"Sub City 2064" album was Editor’s Top Three CDs in Guitar Player magazine’s september issue of 2010.


Textura Magazine September 2009
SIX-STRING ALCHEMISTS: AREA C / ERDEM HELVACIOGLU / CRAIG MCELHINNEY / PILLOWDIVER / SLEEPING ME / TALVIHORROS

That textura loves guitarists should come as no surprise to anyone; textura's premiere release, for example, features the work of no less than four different guitarists (orchestramaxfieldparrish, Alexander Turnquist, The Retail Sectors, and Ryan Francesconi), each of whom brings his unique interpretative skills to bear upon Coleridge's Kubla Khan. Having also in recent times received a number of newly-issued recordings by other experimental guitarists, we thought it was high time we devoted extra coverage beyond an album review to these deserving six-string innovators. While their approaches clearly differ, all six share a similar fearless and pioneering spirit in their respective attempts to re-write the ways in which the instrument is used in contemporary electronic-based music-making contexts. 

ERDEM HELVACIOGLU

Currently Located: Istanbul, Turkey

Background: I am a composer, guitarist, sound engineer, and producer. I have received numerous international awards for my electro-acoustic compositions. My music has been performed at prestigious festivals and broadcast all around the world. I have collaborated with Mick Karn, Kevin Moore, Kazuya Ishigami, Luo Chao-yun, Ros Bandt, Craig Green, Jacob Young, Elliott Sharp, Bill Walker, Nathan Larson, Pete Lockett, Neil Leonard, and Saadet Türköz. I have received commissions from artists and organizations such as the 2006 World Soccer Championship, 2009 Novelum Festival, 2010 Istanbul International Classical Music Festival, 2010 Bregenz Contemporary Music Festival, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Todd Reynolds, Kinan Azmeh, Margaret Lancaster, Cem Duruöz, and Mesut Ozgen. I am also actively involved in composing for films, multimedia productions, contemporary dance, and theatre. My sound installations have been included at such galleries as Los Angeles Track 16, Indonesia Soemardja, Köln Museum für Angewandte Kunst, London Menier, and the 10th International Istanbul Biennial. My film music has been heard at Cannes, Sarajevo, Locarno, Seoul, Sao Paulo, and Sydney film festivals, and I received the “Best Original Soundtrack” award at the 2006 Mostramundo Film Festival. My solo album Altered Realities was included in the “Best 20 albums of 2007” list in All About Jazz, Textura, and Cyclic Defrost magazines. My latest solo album Wounded Breath has been released by the US record label Aucourant Records. The album has been called outstanding and totally original by various international music magazines.

Personal Style, Philosophy, or Approach: I have two different styles: one is for the acoustic guitar and live electronics setup, and the other one is for the electric guitar and live electronics setup.

For the acoustic guitar and live electronics sound, I like to combine simplicity and beauty with very sophisticated live electronics sound design methods. I aim to create a futuristic path that combines the first timbre that humankind heard from a string instrument and the sophisticated live electronics setup with its endless possibilities. I always envision a shaman who would play for a limited number of people, those who'd survived after a major catastrophe. I wish to be that 'shaman”'creating beautiful sounds that would soothe people's sorrows.

For the electric guitar setup, I strive for eternal beauty, not with the addition of sophisticated tools but rather with much more simplistic ones. I like to create a sound world where the electric guitar becomes the drone, the bass, the melody, the rhythm, the harmony, and the melody of it.

Gear and Working Methods: For my acoustic guitar and live electronics setup I use the Ovation custom legend 1869 acoustic guitar, Sansamp acoustic di, Carl Martin compressor, Boss fv-50 volume pedal, TC Eletronic Fireworx multieffect processor, Behringer FCB1010 midi foot controller, and the software Audiomulch. My clean acoustic guitar signal is routed both to the Fireworx and Audiomulch. These two machines are responsible for the live processing element. With the midi foot controller, I change the parameters within both the TC and Audiomuch. This change may involve a simple volume swell or a hundred parameters evolving very slowly in real time.

