We are delighted to open the new year with a wonderful mix by Istanbul's treasure Ece Özel. She has been shining the light on her local scene for the last couple of years, either through the refined selection in her mixes, programming Year Zero radio, or running the label Müstesna Records. She had a chat on facebook with Jonáš Verešpej about the empty streets of Istanbul, being in the fashion industry, and developing the progression of her mixes.
Good morning Rüksan. Where are you at the moment? What are your plans for today?
Good morning! Actually I go by Ece.. Rüksan is my first name, I use it on socials. But it’s nice to be called as Rüksan sometimes :)
Right now I am entering the schedule for Year Zero Radio where I am taking care of the programming. Later I will meet some friends whom I haven’t seen for almost a year! And at 9pm curfew starts and it goes till monday morning..
Does that mean you are under curfew only during the weekends, or is that a new thing starting now?
Yes, we’ve been under curfew on weekends and after 9pm on week days for about 6 weeks now..
What was your personal approach to coping with the pandemic, with the isolation and the inability to do some of the things you normally do? Are you trying to keep yourself busy as much as possible or did you say ‘fuck this, now is the time to slow down’?
I was a bit confused at the beginning. But I am capable of doing a lot of things. I quickly realized it’s not a time to be sad about things I can’t do, but to rediscover things I can do. I’ve been working as a fashion stylist for a long time and I studied painting. So yes, I am keeping it busy. But things got slower in general so there is nothing I can do about that. I started painting again and focusing more on styling which I was a bit lazy with the past few years. And I think after things (ever) get normal, I will keep doing whatever I can do. It’s liberating. This doesn’t mean I miss playing or travelling tho:))
It is certainly liberating to know one can do more things and switch between them if needed. You had mentioned you worked yesterday, was that a styling job? If yes, could you tell us more about it? Like what does a working day like that entail?
Yes, it was a styling job, a photoshoot. It was a cont. of a music video that we shot two weeks ago.
It depends on the job. If it’s a video shoot it’s most likely 16 working hours, photography takes around 8-10 working hours.
Yesterday it was an easy going one, since we’ve already done the hard part. A regular photoshoot starts with hair & makeup and setting the light and the set. Then me & the photographer (and art director if there is one) check everything and start the plan. It's teamwork and we create the mood that has been decided in the best way possible.
Are you already with your friends? How does it feel right now to see someone you haven't seen a year?
No, not yet.. Since it’s getting closer to 9pm I am planning to stay the night over at my friends’ house and come back home tomorrow sometime between 10am-5pm, which we can use for market shopping in walking distance.
Honestly, I tried not to create melancholy about not seeing my friends during this period. Another thing I can’t control.. But I am definitely happy to see them!
Where did you study painting? Can you show us some of your pieces? I saw some linocuts, pastels on paper and ink drawings, almost all portraits. Why are you interested in faces and facial expressions?
First I studied at the fine arts high school in Istanbul. It was a special high school. There was only music and painting departments and all classes were focused on art. Then I went to the fine arts academy (Mimar Sinan) but I got really bored, dropped school and started working as an assistant to a fashion stylist.. And never painted a single paper till last march :)) It has been 12 years..
Painting portraits is really fun for me. Never looked for a meaning behind that but it’s really exciting to put an expression on a face. I also like to use bold and unexpected colors together. It feels like there is a similarity with my musical selections..
There is definitely some connection.
When I was listening to your mixes online and trying to define what you are doing, the definition kept slipping away since you play such a wide range of things, and even when I thought there is nothing that could surprise me anymore, you still found a way to do so.
It seems you are very good at that and, also, in playing with the density of sound, keeping things sparse and then suddenly adding new layers, but without being abrupt let’s say. The way those changes happen is incredible, whether it’s tempo, rhythm, genre or mood which is being changed. So there is this contrast between the execution of the change, and its magnitude. Is that somehow important for you? Is it a conscious decision? What else is important for you in building mixes?
Yes, this is important for me but It wasn’t exactly a conscious decision. There are a lot of different kinds of music I like and I am trying to put them together as a whole. Basically it’s a constant search of ways to put together the music I like.
And the other important thing is I need to find balance between all those versatile sounds.
Do you think that playing radio shows and doing recordings without any live audience present in the last year or so will affect the way you do these things when there finally is one? Is there something in particular this ‘online’ mode will change in the way you play in a club let’s say?
I am not sure but I definitely have loads of amazing music that I haven’t played to an audience. I guess we gonna wait n see 🙂
I am walking around one of Prague’s huge prefab housing estates at the moment. That is one of the good things resulting from lockdowns, it made me explore my environment more. Do you still keep exploring your city? Have you discovered anything interesting in Istanbul lately?
