PHEVER: TV-Radio interview: Rhea Boyden speaks to DJ Dean Sherry 

17 Dec

Here is the clip of me on PHEVER: TV-Radio yesterday speaking to DJ Dean Sherry about his in-depth interview with Irish electronic music pioneer Timmy Hannigan which I have transcribed, edited and published on my blog.

Interview: PHEVER: TV-Radio’s DJ Dean Sherry speaks to Timmy Hannigan aka Mr. Spring

15 Dec

Timmy Hannigan black and white

Transcribed and edited and with an introduction by Rhea H. Boyden

Last April, I had somewhat of a revelation. I was made aware, for the first time, of just how much work goes into performing a live electronic music gig compared to ‘just Djing’ which seems to me to already be a lot of work. I went to see Soundcrowd perform their 25th anniversary gig at the Button Factory, Dublin. I enjoyed the gig and spoke to several people who told me all about what it was like to hear them play back in the 90s. It was clear to me that people were there on a nostalgia trip. After the gig I went back and listened to Dean Sherry’s radio interview with Irish electronic music pioneer Timmy Hannigan. The interview below, which I have edited and transcribed, completely fascinated me and opened my eyes to the complexities as well as the talent, dedication, patience and passion that goes into performing these gigs. It is truly an insight into the life and work of a technical and electronic music genius.

Soundcrowd will be performing their final live gig on December 27th, 2017 at the Button Factory, Dublin.

Dean Sherry: Joining me today is a friend of mine who I haven’t spoken to in a long time, Mr. Timmy Hannigan. Timmy is possibly the leading innovator in Irish DJ culture and specifically electronic music. He is the number one pioneer of dance music and technology and the first published electronic artist in Ireland, altough unconfirmed, this is where all investigations lead. Whilst certainly a lot of DJs and budding artists were starting to experiment in the mid to late 80s and may have dabbled in electronic music straying from other genres, it was Timmy who purposefully released and published the first electronic track we can find record of anywhere: Carrier Frequency- Telecaster Man- Solid Records, 1989. I have had the pleasure of knowing this unique genius for many years since I was a teenager through record buying activities in Dublin and the early geekiness of the internet and chat forums, plus computing on early Apple macbooks, software and shared interests. Timmy is a self-taught wealth of information served up in a brilliant but erratic and introverted manner that takes a little getting used to and much laughter to get on the same level- but on that point we are well front and centre. From Djing spawned music production interest and shared time in Tim’s Bray-based music studio of wonders, to pirate radio and onto various live tour gig events all over the country. I hope these random collaborations and encounters continue until we are both hitting each other with walking sticks. I present to you now an insight into everything that is Timmy Hannigan.

TH: Yes, thank you Dean, it’s great. We don’t talk enough, but when we do I always leave in pain from laughing. Yes, on that point, laughter, we are indeed front and centre. Are you coming to the gig? (referring to the Sound Crowd XXV event 2017)

Soundcrowd graphic

DS: I am coming to the gig and we will get to that in a bit but first I want to cast your mind back to before 12 inches were bounced off your head. What was going on in your life in the 80s? What were you up to and what were you listening to? Was there anything of relevance in your life before electronic music?

TH: No, not really. I came from Rathcoole and my dad worked in a jam factory.

DS: Like ‘Pump up the Jam’ or the fruity jam?

TH: Fruity jam. He made jam for lambs and then we went to live with my grandparents in Bray. My mother had loads of sisters who used to babysit me and they were into disco so they would play a lot of records. We had a record player because my dad was into Rockabilly.

DS: So there was music in your environment?

