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Meet Gantz, Istanbul's Dubstep Ambassador

And stream his new single, "Rising," from the essential heavy bass label DEEP MEDi.
January 6, 2014, 7:30pm

It was somewhere around 11PM on a cool June evening in Istanbul—a week after police had withdrawn from occupied Gezi Park—and on this particular Saturday, Taksim Square was swept up in a cheery sort of anarchy. Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds teemed through Istiklal Cadessi, the area's main thoroughfare, chanting through their gas masks and waving Turkish flags, while young folks sat cross-legged in the side streets street drinking double-sized bottles of beer.

I was standing in front of a Burger King that was way over capacity, trying to convince a group of Turks to follow me to a tiny nightclub called Pixie, where Istanbul's dubstep ambassador Gantz was scheduled to open for DEEP MEDi minimalist Commodo. In the week prior, Gantz and his crew had been scratching their heads trying to figure out if they should cancel their event, given that a revolution was taking place literally on the sidewalk outside of the club.

Facebook told me that management ended up keeping Pixie open. But by the time I finally dragged a posse over to the black box of a club, the place was empty except for the DJs—no surprise, given the circumstances. My Turkish hosts whisked me back to Gezi Park before I could introduce myself, but I've been following Gantz and his sparse, nearly spiritual dubstep rhythms ever since.

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A few months later a press release landed in my inbox announcing that his newest record would be out on Mala's DEEP MEDi Musik, London's essential dubstep imprint, and one that hearkens back to the genre's golden age. The release led me to Gantz's Sound of Istanbul mix from the spring of 2013, which showcased a sampling of Turkish bass music purveyors, many reconfiguring traditional sounds from across the region into heady, smoked-out hip-hop rollers.

I decided I needed to get at him on Skype, apologize for not introducing myself, and learn a little bit more about the enigmatic DJ and producer. Turns out he's a quiet, mild-mannered dude with a single-minded devotion to his craft. We talked about being a part of a global family founded on low-end frequencies, his first gigs in the US, and the current state of affairs in Turkey's breathtaking—but often troubled—cosmopolitan hub. He was kind enough to offer us the exclusive premiere of his new single, "Rising," which you can stream here.

THUMP: Hey Gantz! Where are you right now?
Gantz: I'm in Istanbul right now—that's where my house and studio are.

Where in Istanbul do you live?
Pretty central, close to the city center.

You just got done with a US tour right?
Yeah man, I was in New York, LA, Boston, and San Francisco.

You played with the Bassic guys in Boston right? I grew up in Boston, and I remember seeing Kode 9 there, like, six years ago.
Yeah, those guys are awesome—the night has been going strong for some time.

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There's a lot of loyalty there.
Yeah I think the dubstep scene here seems pretty strong compared to the UK actually.

Do you have any stories from the USA tour?
Well I think I have one good one. You know [British dubstep DJ] Thelem right? Well, one night he got lost for like five or six hours. He went out to get some cigarettes and he was gone for a really long time. We were all coming up with stories that maybe he was dead or was floating in the river, or some shit like that. It got super dark. But it turns out that he just went for a walk.

That's a long walk.
Yeah, we actually called the police. Thankfully they didn't pick up! [laughs]

So how did you get linked up with those promoters? Facebook? Soundcloud?
No, I had never met them before. Luke, who runs [the New York warehouse party series] Reconstrvct—we met through him. I only got to meet the Boston crew when I actually got there.

Had you traveled to the US prior to the tour?
No, that was my first time. Actually, I pretty much got strip-searched when I was entering the country.

Oh man—I'm sorry to hear that.
Yeah, that was crazy but it's OK. Maybe that's the crazy story of the trip now that I think of it.


So you play at a venue in Istanbul called Pixie, right? Can you tell me about it?
It's the only place in Istanbul where this kind of music gets played out. I play there sometimes. It's a really small, really dark room, one floor—it has a really loyal following and everyone knows each other. Only good music gets played and it's a real family vibe. The sound system is really nice.

You know I actually came to see you DJ with Commodo when I was in Istanbul in June.
No way.

Yeah, I was with a big group of people who all wanted to do different things so I just came by myself for like three songs or so and they pulled me away. I wanted to say sorry for not introducing myself.
Did you enjoy Istanbul?

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Yeah. It was a crazy time to come, with the Taksim Square occupation.
June, yeah—that was a crazy time. Did you get tear-gassed?

Just a little… Was it weird trying to decide whether or not to cancel the party?
Yeah, it was. We ended up doing it in the end. We chose not to send out invites or really announce the event, but we all went anyways and just played quietly for people who happened to be there. But then we made up for it the next month, when we did a second party with Commodo. We've hosted him three times at this point.

And you've hosted Joe Nice as well?
Yeah, we've had Joe play here three times as well. We gave him a full tour and he had a lot of fun. The second time he came I was actually busy at a protest, so he traveled around by himself in Istanbul like a local.

So you've played the UK a few times as well, right?
Yeah I was just in London and Bristol to play the Get Darker night. That was probably one of the most beautiful nights of played.

Yeah you've got quite a family in England now right?
Yeah man—through the Internet. It really feels like a family.

So you've got a new record coming out on DEEP MEDi, right? How did they find you?
Yeah. I've been sending Mala tunes for like a year now, and he finally responded one day. One day he actually called me and said he wanted to sign some tunes and chat. That's how it happened.

I was doing an interview with someone and they mentioned an Istanbul producer named Dalt Wisney. Do you know him?
Yeah I've heard his name. He produces some more experimental hip-hop type stuff. His stuff his cool—I've never met him though.

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Speaking of Istanbul DJs and producers, you have that Sounds of Istanbul mix—can you talk a bit about that?
It was done pre-Gezi Park, so it's not related to those protests at all. There was a lot of music that was being put out by Istanbul producers—well, not just those from the city actually but people throughout Turkey. I just wanted to do a mix with them and put it out there for people to here. People check out my page a lot to check out stuff related to dubstep—I thought it would be a nice change to put this mix out. I think people liked it.

Who are some of the people on that tape?
It has El Mahdy Jr., Grup Ses Beats, Ince Şarj, and a few more.

Are those people you met online or are they more people from around town?
They're just local guys that I know personally.

You mentioned that in the UK dubstep doesn't seem to get to be getting the love that it used to be getting?
That's what it feels like to me. I've been to the USA and it was mind-blowing to see that people be so into the tunes that I was playing. The promoters were amazing—I mean, over the top amazing. I didn't quite get that kind of experience in the UK, though I've only been once—but people seem to be interested in other sounds there, rather than just dubstep.

I saw you took some tunes off your Soundcloud but one that I was listening to sounded like it was sampling some older Turkish music. Can you talk about some of the Turkish music you've sampled?
They're usually records from the 70s or 80s. Not all of the records are from Turkey though—some are from Syria or Iran. You never know where these records are gonna come from.

El Mahdy Jr. has been introducing me to these sounds. But I've been getting into that Turkish sound more and more over the last two years. Those records have a similar sound to what I have been trying to produce over the years, so it just felt natural to incorporate those two types of music into one thing; taking older sounds and seeing them through a new perspective. El Mahdy Jr. is the master of that right now—I've been so inspired by him.

Gantz's new single, "Rising" b/w "Spry Sinister," with El Mahdy Jr., is out January 13 on DEEP MEDi Musik.

Max Pearl is looking forward to getting his own DJ residency in Istanbul one day -@maxpearl