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Isolating Sounds: Finding the course with Alican

Alican Yuksel, best known as Alican, a creative talent from Istanbul, Turkey, has been a significant influence on the electronic dance scene since 2000.

In collaboration with Soner Ince, Alican began producing drum & bass and breaks. His talent caught the attention of Murat Uncuoglu, one of Turkey’s most esteemed DJs and producers. This led to a productive partnership that significantly influenced their music.

Alican and Murat co-founded Teknikal Rotation, a label promoting their music and works from influential artists both in Turkey and worldwide. Alican’s influence extends beyond his personal brand to his work as Avilo. His tracks have been featured on prominent labels like Get Physical, Global Underground, and Vapour.

In the upcoming interview, we delve into Alican’s musical journey, discussing his releases, future projects, and career development. His story, from a computer engineer to one of Turkey’s leading electronic music artists, exemplifies passion, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to creating mesmerizing soundscapes.

EG: Hi Alican, welcome to EG and thank you for taking the time for this interview.

Alican: Thanks for having me, EG. You’re welcome. I’m happy to be talking to you.

EG: First, what part of Turkey are you from and can you tell us your full name?

Alican: I’m from Istanbul and my name is Alican. Everybody says it wrong; it’s Alican, pronounced like a “jay” instead of a “c”.

EG: Wow, who could have thought? We probably have been saying it wrong all the time (laughter).

Alican: Yes, but don’t worry, you can call me Alican with a “c” (laughter).

EG: Perfect, I think I will pronounce your name correctly now. So, you were born in Istanbul?

Alican: Yes, I’m from Istanbul. I was born here and have lived here all my life.

EG: When did you first get interested in music?

Alican: Actually, it was at a super early age because I was always a computer freak. I think the first time was maybe when I was 13 or 12, something like that. I was using the computer, checking out all the software, programs, and games of course, but then stumbled upon a computer software and music software called Tracker. It was called Fast Tracker actually. So without knowing anything, I just started clicking on anything I saw and making sounds, but didn’t know what the purpose of this was. I was like, “Huh…interesting program”, so I started my first things with producing, and then I started recording stuff through a Walkman to the microphone (laughs), recording samples and tracks to make my own beat just for fun.

It was pretty much one of the most fun things I did, but then after I turned 18, I started going to clubs, met many friends, and got introduced to house music, techno music, and all those kinds of music. So, I thought maybe I should try to make my own music and that’s how it started.

EG: So cool and interesting that you are a computer nerd.

Alican: Yes, well, I’m also a Computer Engineer, but never worked on my job, so I got the major degree but never used it (laughter).

EG: How was the scene there?

Alican: The scene was “blowing up” and we had many good clubs and many cool events. Like, every weekend, you could find many interesting parties to attend, so I did my best to experience them all. I tried to and it was a very nice age when I first started going out to clubs.

EG: Do you remember the year?

Alican: It was 2000, so I was born in ’82. I was 18 years old.

EG: Yes, a great year. I was a small boy at the time, and the music was so different back then.

Alican: Yes, very different, but it’s always changing. I really like it.

EG: I’m curious to know, what is your favorite song? Or do you have a favorite artist or band?

Alican: Like electronic music or in general…? I have lots, but if we are talking about our own bubble, I really like DJ Koze. He is my favorite, he is super good. I really like his albums, and I still listen to his albums today. I also like Mano Le Tough, Roman Flugel, and many more.

EG: What about John Digweed?

Alican: Yeah, Digweed, yes of course. Sasha & Digweed, they were the kings when I started going out to the clubs and listening to music. I grew up listening to their CD’s, recorded sets, radio shows, and everything.

EG: Renaissance?

Alican: Yes, the ‘Northern Exposures’, great compilations.

EG: Nice, I really hope you can sign on Bedrock someday.

Alican: I did a remix for them; it’s going to be, I don’t know when, but it’s going to be out soon. I´m really happy about this (laughter).

EG: Love that music. And when did you start DJing and producing?

