The Istanbul DJ turns in spacey sounds.
It's not a coincidence that Zozo's rise to prominence has come at a time when DJs with wide tastes are in high demand. Her style, which she has previously described as "oriental crime," can bring together anything from grubby, slo-mo techno to Turkish psych. She's been a key part of Istanbul's electronic music scene for years. In 2010 she started overseeing the music at a gallery and bar in the city called Hush, where she fine-tuned her DJ skills, before taking up a role as the music director of Luzia Istanbul in 2015. These days, with Istanbul experiencing a period of political turbulence, Zozo says the city's nightlife is suffering. "Life has become harder and duller," she tells us. "As party people or music and art lovers, we are swimming against the stream with music." But she also says there's cause for optimism. "Despite everything there are still events, festivals, programs, workshops, small groups and talented individuals keeping the fire burning."
In 2018 Zozo has already played at some of Europe's key nightclubs—Concrete, Bassiani and ://about blank among them—and this summer she'll perform at Resident Advisor's Front Yard stage at Flow Festival in Helsinki, Finland, with dates at other European festivals also locked in. Her sound unfurls across her RA podcast, an hour-long exploration of swampy electronics and trippy atmospheres.
What have you been up to recently?
After touring from last winter to spring, I'm getting a bit of rest at home before the storm of this summer. I'm spending my time with friends and family, especially my cat, with new books and records. I've been enjoying many great new things so far. Trying to make up for lost time. In the meantime, I'm selecting some new music for upcoming radio shows.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded for the winter solstice—at home with some delicious wishes... but hey! It's almost summer :)
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
One hour of root channeling and exorcism :)
How are things in Istanbul's electronic music scene at the moment—and how does that compare the '90s Turkish club scene you grew up with?
Istanbul has a fruitful and inspired musical community and there has always been intrigue around dance music in the country. The scene was more colourful and vibrant back then. That proper '90s energy doesn't really exist anymore because of the social and political environment.
It started to lose momentum in the 2000s with time restrictions and huge taxes on alcohol and venues. Right now it is kind of a struggle in a chaotic political and social context. But with some dedicated people around and some luck it might change in a positive way. There is a circulation with new places opening and closing, and people here really could use a good night out.
Life has become harder and duller. As party people or music and art lovers, we are swimming against the stream with music. This is one of the few things we can hold on to. '90s nightlife in Istanbul was totally about collectivity and unity; sharing the moment on the dance floor. We were not captured by social media. There was no Shazam, no smart phones and definitely not the guy handing you a smart phone asking you to plug it in the mixer. But that was 20 years ago. The new generation who are going out now are born into a different era. They don't know how it was back then. And you can't demand or expect something you don't know. Especially the last four or five years, from promoters to venues, artists, DJs and the crowd—everyone is struggling with giant waves. But despite everything, there are still events, festivals, programmes, workshops, small groups and talented individuals keeping the fire burning.
You're playing an increasing number of gigs around Europe these days. Where have been your favourite spots?
This past year has been a bit crazy, I agree :) I had the chance to meet some top peeps and also play at incredible parties. So far, my top spots include Sameheads in Berlin. This is one of my favourite places (actually top of the pops!) from the musical taste to amazing and welcoming members, it's incredible! Whenever I play or go there I feel like home with my cats.
Switzerland's Les Belles De Nuit festival and community has been one of the best encounters of my life so far. They support, promote and network women and other underrepresented groups in the electronic music and cultural scene. I also really like going to Red Light Radio. The crew is so friendly. I feel happy to play what I want. The radio is the freedom, the radio is the voice. It's nice to connect with people with music from the radio channel ;) It's also every time a pleasure to do a party with the nice people from SSFB.
Bassiani is another one of my best experiences—from A to Z it was so amazing. The people are super friendly, dedicated and aware on what's going on. Recently I fell in love with Kraftfeld Club in Winterthur (Swiss) and beside everything, they have an amazing homemade lemonade!
Did also a top tour in Israel with Ray Harel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem's only nightclub, Pergamon. It was deep! I felt so connected with Jerusalem's people. They were friendly, open-minded and ready to dance, despite everything. I really like going to Bordeaux and spending time with my friends from otto disques and TPLT Collective. Top selection there, if you happen to be in town go and check them.
Had a super good time with PLUs (People Like Us) in Bristol. It was top, probably one of my best sets thanks to the crowd, which gave me super good energy.
And from my hometown, Gizli Bahçe is the place. I used to go there when I was a kid. We were skipping high school, having the classic adventures of being a teenager. Grunge, punk, youth, books, discovering new music, following the new releases, mostly albums on CDs, cassettes or vinyl, ending up at the mighty Gizli Bahçe and getting drunk. Now I go there for DJing almost after 20 years, it feels so good. Magical nights and easy rides are still happening there! They have just changed the mixer and CD players. Before it was too old and too cool.
What are you up to next?
I'm struggling with my UK visa application. It's becoming more and more difficult for Turkish citizens to travel. Maybe I can show this interview and invite them to the next party in the UK. I'm working on a new project: trying to set up a sound bar and restaurant in Berlin with some friends. Also, I'm working on my summer schedule and the next festivals—this is pretty exciting and I'm looking forward to joining all the crews and parties.