Senem: Hi Barış, it’s great to have here, thanks for taking the time.
You are loved by many in Turkey, due to your excellent work with Razor. Then you introduced us to Ocean Depths. But, for those who are not familiar with your work, can you tell a little about yourself? When did you pick up the guitar?
Barış Dai: Thank you very much. It was around 2000 when I started playing guitar, trying to play the popular rock and metal pieces of those times. Though the guitar is my main instrument now, it all started with singing and playing keys. I had a very small yet strong circle of like-minded friends, which in time helped me have a diverse taste in music. We started playing our favourite songs together as we tried to play literally everything we liked. Deep Purple, Opeth, Nirvana… you name it. Then we met new people with the help of music. One of the people that I met those times was Başer Çelebi, and one day he asked me if I’m interested in joining Razor (today’s Razor Inc.) and Extinction (today’s Furtherial); and this is how my professional music journey started. I played with Razor until I moved to the Netherlands in 2015. I struggled a bit after I moved as I had to start over in a new country. After I joined Ocean Depths, we released a single called “Eidolon” last year. Then I decided to continue as a solo artist, at least for a while, where I plan to do everything I can as a musician. From song ideas to release, from instrumentation to production… Last month I released “Ambient Conditions, Pt. 1” as my debut release and I’m really excited to continue this series with next instalments.
Senem: You are in the Netherlands now and keep creating music there. So what’s different? What’s easier and harder?
Barış: Almost everything is different! What I have observed so far is that the amateur bands in the Netherlands act very professional and take their “hobbies” very seriously, yet most of them don’t even dare to think of turning their hobby into a profession. I can say it’s a typical Dutch behaviour to check if an action is profitable beforehand, and it makes perfect sense but it’s not that fun… It is (or was) the other way around in Turkey. There are many bands I know working their arses off with limited or insufficient funds but don’t let their day jobs define them. They are musicians first. After I moved here, I remember having hard times explaining to people that music is not just my hobby, but one of my professions.
But I surely need more experience for a fair comparison. I was in a professional musician circle in Turkey but I’m definitely not there yet in the Netherlands. So whatever I say about making music in the Netherlands is only valid for the amateur scene. I hope in the next few years I can meet some professional musicians here so it would be easier to compare.
Senem: I have always been amazed by the selection of the songs Razor cover. It’s not only the number of the different genres, but also the quality of the songs… I mean hot damn… They are really hard songs to cover. So… You were an integral part of Razor back in the day. How much do you think you added to that?
Barış: Just as much as the other guys. That’s what I loved about Razor, and still love with their current line-up. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle as the pieces fit perfectly to complete the picture. It wasn’t that obvious when I was a part of it, particularly in our early 20s, but later I learnt that it’s not easy to form a solid band. A band is not a number of good musicians playing their instruments, but a number of people playing music together and well. I guess I was lucky to have the latter.
Senem: It’s nice to see you to release some solo stuff. With Ocean Depths it was more like technical metalcore, what did you go with on your solo stuff? Tell us a bit about your genre.
Barış: I can call it progressive metal or instrumental rock, but I didn’t aim to make music in any particular genre. It’s been a purely natural flow which fits my instrumental storytelling approach and I think it resembles what’s previously labelled as prog metal or prog rock, which I love as a listener. But to be honest, I don’t mind if somebody else labels my music with another long subgenre name with multiple adjectives.
Senem: Yes, I hear you. How did the initial musical and thematic elements evolve?
Barış: It all started when I was in my home studio to record the guitar parts for my previous band’s single. It wasn’t an easy time for me with what life brought to me back then. In addition to many things that I had to deal with, I was trying to record an extremely technical metalcore piece, yet what I needed was something more easy-listening and mellow. Then the magic, or whatever it was, happened and I heard the piano notes of the intro of “The Days Get Longer After All” in my head. I just followed it with my guitar and let it flow. As far as I remember, almost everything you heard in the EP was written in one evening.
Senem: Oh wow, that’s impressive. And sounds like a very organic process, cool! Are you happy with your product? What aspects of it do you think you nailed, and what parts do you think you could improve upon?
Barış: I couldn’t be happier. There are always many things that could have been done better to create the perfect product -if such a thing exists- but instead of searching what’s better, I focused on getting things done. Of course I learnt a lot while producing this release, and I look forward to using them in the next releases.
Senem: How has the overall reception been? I know I liked it 😊
Barış: So far so good. Thanks! “Ambient Conditions, Pt. 1” is an extremely personal EP, and the instrumental music could be hard to convey a message. However, judging by some of the positive comments I received, what I tried to achieve is clear to the listeners.
Senem: I know you have been on the stage before and you seemed to have liked it. Is it tough for you not to be able to do so now?