TH: Yes, he would play The Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and all these really pounding rhythms. He didn’t like The Beatles though, thank god. But when disco was played by my aunts and babysitters, I didn’t really like it because I thought that Roy Orbison was the best singer in the world because I was only 7 years old, but then my young ears were suddenly exposed to the Chic Foundation Productions and Donna Summer and hearing ‘I Feel Love’ being played by the babysitters was stunning. Every noise in it was alien. She sounded like she was singing backwards in Dutch or something and even though I didn’t understand it all, I remember being gobsmacked. And I didn’t hear anything as good as that for years. Then I was into other stuff – Adam and the Ants, ya know and I was into Ska for about a month. I went to Pres in Bray and you got beaten up at my school if you weren’t into metal. I didn’t like metal but I pretended I did. But then I heard ‘Back in Black’ by AC/DC and it was just unreal. It was so heavy. It was like the rock and roll I had been listening to with my dad but this was really noisy and….

DS: More grown up?

TH: Yeah, that was it, and that was my mixed taste in music then. I had a little pocket money from making my Communion and so on and I used to buy records when I could, and being an idiot I didn’t know the name of anything, so I would buy things that had a nice sleeve or label, like stupid things to do with science fiction and whatever and I still have all those records and have sampled them all because they were all bad disco records such as ‘The Jeff Love Orchestra Plays the Theme from Close Encounters.’

DS: I have actually had the pleasure of rooting through some of your collection which is very obscure and all over the place. I mean you have some great hip hop and some great reggae in your collection, stuff that people wouldn’t expect to hear there.

TH: Yeah, well that was new music at the time and that is what I was into. It was mostly school friends that would turn you on to metal and so on but I was really into other stuff. I got the Human League album for Christmas in 1981.

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DS: Dare?

TH: Yes, Dare. Dare was so far ahead of anything I had ever heard and I didn’t know what it was.

DS: And it introduced a synthesizer to your young ears?

TH: Yeah, and I knew it was like Donna Summer but it seemed to be more regimental.

DS: More delivered?

TH: Exactly and more orchestrated. More put together and not so messy. I didn’t really like Gary Numan, for example. Anyway I got a summer job with My uncle Peter, who has since died of cancer, and he used to drive me around in the van and he was playing Kraftwerk’s album from 1980 because The Model was a hit then.

DS: The Man Machine?

TH: Computerwelt.

DS: Ah, the classic, of course.

TH: Yeah, that was the latest album and he bought it by mistake because he had meant to buy the album that The Model was on because it was Number 1 at the time. But that hit was from the 1978 album, but it was a lucky mistake because we played that tape over and over again in the van and it programmed me. That was 1982. And I thank my uncle for introducing me to that. I then had some more pocket money from working with him on the building site and I bought The Human League Dub album which was the instrumental 12 inches and B sides from Dare, it was called The League Unlimited Orchestra – Love & Dancing. So I am 12 years old and I am listening to Kraftwerk and the Human League and all the really dark dubs that Martin Rushent did.

DS: That is a bit of a revelation in itself. At the time I was listening to pop music and I got heavily into the likes of Depeche Mode and there were just certain pieces of music that you knew were opening up that would lead into something.

TH: Yes, I listened to Depeche Mode and I had ‘New Life’ but they weren’t great at the start and I hadn’t really connected to them yet. They sounded so cheap at the start.

DS: They did sound tacky in the beginning.

TH: They were all mono synths and a little DR 55 and they sounded like shit compared to The Human League who were just blowing everyone away. That summer of 1982, importantly my grandfather, who had been a musician, died and I inherited an open-reel tape deck and a clarinet from him. I couldn’t play the clarinet but….

DS: Was this the start of you becoming a gear hoarder?

TH: Yes, because the record player was part of a stack system: it had a separate tape deck, separate amp, big speakers and a deck.

DS: Which was the 80s thing.

