The world has reached critical mass regarding DJs, and the onus is on the listener to sift through the shite and discover what can be unearthed. Under such trying circumstances however, some stars still shine brightly. One such is Istanbul resident Hamza Solim, aka Rubsilent; someone whose obvious passion for his craft is evident due to the prodigious amount of mixes he uploads which cross the two hour mark. This, of course, is not in itself an adequate gauge of quality. However, one listen to any of his many online offerings should quickly reassure the listener as to the high standards he sets himself and the passion for his craft. He first came to my attention a while back through the podcasts he’s produced for the wonderful Avenue Red series, which of course encouraged me to keep tabs on the rest of his output. So, speaking as someone who truly believes that for every person featured in a series like RA’s ‘Art of DJing’ there are loads more unsung heroes who can do as good, if not a better job. Here’s the result of some recent correspondence between me and Hamza, who very graciously agreed to answer some questions I put to him, and recorded a mix especially for this blog. Thanks again Hamza.
How popular is deep house in Turkey? Where are the best places to go and dance to it, and how would you describe the Turkish club scene?
Electronic music culture in Turkey hasn’t really evolved in a way so that sub -genres like deep house stand out among other styles and are accepted by fellow music lovers. Of course we have a community of deep house lovers but most likely the majority of these individuals are either DJs or friends with DJs. Frequently, what is considered techno by some starts to become more popular but it is hard to tell whether such popularity is down to what clubbers are really into it, or it is just a reflection of escapism from the depressing socio-economical as well as political reality of the country, in the form of cold, rather monotonous emotionless beats.
Unfortunately, the majority of electronic music clubs only last 2-3 years or less. We have long running places like ‘Gizli Bahçe’ and ‘Pixie’ in town, but it’s hard to classify these places as clubs. Somewhere that answers the description best is Minimuzikhol which is the longest running one and place to be.
How does Istanbul compare to other big cities as far as not jut the house scene is concerned, but for record shops?
The majority of electronic music related events take place in cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, and to a lesser extent in Bursa and Antalya. Istanbul also has the highest GDP per capita and it’s the largest city which makes it far superior in terms of entertainment generally. The same goes for record shops too. I’ve never gone vinyl chasing in other cities outside Istanbul in fact I don’t do that here either. There hasn’t been any vinyl market for house/techno in Turkey since the mid 00s as everyone and their dog switched to digital from the inception of Final Scratch. There are a lot of 2nd hand vinyl shops in Istanbul for non-electronic genres, but that’s it. The Internet has been the only source for people like me for a long time.
You posted an interesting piece on Facebook the other day, relating to the “natural boost” on social media. You want your mixes to be heard, but how important is this really to you? How much is it about you sharing and your own satisfaction?
The ultimate satisfaction for the DJ is the energy flow on the floor between the DJ and the crowd, while you’re in that moment engaging in one of the oldest rituals of human existence, dancing. But then there is FM radio and the Internet that enables your music to be heard by many more people. I think when sharing is involved it is no longer limited to being a true music lover and having a love affair with music. Then expectations can change: being accepted and appreciated results in the drive to continue doing what others want you to do due to all the feedback you receive. This shouldn’t be confused with the “short term dopamine feedback loop” danger that we are all sometimes caught up in on social media because of likes, followers and loves though.
How many takes do you typically finish a mix in, and how perfect does it have to be?
Sometimes when I have spare time at home I start mixing just for fun. This is part of me getting familiar with freshly purchased records. Then when it comes to record a session, it’s half spontaneous, half based on these practice sessions of discovering new records as well as finding out what goes with what. So all my mixes are done in one go and there is no digital editing. Once I’m done with the session I usually check it over the following days before sharing it online to see if I’m satisfied with the flow. Usually they pass the quality test first time round but sometimes all that genre surfing doesn’t result in a unique story telling approach, but more like some sort of scatterbrained one, which forces me to re-record the session by removing some tracks and replacing them with others.
How therapeutic is the mixing process?
Very therapeutic. At the end of the day the world is not such a beautiful place and in spite of cultural differences and living in different nations we deal with a lot of bullshit every day. Mixing records to tell a story is my way of escapism from this ugly reality called modern life.
Do you have any aspirations to produce yourself?
I haven’t really got involved with producing or writing my own music so far but I’m old and wise enough to never say never.
Where does the name “Rubsilent” come from?
Nothing very deep. While living in the States I was still known as DJ Hamza Solim… As far as I remember back then this one night, just another night I was with a group of friends drinking, having fun then a DJ name was a matter of discussion; then an idea just popped into my head, why not combine the verb “rub” with the adjective “silent” to come up with Rubsilent? So that’s how the story goes for this DJ moniker of mine. How I found it, what it means.
Would it be fair to call you a vinyl purist?
I think so, yes, but it’s not so easy to continue doing it in a city like Istanbul.
If I were DJing for a living I would’ve said good bye to vinyl a long time ago.
Because first it’s too expensive, without another side (or main) income you can’t both pay the rent and bills and have enough funds left for records as a vinyl dj by doing local gigs only. Plus out of 10-12 maximum number of spots where you can “technically” play electronic music in Istanbul, only 3-5 of these places have a pair of turntables, and don’t even ask me how easy it is to play records in half of these 3-5 remaining spots, whether you can have enough room for all your records in their booths, or the set up is built on a skip/feedback free solid floor or not..
