value attached to music was in the old days, you didn’t hear an album before it came out, at best you went to the mixing post a week before the release and listen to it before you bought it. If you were really excited, or you could get the guy to go and stick it on the cd player, if you were really excited there would be the big reveal.. You will have spent 13-15 quid on this CD, 10 tracks, you would listen to it to death, to work out whether you spent your money wisely. Whereas now, you listen to the first 10 seconds of everything, streaming or in your own mp3 collection, then you move onto the next thing because you have 700 albums to listen to.

Erol Alkan: One thing I really love about albums as well was the albums I always ended up love loving were always the one or two songs that you’d be hooked on from the very beginning, they’d be the kind of saccharine ones, and there would always be about 2 or 3 that you’d fast forward because they were a bit too much, and then obviously, that completely inverted, and then you’d be obsessed with the ones that you’d passed over a little bit or you skipped over. And that was the one consistent thing with great albums that I really love, there’s always something that at first you’re lured into it and into the album’s language almost..

Kindness: That’s why I’m still holding out that people will finally understand this Eastenders theme in about three years time. It’ll be the one that they hated and then perhaps... That’s the other thing, the tracks that you under-play have that act of revealing themselves to you later when you’ve overplayed the other things, that moment of freshness from an album that you love can really hook you into stuff that’s almost uncomfortable. Super Discount - that Etienne de Crecy record I played thousands of times and in the end it was the weirder, more understated stuff... The second CD, there’s this crazy mix where they’ve put an ambient mic in the room, so at one point in the mix it just switches from being a mix to an [ambient] recording of the room. And to someone who was attracted by the magic of recording but didn’t know how it worked, that sonic in my headphones just blew my fucking mind, and it stayed with me. It’s the kind of thing where, [when recording] I said can we thrown an ambient mic on the chair squeaking. There are chair squeaks in the album, and just before Gee Up starts in the record, or you can hear my necklace a lot in vocal takes.

Erol Alkan: I love those things as well, on a Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve [track] where in the drumming and part of the actual drum sound, you can hear the drummer’s stool creak, but it creaks in time and it kind of like, I just kept it I there…

So, obviously I’ve just done a remix, a reworking for you, but what are your feelings about having people, I won’t use the word ‘tampering’ or just... I know you’re extremely passionate about your music…

I had an argument with someone I work with where they said, none of the remixes you want to commission are effective marketing tools, so no one’s going to pay for that, and I said well I don’t want to make a remix that’s a marketing tool, it’s meant to be either at best an improvement of the material

Kindness: It’s not just my music, I just don’t generally like remix culture as it stands... I think it depends on the motivation and the creativity of the people involved because, remixes used to be for the dance floor, or dubs, alternate mixes, it was a different form of expression of the track, and now if it’s just going to be kick drumming at 127bpm that’s not a sensitive re-working of anyone’s material. I had an argument with someone I work with where they said, none of the remixes you want to commission are effective marketing tools, so no one’s going to pay for that, and I said well I don’t want to make a remix that’s a marketing tool, it’s meant to be either at best an improvement of the material, finding something even better that already existed within it or reworking that the makes me happy as a musician, but it’s not just meant to be a crass marketing tool…

Erol Alkan: I think, that’s the thing, from my experience on either side of it, because personally, the greatest compliment for me is for the artist to like, to accept it, I won’t even use the word love, to accept it, because to hear it again in a different light and it working, that’s like a massive achievement – ‘achievement’ is maybe the wrong word to use but, ‘satisfying’ in that way. Secondly having something remixed that I’ve been involved with, and I had it particularly with Gonzales’ Piano Version of Wavves in that way, but that was slightly cheating because I think I set out to have a remix or rework that would almost like a dogma way of doing it where it’s like he’s obviously not going to do a kick drum 127bpm sort of thing, that’s the original!…

Kindness: Well I think there’s three things it should possibly be: For the dance floor, of course - and it’s what we were saying about trance or Swedish House Mafia, if people really enjoy it, then it’s not such a bad thing for cheesy commercial house remixes to exist… Alternatively, just do something really unexpected, I don’t think there are enough people doing batshit insane remixes, flipping tempos or going half time, and there are great remixes, by great artists and DJs, I think the worst thing are those vocational DJs are using remixes as a tool rather than for the betterment of anyone’s musical universe.

Erol Alkan: I think for some of the choices that I make of the tracks that I want to remix are just ruled by that indie kid within me, that will always be there. I’ve always wanted to be able to make ‘indie music’ or records with that charisma amongst techno records. That’s the thing that I hope that I’ve kind of done with Gee Up, and like the Metronomy - Bay one and even the Franz Ferdinand, that feels like it’s tapping back into the Erol from like 20 years ago, I feel really strange to be part of a kind of a culture so detached from the one that I came from. But alternative music, that alternative culture, it’s continually moving in that way, so I’m confident in that side of it.

Phantasy Vs Durrr: Erol Akan, Kindness, Daniel Avery, Maurice Fulton, Rory Phillips, Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve at Fabric, London; Friday 22nd June, 10pm - 6am

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