ASBO Meets: Emir Taha

Emir Taha, a “poetic Turkish dude” bringing his eastern soul to R’n’B. With the release of his new song “Mileage” on Friday, I sat down with Emir Taha to discuss all things from old tweets, his love from guitar and Turkish music. 

Let’s start with you. How are you what have you been up to?

I’m good man. I’ve been in Istanbul for a few weeks. Shot a couple of videos and now just taking a bit of time off in Bodrum (his home city in Turkey) for some rest.

When I was researching you, I found myself hitting so many dead ends. There’s not much about you out there. Are you looking to grow your presence, or do you enjoy being lowkey?

I think when I first started, I just wanted to make music, not caring about anything else around it. I remember when I was first interviewed at 14/15, I was saying the most random things such as “I was an underwater diver and photographer”. Because that was the only interview I gave, people constantly still talk about me being a diver. Yeah I think I didn’t do it on purpose it’s kind of went that way, but I want to speak more now so people get to know me a bit more because your right, there are so many dead ends.

Speaking of opening up more, I wanted to ask, is Artist Emir and normal Emir different?

Yeh, yeh I guess me, and my music is definitely one thing. But I am a happy dude. At this point in my life, I can’t complain about anything. The times that I feel a bit off and dark I put it in my music. Day to day you only meet the surface level of someone, I get the deep bits out of me through music. That’s why they seem different.

I scrolled back to 2012 on your Twitter account. Your first-ever tweet on Twitter was “underground kings”. Do you still remember the meaning behind that tweet?

How did you find that that’s crazy! I swear I remember tweeting that, I was on a bus to Bodrum again like today. I was just listening to Drake’s ‘Take care’ album and that underground king’s track – I love that track. I felt like no one knew what I was doing at the time, but we were making shit happen and people were going to know about it later on. 

Who were your early influences to pursue music and your sound? 

I don’t know, it’s complicated. For that hip hop drake world, my first artist was Kid Cudi. I had the man on the moon album sitting on repeat, it was like the vibe at the time I still love that album. Kid Cudi inspired me so much to make music. I also picked up the guitar at age 8. My mom had sick taste in music. She would play me a lot of music from the western world as well as Turkey. From the western world, my mum would play deep turtle, dire straits, sting, and I got really into classical guitar after that. So, it’s like a mixture of a lot of different artists I guess that I take the best bits that I love and blend it into my music.

Your love for the guitar is fairly obvious. When did you receive your first guitar and what about the instrument captures you?

I knew this question was coming so I checked with my mum before the interview. I was like mum “how old was I when I got my first guitar – I was 8. I loved the sound of the nylon strings of the classical guitar more than the acoustic one. After listening to a lot of Anadolu rock in turkey and my mum’s library, I loved it and it’s been my main instrument since then. The sound of the nylon string is really warm and intimate which kind of represents where I’m from as well because turkey has a warm feeling. 

I don’t think God put me in this world to play instruments, I’ve tried every instrument under the sun.

We should get you a shaker, that shouldn’t be too hard to learn.

Yeah, you can have me in the backing of your next EP [laughs]. Talk to me about your creative process for this ep. When you get to the studio, how do you make your magic?

You know what, I usually bring ideas into the studio because lyrics come to me in different places and different times, so I just take notes of them in a little notebook. I always want to write about things I am experiencing then, not things in the past. This makes the lyrics very transparent, authentic, and genuine. I take lyrics, guitar bits, loops, and record everything I come up with. I never look at it like “I have four hours in the studio and need to finish this song”. I kind of go into it like, I have this golden idea that I love, I don’t know how long it’s going to take but let’s start working on this. If I can envision the final product in my head, I will not give up on an idea. Shoutout to Jay moon and Pablo. When I’m in the studio in Turkey the feel is way different than when I’m in London, a whole different vibe. It made me want to write in Turkish more and produce more Turkish melodies. Some tracks come quick, like ‘Huyu Suyu’ which was made in 7 hours.

Moving on to your latest work, congratulations on your new single ‘Baka Baka. What is this song actually about? What feelings and emotions are you trying to transmit to people with this new song and what was the inspiration behind it? 

‘Bu duvarlara baka baka’ means while im staring at these walls. It basically means I missed a lot of opportunities while I was staring at these walls. But yeah that’s basically it, missed opportunities and overthinking things when you shouldn’t. The stuff I was going through at the time, I wanted to put it in a song, which created Baka Baka.

Whilst you stayed in London, did you pick up any music or artists that you like?

