Photo by David Jack Jones
As much as we like to think that the life of a DJ/producer is an endless rotation of perfect gigs, waking up some time past noon to go grab a late breakfast and casually peruse through their local record store, the reality is that most of them work very hard to be where they are. For Ilker Soylu aka Philogresz, that couldn’t be more true. The Turkish born producer is an ardent believer in the “more is more” policy when it comes to his work ethic. Not only does he run the Phil and TEAM Records labels, he also finds the time to lecture on sound engineering, produce his own tracks and remain active in a number of other endeavors. His own tracks have found homes on Ware, Prog City Trax and Treibstoff amongst many other labels and can run the gamut from deep, lazy house through to disco, minimal and straight up techno. Little White Earbuds got in touch with the relentlessly busy Soylu to talk about his multitude of projects, how he integrates his predilection for guitar music into his productions and to find out what’s coming up on his horizon. He was also responsible for our 120th exclusive podcast, which is a special spotlight on his Phil label, highlighting the best of their releases to date and allowing a sneak peak at some forthcoming attractions.
LWE Podcast 120: Philogresz (56:25)
01. Simon Hinter, “Helium” [Phil*]
02. Philogresz, “Dependance Of Distance U” [Phil]
03. Simon Hinter, “Take Care” (Aki Latvamäki Remix) [Phil]
04. Ron Deacon, “Tribute to Oxygene” [Phil]
05. Klovn, “Cover Up” [Phil]
06. Philogresz, “Rejections” (Simon Hinter Remix) [Phil*]
07. Simon Hinter, “Ribbon In The Sky” [Phil*]
08. Simon Hinter, “Smells Like Green Spirit” [Phil*]
09. Klovn, “PF” [Phil]
10. Philogresz, “Lowrider” [Phil]
11. Simon Hinter, “Soul” [Phil]
* denotes tracks that, as of the time of publishing, are unreleased
So your role in music goes a lot further than what we hear from you as Philogresz. Can you please tell us about your various positions behind your music and how you came to be doing what you do?
For almost a decade, I’ve been active as a sound engineer (mixing and mastering); as a teacher (producing and composing electronic music); and I also teach a course on coordination of electronic music at an audio school (acoustics, dynamics, and sound). I produced my own radio show between 2004 and 2008. Since 2007 I have run TEAM records, and since 2009 I have run the 12″-only imprint Phil. Mostly this drive for music comes from within, just an immense dedication to music.
It sounds like even one of the things that you do is enough for a full-time job. How do you manage all your various positions — A&R, Culturescape Foundation, working for SAE, and still find time to produce music? It must keep you constantly busy.
I simply constantly work. The first thing I do when I wake up is check my mails, et cetera. Sometimes I find myself lying in the bed all morning answering emails, negotiating, and then I realize how unhealthy I live my life. However, on the other hand, I need to be busy with things otherwise I become really unhappy and unbearable to be around. Even though it seems I have a lot on my plate, I usually try to make time for people and don’t use this as an excuse or think I have the right to ignore them (which happens a lot in the scene).
Whereabouts are you currently based and where did you grow up?
Since October 2011, residing in Antwerp, Belgium. I grew up and lived until 19 in downtown Istanbul — I was born on the European side and raised on the Asian side. When I was growing up, I spent almost a decade in the Netherlands, during the time when I was really developing as a person.
I understand you went to university in Middlesex. What did you study?
Actually Middlesex University validated the study I undertook in Rotterdam and Amsterdam. I never went to London for the actual study. I was invited to the graduation ceremony there but I’ve never gone in for that hat-throwing thing. That’s where I completed my Sound Engineering and Bachelor of Recording Arts.
You are a multi-instrumentalist, aren’t you? What do you play and when was it that you became interested in music?
I play the guitar, bass, drums a little bit, keys, perc, and I use my voice. In terms of the people who inspired me to play music, I guess, if I take a wide view of it — via Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and early Turkish protest music. And lots of grunge, punk, and metal as well. I think I was and will always stay as an indie music guy; it’s deeply rooted.
And when did this turn more towards electronic or dance music?
In 1998, I guess, it was via Ministry of Sound compilations and a friend — he’s actually right next to me now.
Did you start DJing or producing first?
Producing, actually. Originally I was only playing live with a guitar, a laptop, and some controllers.
So with a musical background, how did that inform what sort of studio you set up? Do you have a lot of instruments in there, or are you digitally based?
I have acoustic guitars, a cheap Evolution MIDI keyboard, several Faderfox MIDI faders, triggers — LV2 and LX1 — and I run most of the things via Logic Pro 7 from a nine-year-old Mac G5. So not that exciting at all, but I think it’s functional. Monitoring is the most essential key in Philogresz productions because the music is very spatial, so I use Dynaudio BM6s to hear more details and to create room in my mixes.
Where does the name Philogresz come from?
It’s a self-made-up word from the combination of philosophy and progression.
It must be very hard to keep two physical labels running and a third digital label when there is so much competition out there. From a business perspective, what have you had to focus on to keep your different labels going?
For me, keeping Phil (the physical label) alive is not that difficult because I’m lucky and thankful to be surrounded by many creative artists. Shout-outs to our beloved artists: Simon Hinter, Klovn, Ron Deacon, Sinner DC, and Aki Latvamäki. For TEAM, we have a wide range of sub catalogs and try to establish them in an old-school form. TEAM Deep is strictly deep house, TEAM One is strong one-trackers from one producer, TEAM Split is two strong tracks from two different producers in split format, and TEAM Limited is strong club tools, strictly vinyl. Also big ups to our beloved TEAM artists — over 50.
And what is the difference between your TEAM Records, TEAM Tomorrow (now out of business), and Phil labels?
TEAM is mostly techno and tech-house tunes, club tracks, and its digital sub-labels for more frequent output. We’ve also started a limited 12″-only label under TEAM called TEAM Limited. In the pipeline for that, we’ve got releases from Diego & Deepchild. Then there’s Phil, whose emphasis is more musical, unforced, timeless. Compositional structure is essential, and every piece is treated as if they’re an album. So it’s for all of our intimate output. We only put out records when we want. I think timing is essential.
You’ve got a lot of singles and EPs out already. Are there any plans for a Philogresz album?
Yes I’ve made a decision for the album this year. Who knows when will it be ready, though?
What can you tell us about the mix you’ve put together for us?
It contains Phil tracks exclusively. Released and unreleased and forthcoming tracks. Hope you enjoy.
What can we expect from Philogresz over the next year?
Hopefully I’ll be starting to work on the album, some exciting shows in some unexplored lands for my musical career — Sweden, Denmark, Russia — and TEAM five-years celebrations in the cities Antwerp, Saint Petersburg, Leipzig, and Berlin. Also I’ll be working on tours in the U.S. and Australia.