Born out of the collaboration between Barcelona producers BeGun and Ocellot, AKKAN came together after a shamanic and hallucinogenic journey in Southern Africa, during which the two Catalan musicians started working on what will become their signature sound; club-oriented organic electronica characterized by jungle sounds, shimmering analog synths, tribal percussions, exotic vocals, trippy melodies and folk instruments that flow in a stimulating and highly contagious array of beats. Having already garnered the attention of some of the most respected DJs in the world, including SONNS, Ivan Smagghe, Jennifer Cardini and Ewan Pearson, the duo are known for their organic live shows, which Nialler9 included in their Best of Iceland Airwaves Festival, “no laptop in sight, one of them on controllers and the other on digital percussion – the recorded versions of their fruity, balmy electronics are brought up to a fever pitch making everyone dance”. Whilst their releases have been praised in the pages of credible dance music publications including, DJ Mag, Faze, Tsugi and DMCWORLD, while their tracks travelled the world thanks to spins on Rinse FM, Worldwide FM, RTE Pulse and Kane FM. Their new EP ‘El Mutal’ is out now and serves as a taste of of their anticipated debut full length album planned for release in Autumn – STREAM IT HERE
Hey AKKAN, welcome to DMCWORLD! That’s an original name – what’s the meaning behind it?
Hey, thanks for having us, guys! AKKAN is a pretty weird name that has a lot of different meanings depending on the language (Japanese, Turkish, Tamil, Malayam) and that’s why we liked it: one word with multiple meanings in multiple languages. This is what we are musically about. We love African music, also the new Latin sounds coming from South America, we also inspired by Arabic influences and Japanese psychedelia and that fusion between folklore and electronica allows us to take the best of both worlds to create something completely new. AKKAN is a music project based on live performance and improvisation… by listening to tones of rare music, playing live and getting lost in the studio we came up with our own sound, in a very spontaneous way. Same with the name.
Where in the world are you, and how was the lockdown situation wherever you are?
We are currently in separate countries, Spain and Ireland. The Lockdown situation was a bit harder in Spain and we guess it will take a bit more time to recover. We’ve used the stricter home locked down in a positive way, we’ve worked on a lot of new tracks, and just tried to turn over that negative situation into something useful for us and for our project. Currently, what they call ‘the new normality’, is honestly a bit more annoying and frustrating. For instance, in Barcelona we’re back to semi-lockdown due to some covid outbreaks, it’s fucked up again and the arts industry’s moral is being hit badly. Over here the feeling is that we’re living in an endless pandemic loop and it’s difficult to visualize the exit.
For those of our readers who don’t yet know you, can you tell us a bit about how you started working together and the musical journey that took you to your new EP ‘EL MUTAL’?
This EP and the forthcoming album is a musical journey and it’s actually composed as such. We did a first embryo of it in Ireland, in Marc’s studio, literally in the middle of the Irish countryside surrounded by sheep and horses. Then, we recorded the rest of synth lines and drums in Gunsal’s studio, north of Barcelona, nearby the beach, good food, sunny days, nice vibes. We also took a few real recordings from the street at Essaouira in Morocco, we improvised a jam session in Delhi, India with some local sitar players, we also recorded some stuff during our Mexico tour and same in Iceland, where we made the whole ring road with all the equipment and set up sound-systems in the amazing places we stopped overnight. So, at the end, what we have is an album born in several places around the world, inspired by hundreds of different moods and feelings, mixed and mastered without any pressure or rush. It is as eclectic as it is sincere.
What inspired ‘El Mutal’ and how the was the production process behind the EP?
The day before we started the title track, ‘El Mutal’, we were partying with some mates, so we were pretty hungover in the studio, quite lazy… and maybe this was the key point: we took a mic and recorded some creepy voices that we edited and converted into a weird intro. Then, we added some over-resonance lead with an Elektron Analog Four, a percussion groove made with metallic Chinese small hi-hats that we had from the past and an arpeggiated flute recorded with an Akai EWI… that’s how we came up with this one.
