29/11/2020 | Writer: Yunus Emre Demir
We discussed being LGBTI+ in the music sector as well as working in nightlife, insecurity and invisible labor with Asîde, who works as a service staff and bartender as well as being a DJ.
Hi. First of all I would like to thank you for accepting to participate in this interview. Can you tell us about yourself? How is your life?
I was studying engineering at ITU until 2 years ago. Before that, I have a science high school background that I could not bear and transferred to Anatolian high school. Actually, I have always been ”forced into” this kind of education by my family, in order to be an engineer, a doctor or something. Then I stopped studying engineering three years ago and became interested in electronic music, when they realized how much I wanted, my family started to support me. I was always interested in music, but I did not know that I could make music with my computer. Then I took some training on percussion, music theory, and solfeggio. Somehow I tried to educate myself. I make music and work as a DJ. I also work as a service staff.
How long have you been working as a DJ and why did you choose to be a DJ, to make music?
I have been working as a DJ for a year and a half. As for why I chose it, because I love creating a whole new song from the songs I love, creating an atmosphere and presenting it to persons, making them dance. I can say that music is my biggest passion.
Are you open while doing your job? Do all employers or listeners know where you work as a DJ that you are queer?
I am open and proud and there are no processes where I conceal it. Being in a space with my identity makes me feel comfortable. For this reason, I want to do my work with my open identity, this is important for me and I am able to do it.
I have never worked for less money or under different conditions than any other artist on account of being queer.
However, in the music industry, I sometimes feel that I am not taken seriously because I am non-white LGBTI+ person.
What kind of situation is this where you are not taken seriously? How do they make you feel?
For example, they can make me feel it by not communicating with me directly. Actually, I can say that I feel this in some places, though not everywhere. They do not say directly that you are LGBTI+ person and we do not take you seriously, but when I think about why they do not take me seriously, I see no other reason than this. Because I can observe that there are areas that are not welcoming me while more space is provided for the artists I work with.
I experienced such a thing with the music director of a venue. I said I wanted to play in this venue and the director wanted me to provide a set to learn my style. I sent two of the sets I prepared. Although the director told me to call me back, but never did it. 3 months later, when I went to that venue to talk with that person again and this person asked me things like that “What were you playing?” I actually have sent my sets already. I said I am playing mostly house, breaks and techno but not in a genre specific way; I said that I am trying to create eclectic sets without using a single genre. This person also said that they are not playing house music much in this venue. But I know that house music was played in that place. When I look at the characteristics of the persons who play house music in that venue, I see the difference between them and me; they are all white heterosexual men. Are they more talented than me? This is open for discussion, but when I think why I am not given a chance, such reasons come to my mind.
Issues such as insurance, employment with social security and occupational safety may not be on the agenda for persons working in nightlife. Do you have anything to say about this?
I am not just a DJ in the nightlife. I also worked in various jobs such as being service staff and bartender. That is why I experienced this field one by one. I know that in most of the places where I work as a service staff and bartender, persons work precariously, for a daily wage. Frankly speaking, you are actually a precariat! When that job continues, it turns into a situation where you do not see your future, you cannot make a career plan, you stuck in the same place in a precarious way and you work with flexible working hours.
For example, when I was working as a bartender, I was also carrying a beer barrel. While carrying it, my back was injured and that venue did not issue a health insurance for me. What happened then? My back was injured so I could not continue working in that job. I was working for 70 liras per day at that workplace; all I could have is a back injury.
This is not the case in every place. For example, I am working both as a service staff and a DJ where I work now. This venue was not opened yet, the pandemic process started when it was about to open, we went on unpaid leave, but it was an insured employment.
You are working both as a service staff and a DJ where you started right now. You have had experience as a service staff before. Can you tell us more about this?
It varies a lot from place to place. When I started college, I started working to earn my own allowance. I was inexperienced at first, and when you were inexperienced, it is both harder to find a job and you are working in worse conditions. I started working in a bar in Beşiktaş, working 10-11 hours a day and getting 50 TL. The venue was also very busy and when I got back home I was so tired that I fell asleep immediately. The next day I woke up and went to work again and fell asleep after I returned home.
Afterwards, you gain experience by working and you do not have to work for 50 lira. Again, you work without insurance, but for a little better money. As I gained experience, I was able to work in more comfortable conditions. It was such a process for me.
Both the nightlife and the music industry seem to be a sector where there are lots of queers. But actually we are talking about a very wide area with the nightlife and music industry. Can LGBTI+ persons find enough space in this wide area? Do you think the industry has advantages or disadvantages for queers?
As queers, we are already organizing and socializing in nightlife. We now have venues and we are in the nightlife. There are lots of Queer DJs; there are Queer owners of venues. I cannot mention it as an advantage; this is what it should be. Nightlife is just an area where I feel safer compared to other sectors.
