March 5, 2013
This article was originally published in DJ Mag’s February Issue.
Following his amped-up, high-energy extended set at one of Ottawa’s biggest year-end massives: Pulse 2012, we were lucky enough to sit down with Deniz Koyu and pick his brain. We get into his insanely busy month of December, his upcoming releases and collaborations, and the inspiration behind Bong and his Generation Wild tour, among other things. Read-on, come with us and get inside the mind of rising-star, producer/DJ, Deniz Koyu.
After he finally stepped down from the decks, much to our surprise and utter enjoyment, a whole 45 minutes later than we expected – we headed to Deniz’s green room to wait for the man himself. I had been dying to see Deniz Koyu ever since his breakthrough hit Tung took the EDM world by storm nearly 2 years ago – so to have that fulfilled and to be sitting in his green room, moments from speaking with him face-to-face… the butterflies were flapping. Deniz entered and quickly took care of my nerves for me, offering his hand out to everyone in a warm introductory fashion. He seemed just as excited to be there with us, as we were to be there with him.
Ottawa had just shown him the love he deserved for a first visit. “The energy here was so good. I actually always have good experiences here in Canada. I’ve played Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver and I always had a great time, but this time here was really really good.” Are you curious when you Ottawans can expect Deniz Koyu back? “As soon as possible. We’ll see. I think, latest, in the summer,” said Deniz. In the week following this interview Deniz released the full details of his Generation Wild tour – full details below.
Born in Germany and of Turkish descent, Deniz Koyu is not new to the world of EDM. He is however, new to the hearts and minds of many music-lovers. With releases dating back to 2007, Deniz is quite familiar with the industry, but it’s only been in the last couple of years that he has exploded into the limelight with an onslaught of chart-topping singles and hundreds of bookings in many different countries, cities and venues. Just how busy is Deniz Koyu? “I started this tour December 14th and since then I’ve been playing pretty much every night,” said Deniz. You might be thinking, “Deniz! Don’t you get tired?” To that he says: “To be honest, on this tour, it’s the first time that I’ve noticed that this whole thing, this travelling and playing, can be stressful and exhausting. It’s really crazy if you have to go to a new city every day and especially because over Christmas I had to go from America to Europe for 2 shows and then back again to America, so that really killed me a bit, but I’m gonna take a vacation for 2 weeks.” On Christmas Eve he played in Greece, on Christmas Day he played in Germany and on Boxing Day he played in New Jersey. If you thought your holidays were busy, think again.
The life of a touring DJ has a lot to do with stress and exhaustion, but obviously they have their fair share of crazy fun times, too. Being the fun-loving and generous dude that he is, on this past tour, Deniz Koyu held a little contest for his fans. The winners would hit the road and travel with him from his gig in Los Angeles to his gig in Las Vegas. “We did this road trip from L.A. to Vegas, because I played one show in L.A., and then we had this idea, because the next day I was playing in Vegas, why take a flight when we can actually do a road trip. We took a limo and we made a contest out of it. I think in total, we had 8 contest winners and they were all coming with us in this limo. A bit too much alcohol and it went pretty crazy. It’s kind of hard to explain in words. I will have videos and pictures that describe the whole thing much better.”
When we ask more about his touring schedule, Deniz hints at the upcoming Generation Wild tour: “It looks like we are doing 22 shows in 28 days,” says Deniz. All the dates are not yet set, but Canadians can look forward to dates announced in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. If you’re like me and don’t live anywhere near these cities, you might just need to make a trip to the Eastern side of our beautiful country. The talent on this bill is outstanding; Deniz Koyu will be playing alongside Danny Avila, dBerrie and Mikael Weermets. You will definitely make lifelong memories.
I’ve always been curious how the event and tour lineups are decided, so we inquired. When asked if he chooses the artists himself, he had this to say… “Not exactly. That’s actually done by my agency, but of course, I have a couple of artists that I really like to work with or to play with, so I have some preferences, but I can’t really decide that myself. I can give some suggestions and see if it happens or not.”
When asked about up-and-coming producers that have been grabbing his attention, Deniz gives us one name. “There’s this young Spanish kid, Danny Avila. He’s just 17-years-old and he is actually coming with me on the Generation Wild tour, we are doing it together. He is a super talented DJ; really, really good on the decks and he is also starting to produce now and he’s really good.”