Of course. If we’re talking about drill, I love Headie one, if we’re talking about rap Skepta and MHuncho. His flows and his scales are a bit Arabic and close to mine so its enjoyable to listen to. From Uk artist, in general, I love James Blake, I would love to do something with him, his music is incredible.

Bringing it back your new releases. So, I’ve heard your new song ‘Mileage’ dropping this Friday. Whilst listening I felt like you effectively communicated how far you’ve come on your journey. Was that your intended purpose?

The concept of mileage is like looking in the side mirror of your car, looking back at the old years, the high school years comparing to where you are now. I wrote that 2 years ago before I even put out my first song. I felt like I’ve come a long way. I went to LA and I felt like people were starting to appreciate what I was doing and so yeh check the mileage here’s how far I’ve come.

Talk to me about the other track on your EP ‘Kendi Yoluna’

When I was around 15 a big artist Kenan Dogulu, who’s like the Robbie Williams of turkey discovered me. He invited me to his studio, he’s got one of the best studios in Turkey. Last February, I took a trip to Turkey to his studio and Kendi Yoluna is one of the tracks we wrote. Kenan is also on the track, he helped me write it and it also does the humming on the chorus. Doing a track with was incredible because he’s like a mentor and a big bro to me. You can feel like this track was made in Turkey.

Moving onto your final instalment of your “Hoppa” ep. What should we expect from this part?

This part has six tracks. It’s definitely a bit of a colder, darker feel to part one. I talk about stuff such as Identity, struggling trying to make it, my relationship with God in a song called ‘bad reception’. Yeah, those are the main themes of it which will bring an end to the Hoppa era. There will not be a part three. I want to take a different path/genre after this.

Your character in the industry is one I’m experiencing for the first time. Why do you think you “Emir Taha” stands out from the rest?

Interesting. I think because I lived overseas for some time as well, I feel like I kind of absorbed and understood the culture in the UK and the US and obviously, I’m from Turkey and know it very well. I feel like I have the tools and vision to translate east to west in a fresh and modern way without forcing it. I feel like a lot of time, people try to force it for example taking an eastern sample and putting it in their music just to make it ‘eastern’. It needs to be natural; it needs to come with a lyric or a verse. I’m not trying to make a song “eastern” or “western”, I’m progressing and bringing people along with me. So yeah stay on the watch!

I read in your biography about your drive to put your hometown on the map. Do you feel like the frontman bridging the gap? 

That’s definitely been one of my goals because I struggled a lot. Being in London trying to convince people to listen to this, it can be game-changing, it’s so fresh but people didn’t get it, I got turned down lots. A lot of people are scared to experiment and try things new, but those things are going to last the longest and you have to risk that. I went through loads of dusty curtains myself because no other Turkish artist has walked this path before me and so I don’t want other Turkish artists to struggle like me. I kind of want to remove those barriers (culture, language) for people that come after to me, to be that bridge, encourage people to go in their vision.

Any Turkish artist that we should be listening to?

I love Ezhel. He’s a rapper in turkey who has now started to add some English words into his songs. He’s really talented and he’s also from the same city as me. I haven’t met him yet, but I am confident that he’s going to go far. Also, there’s an artist called Gaye su akyol. She’s doing like Anadolu like psych rap music. She got a huge following outside of Turkey as well. I’m really hopeful about her and I’m excited to see where they go.

Let’s talk future collaborations. Any, in particular, you are looking forward to doing?

July is my boy, he was on my track called Silence, so I will definitely do another track with him. No other features planned apart from those I told you about earlier. I want to start working on the third project as soon as I get back to London and maybe send it to a couple of artists I want to work with.

Without giving away too much, what’s next for Emir Taha?

I think I’ll probably go a bit MIA for a bit and then just write. I kind of what to cut my ties with the world for a bit and obviously its lockdown in London so I’ll just be in writing mode. In terms of the third EP, I kind of want to take a different path in my third project and see what more I can explore. Recently I have realised whatever genre I try to do; it still sounds like me so I want to explore loads of different genres and see what I can get. I want to try going a bit Indie.

Don’t be surprised when you end up in FIFA in a couple of years and people calling you “the FIFA Guy”

That would probably be the thing that would make my boys the proudest of what I do because they don’t care how big my shows are or how many streams I get but if I made it on FIFA they would go nuts. The best compliment to get. Basically, a legend! (uncontrollable laughter)

Emir Taha’s new song “Mileage” is available to stream from this Friday on all platforms!

Words: Michael Patcha

Image: Press shot