Starting a new label in this day and age is no easy task. From an overcrowded scene to finding the right look and a staple sound for it, the challenges are countless. But nothing seems to stop the talented Alican Yazicioglu from attempting to ride the wave, setting sail now into the open sea with his new KOZA Records. Today, we sit down with the Turkish producer to discuss a variety of topics, cracking the cocoon wide open and learning more about this new project in the process.
Electronic Groove: Hi Alican and welcome to EG. Tell us when did the idea of starting a label come from and how did it materialize into KOZA Records?
Alican Yazicioglu: Thanks for this opportunity. The idea and vision behind the label has formed very organically through our personal experiences in the music industry. Birol (BeeGee) started his music career in the ’80s and developed his skills by playing thousands of gigs for decades. Besides DJing, he is the owner of the biggest music festivals in Turkey that has been going on for 15 years called ‘Electronica Festival’ and ‘Chill-Out Festival’. He is also the owner of two main electronic music stations Radio FG with Lounge FM and also organized countless events including Daft Punk, Jamiroquai, The Prodigy, and many more.
On my side, since I started working on my Phallen project I’ve been working on a lot of material and been searching for the right medium to publish my work. Besides composing for film & visual art throughout the years, plenty of songs accumulated and I decided that finally, it was about time to get out from my studio and share these with the rest of the world. We met in 2019 and as our friendship grew we realized we strive for the same passion – to transmit what we believe is creative and potential to further our ambitions. Both of us exposed to many aspects of the business, we felt the need to create a medium of a happy place to take control of our work through our own outlet and to bring our separate experiences together. So it’s really the result of our passions’ natural progression to become a hub.
We came up with an idea to start our own label which would be a bridge between Turkey and the rest of the world. We were also looking for a name that has a personal component and since we are from this country we thought why not use a Turkish word which works in terms of pronunciations internationally as well. With this label we aim to create a sense of community that is here to foster a partnership through inspiration, surrounded by positive energy. ‘KOZA’ means cocoon in English and this word stood out to us as a symbol for trust and responsibility that surrounds this hub/project. Our impression is that there is really something important going on in Turkey in the world of electronic music, something people realize also outside of our country. We wanted to create an identification around this.
Electronic Groove: Can you elaborate on some of the challenges you have faced when opening the label?
Alican Yazicioglu: The biggest challenge for us was to find balance with ongoing projects and to make sure we can dedicate our time to develop the label we envisioned. Besides managing two radio stations and organizing festivals, Birol is constantly traveling for his gigs and my career as a producer and composer takes a lot of time.
Also, we had the idea of starting a label for a while, although it took some time to develop the supporting system and the team. To begin such a journey firmly requires a lot of attention to detail and being patient. Even though we both have plenty of reach/influence and know-how to make our vision come true, we wanted to take the time to form the concept and the identification by assessing each step prudently.
“With this label we aim to create a sense of community that is here to foster a partnership through inspiration, surrounded
by positive energy”
Electronic Groove: For a young label, how has the current situation with the Coronavirus impacted your strategy and what changes or adaptation have you done to continue this journey?
Alican Yazicioglu: There isn’t a single person in the music industry that won’t be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The world is at standstill and fear in the industry keeps growing for the unknown every day. In this time of enormous uncertainty, most don’t know what they’re going to do, no doubt the music industry is going through hell. Surely coronavirus had an impact on every industry across the globe but unfortunately the creative sector is one of those who got hit the hardest.
The most discerning effect of the virus on the music sector has been the cancellations of live gigs, which is the single largest revenue stream in the industry. Since Birol has an immense experience for over 20 years when it comes to event and festival organization, we were planning to organize a series of KOZA events throughout the year starting from Europe which were meant to cover a huge chunk of our business strategy. In a matter of weeks, all of those plans have been thrown into doubt and ceased to a date in the unforeseeable future. Luckily no one had an indisputable loss from these specific events since this pandemic started before we committed to making the necessary investments but we were definitely looking forward to progressing to the next stage and share our dream with others.
As a typical artist’s financial safety rely so heavily on the live shows, there is a huge unknown when it comes to their main outsource of income. We are certainly all in this together and unfortunately there is no option but to face the struggle to adapt to these unprecedented times. We must try to make the most out of the situation meaning whether you’re a fan, an artist, or somewhere in between, we must try to support each other and come together. This meant to shift our focus from events to creative process. As the seriousness of this outbreak quickly grasped, we had no choice to move from panic mode to figuring out new ways to keep the passion for music alive. Most of my studio work for the upcoming weeks got canceled too. I’m using this time to be creative and find new collaborations that can be done online. We are determined to introduce new music and KOZA will always have interesting collabs coming.
I hope this pandemic ends soon with the least consequences as possible. The only silver lining in this situation is the fact that we will find new ways to cope with change and we might even figure out new ways to keep the fire burning. But it will take time. I wish this didn’t happen in the first place.
Electronic Groove: Tell us about the concept behind KOZA. What sound are you looking for and what kind of artists will fit your philosophy?
Alican Yazicioglu: We don’t really want to put restrictions and construct borders, our releases will transit between various styles of electronic music. So I can say we definitely see this label as a gateway for new creativity. If the music fits our tastes and makes you feel the moment by being a story that clings to your head we are in. We simply chase the goosebumps in a sonic experience.
