Bunalim interview

October 6, 2020

Bunalim interview

One of the absolute wildest bands from the Anatolian Rock scene. Pharaway Sounds issued a wonderful compilation consisting of their singles which are full of fuzz guitar! A must for fans of underground heavy rock.

“Young generation wanted a change and we definitely gave them something new.”

Where and when did you grow up? Was music a big part of your family life?

Ayet Aydin Cakus: I was born in 1949 in New York. My family moved back to Turkey in 1953. I grew up in Istanbul. I must say that I’m the only musician in our family. My dad was a film director and my brother was a film producer.

When did you begin playing music? What was your first instrument? Who were your major influences?

I started playing bass when I was about 13 years old. I was influenced by Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Cream and Deep Purple.

What bands were you a member of prior to the formation of Bunalım? 

I was in a band called “Sorular” before forming Bunalim. “Sorular” means questions in our language. We haven’t released a single or anything.

Can you elaborate the formation of Bunalım?

Cem Karaca and Apaşlar came to our town to play a concert and we were called to play with them. That night Cem Karaca got us under his wings. We recorded our first single in a month or so. At the time our name changed from Sorular to Bunalim.

What was the music scene in Turkey at the time you started?

Music was very well received. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Deep Purple and others influenced our musicians.

Together with Erkin Koray and some other groups you were the most important Anatolian rock band. What influenced you as a band?

I was mostly influenced by rock groups mixed with traditional Turkish music. We sing in Turkish on our singles, but while on stage, we sing in English. Everybody loved that. It was like seeing an English band live.

But the most unique is that you also incorporated some traditional Turkish melos in your music. 

Yes, that is true, especially when we were backing up singers like Aziz Azmet. Turkish music was quite a bit part of it, mixed with our rock influences.

When and where did Bunalım play their first gig? Do you remember the first song the band played?

That’s really hard to remember. I think we were still opening for Cem Karaca and Apaşlar. We always sang in English on stage as original three piece. I think the very first song we played is ‘My Generation’ by the Who.

Did the size of audience increase following the release of your singles?

Oh, yes. Big time! We became quite a name in our country.

What sort of venues did Bunalım play early on? 

At the beginning we played in open air movie places in Istanbul. We played before the beginning of the film. Then we started touring the whole Turkey.

What were some other underground bands from your country that are worth mentioning? 

Well, I wouldn’t call any an “underground band”, but back then you had artists like Erkin Koray and Moğollar.

Were you frustrated about the socio-political status of your country?

No, it wasn’t political. It was Cem Karaca’s idea to change to Bunalim.

“The world was changing fast and so was the music.”

What were the influences and inspirations for the songs recorded?

We were influenced by the world news. The world was changing fast and so was the music.

“Yeter Artık Kadın” single was your first release via Türkofon. What do you recall from recording it and what was the reaction when people heard such a heavy group?

Young generation wanted a change and we definitely gave them something new.

Bunalim released six singles which are very rare, and never completed a whole album. You were produced and managed by legendary Turkish rock musician Cem Karaca. 

Cem Karaca produced ‘Yeter Artık Kadın’, out first single. After that we separated. Cem Karaca was a very big and influential name in our country.

Was there ever a plan to release a whole album?

We just never got around it. Later on there was an LP released by promoter, adding another song by other singer. I can’t recall his name.

Would you like to share some insight behind the songs and recordings?

It was great to record. We always had fun being in the studio. We also recorded as a four piece band consisting of Melik Yirmibir, Berç Yenal, Nur Yenal and me.

“We used a huge King Crimson curtain behind us.”

After doing a bit of research I found an incredible photo of Bunalım playing live with ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ curtain behind it. 

Oh, yes. That’s a great memory. We went to the UK and bought the equipment. Our first concert was at San Movie theatre. We used a huge King Crimson curtain behind us. Nobody else did that. It was really cool.

Bunalim playing live with ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ by King Crimson curtain behind them. From photo archive of Gökhan Küçükarslan

Did you have any problems with the government at the time?

We hadn’t had any problem at all with the government. We never got out of hand, acting stupidly.

Shadoks Music and later Pharaway Sounds released a wonderful compilation of your material. 

Shadoks Music and Pharaway Sounds released our material. It contained our first single and tracks from backing up singers like Rifat Öncel and Aziz Azmet, plus our second single
‘Başak Saçlım / Bunalım’.

Is there any unreleased material?

No, there’s nothing left. In the USA my band called Fear Nature released three CDs; ‘Broken Faith’, ‘Blame Me’, and Have Mercy’.

What would be the craziest event that happened?

That’s probably when we played a huge festival with lots of different artists. We were backstage and when they called our name we heard a huge applause and people screaming our band’s name. It was amazing. There was 15 thousand people there. We got tears in our eyes. Just imagine, us with Turkish flags behind us.

Were you inspired by psychoactive substances like LSD at the time?

Yes, we did a lot of LSD in our early days.

Looking back, what was the highlight of your time in the band? Where and when was your most memorable gig?

That would be touring around Turkey. The concert halls were full! The most memorable gig was with Erkin Koray at a big arena in Ankara. We were backing him up under the name of “Ter”. He broke guitar string and just left the stage. We finished the concert.

What happened after the band stopped? 

After we stopped, I played with variety of artists. All members (Melik Yirmibir, Berç Yenal, Nur Yenal, Ahmet Güvenç, Hüseyin Sultanoğlu) are still involved with the music.

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

My favourite musicians has always been John McLaughlin. ‘The Inner Mounting Flame’ and ‘Birds of Fire’ are my favorite albums. I can’t find anything new that would be as interesting as this.

Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.

Too much music in my mind. Thank you for the interview, Klemen. Ayet Aydin Cakus

Klemen Breznikar

Special thanks to Guerssen Records and Gökhan Küçükarslan for the photos.

Guerssen Records Official Website

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