TH: Yeah, and I was sick in bed with the flu at the time, I remember and I took the tape deck, radio and headphones upstairs and I started recording stuff off the radio, from Radio Nova and the pirates of the day and was trying to catch the tunes that I wanted because you know, there was no money to buy them really. And the action of using the pause button on the tape deck kind of fired something in me so I had two tape decks then, an open-reel one and I had some razor blades and sticky tape and all these bits I had taken off the radio so I wanted to take out the bits where the DJ was talking and extend the tracks and just by messing around I was able to do that. I was taking Yazoo tracks, for example, making long versions of the track with tape. And I spent about a year in my bedroom doing this and giving the tapes to my friends. I was making versions with stutters and machine gun edits and I wasn’t very good at it but it was better to do it on the cassette deck than using the razor blades because that took too long. Schoolwork wasn’t my priority. I got thrown out of Irish class often, so, as usual and I was hiding in the coats hanging up outside Irish class, avoiding Terry the headmaster, the head brother, who would give you a smack and send you down to the library if he caught you.

DS: The good old Christian brothers

TH: And so anyway, one day I am hiding behind the coats and I hear footsteps coming down the hall and I am fearing a beating, but it wasn’t the headmaster but this tall guy from a couple of years ahead of me. I was in about 2nd or 3rd year at the time and I spoke to him and he told me there was a local radio station, a pirate called BLB and he was going into the classrooms to see if there was anyone who wanted to get involved in a new radio show on a Wednesday for kids and I said ‘Yes, I love all that and I am really into music.’ and I pestered him and he told me I was too young and a muppet but I kept on hassling him until he took me down to the studio and they had a pair of Technics SL 1200 in 1983, two of them! And they had an Alice Mixer which had stereo faders, AKG mics, and a PR99 Revox tape machine.

revox-pr99-mkiii-327185

DS: And you actually remember all the kit that was there?

TH: I took one look at it and thought  ‘What do I have to do to be involved in this and be a part of this show?’ And they encouraged and supported me so I did the kid’s programme, and then in 1984 we got our own show doing dance stuff. I started swapping tapes through the mail, with American soldiers who were based in Germany, as they were taping shows originally aired on 98.7 Kiss FM and 92 KTU, Shep Pettibone & Tony Humphries mastermixes and so on, from AFN (American Forces Network) so I had tapes of The Latin Rascals and they were amused by my crude tapes, I was cutting up tracks by ABC and The Human League and pretty much rearranging them and stuttering them… I had a good collection. I knew who all these people were but I was pretty much on my own and I used to cut these tapes up and put them out at night on the local radio station, and then one thing led to another and I got sucked into being a radio DJ, but it was only because they had equipment at the station and because the station wasn’t your usual pirate radio station with the money going into someone’s back pocket, they put the money into equipment, and when I got there they had been going for a few years as a community radio station and pumping the advertising money back into the station, and the gear and equipment they had already amassed was mind-blowing. I had an uncle who worked in RTE who was a film sound guy and he used to go out with the tape decks recording location sound, and he had a Nagra, and had access to things like an EMS vocoder and Eventide harmoniser, and all this stuff that was used in film dubbing to correct mistakes or anonymise voices…

DS: Is that where you got that vocoder from?

EMS Vocoder

TH: My EMS? Yes, well it was bought in an auction, The revox I saw in the radio station was a couple of grand worth of tape deck.  But when you get into the likes of RTE or the BBC the stuff there is hand made by EMI and that is where I first saw some serious gear. We are not talking anything you can buy off the shelf.

DS: Yeah, it’s all customised. An uncle of mine worked in Avondale and they were making a lot of the jingles and stuff for RTE. That is where I got my first set of decks from so there were inroads there but the mixing desks there were customised and made by the BBC.

TH: Yes, exactly and so my uncle would bring me and my cousin, his son, into RTE and we would have a look and we would see CART machines and loop machines and they had the first digital reverb – an AMS or a Lexicon I think it was, and everyone was like ‘Ooh, wow! Amazing. Don’t touch it! You can look, but don’t fucking touch it.’ So these are all influences, and they just fire your brain so when other people wanted to play football or wanted a girlfriend I was down on the beach in Bray playing Defender or Asteroids if I had 10p, and hanging out on the beach the whole summer basically.

