Q&A: 5 minutes with Elif
Born and raised in the cultural hub of Istanbul, Turkish producer Elif is rapidly earning her rightful place amongst dance music’s elite. Laying claim to an abundance of internationally celebrated releases on the likes of Stil vor Talent, Anjunadeep, Kindisch and Gardens of Babylon over the past few years, the prolific Barcelona-based talent has managed to carve out her own unique sonic path since emerging onto the scene in 2019 and is rapidly making a name for herself as one of the most exciting, in-demand artists in electronic music today. Now a seasoned regular at some of the most prestigious festivals and events the world over, her consummate calmness in the booth is a stark contrast to the frenzy she kicks up on the other side. Following the critically acclaimed release of her latest EP Letting Go on Stil Vor Talent, we caught up with Elif to discuss her production process, studio gear, her favourite up-and-coming artists and much more
Hi Elif, thanks for your time. Set the tone for us. Why music?
This is the one thing in my life that has always been there, no matter what, good or bad days. My relationship to it has changed over the years, from consumer to producer, but it’s just the most effortless way to communicate for me. I have done many different things in my life as jobs, but with music I feel like I found my vocation.
Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?
I don’t have one particular way of doing things. It can be both. When I have a deadline I am pretty quick. Even though it’s not the ideal way to create, it still works. I try to start with a small loop that already has the general sound and 1-2 ideas and expand from there. Sometimes I try to recreate sounds and syncopations I like in other tracks, explore ways to make them mine and use them in different contexts. There are always happy accidents included in my tracks too. I’d say my approach is both chaotic and organised. Unfortunately I don’t have regular studio practice as I am mostly on the road. One of my goals this year is to be able to plan more time to spend in the studio.
What is your favourite track that you have ever made, and why?
As someone who started DJ’ing first and then producing music: you need time for your production skills to catch up with your taste. To start producing tracks that I want to play is a journey that takes time and I have never wanted to take a shortcut on this. I have a lot of collabs which made it easier in the beginning to make my ideas work better on the dance floor and I learned a lot during the process of co-creating with these artist friends. I really love my track ‘Juno’ because it was I think the first track of mine – no collab – that I have played in a lot of gigs. I also used my own voice there for the first time.
Take us through a day in the recording studio.
When I’m in the studio I usually drink a lot of juices, kombucha, matcha and I mostly forget to eat. I put as many ideas as possible in many different channels, try things out. Make happy mistakes. During the process if I’m making the monitors louder and start dancing to the loop i create, it’s a good sign. But I still need to listen to it the next day with fresh ears and eliminate ideas and start thinking about the arrangement and transitions and little details.
Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.
I have a Moog Mother 32 that I barely use because I’m really lazy and I never have the time for it. I mostly use a lot of VSTs. Coming from an architecture background I’m comfortable creating with mouse, keyboard and shortcuts. Of course touching the hardware is the most amazing form to create. I have a MicroFreak that I use more often than the mother 32. I have the full collection from Arturia. I have now started to discover Roland Cloud and Diva is right now my go to Synth. I use a lot of samples too.
Tell us about your experience of performing live. Do you enjoy it?
It’s one of my favourite things in the world and being a shy person I’m actually surprised how comfortable I am in the booth/on the stage. It wasn’t always the case. I remember being more anxious on the stage but since 2022 something changed. Maybe touring non stop – I played more than 100 gigs in 2022 – just made me more comfortable on stage and with what I do.
When I perform I’m in a flow state, I almost feel like I’m just channelling something. DJ’ing is constantly deciding on the go and I feel like I’ll always make the right decisions when I’m in this flow state. After a good gig where I connect with the crowd and their energy and people have had fun, I’m on a natural high. Sometimes I go to gigs with very little sleep and I’m quiet before starting to play but once I start maybe like 10 mins into the set I’m fully awake and full of energy. It’s almost like another Elif comes out of me.
Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?
For me it was more like a transition. It happened slowly, not with just one decision, but feelings and decisions that led to where I am today and this is what I’m most grateful about in my life. This is what I do and I love it!
What’s on your current playlist?
Lots of music from Argentina, Israel and Turkey 🙂
Any emerging artists on your radar?
Yes, yes, yes, so many!
Abuk, Gespona, Yamagucci, Batikan Tanrikulu, Skala, Accent, Takiru, Althoff, Last Men on Earth, and Tenvin to name a few.
Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?
We are working on something very cool with one of my favourite collaborators and we can not wait to share the news soon, that’s all I can say for now.
Famous last words?
This berry doesn’t look poisonous at all.