Then, the other single ‘Vola, Topi!’, was born from some percussion grooves that we recorded in the streets of Essaouira. They had a lot of feeling and so we decided to extract the groove pattern via Ableton’s Audio to Midi tool and then to add a flute with the same extracted groove with a note randomizer and some scale adjustments. When we had this initial leit motiv, we just duplicated the layer and passed it through the Eventide Harmonizer, ending up with two parallel flute melodies floating together in the same song. We decided to keep it simple by only adding some drums and percussions with the TR-8S.
Your signature sound is club-oriented organic electronica characterized by analog synths, tribal percussions and folk instruments. Can you tell us a bit more about the instruments used on the EP?
The tracks in the album are initially based on real folkloric instruments and real recordings from different sources (local radios, street recordings, ethnic playlists from YouTube, etc). We then mixed all these organic sounds with analog synths and we tried to keep everything simple. We really believe that less is more in music production. In the studio, we base our sound mainly on four synths and one drum machine: a DSI Prophet for pads and leads, Analog Four for basslines, Access Virus B just for getting crazy ideas, Korg Minilogue for arps & effects and finally the TR-8S combined with a Korg Wavedrum for drums and percussion. Then, we love to add some texture with a few pedals like the Eventide Harmonizer (dope sound and architecture, he’s our best friend), Line 6 DL4 as a delay machine, Red Panda Particle for granular textures and Future Impact for low frequency sounds.
The EP has a very consistent sound. Do you have any go-to bits of studio kit or hardware that you always find yourself returning to?
Since we started working on this release, everything has been flowing so naturally. When we wanted to create a more club-oriented track, we did it and when the aim was to explore more psychedelic sounds, we just went for them. We’re living in a music industry where everything is too artificial and phony and we really don’t care much about the wrapping, when you just make the music you like then you have nothing to lose. There’s this track that we released a few months ago, called ‘Bananat’: it all started from a melody recorded with the Access Virus on Marc’s terrace, having some beers and smokes on a random summer afternoon. We improvised a studio with our synths and just started playing with no particular direction… all of a sudden, we came up with a crazy melody which is even out of tune! If you listen to it, you’ll notice that it actually has many mistakes, like notes from different scales and noises everywhere, but we loved it. The magic happened in the first take and we just needed to make the most of it, that’s how we’ve built the album, from improvisation and recording with mics nonstop.
Do you use reference tracks when you produce? Or do you prefer to start from a completely blank canvas?
We actually hate the blank canvas and that’s why we always try to draw on a real recording, just as a starting point to build something on. Sometimes, this starting point stays there in the song until the end, but not necessarily. Then, in terms of references, we try to open our minds and look for weird and uncommon stuff, we’re not really into the current cool sound, we actually hate stereotypes and we try to get away from genres or pre-fabricated labels. There’s another thing about the origin: we somehow wanted to break with that premise of “If I am from Spain, then I have to sing in Spanish”. As we said before, we do what we are and what we are does not have to be what surrounds us, even less in a globalized world in which your musical references can be just on the opposite side of the planet.
What is the Barcelona electronic dance music scene currently like?
This is actually a common question in many interviews and our answer is always the same: it’s hard to talk about a scene from “inside” the scene. It would sound a bit pretentious. We may feel there’s something happening in Barcelona but we’re not the ones who decide if we can all it scene or not. I can say “I am Superman” but if no one recognizes me as such, then what’s the point, you know. We love Barcelona, it’s a really cool city, but we also miss many things here to consider it as a global music reference as it is Berlin, Paris or London. There are really good music producers but we don’t feel there’s a particular sound defining the city and there’s not much support from local media or local audiences. Here we have a problem, not just in Barcelona but in the whole country: we import music and we export parties.
Finally, what can we expect from you after this EP? Any big plans for the rest of the year?
We are really looking forward to the end of this pandemic so we can get back to play live and on the festival stages, where we feel much more comfortable. In November, we’ll release our debut album via Foehn Records, distributed by Kartel Music Group, which included two of the EP tracks, ‘El Mutal’ and ‘Vola, Topi!’ plus eight unreleased tracks. After the album, we already have finished working on another 2 EPs, plus a few remixes. Just stay tuned homies!