How We Met: Richard Norris & Erol Alkan
'He's gentle and friendly and also kind of cuddly – not that I'd ever want to cuddle him'
Sunday 08 March 2009
Erol Alkan, 34, is a DJ who founded London club night Trash in 1997. Since then he has remixed Kylie Minogue, New Order and others. Now one half of psychedelic rock act Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve, he is married and lives in London.
I can't quite place where I first met Richard. I think it was somewhere in clubland. I don't generally remember details from the past; not through any form of hedonsim but just because everything moved so fast, the whole thing went by in a flash. Anyway, he seemed to appear in my life as if by magic. He is one of those people you meet and it feels as if you've known them for ages. I've probably known him for 10 years but it feels longer.
He asked me to do a remix of a Siobhan Fahey [Shakespears Sister, Bananarama] track he was putting out on his record label. A friend of mine pointed out that he was that bloke from The Grid and I was like, "Wow, a famous person" so I agreed. Embarrassingly, I never got it together. I think it's because I didn't really know how to do a proper remix back then. He must have thought I was a complete loser.
It wasn't until a few years later that I went on Sean Rowley's Guilty Pleasures radio show – he often asked me to come in for an hour to play records and chat. I think there must have been a double booking because Richard turned up as well, so we took it in turns to play one record each. By the end I realised a lot of the stuff Richard was playing – psychedelic, strange sounds, odd rhythms – was music I'd only dreamt about; music I didn't know existed. I told him I'd love to hear more and he put a CD together for me called Spyders in my Mynd.
It opened up a whole new universe of music and shortly after we started DJing together. I don't tend to DJ with other people, I've always played on my own, but it was great doing it with him. We became a bit of a double act. We'd bounce off each other and plot endless journeys where we wanted our music to take people.
We formed Beyond the Wizard's Sleeve in about 2005. The name came to us during one of our epic DJ sets. The great thing about our partnership is that our roles alternate, neither of us would dream of pointing a finger and saying you do this and I'll do that. We just both do what needs to be done. He might start a remix and I might finish it. I've done other creative things in the past where it begins and ends with myself. It's good to be able to trust someone else.
Richard is very sweet. He's lived a really colourful and vibrant life – he was very prominent in the acid-house era so he's got masses of interesting stories to tell. He's also kind of cuddly, not that I'd ever want to cuddle him, but he's got a very gentle demeanour about himself, very inviting and friendly. Things have calmed down now a bit, he's married with a child now and lives near Brighton so I don't see him as much as I did. Instead we do lots of chatting on the internet like a couple of teenagers.
Richard Norris, 43, is a musician and producer, best known as a founding member of 1980s electronic band The Grid. He lives in Lewes with his wife and daughter
We have been thrown together by our love of obscure music. I used to go to Erol's Trash night that he did at The End and I've never met another DJ as technically good as he is. He'd play an incredible selection of records and put them together in a way no other person would ever think to. I was raised on acid-house clubs such as Schoom and Phuture and Trash managed to capture a similar feeling. His sets would jump through all genres and all speeds and it just had an infectious enthusiasm which rubbed off on the whole room.
In about 2000 I started a website called Ammo City which was an internet magazine with radio attached. I invited Erol to come in and do some broadcasts. So I kind of got to know him through that. Then we were thrown together on the Sean Rowley show. I was playing some really odd records, the real far reaches of psychedelia, and he seemed really into it so I started making compilations for him. It was around then I that we started to think about working together.
We started DJing out in backrooms of bars in Shoreditch. We'd do epic eight-hour sets where we'd play a record each. Those eight hours felt more like two, because we were so over excited about hearing each other's stuff.
I think we've both got a touch of megalomania about us; we both like to be in charge. I was like that when I was in The Grid though I've mellowed a lot – I've had to because it wasn't the best way to go about things. You'd think two strong-willed people would be a disaster in a studio, but strangely enough it works OK.
Erol is a man who's got his own path and he goes down it. He's very loyal, very strong and very determined. It's taken us a while but, with Wizard's Sleeve, we are now starting to feel feel confident – we've done our re-edits and now we're starting to make our own music from scratch.
We are quite different really and we come from slightly different generations. My main musical success was in the mid- 1990s, Erol's success is more current. So for me it's been enormously helpful working with someone like him. He's brought me bang up to date.
"Beyond The Wizard's Sleeve Re-Animations Volume 1" is out now
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