Superstar DJs can literally pop-up overnight in the industry today, but with releases on Beatport dating back to 2007, it’s taken a few years for Deniz Koyu to grab the attention of the masses. If you’re familiar with Deniz Koyu’s work, you might be left wondering, “Why?” He gives us a few reasons. “One reason, is that I think that my production level back then wasn’t really at the top level yet. I was still really learning everything and increasing my production level. That’s one thing – and the second thing is; I just didn’t have the right label behind me, who was working with me, and not the right management. I was working with some guys and they didn’t really do the right job for me so that screwed up some things. Then finally, it was last year when Fedde le Grand found me, from there things really picked up and got much better.”
Deniz Koyu’s breakthrough hit Tung was released on Fedde’s Flamingo imprint in late June of 2011. The track received massive amounts of support and became one of the summer’s hottest records. Since then, Deniz has had numerous releases on many different labels, all achieving wild recognition and success. “When I finish a track, I always try and look at what record label fits the track best. At the moment, I release my stuff on Refune, that is Sebastian Ingrosso’s label. I also want to release a track on Axwell’s Axtone label. I really like the Axtone stuff, and maybe also something on Musical Freedom from Tiesto.”
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen an EP from Deniz Koyu, but what we do see are thumping singles being turned out on a regular basis. From his four-letter bangers, Tung and Bong, to remixes for Zedd, Digitalism and Miike Snow among others, Deniz Koyu shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, it looks like the age of Deniz Koyu is just getting started. We ask Deniz where he stands on the topic of EPs vs. singles. “I think at the very beginning, an EP can help; because if you put out an EP with maybe 3 tracks, you show a bit of your talent and diversity. It’s a good start to show people what you can do. But I think later on, it’s better to do singles because you want to make sure that every track gets the right exposure.”
Even with his increasingly hectic schedule, Deniz Koyu still finds time to put in proper studio work. “Right now at the moment, I did one track with Dirty South that is coming in the end of January on his label, Phazing, and I’m actually very happy with the track. I think it’s really, really good.” For those of you who think you may have heard this played out already, he stresses the fact that this version is old and the new version is much better. “It’s progressive house, but it’s quite groovy, actually. We wanted to go a bit back to house music, get the groove of house music and just take it to 2013. After that, I have a new release coming out on Refune. That’s my new single track, the follow-up for Bong.” It will be another four-letter title, but he won’t be revealing any track titles yet. That’s always his big secret. He is also working on more single tracks and remixes for this year.
If you’re like us, you’re probably wondering how the title Bong came to be… “Well, everybody probably thinks that I took a bong hit in the studio and made that track and named it Bong, but that’s not what happened. It’s actually quite a different story. I met a group of students in Philadelphia, when I had a show in Philly, and they called their house the ‘Bong House’ and they asked me to name a track Bong. I was thinking about it and I thought, ‘That’s cool,’ because it fits my other track, Tung. Tung… Bong… that goes together and because Bong was my follow-up for Tung so I said, ‘Okay. Let’s do it.”
In the case of Pulse 2012, and events similar to it, these kinds of parties feel like a mini-festival, in my opinion. We ask Deniz how he prepares his sets for parties of this magnitude. “It really depends. Usually, I don’t prepare sets. There is one rule. I think you should always take double the amount of tracks with you that you have to play. If it’s 2 hours, then I would have to play 25 tracks. That means I have to bring at least 50 tracks and then I just want to feel the vibe of the crowd and see what kind of stuff they like, and then I make my way through my set and see what works with the crowd. I don’t want to prepare a set. It’s only a bit different when you play a big festival and you don’t have the full, usual set times. Instead of 2 hours, maybe you can only play 1 hour. That means I want to play all my own records and then I have to see what fits in between. It’s very important if you play a short set like 1 hour, that the arrangement of your set really makes sense; there is a clear buildup and everything is really round. So, in that case, you have to prepare it, kind of.”
