Mehmet Aslan first came to our attention through a brilliant rework of an old Turkish funk song and from that moment we set upon a quest to find out more about this undeniably talented producer. He grew up in Basel, but is now based in the dance-music Mecca, Berlin. Having spent his childhood listening to Turkish music, his heritage now permeates his productions and sets, bringing a totally unique sound to pounding headphones and dancefloors around the world. Aptly, he has found a home with Huntleys & Palmers, whose refreshing intrigue with border-crossing sounds makes them a perfect label for Mehmet’s work. Their latest release, Highlife Vol. 4 (available from Juno), features another brilliant edit from Mehmet, which we featured last week. We tracked him down to talk more about his life and music. He’s also made us an exclusive mix, filled only with Turkish music, be it edits by himself and contemporaries, or some originals sprinkled in for good measure. Harika!
- Osman Ismen Orkestrasi – Rast Disko Intro (Mehmet Aslan Rework)
- Senay – Honki Ponki (Baris K Edit)
- Bizim Sarkimiz (Afacan Sound System Edit)
- Lale Belkis – Cilli Bom (Mehmet Aslan Rework)
- Subsky & Tutan – Ben Dogarken Ölmüsüm
- Erkut Tackin – Sevmek Istiyorum (Mehmet Aslan Rework) [Hamam House]
- Mehmet Aslan – Raptiye Rap
- Dj Tutan – Ben Dogarken Ölmüsüm
- Mehmet Aslan – Sevince
- Steaua de Mare – Doamne Ce Greșeală Am
- Zafer Dilek – Yasadim Mi Öldüm Mi (Mehmet Aslan Edit)
- Özdemir Erdogan – Ac Kapiyi Gir Iceri (FOC Edits)
- Afet Serenay – Maden Dagi (Mehmet Aslan Edit)
Firstly, please can you tell us a bit about yourself, where you are from, where you are based and how you came to produce music?
I was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland. My parents emigrated from Turkey to Switzerland in the 80s, and I think in my younger years I was surrounded by the right environment due also that we lived in a suburb of Basel. So I grew up feeling both Swiss and Turkish. I started DJing when I was 18, in a youth center with a few friends where we started to collect vinyl. After a few years, I met the guys from Zaber Riders who where doing parties in Basel. They blew my mind, because they didn’t know any limits in music genres. A few years later we started to work with the guys from Hinterhof, who were starting a club / bar. Last November we split our crew, since musically we weren’t speaking the same language anymore. Three years ago, we build a small music room in the basement of Hinterhof (which also doesn’t exist anymore) but this was the environment where I learned a lot about producing. The Turkish thing is another story!
Growing up in Basel, how did your Turkish heritage influence your musical tastes and your relationship with dance music?
Since about two years ago I couldn’t say that there was any influence I felt or any possibility I could link Turkish music with the club environment. My knowledge about Turkish music was from my childhood, from the cult movies of the 70s or 80s. That all changed when my good friend Mario (aka Miajica), who is a real music nerd, showed me the edits of Baris K on Nublu. At the first moment I just laughed at him and couldn’t see that this should work in the club. I wasn’t really interested. But this kind of flicked something in my head, and made me try to use Turkish samples, which went off great from the first moment. And so the first steps into the Turkish cosmic space started.
Did being detached from your home country while growing up in Switzerland allow you to appreciate its sounds differently?
It must have been like that and that’s probably the reason why my music developed like this. I didn’t have any prejudices on what was possible and what can be done with this music, which made go with it very freely.
Did moving from Basel to the ‘anything goes’ city of Berlin, free your relationship with music and music making?
I was doing the same music before I came here also, so nothing changed much in that sense. I have only my laptop at the moment to make music, and working a 9-to-5 job made me slow things down. Many people freak out when they start to live here, but I didn’t wanted to go this way. I think that helped to meet the right people here and I’m doing well right now.