Rather than genre, style comes first for us. We are not necessarily a house label, Birol is a techno DJ but he has songs featuring rappers too. In my case, I listen to a lot more alternative music and even scores since I’m a composer as well. I am really for the idea of breaking the barrier between genres.
What’s more important to us is to find artists who share our enthusiasm for music and want to push each other with their maximum effort in a healthy way. Our plan is to recruit electronic artists that can use their imagination and can really carry the feeling of a work to the potential listener. So wanting to be a collective small/niche family, we choose to take our time with the rostering process.
KOZA isn’t going to be an “Istanbul label”, we see this platform on the way to build a broad network of friends. We are eagerly looking for artists with young ideas to foster a partnership through inspiration and positive energy from any country. We have a small list of special artists that we really respect their work and hopefully, we’ll create opportunities to work together. For now, we are focusing on featuring collaborations between different producers, musicians, and vocalists from all around the world. A lot to come is on the cue! As long as it feels right there’s going to be all kinds of artists being represented in this platform. That being said anyone who is interested in submissions can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Electronic Groove: You are just coming out with a new single, ‘Deliverance’ produced by Phallen. What can you tell us about this new release?
Alican Yazicioglu: Yes, I’m very excited about it actually. Especially since it took a while for me to release it! At the time I started working on the song I was getting accustomed to New York moving from London and I fell for the sound of the city. I lived there for more than 5 years and had the opportunity to discover and watch lots of my favorite artists today. During my residency, New York had been a great place for motivation and growing ideas. The city had allowed me to be brave enough to experiment as much as possible.
Around the time I decided to make the move to be a musician as my profession, I met my co-producer Dmitri also known as Pitch Black and we started working together, including this track. Initially, the song was in a different form of a sketch, I was happy with the musical idea but it took a while for both of us to be happy with the production aspect.
The relationship between me and Dmitri is quite unique, over the years we established great chemistry. Actually I’m happy to announce that along with the singles I have in cue, I also have a Phallen EP with Dmitri as my co-producer on the way too. He is a euro-rack guru with a very advanced sound, a proper artist when it comes to finding “the right sound for the right moment”. Over the years we worked together we simply poured our heart and soul into our work and it took time. I strongly believe that being impatient does not help when you strive for the best as possible.
There is always self-doubt but with time I realized when you are working on a song, if you have a feeling you specifically try to express and you take your time with the gear you are working a hunch just grows in you that takes you to the sound that will speak for itself. Of course, there is amazing stuff out there in terms of software that I can’t do without but I mostly prefer hardware which usually means that it would take more time compared to the in the box approach.
On this song, I imagined myself on a spine-tingling atmospheric journey through a door that opens from the dark corners of my mind and surely Dmitri’s haunted ‘Pitch Black’ vibes helped a lot for me to transmit this feeling. As for direction, I decided that I would make the music I like, and after that, it’s just a matter of time of releasing the material. I have plenty of work in the cue that I’m proud of and they will continue to keep coming.
Electronic Groove: Are there any remixes planned for the tracks?
Alican Yazicioglu: Not at the moment but definitely in the future. I don’t really like to talk about big things that are not set in stone, however, as I mentioned before there is an EP (possibly an album) on the way and seems like that will certainly have remixes attached too. But to be precise currently, KOZA’s foundation is built on releasing singles.
“KOZA isn’t going to be an ‘Istanbul label’, we see this platform on the way to build a broad network of friends”
Electronic Groove: Moving into the design, tells about the concept behind your covers. Who does then and what is the artist looking for? How much input do you have on this?
Alican Yazicioglu: Concept creation was one of the time most consuming steps since the art is so special for us. We are both interested in the mystic world and after realizing our common affection to tarot card art we were sure to embrace it as our main theme. Tarot reading references to the mystic and mythological effects with its images, numbers, and symbolic expressions. They are not just giving hints about the past, but about the future as well. Each card and card combination tells another story and shows a unique path. We got the inspiration from tarot reader’s motto: “Tarot gives a clue about the happening time of events. These cards warn us and encourage us as well. They usually pop up the truth that is already there but we can’t see…”. As KOZA, we decided to transfer the feeling, the joy, and the energy of a release or an album with such a mystic medium that will consist of different styles.
In terms of art direction, I’m a fool for retro-futurism. I have to admit that the movie ‘Drive’ and its soundtrack has been a huge inspiration for me to make the move to music as a profession. I’m also very fond of dark industrial art. I was very interested in science and philosophy growing up and there is just something that intrigues me about the interaction of urban machinery and human being. Being also a fan of animation art I can say that there will be interesting artworks coming up in the future.
I believe in the visuals as much as the sonic elements and I’m also very excited to say that there is a video on the way for this one from Tan Tuncag who also known as Cavagrande. It will consist of futuristic sites with a dark industrial touch. I love his work and so happy that he will be the one to create the visual world for this sonic dream of mine.
I think nowadays people are even more hungry for material that conveys through different aspects of senses together. I always believed that music videos are a great way to complete and transmit the feeling of a song. Today audio and visual go hand in hand and if you want to stay relevant you are almost forced to supply your vision with more content as possible. I love the art of visuals almost as much as music but for now, I decided to focus on what I believe that I do the best and see in the future if I can create my own material in terms of video.
Electronic Groove: Many thanks and we wish you nothing but the best!
Alican Yazicioglu: Thank you too and stay safe.
Phallen’s ‘Deliverance’ is now available. Grab your copy here.