Erol Alkan on Phantasy Sound and Keeping it Fresh for Two Decades

Erol Alkan on Phantasy Sound and Keeping it Fresh for Two Decades

As a DJ, Erol Alkan hardly needs an introduction. The London-based veteran record slinger has picked up some of the international dance music industry’s highest accolades during his two decades in the game, including Mixmag‘s prestigious “DJ of the Year” award in 2006.

Of course, beyond his status as a world-class selector, Alkan has also cemented his reputation as an A&R visionary, signing cutting-edge electronic artists like Daniel Avery and Ghost Culture to his esteemed Phantasy imprint.

But perhaps it’s as a producer that Alkan shines brightest. And not just through his growing body of original productions and remixes for the likes of The Chemical Brothers and Simian Mobile Disco. His inspired work with indie rock acts like Franz Ferdinand, Klaxons, and Mystery Jets have seen Alkan emerge as something of a Brian Eno figure for his generation — part studio production guru, part muse.

On how he gets drawn to work with a particular act, Alkan tells Beck’s Access: “If I feel I can be as honest as possible with them, in order to get the best from them. An artist’s vision is important.”

“They’ve all been rewarding in different ways,” he says of his myriad collaborations over the years. “But producing 21 for the Mystery Jets is close to my heart, as I inherited a very tired and emotional broken band, and through that album we went through something very special together — it was a great education for me personally.”

“Halfway through recording, I was told there was a danger the band could have been dropped,” he explains. “But we dug in and the outcome was their biggest selling album, plus their two biggest singles in ‘Young Love’ and ‘Two Doors Down.’ Both to me are great yet odd pop records. Plus, the band were in a great place once the record was released. We are still good friends now and the bond is still strong.”

Bolstering his grand vision as a producer, Alkan completed the ambitious construction of his Phantasy Sound recording studio in 2013, a formidable state-of-the-art creative lab where he would go on to spawn Illumination, his acclaimed first solo EP.

“I wanted to have a space to work, cut off away from home but close to home,” he explains. “I tried studios where I traveled to, but deep down I feel I’m so lazy that I would just stay at home and work. At least with the studio now at the end of my garden, I have no excuse. Plus, I can close the doors and it’s a black box — no sunlight, nobody can hear me, the outside world is closed off and I have nothing to distract me. Creatively, it’s great to be able to record guitars across a series of loud amps and not worry about disturbing anybody. The walls are half a meter thick.”

Production chops aside, though, Alkan’s upcoming performance at the Electric Pickle on April 18 is a chance for the celebrated DJ to demonstrate once more why he’s a master class on the ones and twos. And while you won’t find him pandering to the dance floor with predictable trendy ear fodder, crowd-pleasing is most certainly key to Mr. Alkan’s M.O. as a selector.

“The best gigs for me are when it feels I am playing for myself, not to sound selfish,” he discloses. “I try to impress and excite myself, and that can usually translate out to the crowd easily. The other end of that stick is to be bored of what you do, thus boring everybody else in the room. So in a nutshell, I try and keep it fresh.”