I discovered how peaceful my street can be:)) I live on a very busy street and sometimes it’s unbearable.. Istanbul is very busy all the time, honestly it was nice to see quiet streets.
With which track would you start a set in a club if you could play tonight? Or which would you definitely play at some point?
Of hard question! :)
I’ve rediscovered Karl Bartos - Vox Humana in my own collection, can’t wait to play again. Amazing track to make things quirky..
This one from Breaka is a latest favorite.
Also this sick track from Pillow Queen (Vani-T & D.Tiffany), just released last week I think..
How is Istanbul's culture surviving this period? What are your favourite places doing to stay alive? I guess that the country's music scene had a quite unfair share of difficulties, even before the pandemic.
It’s not doing good. I am afraid not many places are going to survive. Only places with tourist licenses were able to open in the summer with minimum capacity. Then new restrictions came and now they are all closed, including restaurants.
Even before the pandemic there were a lot of difficulties such as extreme taxing on alcohol and difficulties getting licenses.. There are few formations that are trying to help nightlife workers, artists and so on. But I can’t imagine what it will be like if restrictions continue for one more year..
I'd like to know more about Year Zero Radio. If I am not mistaken it’s a quite new part of a longer-running project (Year Zero), but it already has a very large and diverse selection of radio shows. How did the idea for a radio emerge and how were you involved in it? What is the most demanding or challenging part of doing the programming?
Yes, Year Zero is an annual subculture magazine. Before that it was “Zero” which was a free city guide for events and exhibitions. They were organizing quite nice events. It has more than 10 years of history.
Barış (Bilenser) who runs the magazine already had the idea of the radio for a while and I just responded to his post on instagram.. Before that I never thought I would do programming for a radio.
It’s a constant search for new programmers and collaborators. I like to do that since it’s a new approach to music for me. Only demanding part is collecting recordings.. it can be challenging sometimes 🙂
Can you describe in what way is the approach to music new for you in this regard?
Well, I used to only listen to mixes or search music for my own little world. Now when I’m discovering new things I am also thinking if it would be suitable for the radio.
I really like the idea that the radio can serve as a tool for mapping the 'sprawling city', through music emerging from its various corners. I've been listening to several of your Özel Zevkler shows, which seemed to be useful for planning night journeys through uncanny and intimate dancefloors, or thoroughly organised house parties.
Which shows would you recommend for city experiences like 'staying home on lazy sunless Sunday' or 'hiding under the railway bridge during a summer storm'? 🙂
Another hard question. :) I would go for Emre Can Swim and Taha Kiremitçi’s shows for a pretty wide range of eclectic sounds that might brighten up your day. Utkanj & Eylül Deniz for darker sounds if you want to intensify the sunlessness.
Emre Can Swim has released an EP last summer on your label called Müstestna Records, which mainly focuses on pointing out under the radar or forgotten music, thus amplifying underground music from Turkey. Has the pandemic sparked creativity in your country/city? Do you have any new releases in the works?
Actually creativity is always sparkling here. I am sure we’ll see the results of this period soon. I like to believe something new is gonna grow out of this madness even though things don't seem very bright right now.
We have one more new album coming out very soon. It’s from Fluctuosa, an emerging young artist from Istanbul. Unfortunately only digital due to logistics. And we are working on another compilation focusing on experimental sounds from Turkey.
The conversation took place on facebook messenger between 9:23 a.m. on Friday (Jan. 8) and 8:21 p.m. on Sunday (Jan. 10), 2021.
Philipp Otterbach - Serpentine (R.I.O. Label)
E-Unity - Not For Me (TEMƎT Music)
Roza Terenzi - Illusions (Step Ball Chain)
Sepehr - Cloak Of Flames (Shaytoon Records)
Blacksea Nao Maya - Bubadagash (Principe)
Paul Birken - Fumigating Flesh (Mord)
Front de Cadeaux - Io Terrorizzata (Self Released)
Monolog X - Second Trumpet (Occult Research)
TSVI - Noflute (Balance Club/Culture Festival)
Ólta Karawane - Fürchte Dich Nicht (Maturre)
Interchain - On Air (Interstellar Funk Remix) (HVNX)
Henzo - For Your Consideration (Sauna Mix) (Worldwide Unlimited)
I:CUBE - CUBO LIVE SESSION 3 (Versatile)
Bunzinelli - Metagryne Bicolumnata (Chambre Noire)
Alys - Distopic Joggin (Pildoras Tapes)
OMAR JOESOEF - EDIT 007 (Dekadenz)
Olsvangèr - Cinema Facista (Unterman)
GILA - Buffalo 2 Miami (Lex Records)
E-Unity - Inner Osc (TEMƎT Music)
CAM - Tempus Fugit (Abstrakce Records)
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