Your productions integrate a great scope of world influences and samples. Would you say you are more influenced by sounds and cultures from afar rather than those closer to home?
I don’t think there are any borders of sounds, or any West or East anymore. Eastern sounds appeal different to the people here, because they are unused to them, which is not so when you go to eastern regions. Yes, there was probably a time when I was attracted more by unusual sounds, which where unusual to the region I grow up, but for me they weren’t something different.
What music do you listen to for pure joy and what do you listen to, in order to reflect and relax?
Lately I’ve been listening to lot of Turkish funk, disco or rock music, which has to settle down a little bit I think. But still, it’s the music I reflect to most of the time. For working or joy I prefer to listen more to electronic music without much voices and chanting men, because that can be difficult over time.
As a Berlin resident now, what do you feel makes it such a special city for music?
Everyone is here! No, but I think since it’s such a good place for creative people the energy is different here, and the time flows faster of course. That’s not always a good thing, and it’s great to be able to go back to Basel from time to time, but I’m still very new to the Berlin. I’m starting to slowly get used to it here.
Do you think being a resident DJ in Basel (as you are at Hinterhof Bar) poses different challenges and rewards to other cities?
It’s harder to build up good scenes in small cities, but not impossible. And it helps that the clubs and bars are in appropriate size and variety. That’s difficult in Basel sometimes. But I think it’s getting better again, as long as we don’t stop giving something to the city, its ok. I think it’s important to maintain a good relationship to your hometown and I try to do that. I’m very happy that Hinterhof is one of the few places in Basel where a broad range of music and cultural activities take place.
You’ve found a home with the internationally-leaning Huntleys & Palmers family. How did you become involved with them and what do you enjoy about working with them?
Last summer we invited Auntie Flo and Andrew to play at Hinterhof Bar, and we quickly understood that we have similar tastes and started to exchange some tunes. Andrew and Bryan have an excellent nose for the newest unknown music, also Andrew moving to Berlin about the same time made everything simpler. Besides his Scottish accent of course!
Highlife04 has just come out and features one of your edits. You could tell us a bit about it? Where does the original come from and how did the track come together?
The original comes from a 1973 album by Mazhar ve Fuatduo, and I did the edit firstly to highlight the instruments and vocals in the break parts. I also pointed out the bassline with some heavy distortion and filtering and made a floor-friendly mix. The original is almost unplayable in the club because the highs are simply too loud! I found out later that the lyrics originate from the turkish sufi mystic Yunus Emre. This explanation is quite helpful to understand what the song is about actually.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you made for us, the idea behind it and any standout tracks?
This is one of the first mixes I did with lots of my own edits. I mixed them with edits from friends like Baris K, Johnny Rock and others, so it consists almost only of Turkish music, despite an original track by Steaua de Mare, a band from Bucharest. I tried to make a blend of disco and electronic styled edits.
Are there any producers that you are really digging at the moment?
Steaua de Mare and Future Nuggets are great. Of course all the music from Miajica and his co-project with other two great guys from Basel – Alma Negra. They are doing the slickest afro edits.
Beyond Highlife 04, what plans do you have for the summer, in terms of live dates and releases?
Two of my edits (one you mentioned before) are going to be released on Hamam House, new sub-label of Disco Hamam in the mastery of Johnny Rock, along with an edit by DJ Tutan from Istanbul. Also upcoming are a Yello and Sun Ra rework on Ata’s ForDiscoOnly imprint which I’m very excited of too.
I also start to get my live dates going in Germany, playing at Wilde Renate in Berlin and at Heinz Gaul in Cologne in August. I’m excited being invited to play at Le Sucre in Lyon for a Turkish music special, and of course I’m happy to be back in Switzerland to play at Club Bonsoir very soon.
Finally, if you weren’t making and playing music, what else would you be doing? What are your hidden talents and loves?
Probably working as a graphic designer, which I’m also doing now, but why not both?!