DS: So you got into games but I am guessing you got into computers at a young age too. Were you a Commodore 64 kid? But you obviously got into music sequencing soon enough, didn’t you?

TH: Well, I wanted a drum machine more than anything else and until you get real money you can’t have any of these things. I did have a home computer and my mates had ZX Spectrums, and my cousin had an Amstrad. I took a fancy to the MSX from Japan (1982 early home computers using Microsoft BASIC) at the time so I stupidly did not get a spectrum and have loads of games to play. I had the MSX. I had a Sord  M5 which had a great sound chip and had great cartridge games made by Namco and other Japanese developers, stuff like Dig Dug and Pac Man, and they were arcade perfect and I enjoyed that for 2 weeks and then got bored and tried coding for myself. I did write a drum machine with it, and it was a good noise maker. The first bit of real gear I got was a Vesta Kozo DIG420 sampler at about age 15 or 16 which had a digital delay, an echo, but it could hold one second of sound. It could freeze that second of sound, and you could play it back by hitting a button or by GATE in, and change its pitch with CV in.

DS: Wow.

MS basic

 

TH: This gave my tape mixes and the megamixes that I was doing an edge, and I overtook everyone who was doing it because they didn’t have a sampler. And so then I was banging away with this thing doing machine gun stutters that they could not do, because you could machine gun something by recording a kickdrum ten times…

DS: And replaying it.

TH: But to have a sampler you could tap with your hand and manipulate it. And so I just gathered gear and I was completely passionate about it.

DS: And was there anyone producing music, was there any one direct influence or was it all trial by fire?

TH: No, there was no one else doing it, we were really lonely. I was just hoarding the gear in the bedroom, doing the tapes and just playing around. I then left school and went to college when I was 16 and I just didn’t know what I was doing. I lasted about a year doing that and then I flunked. Legislation was coming through on the pirates…

DS: Is this where Radioactive came about or was there anything before that?

TH: Yeah, so in 1987 here I am flunked out of college, didn’t know what to do, but luckily had this studio experience and was making ads anyway for the pirates, and I thought ‘Well, hang on now, how many pirates are there?’ And AnoraksUK (a fanzine) had a directory of Irish pirates.

DS: It really was a golden era.

Timmy in his studio

  Timmy Hannigan in his studio

TH: It certainly was man, there were 2 or 3 in every town. But they sucked at making commercials and they all had rural accents, so I had access to all the guys who were working in Super Q and Energy, most of them lived in Wicklow anyway. Scott Williams and Tom Brown would pass by, and they had great voices. The original John Power, Mike Duggan, They were all living locally. So I converted the parents’ garage and started making ads, and we were very busy. We could not make them fast enough which is why I never make commercials anymore because I spent about a year and a half making up to 30 a day. I was only charging a tenner a piece.

DS: So it was all about the volume.

TH: Yes, and I made a lot of money very quickly and then legislation came and all the pirates got shut down and I had miscalculated because I thought once they all came back on air with licences there would maybe be about one tenth left, but they would have real money, but I messed up because I was visiting these guys when they were preparing to go on air, we were getting excited about buying equipment but I hadn’t realised that they were all building their own studios to make ads, plus they were able to attract proper talent – people with good voices, so basically my business plan to make ads for all these new stations failed.

DS: So a rethink was needed.

TH: Well, luckily Ray D’arcy came along with some work for Jo Maxi, and the BBC’s Dance Energy were over and they featured me and some of the people I was working with, Lisa I’Anson did some interviews in my studio and was very polite and kind. I had been hanging out in London a bit, there was a company there called Noisegate in Nunhead who were also making Jingles & stuff, but were making underground records too.

DS: So at this point you had started producing pieces of original electronic music?

TH: Oh yeah, but I was also still making ads and jingles.

