Classics is an interview series that takes an in depth look at some of the most influential and best loved albums, tracks and mix compilations in electronic music by chatting to their creators.
Erol Alkan is perhaps the most lasting exponent of the electroclash scene that burned brightly for a few post millennial years before succumbing to the cyclical nature of dance music trends. His pioneering indie-electro night, Trash, was where he honed genre-splicing DJ skills and booked fledgling bands like The Klaxons and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who he would go on to remix.
Though it’s his relationship with promoters Bugged Out that took Alkan beyond the London scene, as after filling in for a flight delayed David Holmes at one of their Fabric nights, they offered him a residency on the spot. Such was his ensuing popularity that they commissioned him for a compilation album, following in the footsteps of legendary residents like Justin Robertson, Felix Da Housecat and Ivan Smagghe.
At that stage Alkan had mixed a Trash compilation and a free CD for Muzik Magazine, but when Bugged Out offered him the opportunity to get his musical message across over two discs, he jumped at the chance.
“The reason I hadn’t done a proper commercial mix album before was that I wasn’t sure how to transpose what I was trying to create live in clubs to hundreds of people into something that was just going to speak to a single person or a few people at a house party,” he explains.
“I’ve always been so focused on the moment as a DJ, rather than creating a lasting piece of work.”
Split between club set ‘Out’ and the morning after ‘In,’ the mixes were laid down semi-live, working each track into the next using ProTools. The party mix was focused on bringing together all the different corners of electronic music Alkan was into at that point.
“I based it on the kind of set I would play to a perfect, open minded audience,” he adds.
While electroclash had boomed and bust by 2005, it was still a fertile period for the kind of tough techno Alkan specialises in.
“It was a really interesting time, because it was essentially pre-Ed Banger electro, although I did manage to get some of their artists on there,” he explains, pointing to a compilation debut for SebastiAn, alongside tracks like ‘The Theme From Vicarious Bliss’ and the acapella of Simian’s ubiquitous ‘We Are Your Friends.’
Elsewhere on side one, songs like Etienne De Crecy’s ‘Fast Track’ and the Nite Version of Soulwax’s ‘E Talking’ really stand the test of time, but when we get too nostalgic, it’s worth remembering that Roman Flügel’s irritant ‘Geht’s Noch’ was popular enough at the time to warrant inclusion.
“It’s a funny one isn’t it? When you listen to it now it just sounds like derivative Dutch house, but I still think it’s such a strange and unique track,” Alkan comments.
The perfect house party mix is finished in fine style with one of Alkan’s best mashups – at that stage not such a dirty word – his layering of The Rapture’s ‘House of Jealous Lovers’ vocal over Josh Wink’s always incendiary ‘Higher State of Consciousness.’ From that high, the compilation changes pace entirely, with Alkan remembering that the Bugged In mix was all about re-creating an atmosphere conducive to getting some kip after a big night out.
“I wanted to make a record that people could fall asleep to,” Alkan remembers. “I always used to make compilations for myself to put on when I would come home from a night out, so it was just an attempt to make a perfect version of that,” says Alkan. “It was also really important for me to get both sides of the music I love across. Plus there were so many great records I wanted to share with people.”
Fast forward to 2012, and such was Alkan’s enduring popularity that Bugged Out asked for ‘Another Bugged Out Mix,’ which was duly approached with similar ideals, but this time showing the musical evolution he’d experienced with the club night. It followed the same two-mix structure, with the ‘Out’ just as banging as before and the ‘In’ similarly eclectic, both full of cutting edge music culled from his formidable collection.
“I try to keep things as fresh as possible. I’m always excited about new sounds and ideas in electronic music, I don’t ever really want to go to Bugged Out and play a heritage DJ set at all,” Alkan states.
While he can’t be called on the probability of a third instalment in another decade’s time – pointing out that, “I don’t think 10 years ago they would have thought they’d be around for another 10 years” – he is full of praise for Bugged Out’s mission in this their 20th anniversary year.
“They just seem to be really consistent, probably because they do everything from a really instinctive perspective. That’s what gives them the edge,” he suggests. And that respect is reciprocated through to Alkan in being one of the first on the team sheet for any of their events.
“It’s an honour to have been a resident and to still play fairly regularly for them and with them; they are literally like family to me.”