Turkish musician Alpman uses psychedelic rock and funk to “fight back” (Interview)


“Music is the only way for me to live. It’s the only thing I really know. This is how I fight back.”

Music can be remarkably expressive—reflecting the world at times, while also serving as a way to escape reality.

Alpman’s music has a degree of cinematic thrill that allows listeners to accomplish the latter. Gunes Alpman hails from Istanbul, Turkey, and describes his music as “spychedelic” – a special mixture of funk, psychedelic rock, and surf rock.

When listening to tracks such as “Varmeslag” and “Retreat,” it’s hard to believe that one man is responsible for such whirling, multi-faceted compositions. His songs are sonically complex and unpredictable, yet there is an underlying pulse that can be instinctively felt within them. While Alpman’s music is strictly instrumental, it effortlessly paints pictures in the mind’s eye.

If you talk to Alpman for more than five minutes, it becomes clear that musicianship is his passion. It’s been a definitive part of his life for as long as he can remember, and he keeps it at the forefront for a number of reasons. Despite the horrific nature of a recent terrorist attack at an airport very close to his home in Istanbul, he didn’t allow his thoughts to dwell on the violence. Instead, he insisted that the show must go on. “Music is the only way for me to live,” he explained to me. “It’s the only thing I really know. This is how I fight back.”.

What things do you find yourself doing in your free time?
Free time is not common in my world. I wake up, go to the studio, spend the day there, and go back to bed. I spend three to four days per week like this. Even if I’m not in the studio, I somehow manage to think about work. I might be a hopeless workaholic.This is my life.

I’m really into architecture and photography. They distract me from the studio when I don’t know what to do next. I’m planning a special project inspired by architecture and photography in the near future, but I’m keeping it top secret for now. I also enjoy great wine, coffee, and food, just like everyone else in the world.


Do you find that your interest in architecture and photography influences the way that you make music?
The processes of creation, design, and composition are actually quite similar. The art form itself is irrelevant. It’s about aesthetic approach. Aesthetics are universal. By no means am I saying that film, music, and architecture are the same. There are clearly very different methods of creation for each of these fields, but when you boil things down there are similar questions that must be answered. I focus more on the “why” than the “how.” I can use photography, cinema, colors, and actual physical objects to tell different parts of my story. They’re all valid. Why not incorporate them all?

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned as you’ve grown artistically?
I’ve learned that I’m not the first musician, nor am I the last. I’m not the best musician to ever walk the Earth, nor am I the worst. Music doesn’t have borders, and it’s not going to adhere to your expectations. There is no tried and true way to define success within the world of music. In my opinion, if you feel good about it, it’s good. The worst thing you can do is overly criticize yourself, because there will always be something missing within your work. Your music will never be perfect. This is exactly why you must keep creating it.

Have you been deterred by naysayers or doubters throughout your creative journey?
No, because I’ve never asked anyone for their opinions of my choices. I’ve never seen the appeal in that. I’d rather continue to learn and grow through my creative journey. I really love to learn. The day you stop learning is the day that you die. That phrase holds true, in my eyes. It’s not about learning in an academic setting. School teaches you how to act in a social environment, but it does not teach you how to create. School does teach you how to define and categorize the thing you created. There’s so much more to it than that.

What inspired you to become a musician?
Being a musician wasn’t a conscious choice, at first. There were a lot of instruments lying around the house when I was growing up, so I fell into it quite naturally. I’ve been creating noise and sounds in different ways since I was about five or six years old.

After a while, I had a revelation. I realized that I enjoy creating nonsensical, chaotic noise. It appealed to me on a very basic level. I thought to myself that the next step would be to learn proper musicianship. Soon thereafter I began my formal education at a music conservatory in Istanbul. They taught me how to read and write music. I learned to play cello and piano. However, as I moved through the conservatory I began to realize that formal education wasn’t what I was looking for. Once I realized that, I knew I had to leave, and I did soon thereafter.

How did your departure from the conservatory change your focus as a musician?
My formal education focused on traditional turkish music, and I didn’t have any interest in that. I’ve never had any interest in that. After I left the conservatory, I began a much more important process, the process of self-education. Over time, I listened to disco, funk, library music, and a wide array of other records that were created as far back as the 1960’s and 1970’s. Hearing those different sounds made me realize that I can create music like that. I’m still listening. It’s going well, to this day. I love it.

How did being exposed to different types of music from the 1960’s and 1970’s stretch your artistry?
I fell in love with synthesizers. At this time in my life, I began to realize that any instrument with a keyboard can’t be too far from a piano. I realized that I could quickly learn these instruments. It was a huge step forward in my thought process.

I started nerding out on studio and recording technology. Then I was playing all different types of percussion. I’m still not that good of a drummer. I don’t think I am, at least. I think that I’m actually mediocre at everything. That’s just how I am.

After I progressed for some time, a label called KEPT Records from Canada reached out and asked if I wanted to release a record with them. That moment was the first time I understood what I wanted to do with my life. We released a project called Tintm in 2013, and I think it was actually their worst selling record.

How was your experience working with KEPT for that record?
It was great. They gave me a chance to introduce myself to the music world with a vinyl. It was a very solid starting point for my career.

Is there anything in particular you want listeners to take away from your music?
Due t the nature of instrumental music, I can’t use “words” to tell my message, so it’s more feeling-related. It changes, often. I want all my listeners to feel something when listening to my music.

Can we expect a different type of music from a future release?
Absolutely. My creative process is more concept-based than style-based. This is why I love singles more than LPs. My inspirations and methods are typically the same, but they don’t always yield a similar sound. I’m not going to release a heavy black doom death metal album, but some things might be different the next time around. I will likely stay in the same analog electronic orbit. That’s actually the only thing I can foresee about future releases right now. There will be more synthesizers.


To learn more about Alpman, visit his website and check out his Bandcamp.