DS: And what sort of monikers were you releasing these under because you have had a lot?

TH: No, um, well while I was doing all this I was exposed to the London scene as Double Trouble and the Rebel MC (Noisegate guys) had just had a number one, but it was a coincidence. I had known those guys for a year or so. They got big and had another hit and the Noisegate Studios crew were huge, and I had known them for years. There was an Irish DJ there too (Jim Cotter resident at Annabels), and one day Tac (RIP) played me Todd Terry, which changed everything for me. They were making acid records (Feel the Acid, Feel the Bass) and I thought ‘This looks easy’ so I hooked up with a couple local guys – Trevor Knight, who had a PPG Wave (The PPG Wave is a series of hybrid digital/analogue synthesizers built by the German company Palm Products GmbH from 1981 to 1987) and a Korg Lambda, was playing locally with a guy called Leo O’ Kelly (one half of a band called Tir Na Nog, who were probably Ireland’s first super group) and they ran a TR606 and a PPG synced when playing live, and they were banging out great stuff.

PPG-Wave22-Display-FatarKBD-small

DS: The PPG is a great device.

TH: So they were doing the band thing in local venues, and I was DJing, usually with  a guy called Peter Carroll, who I met at the local pirate station. Very nice guy who saw something in me & let me play. He was a big record collector at the time.

DS: Did you have any clubbing experience at that time in Ireland? Do you have any early memories of the DJs?

TH: No, not really. Around that time I would get a little slot to play and I would knock out a few tame acid records and Chicago Jack and the crowd hated it all they wanted to hear was ya know..

DS: Chart dance like Technotronic and the like?

TH: No, Meatloaf. They weren’t into electronic music, although I got slots and played little bits, no one cared.

DS: It only worked as a slot back then.

TH: Yeah, but as I said, I had tapes and had a sampler and had a proper archive by then, to make ads because I was reinvesting and I had an 8 track and SMPTE timecode, so I was using an Atari 1040 slaved to tape. This would have been before Cubase, so we were using PRO 24. So I was doing that and I made a record with Trevor and Leo in 1989 and we called ourselves Carrier Frequency, and it was an acidy record, and it got licensed which was kind of interesting because we had made it in a garage and didn’t really know what we were doing, but people liked it, and it got picked up and that is how Dance Energy, Ray D’Arcy and the rest of them found out, because Dave Fanning played the record and people noticed.

DS: And would you class that as one of the first Irish electronic records? Would you deem it as an Irish production?

TH: Oh yes, I think it was the first Irish club record. Barry Warner had been making sample based electronic music for a while – pop music – and he did club mixes and there were other people who were tinkering with it, but we specifically made this to be a specialist record.

DS: So Mickey Mac would have been all over you.

TH: He wasn’t playing club stuff on the radio at the time.

DS: Right, of course, that was pre Mickey Mac.

TH: Yeah, we came out in 89. But because of the D’Arcy connection and Joe Maxi and stuff, he also knew DJ Mek, and his band (MRC at the time), so I think it was Ed Darragh at the time suggested we all work together.

DS: And you were involved in the Scary Eire Project on the production level?

TH: Well, you see Ray knew them and they were desperate to make a decent demo because they only had a 4 track and they weren’t even called Scary Eire yet. So there were a number of sessions and demos got made and they did enough to form the Scary Eire, and eventually got signed to Island Records. So that kept me busy and a lot of stuff got done, but in 1990 they fucked off to England with their advance to work in bigger studios and party, and I was left on my tobler and I needed a bit of new business, so I then put some ads in Mark Kavanagh’s Fanzine REMIX.

DS: Had you already met Mark before? Had you been teenage friends because I know Mark grew up not too far from Bray, right?

TH: I didn’t know of him yet but I knew of the magazine, because I had been going into Billy Murray’s Abbey disks in its various locations since ‘82.

DS: Which is where I met you.