I have been working as a DJ for a year and a half, for two years, and I have not experienced the whole industry frankly. I am not sure how much of it I have experienced. But when you go to the places and look around, you can understand somehow how many queers are there. Or when you look at the line-up of the night, you can see how many women are playing. From that, it becomes very clear that there are more cis-hetero men. I do not think these venues take LGBTI+ visibility into account too much.
Do you think venues or organizations that support LGBTI+ persons use this as a showcase? Do you have any questions or concerns about the political stance of the place when choosing the place to play or the persons you will play with?
Honestly, I sometimes feel this showcase issue. I think this is the case not only for the venues, but also for the persons or organizations that organize events. When you get involved in it, you can still find yourself in something shady. What you do can be valuable and important for queer artists, for queer nightlife, but when you look back later, it is impossible not to think, “Did I take a right stance by playing in that event?”
I actually have political concerns about the persons I will play with or the places I will play, but since this is a job, you have to earn money no matter how much you care about the political stance of the venues. You may have to ignore some things.
If we had discussed this two years ago, I would have said that I would never support participating in an event sponsored by a beer brand: “this brand is a capitalist company, it exploits persons’ labor”. But when you do not have money, you can say that you can work there and pay your rent.
Or there is a very cool club, it is located in the swankiest place in the city and the prices are high. The regular customers of this place have no connection whatsoever to the social group and the economic class I am in. But when I play there, I can pay my rent and I can play the music I want. Sometimes I can work by compromising the things I think without paying attention to the attitudes or political stances of companies, places, and organizations.
Is there a difference for you between playing in queer venues or in queer parties and playing in other places?
The music I choose is clearly different. I feel free more at dance parties I play whatever I want. But I cannot say that for every queer place, I can say that for parties. For example, there is a queer venue in Beyoğlu, I cannot always play the music I want there. It is a place where the administrator of the place intervenes when I play the music I want.
I kept playing there for a while because I needed money, but I am aware that I do not want to do this anymore. I do not want to be interfered in what I play. Until a while ago I could not say this because I needed to earn money, but now I have a clearer stance.
However, I feel more free at queer parties. I can play whatever I want.
As a queer in nightlife, you are in the position of producing work, making music and sometimes receiving service. You stand on both sides of being in the nightlife. There probably are challenges and joys in both. Can you tell us about your experiences in that regard?
What really challenges me in nightlife is about setting my sleep schedule. I sleep in the mornings when I play intensely or party hard, and I can be in a depressed mood due to my sleep schedule. At the same time, alcohol use etc. can challenge me, and of course persons. I was not a very social person until college, as I spent most of my life like a nerd. Another thing that challenges me in nightlife is to constantly socialize with persons. I may not feel very comfortable with this social situation. Sometimes I just want to go, play music and return. But I like it in general, although it is sometimes difficult.
There is also a part of being a DJ, which we call invisible labor. It is not about just the time you get there and play, there are also preparation stages behind. We are actually talking about a pre and post process. How is this preparatory part, the invisible part of your labor for you?
You need to constantly listen to music. This is something I have ve already done, but when it becomes a job, it becomes a necessity. I need to listen to music, find good songs and use them effectively in my sets.
At the same time, if you work in another job, it has different aspects that make it difficult. Events generally take place at night on Fridays and Saturdays. If you have to wake up early the next day, you can either go to work without sleep or you have to work after sleeping for a few hours.
There is also a social media aspect. From what I have observed so far, I think you need to be popular on social media, manage social media well and make yourself more visible in order to be a DJ. I do not think I can manage this very well. And I do not know if I actually want to do that either. I cannot be someone I am not. I do not want to turn into a person who constantly shares posts on social media because it is not good for me.
When you do not do that, do you feel the anxiety about not being successful?
I clearly feel the pressure to get along with popular kids, but I cannot. I am not that person, I have never been. I have never been a person who got along well with the popular kids of the school and became popular by their approval. I could never be in such a dynamic.
You need to consume more to become popular anyway. There is a dynamic in which the clothes you wear, your style and the places you go to, and the persons you befriend with are connected to each other, and I have never been able to achieve this in any period of my life. That is why I define myself as a little more outsider. I do not get along very well with popular kids, and I feel a bit excluded because I do not follow their rules very well.
Do you think you are talking about the general problem of the industry or is it just a problem you face?
I think this is an industry-wide problem. I have experienced it clearly.
What goals do you have in mind for the future? Do you have hope in that regard?
Frankly, I am hopeful. At least I feel hopeful about myself and about the queer nightlife. Good things are happening. Besides being a DJ, I am also interested in music production. I have been working on two separate projects for a while and I am thinking of releasing two different EPs next year.
Translation: Özge Gökpınar
Tags: human rights, arts and culture, labour