Interview with Erdem Helvacioglu - (Oct. 6, 2011)

Erdem Helvacioglu is an electronic musician from Turkey best known among Kevin Moore fans for his guitar work on "White Robe," a song appearing on Chroma Key's 2004 album, Graveyard Mountain Home.  Helvacioglu also composes music for theater, film and multimedia productions and has received numerous international music awards.He is currently working on music with singer Nina Persson of The Cardigans.

Q: How did you get involved in the music industry?  Where did you study and what were some of your early jobs and gigs?
EH: I have started playing music when I was 11 years old.  My first instrument was the classical guitar.  Then through the years I have worked as a sound engineer, producer, guitar player, composer and arranger.  I have studied sound engineering and electronic music composition at Instanbul Technical University's Centre for Advanced Music Studies.  My very first gig was with a progressive rock band called Too Much.
Q: For those that aren’t familiar with you, how would you describe your music?
EH: It is not easy to describe since I am involved with so many different projects, but the general title that we can use for my music is "atmospheric and cinematic contemporary music."
Q: What musicians and bands were you influenced by growing up?
EH: David Torn, The Cure, Stephen Scott, Kaija Saariaho and many others.
Q: Most Kevin Moore fans recognize your name from Chroma Key's 2004 album, Graveyard Mountain Home, on which you performed guitar on the track, "White Robe."  How and when did you first cross paths with Kevin Moore?
EH: I have met Kevin when he lived in Istanbul during the recording of that album.  We have met through his girlfriend, whom I knew from high school.  Then we played together a little bit, improvised and then decided to work together.
Q: Were you familiar with Kevin’' previous work with Dream Theater, Chroma Key and OSI?  What did you think of the music?
EH: I have known Kevin's work from the Dream Theater and Chroma Key.  I was not very familiar with OSI.  I especially enjoyed his work on the Chroma Key albums.
Q: How did the opportunity come about for you to perform on Graveyard Mountain Home?
EH: After getting to know Kevin, he asked me if I would want to contribute some guitar parts for this album. Of course, I said yes.
Q: Tell us about your contribution to "White Robe."  On the credits, it said you played "additional guitar."  Which guitar part in the song did you play?
EH: It is the main electronically processed guitar riff of the piece that was performed by me. It was played by a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and processed through Roger Linn Design's AdrenaLinn pedal.
Q: Did Kevin play the other guitar parts on the song?
EH: Yes, Kevin played the other guitar parts.
Q: Obviously, Kevin isn't known for guitar playing.  What did you think of his playing on the song?
EH: Although Kevin is not a very technically accomplished guitar player, he has a good taste for timbre and tone.
Q: What was the writing process for the song?  Did Kevin already have a general idea of what he wanted and just ask you to play the part, or was it more of a collaboration?
EH: Kevin had a basic demo of the piece, and he wanted me to come up with an interesting guitar part.  Hopefully, that was what I did.
Q: Is the song's finished version dramatically different from the early version, or did the song’s structure stay the same throughout the writing process?
EH: The song's structure stayed very similar until the finished version.
Q: I think it's safe to say that "White Robe" is a fan favorite and a highlight of the album.  Looking back, what is your opinion of the song?  What do you most like about it?
EH: I also think that it is a great song and the highlight of the album.
Q: What was your opinion of the Graveyard Mountain Home album as a whole when you heard it?  Any favorite songs?
EH: I think it is a great album. Like the fans’' idea, my favorite song is "White Robe."
Q: Kevin also used a number of other Turkish musicians on the album including Utku Unal and Bige Akdeniz.  For non-Turkish fans, what can you tell us about them?
EH: Utku Unal is a great drummer working with many Turkish rock bands at the moment.  Bige Akdeniz is a great singer who is working on her solo album.
Q: As you probably know, Kevin also created soundtracks to two Turkish films, "Okul" and "Küçük Kiyamet" – the latter of which he was nominated for a SIYAD Award and recently released the soundtrack, Shine.  What was the general reaction in Turkey to Kevin's soundtrack on "Küçük Kiyamet"?  Were people impressed by it?
EH: As far as I know, the fans were pretty impressed by the Kevin's music.  Both works show the great cinematic quality of his music.
Q: Is there something inspirational about the Turkish culture and environment that you think connects with artists like Kevin?
EH: Turkish music has so many different influences ranging from the Persian, Anatolian, Arabic, European music and beyond.  The diversity influences many musicians for sure.
Q: Getting back to you, you've released three solo albums since 2003 – the most recent being the Wounded Breath album in 2008.  What should fans expect from that album?
EH: Wounded Breath album is an album that contains five long electroacoustic, ambient pieces all of which have received international awards from prestigious competitions.  It has received great reviews including from the magazines such as The Wire.
Q: How has your sound and style changed, if at all, from you earlier releases?
EH: Since I work with many genres, my style evolves all the time.  For my latest duo album, "Black Falcon," I have played the electric guitar with minimal live electronics.  On the duo album, "Sub City 2064," I have used a lot of drum machine and a handmade Togaman guitarviol besides the electric guitar.  These two albums have elements of modern jazz, electronic, cinematic music, etc.
Q: You also received the Best Original Soundtrack Award at the 2007 Mostromundo Film Festival for your work on a movie called "Poyraz."  What did that achievement mean to you?
EH: This is a very important achievement for me since film music is a big part of my work.  This award has encouraged me to work on my film music ideas even more.
Q: Are there any other awards or career achievements that you are most proud of?
EH: I am also very proud of my first international award that I have received from the Luigi Russolo International Electroacoustic Competition with my piece "Blank Mirror."
Q: Can you tell us about the Turkish rock band Rashit that you have performed with and produced?
EH: Rashit is a Turkish post-punk band.  It is the first Turkish punk band that has released an official album in Turkey.  They have a pretty good fan base.
Q: What are you working on right now?
EH: I am working on many projects at the same time.  I am doing a new album with Nathan Larson and Nina Persson. As you might know, Nina is the vocalist of the band The Cardigans.  Nathan is a great film composer and bassist.  The album will include very interesting electroacoustic treatments and bizarre instrumentation.  I am very excited about this project.  Besides this album project, I am also working on my new solo and duo albums which will be released in 2011.
Q: Getting back to Kevin, did you guys ever interact outside of the studio?
EH: Yes, we have interacted outside of the studio when he was in Istanbul, going to a few concerts together with other friends.
Q: Can you tell us something about Kevin that most fans might not realize?
EH: Kevin is a soft spoken guy with a great sense of humour.
Q: Have you and Kevin kept in touch since the release of Graveyard Mountain Home?
EH: Yes, we have kept in touch but have not worked together.  I hope that we will be able to do a project together in the near future.
Q: What CDs or musicians are you currently listening to?
EH: I am listening to the new Acamp and David Torn albums and the latest releases from the ECM catalog.
Q: What websites can fans visit to purchase your CDs or read more about you?
EH: The fans can purchase album from iTunes, Amazon and other online websites, digital sources and directly from the record labels' websites such as: