Photo by Francesca Torricelli
Jeff Özdemir & Friends
Owner of the beloved 33RPM record store in Wrangelkiez, former Faruk Green keyboardist Jeff Özdemir (real name: Adem Mahmutoğlu) is also a multi-instrumentalist, producer and independent record label manager.
His new album Jeff Özdemir & Friends (Karaoke Kalk) features diverse multi-headed projects and collaborations with, yes, his friends, from soulful and jazzy to poppy and electronic. All of which shall be thrown in the air at Roter Salon on Thursday, April 30.
Why the pseudonym?
I was starting to spin records with that name in 2007. I always loved the mixture of typical American culture, which in Europe we associate with the hamburger and the trucker and the, “Hey, I’m from Texas,” kind of thing, and the jazz thing we also saw coming from there. We saw people like Yusef Lateef and Ahmad Jamal – I love the combination of the names. With Jeff Özdemir I was thinking of Jeff, from [the TV show] Dallas. And Özdemir just because it’s such a funny Turkish name. Then I learned that my grandmother’s maiden name was Özdemir. But that was a coincidence; it’s just a very normal name. It’s like Jones.
Your album is stylistically curated in the manner of your record store.
It might be like a trip that seems random, but it’s like a diary. You know, someone might travel to different countries and then someone else says, “Hey let’s go to Hungary, I have a friend there.” Then he goes there and suddenly he’s at a hippie festival. And then he meets other guys and they take him to Wall Street. And they say, “Hey we have these great yuppie friends in New York.” It’s like that – it’s a trip.
Like Ken Kesey’s bus. Would you say you’re trying to form a collective based around the shop?
I don’t know if I’m trying to form it, or if I just like the different experiences. I’m messing around with a lot of different people. Like singers, depressive people, fun people, people who like to dance, people who hate to dance, y’know? It’s really like a very nice, brutal mix of people. It’s not like, “Yeah, we’ll meet Sunday afternoon” or something. They don’t all fit together. But then again, they do.
But you’ve put some thought into the diversity of the record, to the point that the tracks are credited to different bands.
I think I’m that type – in German it’s bauchgefühlt. Earlier, some voices I heard were like, “Hey, you really have to decide: Do you want to do groovy music, do you want to play the bass, or do you want to be the drummer in an electronic group?” A label like Karaoke Kalk picks this up and ah, validates it. Suddenly, it’s okay. As a kid, being Turkish in a German environment, I had an American friend who was always “confronting” me with so many influences. I was raised in a village that is now full of Nazis, this German environment with real German sayings. Stuff like – you say, “Hey, I bet I’m right.” And the answer is, like, “Yeah, betting is for Jews who have no money.”
That sounds pretty oppressive.
That’s what they said, yeah. And then there’s my American friend – wow, he opens up a whole different world to me, y’know? He’s playing with the Star Wars figures, Thriller comes out and we’re dancing around his parents’ stereo and just having fun, and thinking, “What kind of music is this? ‘Mama ko mama se maka makossa’?” In private, I listen to Wham!, you know.
JEFF ÖZDEMIR & FRIENDS W/SOFIA PORTANET/F.S. BLUMM/DONNA REGINA/DJ STROBOCOP Thu, Apr 30, 21:00 | Roter Salon, am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Mitte, U-Bhf Rosa- Luxemburg Platz
Originally published in issue #137, April 2015