Mehmet Aslan is a Berlin-based DJ and producer of Turkish origin who grew up in Basel, Switzerland. Though throughout his youth he absorbed Turkish music through rather basic, mainstream avenues, it wasn’t his main source of musical education. He spent his teens between record stores, becoming a fanatic record collector, amassing a huge collection of house and techno releases, along with other more obscure sounds.
As is the case with so many other immigrant artists, adult Mehmet found himself drawn back to the music of his heritage, with a newfound interest and passion in learning about and reworking different styles of Turkish music. This rediscovery has influenced the direction of his music, which reworks obscure vinyl jewels into pieces fit for the dance floor. His releases began to gain traction, leading to a residency at Basel’s Hinterhof Club, and later deals with Get Flavour records and the Scottish Huntley’s & Palmers. On the latter, he released his debut EP in 2014, Mechanical Turk, an eclectic work that solidified his name on the map and is still widely regarded as his grand opus.
Mehmet found himself drawn back to the music of his heritage, with a newfound interest and passion in learning about and reworking different styles of Turkish music
He later developed an alias, MMT, to release a small number of first-edition releases on obscure sub-label, Hamam House. He also has his own imprint, Fleeting Wax, which he runs with Miajica, with which they aim to release music that integrates traditional sounds into club music.
His career has taken him to festivals around the world, such as Nuits Sonores in Lyon and Tangier, Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival, Vent in Tokyo, Concrete in Paris, and London’s Corsica Studios. Now based out of his own personal studio in Berlin, Salon Zur Wilden Renate Club, Aslan continues mixing genres and music of various eras into cohesive, adventurous dance music. So far this year, he has released two different EP’s, Alysha, and Ghost Station.
We had a conversation with Mehmet Aslan about his background, foray into the music of his heritage, and vinyl.
Tell us about your musical background. Did you consume a lot of Turkish music growing up?
Almost all Turkish music I've gotten to know was through the television at home. Mostly it was movies and Turkish pop channels that came through the cable television to our home in Basel, Switzerland. That's what I can call my vast musical background in Turkish music. This of course changed when I started to really get in touch with my Turkish roots in the past 4-5 years. I wanted to learn more about the music and incorporate it into my own productions.
Do you think a desire to reconnect with your country of origin and your parents fueled your rediscovery and incorporation of Turkish music into your own?
I guess there was this desire deep down so I ended up coming back to it, but I didn’t plan anything like it in the beginning. It all evolved naturally around my process of finding my own path in music. There is a nice saying, “without the past there is no future”.
...when I’m stuck or want to get inspiration I always go down to the record shop right below my apartment and listen to records for hours. That’s always a great way to refuel...
What other music are you really into?
I’m listening to many different styles of music and always try to stay open. It's hard to pin me down to a specific genre. I really like organic music, like jazz, funk or hip-hop but also experimental, industrial and noise.
You’re a big vinyl collector, right? What role does vinyl play in your music-making process?
A very important one, when I’m stuck or want to get inspiration I always go down to the record shop right below my apartment and listen to records for hours. That’s always a great way to refuel and get new ideas. Finding out about a new great band or artist I didn't know about, that’s one of the greatest joys of collecting vinyl and going to record shops.
What do you like to sample?
I sample from everywhere I can - internet, vinyl, CDs or noises around me. Also lately the radio where I sampled a lot of speeches or classical music like in Ghost Station.
How do you think a city like Berlin influences your music?
Rather than the city itself I think the people coming and going here are influencing me.
Do you have any plans for collaborating with Turkish/MENA artists?
I’ve actually just collaborated with Idil Mese, a singer and friend from Istanbul for my next record. Also, another collaboration with a Turkish singer is coming next, but I can't tell about it right now! It’s definitely something I want to incorporate more into my process of making music for sure.
We read that you listen to a lot of Turkish psych, funk and disco. There seems to be a revival of Turkish psych rock, with bands like Altin Gün and Gaye Su Akyol, for example. How do you feel about it?
As someone who loves Turkish psych rock I love these kinds of bands and their interpretation of that era. Hopefully they bring these sounds to a broader audience.
Where is your favorite place to play?
Everywhere that people are open-minded and hungry for the music presented.
What inspires you creatively, and how do you stay consistent? For example, what does an ideal session look like?
I try to get creative impulses from all kinds of different art, paintings, books, films etc. The ideal way for me is to have a constant stream of influences from outside - staying still means death. Even when I like to work alone too, it's very important for me to make music with other musicians, friends who specialize in a different kind of instrument or musical style.
The ideal way for me is to have a constant stream of influences from outside - staying still means death.
How do you balance a full-time job with a music career?
About a year ago I quit my day job and focused only on my music. It was definitely not easy sometimes. Being stuck in fixed time spans doesn't help me creatively either; sometimes I would be thinking about a certain idea while I was working and I asked myself, "what am I doing here? I should try out this idea!"
Have you tried to explore a more industrial side of electronic music, such as minimal or techno?
I think if you look at my productions so far, it goes between electronic and more organic music. I’m more and more interested in sound as itself, so that brought me to experimental and noise music too. Right now, what I want from the music I'm doing is, that it can be cheerful and up-tempo, but also simple and direct. I’m very much driven by well-arranged music, but also thrilled about simple and straight forward arrangements.
Proceeds from your track Escape went to Help the Refugees. Do you think music can play a role in helping refugees?
Definitely. There are also luckily a lot of events and parties which support refugees and I think every artist should contribute to these kinds of events. It’s still beyond my imagination what those people must be suffering in their path of life, and we have to contribute anyway we can to help the people that have not been as fortunate as us.