Some musicians, so positively obsessed with the traditions, styles and cultural seasons of decades past, will sometimes eventually outclass the original creators. This is the case with Altin Gün, the Amsterdam-based sextet. These musicians fell so deeply in love with the psychedelic rock of Turkey in the seventies that their sound is a pure, fresh, interpretation of that vibe.
Since the birth of the band, its members have lived and breathed the music of Neşet Ertaş, Selda, Erkin Koray, Baris Manço, Hülya Süer and many more. Altin Gün are reviving the glory days of Anatolian prog, psych and folk. Their recently released second album Gece is unmistakable proof of their talent. They are today’s translators of the glorious sounds of yesteryear.
Gino Groenveld, percussionist for Altin Gün and Jungle By Night, answered our questions about the band, their love affair with Turkish music, and their new album Gece.
When and how did you first encounter Turkish music and why did you choose to base your sound on it?
“The first time I consciously got in contact with Turkish music was when I went with Jungle by Night to Turkey for the first time. To do something special for this trip we wanted to play a Turkish song so we decided to cover ‘Hal Hal’ from Barış Manço. After that, I noticed the Turkish sound more often and a lot of friend of mine they DJ and sometimes played this kind of Turkish rock music.”
We know that only two members of the band are born in Turkey or have Turkish roots. As musicians born and bred in the Netherlands, what is it like relating to and reworking such a distinct tradition?
“Even though we don’t understand the language or the culture necessarily, we are intrigued by the sound and rhythms of Turkish music and we try to interpret the music in a way which is also close to ourselves. We also relate to the music in a way that the energy and attitude of a song just speak to you sometime and one can feel what they try to convey.
Sometimes one of us wonders if we can skip a verse or a part of the vocals and that is where Merve or Erdinc can tell us that it’s a crazy idea or that the lyrics don’t make sense without a certain part.”
Despite all the geographical differences and influences, seventies psychedelia is undoubtedly the factor that links you to Turkish music. When did your love for psychedelia begin and who are the musicians that influenced it?
“Well for me I just listen to loads of different music types and not necessarily psychedelia. So it’s more about that era then psychedelia as a genre per se. All around the globe bands in the sixties and seventies have adapted a certain sound that appeals to us and especially so in Turkey. The sound later in Turkey doesn’t appeal to us as much so we tend to listen to that period for their music. I really couldn’t name a specific artist.”
All the tracks that you’ve released are covers of Turkish tunes from the sixties, seventies and eighties. However, I’d say it’s impossible to define Altin Gün as a “cover band” because each song acquires new features after your treatment. So how does the reinterpretation process work? How do you choose the songs and how do you work on them?
“Usually Erdinc, Merve and Jasper who are most familiar with the music go around looking for traditionals which haven’t been done in a groovy rocky version. They listen especially to a melody or hook which appeals to them and then we go from there. We start jamming or Erdinc makes a rough demo version and try to mould it into something of which we all comfortable in.”
We are pretty sure that there are many Turkish people attending and enjoying your shows. What’s their reaction to your music?
“Yes, there definitely are Turkish people attending our shows but I would like to add that they aren’t always in the majority. We tend to attract a lot of different people. But of course, the Turkish people love it. They feel a sense of pride and nostalgia because most Turkish people have been raised with some of these classics we play and they really appreciate the way we have adapted them.”
Gece, your new album, will be out in a few weeks. How would you like to introduce it?
“With Gece, we’re showcasing new sounds and take you on a journey to our interpretation of Turkish classics.”
What are the differences with your previous work?
“I feel that Gece has a less traditional feel to it than the previous album. We have experimented more with synthesisers and different grooves. I think it’s pretty versatile and shows different ways one can interpret a traditional song.”
“Glitterbeat is a bigger label who are also experienced in bringing out music from all over the world. It was an honour working with Bongo Joe and we still love those guys and are still in good contact with them but we had the feeling that we wanted to expand our reach and in order to do so it felt right to work with Glitterbeat.”
“Of course we’re very honoured to share a label with these great bands but first and foremost we’re very excited to be supported by a label who believes in us and supports us on getting our album out to the places where they need to be in the best way possible.”
Let’s move away from Turkey and talk a bit about the Netherlands. What’s going on in the Amsterdam music scene? Are there any artists or bands you would like to suggest we listen to?
“I feel the Netherlands have a lot to offer in the music industry. For such a small country we have a lot of great bands and more coming every year. Aside from Altin Gün we also sometimes work together with other bands in our music community. Jasper for example also plays in Eerie Wanda who have just released a new album, also plays in Jungle By Night and Daniel also plays in Morado. Our previous drummer also has a great band called Mauskovic Dance Band and another project called Bruxas. Holland is also, in my opinion, doing a good job investing in bands to play abroad. Because Holland is a country with one of the most different cultures, especially for Amsterdam, we are very fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of different sounds and influences.”
We deeply believe that the Netherlands, as much as Europe, if not the world, has an extraordinary need for projects like yours that are able to welcome and put together different traditions. I know that Altin Gün are not a political band in the true sense of the term but do you feel like being or aspire to be seen as a sort of cultural integration symbol? Do you think your experiences can help others to go beyond diversity?
“Indeed our intention is not to have any political message. But it does makes us sad of course that there is so much polarisation happening all around the world and people being scared of each other. In the end, we are all just people and should be interested of all the different cultures, cause there is so much to learn when you’re taking an open-minded glance into another world.
We don’t necessarily try or want to be a symbol of sorts. For us, it’s just normal to be interested in music from all around the world and working together with good musicians regardless of where they are from.”
Apart from the release of your new album and the upcoming tour, are there any already defined plans for the future of Altin Gün?
“No, not really. We just go along making music we like and intend to keep doing so as long as people will have us.”
… and people will definitely be looking forward to the presence of Altin Gün and their psychedelic sounds over the next few months, thanks to their upcoming and extensive tour which will bring the band around the world all the way from Turkey and over to California and stopping by in London on the 8th of May at the Jazz Cafe.