Alican: Producing started for me first, like I told the story, I started going out to clubs and I said “I really need to try and do this music”. Then I had my best friend who was a classically trained piano player, so we started doing music together. I think it was the year 2002 or 2003, and then 2004 was the year for our first release and it was a remix. Back then we were called Alican and Soner, we did remixes and original releases.

“I just start jamming, trying to find some sounds that I like and then I just make things happen, I can say that the music makes itself”

EG: On vinyl?

Alican: Yes, it was the only format, because the digital format started in 2005, I think, not sure.

EG: Those were great and different times.

Alican: Yes, it has its good parts and bad parts, of course.

EG: How do you get inspiration or how do you get into producing?

Alican: It depends, but most of the time I really like to go to the studio and just basically work without having any idea, so I just start and have some machines around me or the plugins on the computer. I just start jamming, trying to find some sounds that I like and then I just make things happen, I can say that the music makes itself (laughs), I’m just pushing some buttons and jamming. I think I work quite fast on a good day, 3 to 4 hours. I make a track and it’s like a journey into the unknown (laughs). Sometimes the results are good and sometimes it’s sh$&t, so I delete that part and that’s it, no secrets actually.

EG: Well, now you must show us your secrets.

Alican: I wish I could be this mysterious producer who can make these tracks.

EG: How do you define your music, your sounds? And what instruments do you use? I’ve heard that some tracks from you have familiar basslines, for example, ‘Rise’.

Alican: I use a lot of effects on basic sounds and try to create, and change the sounds, that’s how I work, mostly with basic sounds I try to make them interesting. And now I’m not in the studio but it depends actually, I share the studio with Murat and we have a good amount of synthesizers, and effect units, but these days I like to work in the box from the laptop, from the computer, from the studio, throwing sounds, tweaking them, changing them, I do basic stuff, nothing super crazy, I really like effects like delays, distortions, saturators, reverbs, stuff like this, so that’s how it defines my sound.

Talking about ‘Rise’, the bassline is a very classic one from an old song ‘Funky Town,’ so it has been used many times. I think that song is more complex on the bassline, but mine it’s just one note and two octaves on the ‘Rise’ track. I didn’t really think of ‘Funky Town’ when doing it, I mean, I would’ve told you, but it was just something I like. In my luck, it just fits. Sometimes I even forget about my own tracks, not super impressed but then I say: “When did I do this?”. It happens.

EG: Do you define your music as experimental?

Alican: No, well in my own world it’s experimental but there are many cool experimental artists that are beyond my level, way above my level.

EG: How can you tell your music has evolved from when you first started till today?

Alican: Mmm, when I was just a student working at the radio station, always busy, busy, busy, so I wasn’t really doing a lot of producing for myself. That was the time I was just producing 2,3 or 4 tracks a year, but then I said “OK, I want to quit everything and just work on myself, on my own projects.” I started doing a lot of music, with a lot of practice, and with a lot of time spent on my craft, I got better and better.

When someone can spend an hour just listening to a kick, or a snare, after a while you get used to it, you got your own sounds, what you want as a sound, and so your ears are more trained and you just can put these sounds super quickly, you become faster in your sound. And I feel that I’m doing what I like to play these days, it always has this house-y kind of vibe, but sometimes is a bit more melodic, sometimes deep, sometimes complex, and sometimes it is basic. That’s what I’m trying to achieve now, more basic stuff.

EG: Talking about gigs, how do you define the music scene from before and today?

Alican: The scene was always big, but without the social media. It was not as big as today and there were no videos, not even photos, so it was kind of different, just the people who were in the club, experiencing the music from the DJ. They were just there experiencing it. Nowadays, it’s like just phones everywhere, videos, 30-second videos from the gigs and I feel like people started just judging the parties from the DJs on the videos. It’s cool I have no problems with it, but it’s a totally different reality. Sometimes you can see a DJ playing amazing tracks for a 30-second video and the rest of the set could be amazing or crap, you would never know. You must be there experiencing it yourself to judge to your own liking.

EG: Totally agree. I think music is becoming lost, it’s kind of sad because it doesn’t have that appreciation for the artist and the DJs.