Barış: IT IS! Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to organise a release show or even a listening party for the EP due to the pandemic. I really wish I could do that as I miss gigging so bad. I love being on stage much more than being in the studio.
Senem: What is the next step for you? How is the future looking?
Barış: The next step is to continue the “Ambient Conditions” series. That’s the nice thing about working on a concept, it helps you steer your creativity in a more structured way. I would love to perform live before I complete the series but I don’t feel that hopeful about the pandemic.
Senem: Could you tell us about the themes /concepts you focus on or plan to focus on? How did the ideas come about, and how do they influence the writing process?
Barış: Ambient Conditions series is about seasons and how we, humanity and nature, are affected by them. I aimed to (instrumentally) tell about something very basic yet essential that we easily overlook in our fast-paced lives.
Senem: Expressing yourself musically must be very liberating. And since it’s instrumental only, it has no limits! But are there any challenges as well?
Barış: It is liberating indeed. The challenge… it depends. The main challenge with instrumental music is that no matter how structured your expression can be, there is always something abstract for the listener. It’s like seeing someone laughing demonically or maybe sobbing. You instantly have an idea about the general mood of that person but you cannot understand what made them feel that way because they are speechless with their emotion. The music can be enough to express emotions but it cannot explain the details that we are curious about. Maybe this makes instrumental music more personal. I guess it’s somewhere between impressionism and abstract expressionism… or whatever.
But I don’t limit myself to instrumental music, that is just how “Ambient Conditions” was born. For me songwriting, instrumental or not, becomes challenging only when I try to change or complete a musical idea that I already have. For instance, writing lyrics for songs that I originally wrote instrumentally is a big challenge for me. But sometimes a new song idea keeps me awake at night until I get up and grab my guitar. Those nights, not very frequent unfortunately, the lyrics come out together with music and voilà, I think I wrote a song with no effort. Of course it needs some revisions the day after, which is the more challenging part for me.
Senem: What’s more important to you? Catering to the audience or music for its own sake?
Barış: Music for its own sake. Of course it would be amazing to play to a huge crowd who knows your songs by heart but I don’t think you have to follow a recipe for that. Music sounds better when it’s sincere, if you know what I mean. In my opinion, no matter how hard the artists try, the audience would consume the product in a very personal way. It is most likely to be interpreted in a different form by every single person, so there is no point in expressing something in a way other than its true form. And if people like the meaning they personally find in it, that’s excellent.
Senem: Excellent answer 😊 Who would you like to go on a tour with?
Barış: Freak Kitchen! I love their music and how they perform. Mattias IA Eklundh is one of my biggest influences, so it’s a dream to tour with them.
Senem: If you could play any festival in the world, which one would you choose? Tell us why.
Barış: I could mention much bigger festivals here but my answer is Prognosis Festival in Eindhoven. It’s a progressive music festival so there’s a nice match in genre, and it takes place in the city I live in. During the first edition of the festival, Anneke van Giersbergen (another Eindhovener) shared a story on Instagram riding her bicycle to join Devin Townsend on stage for a couple of songs. When I saw that I said “I would love to do that someday”.
Senem: That’s on my list as well. I mean the Prognosis Festival not the bike thing but that would be swell too 😀 .. OK.. Name some of your all-time favorite albums? Include controversial ones. Now that should be fun!
Barış: Let’s limit it to ten… That will be a bit of an eclectic mix in no particular order. Opeth – Ghost Reveries, Camel – Moonmadness, Nirvana – In Utero, Metallica – …And Justice For All, Death – Individual Thought Patterns, Jay Jay Johanson – The Long Term Physical Effects Are Not Yet Known, Scorpions – Fly to the Rainbow, Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon, Pantera – Far Beyond Driven, Marillion – Misplaced Childhood.
Senem: I knew it would be fun! 😀 Great choices. What does your collection look like? Mostly Vinyl, Cassettes, CDs, Digital? A bit of everything? A total mess?
Barış: A bit of everything. I think cassettes still dominate my collection as I started collecting them since childhood. A big part of it is still at my parents’ place in my hometown. I believe cassettes are followed by vinyls but I never made an inventory list, so maybe you can call it a total mess as well.
Senem: Which city are you from and what is the Metal/Rock scene like there?
Barış: I was born and raised in Gaziantep, Turkey and I have no idea about the current metal/rock scene there. I don’t know if it ever had a music scene. However, as I mentioned earlier, I had a band with my best friends and it was super fun. That’s where I learnt how to play in a band. Also managed to play covers of our favourite songs in a couple of school festivals. Not a big deal but it helped me learn what we were capable of.
Senem: Anything else you think your fans should know?
Barış: “Ambient Conditions, Pt.2” is already in the making, and I look forward to sharing it. I will be sharing the updates on my social media channels, so stay tuned and keep following.
Senem: We are looking forward to hearing it! Thank you for taking the time!
Barış: Thank YOU!