What is your set up?
2x1210 turntables my first ever pair. Ecler Nuo.2.0 2 channel mixer and old ass Gemini cd deck from 2001. Which is the source of a girl saying “Rubsilent” in my mixes. As I’ve explained before I never edit my mixes so all those DJ tags are done in real time via this CD deck. The only CD that remains in it is the one that contains the “Rubsilent” tag.
How many records do you own and how do you manage your collection?
The current number is about 5000 pieces. Since my relocation from the States in 2007 I have kept an Excel sheet for the collection. I put a sticker on each new addition and assign numbers for these new records. They appear on excel by these numbers with such additional information like artist, ep, title, label, release, year,where purchased from. Post 2007 additions to the collection up to today appear on my shelves in this exact numerical order. Ones I purchased pre 2007 are filed under labels, cities (Detroit, Chicago, NY) etc. on my shelves. Not the best way of organizing records I suppose, especially if you keep buying and then selling records off your collection as these stickers could damage the cover while being removed. Also when getting ready for a gig, instead of a small portion of your shelves you may need to look in a bigger area as deep house, electro, techno and ambient could be sitting on the same shelve right next to each other due to numerical order but when I need to find one exact record all I need to do is go through the file on Excel by typing the title, artist etc.
What is your day job, and what are your interests outside music?
I work for a corporate business as a foreign trade and logistics manager. I like travelling and exploring different cultures. Because of my wife’s occupation I’ve been into independent films too.
Do you have a favourite period of house music? If so, when was it?
It would’ve been nice to experience all of the 2nd summer of love in England and/or live elsewhere and be in the middle of the whole house music movement since day one but growing up in Istanbul and being exposed to this culture here makes one’s whole house music perception different to those who have lived this culture for decades. So to me, there is no late 80s or early 90s era, everything started in the mid 90s for me. And if we’re talking about the music coming from these eras I’d say the mid 90s was the bomb.
Who is the best DJ you’ve seen play? Why?
By far, The Innovator aka Derrick May. Why? Because he shows that DJing is too boring if you limit yourself to one style or only a couple of sub genres. There is a whole wide range of music out there, why not blend as much as you can and come up with something solid? Plus listening to DJ mixes whether out at parties or home online shouldn’t require you to be all f**ked up on drugs, no? So it’s kinda hard for me to consider some of todays contemporary techno stars being the king or queen of it by playing one linear style for 2-3 hours straight, which is technically all clean and very mathematically correct, but somewhat being considered better than others? Sorry if I sound like an old geezer here.
Have you ever cleared the floor while playing? If so, how did you react?
Never really happened to me with a packed floor but probably many times as I was doing warm ups in the past, but I knew that people coming and going had nothing to do with the music.
How many years experience to you need to become a good DJ? Can it be quantified?
A lot. It’s not about playing your favorite records to a group of friends and people. It’s all about the journey and who wants to join you on it. But of course with ever shrinking slots like 60 min, no journey, no ride only banging the box. Hence the explanation of a guy/girl with 1-2 years of experience as a DJ getting good gigs, because they’re somewhat good friends with the promoters… Let the CDJ to do the auto synching for you with not so deep, not so harsh, not so vocally, not so minimalist, not so jazzyish grey area tracks you’ve got on your flash disc as the audience isn’t expecting much from you dueing an hour long slot, only something to shake their body slightly to. So the question is who is looking for good DJs these days?
How intuitive are when you play? How planned is it and how spontaneous?
For playing out at gigs, 100% spontaneous maybe I only end up playing 2-3 records in the same order as I did at my previous gig or recent online mix, because they sounded too good to not mix them together again.
How important is technical proficiency behind the decks?
I still believe in the importance of essentials like beat matching. It’s not everything but without being able to do it what sort of technical proficiency should we look for in a DJ? The ability to use an FX unit and to read what’s written on the CDJ display in the dark? The ability to navigate within digital folders while spinning, and not to f**k up the venue’s PA system? Or maybe we shouldn’t expect any technical proficiency at all. Due to the love of music should everyone who has the courage to stand in front of the crowd and control some digital equipment be entitled to be called a DJ?
If you had to pick five tracks that have always been with you, what would they be?
Not that I carry these records with me to each and every gig, but these usually make their way back to my record bag more frequently than others among my collection.
How I Feel - Lil' Louis (Dance Mania)
In my Head - Gemini (Classic)
I Got Life (KZR's Manic Dub) - Kemetic Just Feat. Terrance Downs (NDATL Muzik)
The Resolution - Octave One (430 West)
Home Town Chicago LP - Boo Williams (Relief)
And a current five that are essential?
Hard for me to come up with track names as I constantly change my record bag for each gig but I’d rather mention some current favorite labels instead
For Those That Knoe
Frame Of Mind
Finally, how would you describe the mix you have put together to accompany this interview?
I wanted to do some story telling as I usually intend to while recording a mix. I didn’t wanna restrict myself to one style, era or feeling either, so it’s a mixture of old and new, deep and floor oriented stuff, slightly leaning more towards techno, deep techno territories, mixed in one go on my living room set up. Hope you and all listeners enjoy it.