Alican: Yes, I mean there are positive sides and negative sides of course but the social media I can say, what happened to me, like for the COVID time, when clubs were closed, no parties around. So Murat and I decided to do streams, which I was not very keen on doing, but I said “Yeah, why not?  Instead of sitting at home doing nothing, we can play music”. So we did the streams every week I think for an amount of time and you cannot believe how many people we reached with our music. This also shows the power of social media. What if we didn’t have the internet at this time and we were all sitting at home? Nobody could discover the music. Even if it’s just one person, a good thing for me, but it was more than one person of course (laughs).

EG: Before I continue, I want to congratulate you on your 5 years of your label. How did you come up with the name of your label?

Alican: I don’t really have a story. It seems like it does, but it doesn’t. When we decided to create a label, I was just coming up with names, making a big list, deleting some, adding some, and then Isolate looked nice. This was before the pandemic, of course (laughter).

EG: Well, I think you have the origin of the label. Isolate is when you get isolated.

Alican: Yes, I think that’s how we use the name. I don’t know. It doesn’t have an origin, sadly. Not a fancy story really.

EG: How did you choose each remixer for your ‘Isolate Five Years’ EP?

Alican: The idea came when we realized it was going to be our five years. We thought maybe we should start the project. With Isolate, we haven’t released any remixes, just one, so we said let’s try to do something different. We can have the artists and friends, we can get them to choose what track they want to remix. We did our best to provide the stems, because sometimes, the stems or the recording of the original tracks could be lost, but to our luck, nothing was lost, and all was there.

Also, we made some recommendations, like some tracks with vocals. It was easy to make a remix, and we took one of our best-selling tracks from the label’s history and decided it should be remixed. That’s how we chose the tracks to be remixed.

EG: My favorite from that EP is one of your star tracks. I think it is ‘Stronger’, by EdOne.

Alican: Yes. Actually, I just asked Edu what track he would like to remix, and he said, “Can I remix your ‘Stronger’ track?”. I said “Yes, of course, it will be a pleasure, it is an honor,” and he did a great job. I’m super happy. Thank you, Edu!

“Sometimes you can see a DJ playing amazing tracks for a 30-second video and the rest of the set could be amazing or crap, you would never know”

EG: Recently you just played for the first time here in Mexico. How did you feel and what crowd did you like the most?

Alican: I absolutely loved it, to be honest. I went to Mexico City with Futuro and could not remember the name of the venue, sorry about this. And then on Saturday, I went to Guadalajara for Bar Américas. It was super nice also, I really liked it as well because it was a long set. I played for 6 hours till 7 am and it was very nice, I really enjoyed it. And on Sunday, I went to Aguascalientes for the Lazy Sunday party. It was big and had good productions, and such nice people, and I loved it. The whole weekend was excellent.

EG: Yes, I think your set at Foro La Paz was kind of short. Two and a half hours felt short.

Alican: Two and a half hours feels like you’re just getting used to the vibe. It feels like you’re preparing the food, but you’ve got the ingredients and you’re just about to cook them, you know. But six hours feels like you’re serving the meal and enjoying it.

EG: What is your vision for the future of music?

Alican: I don’t know, it changes every day because of people’s moods, but I’m sure it’s going to be more house-oriented. Isolate is going pretty well, we’ve signed some wonderful artists and very good music. I’m excited.

EG: Thank you again for your time and the opportunity to meet you at one of your gigs. I have two more questions. What type of dish did you like the most here and did you like Mexico?

Alican: Thank you for having me, and it was really nice to meet you as well. The dish? Well, I didn’t try a lot, but I liked the tacos, quesadillas, and birria in Aguascalientes. We went to a market and it was nice, but the tacos were very different from what we have here in Europe. I think food outside of its country of origin is always different, like Turkish food or Mexican food. But everything was delicious, and I need to try more things when I come back. And I loved Mexico, I had a very good time there. I’m super happy.

EG: Thank you so much for your time, Alican.

Alican: It was a pleasure, hope to see you soon.

‘Isolate Five Years – Part 1’ is out now via Isolate. Stream and download here.

Follow Alican: Spotify | Soundcloud | Instagram

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