Hayvanlar Alemi means Animal Kingdom in Turkish: you might think it’s hard to take a group with such a name seriously. The four members are certainly the type of people who enjoy making fun of themselves. They are all high-school friends from Ankara, who started as a rock and heavy metal cover band in 1999. Unlike many other Turkish bands, who decided at some point that in order to make it they must go to Istanbul, Hayvanlar Alemi has been scattered around Europe for several years, coming together only to record new albums or do gigs.
All over Turkey, Hayvanlar Alemi are known for their psychedelic-experimental sound and improvisation skills. Their last record, “Guarana Superpower”, was the first Turkish album to be released on the famous American label Sublime Frequencies. However, the band is far from commercially minded. Most of their tracks can be downloaded free online.
The band members describe their music as ranging from “never-ending psychedelic voyages to two-minute international pop covers; from West African blues guitar to pulsating Thai rhythms; from playing with the dub-reggae-ska triangle to droning ambiance; from fancy costumes to jeans and t-shirts; from radio collages to acoustic street craft. Always kept loose and driven by mood”.
Mashallah News met with three members of Hayvanlar Alemi: Ozum İtez, Işık Sarıhan and Hazar Mutgan. Every question is related to an album or demo title; their answers contain a lot of laughter and many cries of “Wallah!” or “No, really!”.
Where is the Hayvan Resort? What kind of place is it?
It is a pretty psychedelic resort. By the sea, with a lot of sun and palm trees.
Hayvanlar Alemi Tatilde means “Hayvanlar Alemi on Holiday”. Where do you go on vacation?
We have a summerhouse on the Aegean. We usually go there.
What would be your ideal holiday?
The Hayvan resort.
Among all Summer Hits, isn’t “Lambada” the best?
Of course! That song was released in ’89 or ’90, when we were like 4 or 5 years old. We can all remember the video, and we danced to it when we were in first grade.
Why did you chose to cover “Lambada”?
It was a song, a melody, from our childhood that we liked. So we said, “Let’s play it”.
Weren’t there any copyright issues?
No, because it’s a folk dance from Latin America. It’s not the song of a particular band. Others played it before it became so popular.
What kind of dance is Pancarların Dansı (“The Beetroot Dance”)?
This we left to the listeners, it’s for them to figure out. In fact, the title came from a fan. This track was recorded live at a concert, it was an improvisation. The audience wanted us to choose a title, and someone said “The beetroot dance”.
Ev Kayıtları 2008 (Home Recordings 2008). You couldn’t find a better title?
This album is a bit like documentation. It’s an album where we wanted to showcase our own world and what was being done at home, in our cave. That’s why we chose such a basic title.
Do you believe in the devil, 666?
No, we don’t. But there are people who don’t believe in God and still call themselves cultural Muslims or Christians. We can say we are cultural Satanists. Because even though we don’t believe in the devil, we love him.
Which drugs should one take for Visions of a Psychedelic Ankara?
Well, Ankara is a place that’s so far removed from psychedelica that no drug can save you. Take whatever you can – it still won’t be psychedelic. The city has no soul and no colours. Everything is grey, perhaps with a bit of brown in autumn. Of course, we chose this title for ironic reasons.
Finally, what is Guarana?
Guarana is a plant that grows in South America and is full of caffeine. It’s used in energy drinks. It’s the name of one of our records, and also one of the album’s songs. At first we didn’t want to use it as a title, but the album producer really liked the word. The record was released on vinyl in 2010 and on CD in 2011.
It was released on the label Sublime Frequencies. How did that happen?
Sublime Frequencies is a label we really like. We sent them our first albums, to see if they were interested in releasing them, but it wasn’t possible at the time. But the label director continued to listen to our music online, and one day he said, “Let’s do an album together”. So we replied: “Ok!”.