AHMET ALİ ARSLAN

In our conversation with Ahmet Ali Arslan, we discussed his life intertwined with nature and his sources of inspiration.

Photos: Elif Kahveci (@elifkahveci)

1) Ahmet, hello! Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself first? What kind of education have you received, where do you live and work? What are you currently doing the most with your time?

Hello! I was born in Mersin and grew up in Istanbul. My education started at Robert College, then continued with Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Columbia University, and finally, I made a U-turn and completed a Master’s in Sound Engineering at ITU MIAM. Last September, I moved from Istanbul to Ayvalık. I continue to envision and record my own music with minimal studio equipment and occasionally produce for other artists. I have also started conducting music workshops for preschool children in Ayvalık. Currently, I have two albums on my agenda: one instrumental, ambient, and pastoral album with guest appearances on each track, and the 4th album of my band that I’m working on. At the same time, I’ll be on the move in July and August. I am happily busy organizing things in Ayvalık.

2) Would you like to describe a typical day for you? For example, if you don’t have a performance to prepare for, what do you do on such days?

Life in Ayvalık is slow and easy. I wake up around 8:30 and go rowing. It takes about 10 minutes to get to the rowing spot by car, and except for short trips to visit students, I hardly use the car. After rowing, I have a light breakfast. If needed, I might take a short stroll in the local market. Here, tasks that might take a week in Istanbul can sometimes be done in just 1 hour. During the day, I mostly work at home, either with the guitar, computer, or notebook. I also have about half an hour to an hour of reading time in the afternoon. If I have lessons, I prepare for them and go back and forth. In the late afternoon, if the weather is nice, I might go to the sea or take a walk or have a beer and potatoes with friends. I cook at home two or three days a week, and if not, I go out to enjoy the local delicacies in the evening. Being an independent artist means having a wide range of responsibilities; sometimes, I make my own posters, create my video teasers, and even write press releases… The tasks vary, but the themes remain the same.

3) You spend a lot of time in nature; can you tell us where you draw inspiration from?

Being alone in nature always reminds me of what it means to be myself. Despite choosing a career in the spotlight, I feel most at home far away from people. The repetitive nature of walking, the geography that surprises you in every season, a world that invites you without forcing your attention or taking it away… Sometimes, when I feel a bit scattered, when something triggers me and takes me away from my center, a few hours of getting lost is usually enough to bring me back. For example, you might be struggling with something in your head, and while walking, you find yourself surrounded by mountains, stones, flowers, and trees for hours. Then, there comes a moment when you look up, almost like a curtain lifting: “Oh, I’m here, these trees are here, I’ve been walking for hours.” It allows me to see my life more clearly rather than being an escape. When I return to the city from these walks, I make the clearest decisions. My sometimes overwhelming childish fears remain suppressed.

4) What do you want to experience in music that you haven’t experienced until now?

I would love to play with a symphony orchestra. I don’t know what I would play or sing, but the idea of being in the middle of that orchestra gives me goosebumps. As a smaller dream, I’d like some creative pressure to be relieved. No matter what, when working with established people in the field, they first look at your recognition. I wish for the doors of dreams like “I’d like to shoot a music video with this director, here, in this way,” or “I’d like to bring this trumpeter and this violinist together to record an album here” to open.

AHMET ALİ ARSLAN

5) When preparing for a concert, do you practice in the studio beforehand, or do you prefer to improvise? How does the process go?

I am not a musician who relies heavily on improvisation. For improvisation to be good, I believe that certain boundaries need to be pushed in music or with the instrument. Otherwise, one falls into the same patterns. I can be a bit secretive in my music. For example, a drum circle, where anyone can join, is a nightmare for me… Whether with a group or solo, we rehearse, but not to the point where we get bored with the songs or with each other. I didn’t call it improvisation, but there are many decisions left to the moment. I always like to leave room for a bit of destiny.

6) Which was the first stage you performed on? And could you tell us about a performance you enjoyed the most?

I first played my songs in a house in Galata under the Sofar Sounds series. We held the launch concert of my first album Günaşığı at Salon İKSV. We had many enjoyable concerts after that, but that day felt like a dream to me. The guests were wonderful, and I was surrounded by friends and a crowded audience in the salon… We have a “Mehtap” performance on YouTube with Cenk Erdoğan as a guest. My facial expression at the end tells everything…

7) What is your biggest dream in your career, and where do you see yourself and what would you be doing in the future?

My biggest dream was to perform at Harbiye Open-Air Theatre one day. I still probably prefer another existing stage. The silent history there, the songs sung together breathlessly, touches me deeply. It’s the capital city of my songs. However, I don’t know my biggest dream, and I like it that way. I can imagine its feeling, its color, but it’s not there yet: somewhere around the Lycian Way, an uncrowded yet bustling and peaceful festival. Maybe one day.

8) If you could perform with someone, who would it be?

I am close enough to Fikret Kızılok in my dreams to call him “Fiko.” It would be interesting since our voices are somewhat similar. If our dear friend David Gilmour could be a guest at one of my concerts and play a few solos, for example, just thinking about it makes me melt. On the other hand, I would love to make some hard music – even if I were on stage with Rage Against The Machine, scream and smash a bit…

9) At the end of this enjoyable interview, thank you for sparing your time with us. Finally, do you have any film, book, or music playlist that you’ve been following lately and would like to recommend to the readers?

I highly recommend Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” Campbell explores how people live and narrate their lives through myths from all over the world. It made me look at my own life with a more colorful perspective and made me feel that I am part of a much larger story.

Ahmet Ali Arslan: @ahmetaliarslann

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