Erol Alkan doesn’t want to be known as just another mashup artist.
EROL ALKAN with SOULWAX, A-TRAK, MATTHEW DEAR, HATIRAS, HEIDI and more as part of the TIME FESTIVAL at Sunnyside Pavilion (1100 Lake Shore West), Sunday (August 10), 1-11 pm. $24.50. wantickets.com/embrace.
It's discomforting for a DJ to be closely associated with certain turning points in dance music's timeline. It can make you feel locked into an era, in danger of becoming a relic in a rapidly changing culture. An artist's goal is to progress creatively, avoiding stagnancy or repeating past accomplishments.
Erol Alkan - whose name is commonly associated with pioneering the mashup, bridging pop music and electro for a generation that's putting mash gurus like Girl Talk into thousand-capacity rock venues - has gone to great lengths to redefine himself. Not that his past is an albatross, he says; it's just a matter of maintaining forward motion.
"I feel like a vessel at times," says Alkan about being tagged as a base point for current trends in music. "But if it means people will listen to the music I champion, then that's a good thing. The past can only be a burden if you rely on it; I try to keep moving forward and to have an open mind."
Over the past year, Alkan has switched off his decks and gotten behind the sound board, focusing heavily on production. He's overseen three rock albums in the last 12 months: Mystery Jets, Samuel Dust's Late Of The Pier and NME band du jour the Long Blondes. Impressively prolific considering how relatively new he is to recording instrument-based indie rock.
But while he's famous for ubiquitously played remixes like Justice's Waters Of Nazareth or Death from Above 1979's Romantic Rights, it's his instincts for rock and pop that make his retouches stand out. Alkan says it's something that comes from a deep, insatiable need.
"Making albums is, for me, artistically, the ultimate artifact," he says. "I wasn't prepared to go on forever just remixing and solely focusing on club music; my roots are based in alternative and pop music.
"My old club, Trash, was built on the foundation of bands and songs, and it's what I live and breathe. I need to satisfy that within me, to explore."
Franz Ferdinand were so impressed with Alkan's take on their song Do You Want To that they recruited him to record them covering LCD Soundsystem (All My Friends). The relationship flourished, leading to widespread media speculation that Alkan was set to be the man helming their upcoming and crucial third album, slated for release next year. So is he or isn't he?
"True. I read it in the NME," jokes Alkan. "The truth is that the week after that [All My Friends] session, I began the Mystery Jets album, which lasted eight months or so. There was no way I could have focused on both.
"I think the right man has made the record with them. I've heard some of it, and it's really great. Franz are one of the brightest bands out there, and in Alex [Kapranos] they have a very natural producer within the band. I don't think they need a big name (not that I'm implying that's what I am) to produce them. I'm more a subtle director."