Interview with Elif (Stil Vor Talent, Anjunadeep)

With huge early success as an international music blogger, fresh talent Istanbul-born Elif covered all the main festivals as a writer until, after teaching herself music production and mixing, she swapped ligging for gigging four years ago as a DJ.

As a producer, her first release on Anjunadeep (2019) made her an instant favourite, and her Anjunadeep ‘Edition’ mixes are always a huge success.

She’s also used lockdown to get creative – she’s dropped the stunning ‘Entanglement’ on Stil Vor Talent and ‘Moonspell’, her label debut on A Tribe Called Kotori – and reached her listeners’ hearts with livestreams both melodic and profound.

  1. When did you start DJing – and what or who were your early passions and influences? Tell us please, how you begin with music and deejaying?

I started DJing in 2016.

I listened to a lot of genres growing up. I still do. My middle school years I really loved Hip-Hop, then in High school I was listening to Alternative Rock, Ska-Punk and Punk-Rock mostly. At the University I was a big Indie-Rock fan. After graduating  I even started to travel the world to see festivals and write about music which eventually became my job 🙂 I was so passionate about it.

I had a Soundcloud loong before I started DJing and I was making some mix tapes before I knew how to mix or use CDJS, I didn’t even have a sound card was just using super simple free programs to make mixtapes. You can still find some of those early mixtapes on my Soundcloud actually.

I was a what we call an influencer today.

At those years I managed a Turkish Indie-Rock band and we were touring abroad. Was really fun times! I discovered electronic music around that time.

I think I must have first started listening to electronic music thanks to Thom Yorke of Radiohead and my love for Deep House and Melodic Techno is a result of some amazing Indie-Rock remixes of Solomun. And that’s the reason I started to learn how to use the set-up as well. One day I literally tweeted:

‘I want to make deep-house remixes of indie rock tracks’ and a production/dj school from Istanbul reached out to me. They offered to teach me mixing and asked me to write about their school in return. That’s how I learned the basics about DJing. At first I was playing Indie-Electronica and Nu-Disco in some small bars in Istanbul with my full name.

Then I started going to clubs and listening to Melodic Techno, Progressive House, Afro House and Organic House. Started diving deeper into this sound I started mixing too.

The festivals I went to write about started to change as well. I started playing a similar genre to what I play now in 2017. I still have all the influences from all the genres I loved in my mixes.

My first international gig was April 2017 in Afrikaburn 🙂 I decided to use my first name as my artist name around end of 2017 beginning of 2018 so ‘Elif’ is a 3 year old project.

2. Let’s say you have a gig coming up tonight. What does your approach look like – from selecting the material and preparing for, opening and then building a set?

I usually close my eyes and imagine a vibe, more as a feeling.

I know in my head what kind of music I want to play. If I have been to the country or to the venue before it’s easier and if I played there before it’s even easier. And sometimes I have to imagine if I’m going there for the first time…

I also always have preparation for several different scenarios. Then I make a playlist on my rekordbox with the name of the club and date. I start collecting tracks in there.

I usually have between 150-250 tracks for a 3 hour set in my playlist.

If I have more time to prepare I make a folder instead of a playlist and I make subfolders to be able to navigate easier between vibes.

I tag and organize my tracks when I download them and I also use intelligent playlists as well. I am very organized so it’s rather easy to get ready for a gig.

3. What advice do you have for aspiring DJs?

I have been lucky enough to get advice, mentorship and support from some of my biggest inspirations in the scene.

I still remember and apply some of these gems of advices I got from names like Britta Arnold, Unders, Behrouz, Atish, Kora and Oliver Koletzki on top of my head. So I know how important it is to get and give advice.

I’d say: always do what you do because of the love of it. Play what makes you happy. not what you think it would make others happy or make money. In times of desperation (for example the pandemic) always remember the reason why you started DJing.

4. You’re a producer and a DJ, where do you feel most comfortable? In the studio or on stage?

I am rather new in the studio so I’m definitely more comfortable on stage.

I also love to make music that I can play. Playing your own music at gigs and see people vibing to it is just another level and This past few months, because of the pandemic especially between March and July, I got more comfortable in the studio but I guess I’ll always be a DJ before Producer.

I just love mixing music and creating journeys with genius tracks other people composed. And I must admit I am still more a dancer at heart so playing the music I admire feels wonderful.

5. Describe your feelings when you play music.

I think it’s kind of a meditation.

Because I’m totally in the here and now and concentrated but I also have no idea about how the time passes. I feel the music with all my body.

I love sharing a moment and exchanging energies with the crowd. It’s a dialog without words. If I’m happy about my set and the vibe and the club it’s an incredible experience.

I’m in the flow state! I feel almost high with all the serotonin and dopamine in my blood after I finish a set that I’m happy about.

I also tend to get nervous or stressed sometimes if I’m not happy with the sound system, the rider or somehow the crowd.

6. Do you have any exclusive news about your productions at this moment?

Well, the lockdown was a really good time for me to focus on producing.

After July Turkey kind of opened up internally and I was playing a lot of weekends and traveling. So since July I didn’t want to be at home or in the studio a lot because of all the time I HAD TO be at home.

But during the quarantine period I finished my first EP that got released in July on A Tribe Called Kotori and gave a track to the 15 Years of Stil Vor Talent compilation.

I also finished some remixes and collabs that are going to be released in the next months. I have a collab with ITAI that will be released on Buddha Bar compilation in Christmas.

I have a collab with Nhii, a remix we made that will be released on Kindisch in 2021. I made a remix for Akasha Records, another one for I AM HER and another one for Pipe and Pochet.

I am also compiling a VA for Harabe Records from Turkey that will be released in 2021 and I have some sick contributors confirmed including a track from me. I am super excited for that as well.

I have been away from the studio in the summer and my intention was to be there a lot in the winter but looks like i’m going on tour very soon, chasing the sun in the southern Hemisphere.

Luckily I have some portable gear I can take with me so I guess I’ll need to get comfortable producing on the road as well…

7. Taking into consideration Facebook’s announcement regarding the dj live streams’ prohibition, please mention what would you choose as alternative platform to keep performing.

I almost never streamed on FB.

Just twice I think, one for A Tribe Called Kotori and one for Beatport. Both streams were cut several times.

I’m not a fan of FB to be honest. I prefer and LOVE Twitch. I stream there almost every week for different channels, Desert Hearts, Abracadabra, Hot Situations, Itai & Friends and my own channel.

I’m also starting a weekly residency on Abracadabra TV on Twitch in November.  Youtube is much better than FB too. I upload my live stream recordings there a few weeks after and they are getting very good reactions.

8. We would like you to share with us The Gardens of Babylon impact on you DJ career and what this experience felt like.

The first Monastery Festival by The Gardens of Babylon was the first international festival I played and it really changed the game for me in terms of visibility and experience.

TGOB is an amazing family I’m proud to be part of and Shishi’s support has always been an incredible push.

I am also part of her roster in The Altitude Agency and I played lots of TGOB parties that were all amazing experiences. The vibe is always on point in TGOB parties.

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