Photo: Erbil Balta/Macadam Mambo/On Board Music (Zozo)
From Motor City Drum Ensemble to the DJs close to Düsseldorf’s Salon Des Amateurs, the club scene has witnessed a renaissance of the selector in recent years. Istanbul’s Zozo has rapidly made a name for herself as a master selector and while her contribution to our Groove podcast might be one of her danciest sets to date, but make no mistake: it’s spiked with odd gems ranging from Ceephax Acid Crew’s squeaking hardware workouts to obscure New Wave sounds from Switzerland circa 1983 and long out of print ZYX classics.
What made you become a DJ?
I used to go to clubs when I was a kid. And in the crowded atmosphere of the clubs, the DJ booth seemed to be the place to be. Spacey, comfortable, with permission to smoke freely… And later I learnt that DJs get paid for what they do and also the drinks were free. So the decision was made: I should be a DJ. But seriously, I was always passionate about music. My mother used to be a Turkish art music singer and that had its positive effects on me in my formative years. During the 90s when I was raised, İstanbul used to be a very liberate place with a lot happening in the music, arts, culture, and nightlife area. There were not so many strict rules and regulations, so venues could be open as long as they liked and nobody would check at the door if you are underage. That gave me the opportunity to experience the heydays of dance music in Istanbul at a very young age. Later in university I studied art and worked as a designer for a while. At the same time, music was always there. I was collecting music and although Shazam or Soundcloud didn’t exist, we had some really good local radio stations, playing all sorts of music (Radio-Oxygen, Radio 2019, Kent FM, Açık Radio). Radio Oxygen especially was a perfect source for groove-oriented music with programs from Gilles Peterson, Michael Rütten, Jazzanova and so on. Music on that station was usually so good that I was constantly calling them asking for track IDs. Technically, I started DJing about 10 or 11 years ago, when some of my close friends asked me to play some tunes for them at a party. Then it developed from there with friends encouraging me and me getting more and more involved in it. And of course having a great friend and husband who is also a DJ and with whom I can listen, share and discuss music 24/7 helped quite a bit.
After being the musical director of Istanbul’s Hush, you have moved on to Luzia. What’s important to you in terms of programming, what’s your philosophy?
When I was doing musical direction in Hush, the Asian part where Hush was located wasn’t the ideal spot for electronic music. My main goal was to import that buzz from the European side to the Asian side. Nowadays, that part of the city is booming after the collapse of Taksim area which used to be the heart of Istanbul’s night life. Hush which was originally an art gallery was a smaller operation with big ideas and local DJs. Luzia opened in 2015 after I dropped my day jobs and started focusing on music only. At Luzia, we had a certain music style in mind and made the program accordingly. Since it’s a tiny space for approximately hundred people with a friendly feeling, we thought that obscure, mellow and sexy music would be suitable. We made a wishlist of people we would like to listen such as Sacha Mambo, Soft Rocks, Jan Schulte, Rodion, Naduve, Noema for example and got in touch with them. The philosophy was making the music that we really like and hoping like-minded people would join us.
You’ve coined a name for what you play, “oriental crime”. How exactly did you come up with that name?
Basically, it’s a combination of my oriental roots and the music that I like which has a deep, dark and suspicious edge to it. It came up as a joke in response to the question “what kind of music do u play?” while I was DJing somewhere. I had to translate it in English at some point, but believe me it sounds much funnier in Turkish: “Oryantal Polisiye”.
In the past few years, you have increasingly been booked on Germany, Switzerland, the UK and France. How did you experience those countries’ club scenes in comparison to your native Istanbul?
The last few years have been really shaky for Turkey both politically and socially. All of this had a huge impact on the nightlife of course. Lots of venues closed, some of them try to survive against all odds. But on the other hand there is still something happening. In summer, you can find 2-3-day-long parties, beach festivals with 3.000 – 6.000 people, etc. I know that this city has a dance music heritage coming from the mid-90s and this keeps the culture alive. But I have to admit that it has been a lot easier, funnier and wilder during the late 90s and early 2000s. Germany, especially Berlin, is a whole different world, with an encouraging policy for promoters, DJs, and partygoers. But except that, there are certain regulations and limitations everywhere I went. Parties can get canceled because of some license problems or sound gets quite because of noise complaints. Considering the status quo, people in İstanbul may really use some partying and escapism, but again it is not so easy to find these days. That makes our local crowd a bit demanding and impatient compared to the places I’ve been in Europe.
Your strong connection with Berlin has recently resulted in you contributing to Sameheads’ ongoing mix tape series. How did that come about and what was your concept behind Witchez Of Anatolia?
I was invited to play at Sameheads last year that’s how I met the crew and we became friends. Nathan, who runs the place, asked if I can contribute the eigth edition of their cassette releases and of course I jumped on it. Actually I was super excited because it was a great opportunity to make something on a physical format. I approached it more like a selector than as a DJ and started with my research. He was expecting something with local flavor which drew me to the Anatolia concept and the myth of Şahmeran, the kind mother of snakes, mother Goddess of Anatolia. I was always impressed by the story and physical representation of Şahmeran. She is half human half snake figure and has an important place in the mythology of Turkish tribes. Thus, the tape has a mostly feminine power and features female voices. This combined with the name that I came up with, Witchez of Anatolia, made me split both sides of the tape into dark and light magic. Dark magic A-side represents some sad and emotional stories from history, the light magic B-side represents joy and fun.
How did you select the tracks for your contribution to our Groove podcast?
I tried to create a dance floor friendly set for Groove, keeping in mind that it has wide audience. I picked some music from my latest discoveries and some sure-shots from the past to create a left-of-the-center dance floor appeal. The influences draw from 80s rave and some 90s breakbeat, which has an avant-garde, industrial and emotional flow. It’s supposed to feel like a wild rave with friends.
Last but not least: Where can we see you behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans as a producer and label owner?
I have some really exciting gigs in the next few weeks with some cool festivals in Strasbourg (Contre-Temps), Berlin (New Dance Fantasy Summer Festival), or in the South of France (HOG HOG). I’ll be also playing with the Macadam Mambo team in Paris at La Rotonde beginning of September and a second appearance at Panorama Bar should be revealed very soon.
Stream: Zozo – Groove Podcast 111
01. Art of Noise – Donna (ZTT)
02. Sombrero Galaxy – Planetary Dance (Second Circle)
03. Ceephax Acid Crew – Play Your Cards Right (Ceephax self-released)
04. Powder – Hip (CockTail d’Amore)
05. The Blech – Wosto Adjustements (Wosto Remix) (Macadam Mambo)
06. Aborted Line 6 feat. Carlos Peron – Mammut (Off Course Records)
07. Kris Baha – Relapse 83 (Bahnsteig 23)
08. Danzas Electricas – Stefan Egger Power Synthi (Sneakers Bakalao Ajustement) (Macadam Mambo)
09. Helen – Witch (Out/ZYX)
10. Young Tee & Joe Heart – Invisible Man (World Unknown)
11. Escort – Karawane (Leftside Wobble Mix)
12. Alexander Robotnick – Tyrel Edit
13. The Chemical Brothers – Wo Ha
14. The Persuader – Sun Position (Concrete Music)