For my electric guitar setup, I use Gibson Les Paul and Fender Stratocaster electric guitars and an Epiphone guitar whose strings have been lifted to create the sound of a lapsteel. On this setup, I use various analog pedals along with Marshall JMP-1 preamp, Eventide Eclipse multieffect processor, TC Electronic Fireworx, and Lexicon MPX100. I do not use a laptop for this setup.

Influenced By: I have been influenced by Michael Hedges, definitely. Although I do not sound like him, his melodic, harmonic ideas, and the beauty of his tone have been very influential.

Favourite Guitarists: For acoustic guitar my favorite guitarist is Michael Hedges. He was the one who got me interested in trying different things with tunings. I also enjoy Adrian Legg as an acoustic guitar player. For the electric guitar David Torn is very important for me. He is the one who opened my ears and my mind to creating different timbres on the electric guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck are also very important players for me as they showed me how to play melodically and emotionally. Elliott Sharp is also one of my favorite guitarists. The way he attacks the instrument and his avant-garde blues sound is very exceptional. Bill Walker is one of the greatest lapsteel players I have heard. He is a relatively unknown player from Santa Cruz. For me, he has got the hands of God. His playing is that sensitive.

Desert Island album: Somei Satoh's Toward the Night is my desert island album. I think he is one of greatest composers alive. I have never heard such a sensitive ear for timbre, silence, and melody. He sounds heavenly.

Dream Collaborators: David Torn and Brian Eno

Life-Changing Concert Experience: I have been to many great concerts, but for me the life-changing concert experience was my concert at the Looping Festival in Santa Cruz in 2007. Let me explain why. I had prepared my setup for the travel, but when I landed in Santa Cruz, I noticed that my laptop was not working at all. Since my sound depends on the use of Audiomulch, I did not know what to to. For two days before the concert, I practiced some looping devices that people gave to me. I had not used any of those machines, so I had to learn how to use at least their basic functions. I was very worried of course. But on the day of the concert, something miraculous happened. I suddenly became calm and peaceful and decided to let things flow. Without my main setup, I played one of my most subtle, beautiful sets ever. This experience changed my life. From that moment on, I learned that I need to relax much more and let my instincts guide me rather than my mind.

Proudest Accomplishment: It is hard to pinpoint just one. But the moment that my commissioned piece was performed at the Merkin Hall by the Bang on a Can All Stars was incredible for me. Like Kronos Quartet, they have been my favourite group within the contemporary music scene. I had always dreamed how great it would be if they were to perform one of my pieces. And it is pretty weird that the reality got beyond my dreams! They have actually commissioned a piece from me for their People's Commissioning Fund, and I was the first European composer within the ten-year history of this project.

Take on Experimental Music in its Current Form: I am not an expert on this, but I can say that there is a lot of music there that is good, but unfortunately much of it sounds very similar. Although some people say that the boundaries of music have waned, I do not think that it is true. Even within experimental music (which by definition should mean that it may include what is adventurous and meaningful for the composer/performers) I see more strict divisions. Noise musicians do not want to hear any subtle, smooth textures, the electroacoustic composers do not want to hear any melodies, etc. I do not believe in any of these divisions and categories because for me there are no wrong notes.

Currently Promoting / Latest release: My solo album Wounded Breath on Aucourant Records is my latest release. The album includes five of my prize-winning electro-acoustic works and has been called “outstanding, totally unique” by many music magazines. Also a new acoustic guitar-live electronics piece of mine has been released on the compilation album Spectra: Guitar in the 21st Century by Quiet Design Records.

Currently Working On: I am currently working on many projects at the same time. I am about to finish mixing the duo albums that I recorded with Elliott Sharp, British percussionist Pete Lockett, American accordionist Michael Ward Bergeman, American saxophonist Neil Leonard, and American guitarists Bill Walker and Craig Green. My new duo record with Luo Chao-yun will be released in Taiwan in October. Also an ambient album with Robert Scott Thompson will be released hopefully before the end of the year. I am also recording new material for duo albums with Per Boysen and Leo Abrahams. Besides all these album projects, I am also composing for my new guitar-live electronics records and for new commissions, including a new musical theatre/opera commissioned by the Bregenz Contemporary Festival which will be premiered in 2010 and a new electroacoustic piece commissioned by the Novelum Festival which will be premiered in November. I have also recently started to compose for two feature movies.