Now that we’re into February and March is right around the corner, your brains might be throbbing with thoughts of Miami, Ultra and WMC. Deniz considers his set at Ultra 2012 one of his favourite of the entire year. “Even though the crowd wasn’t too big, it was 4,000 people I think. It was so dense, so compact and had a crazy amount of energy.” Deniz will definitely be back at Ultra again this year, though stages and set times haven’t been confirmed yet. You can also bet that he’ll be playing at least a pool party or two. Maybe he’ll make a return to Nikki Beach… we’ll just have to wait and see.
Electronic music is exploding into the mainstream. We see new festivals emerging all the time. We’re hearing more electronic music on the radio than ever before. Former ‘pop’ and ‘hip-hop’ artists can be seen embracing a 4×4 beat in nearly every release. With electronic music becoming more and more commercial as the days progress, we were interested to hear Deniz’s opinion on the matter. Deniz is a happy resident for Wynn in Las Vegas, with a lot of time spent playing clubs XS and Surrender. “At the moment, I’m really super happy with XS. The guys are cool, and the shows are always great. The club (XS) is amazing – at the moment, at least, it’s the best club in Vegas, so I love to play there. The guys really support me and I’m very happy about it. But we’ll see what happens next year (2013).” The nightlife and electronic music scene in Vegas is growing exponentially. With numerous clubs popping up and a DJ bidding war taking place, Vegas has been referred to as the ‘new Ibiza’ by some, but Deniz doesn’t agree. “When I play in Vegas, I actually play the most commercial sets I ever play. If I would play in Ibiza, I would play some really cool stuff. I could go really underground and play different. So I know that people always compare them, but I think it’s very different.” Deniz goes on to explain that, “Ibiza has a much longer tradition and the people who come there… they are more educated with the whole EDM stuff and the music scene.” Don’t get the wrong impression… Deniz loves Vegas and the United States, but he brings up some valuable points. He goes on to say that, “New York and Chicago… these two cities are where you can play really cool stuff and people really know what’s happening and they don’t want to hear the commercial stuff, so that’s really fun to do.”
Well, now that you’ve been given a sneak peek into the life of Deniz Koyu… I’m sure you’re thinking, “How can I get to where he is!?” We’ve got some pointers from the master mind of Deniz Koyu. “I think, these days, it’s actually not so hard anymore to get the attention, if you do the right productions and the right tracks or do something that is unique. I mean, in this world of internet and Facebook and Twitter and everything, you can get the attention easily. It’s about the quality, about what you’re actually doing, so I think you need to put a lot of effort in it and just spend a lot of time in front of a computer and try to learn all the production skills and make some good stuff. Then, just put it out. If I were to start now, fresh, I would just put out my first productions for free, just on blogs, and spread it for free. I mean these days, you don’t make any money with music sales anyways. On Beatport, the sales are so small. Even if you had a #1 track, you don’t make any serious money with it. It’s not about the money you make with productions; it’s about the shows you play.”
But what if you don’t have a musical background? Deniz Koyu has a musical background, taking piano lessons as a kid for 5 years, but he has since forgotten most of that. He states he wouldn’t even be able to play any classic songs on the piano anymore. “What I do know is how to grab chords and how to move my fingers on the piano and I think that’s an advantage, maybe. If I want to develop some melodies I know how to grab things on the piano, but I think, for electronic music, you don’t really need to have any musical background. If you don’t have any musical background, you can still do it. I know lots of superstar producers… they don’t even play the keyboard, they draw the melodies on the screen with a mouse because they can’t play, and they make the hits. So, it’s really not necessary (to have formal music training or background).”
How many hours would you guess that Deniz Koyu has spent in the studio? “Basically, it was the beginning of 2010 when I decided that I want to do music production for my full-time job and from that point on, I think I spent pretty much 1 year; up to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week, sometimes 7 days a week in the studio, no break. I had a small apartment and my home studio inside that really, really small apartment and all I did was produce, sleep and I got up and back into the studio… working, working, working.”
He produces the monster originals, concocts up genius remixes and has a wealth of knowledge. If you weren’t yet familiar with Deniz Koyu… you definitely are now. From playing packed crowds to cruising in a limo with his fans, Deniz Koyu is an all-around, stand-up guy and it was an absolute pleasure to have the wonderful opportunity of sitting down and chatting with him. The age of Deniz Koyu is upon us. Get familiar.
Words by: Michael Miles
Photos by: Barrie Martelle