TH: Yeah, exactly. And Billy knew what I wanted and I bought all my stuff from him, so I would pick up the fanzine, and I put an ad in, and one day Mark just came out to say hi, and we hit it off because he was into the same stuff. He knew the Scary Eire demos and the things that I had been fiddling with so we just made a track one day and that was that. You see there are so many happy coincidences but the lesson to be learned from all of this that you do stuff, you get out, you meet people, you bump into someone and if you sit at home saying ‘Why am I not famous?’ then you are going to rot.

DS: Yes, you have to collaborate and experiment.

TH: Yes, do stuff! I mean the Red Records thing just exploded from there.

DS: So tell me about the inception of Red because it started out initially as an interest to release your own music, but you also licensed a few pieces of music which I don’t believe had ever been done by an Irish label up to that point, especially for electronic music.

TH: Red actually started in Mark’s spare room in his house in Ballybrack/Killiney. We were getting promos and he was playing them in The Olympic and I was playing them on the radio, on EZ103 in Wicklow town. But people couldn’t buy the stuff, and Billy was going mad because nobody could get them. So through our contacts and new contacts through selling our own material on export as well, we were able to get copies of records and wholesale them, and Mark was then into wholesale and was importing boxes of rare records and selling them to Billy, and that took off so well he had to move premises.

Records (Timmy)

DS: That became a lucrative business, didn’t it and a lot of good things came out of it for the DJ world.

TH: Yeah, exactly. And through all these activities and without really realising it, we seeded the scene because we brought in pretty much every record that you know as a classic as well as really obscure stuff that would not have been available otherwise.

DS: I am not going to get into the whole discography of it, but we are going to get to the event at the end of this because I know it is a seminal thing that is happening for you guys. Tell me about the live performances, you did Feile, you did big live performances as Soundcrowd. I imagine it was a technical nightmare but it must have been some buzz too.

TH: Well, no it was really worrying and just stressful and I hated doing it. I think we only really played live only 4 or 5 times.

DS: I did Ormond Multimedia with you guys. There were a few crazy gigs and some were better than others of course.

TH: Yeah, but there weren’t many because every time you do it, something gets broken or lost or you learn a lesson, so by the end of the run you are pulling your hair out. I mean, even after the first live performance I swore I would never do it again. I was still using a mac.

DS: And you had a couple of Moog prodigies that I don’t think ever worked right again.

TH: The Moog prodigy was an awful piece of shit. The Mac we had wasn’t even ours and it died because the screen couldn’t handle the heat and the moisture in the Ormonde, so it wouldn’t turn on. So I had one track loaded and I would start with that, The power light on the screen was just flashing and it refused to cooperate. So using key combinations, I knew that if I did for example, Command-F, it would bring the file menu up, and then I could go down with arrow keys to open a track.

DS: And you were assuming you knew the order of the tracks?

TH: I didn’t know the order and I knew I couldn’t take a chance so I played the next and went two down and loaded the next.. so never again! NEVER again! That was an embarrassment. That was live and I hate playing live.

DS: It is a headache. I have done it myself. Myself and Barry Dempsey played a live set and while you can sequence certain parts it never goes to plan. We played at Electric Picnic and we forgot that you may need an encore and we had nothing left to do. You can never think of everything. I want to touch on your studio because it is very impressive and you have built up some collection of really impressive synths and hardware. How do you keep it all talking to itself and keep it all in tune?

TH: Well, it breaks and then I fix it. Everything breaks all the time and you learn. I mean in all the Yamaha gear the power supplies go so you need to learn how to rebuild a power supply and once you have built one you can do all of them and that is how it works.

DS: It is a labour of love.

TH: yeah, and my 808 cost me 50 quid (iconic drum machine synth module by Yamaha). My first 303 cost my 90 quid and my second one cost me nothing. (303 is a bassline generator module by Roland that ‘invented’ acid house – that squelshy sound) I was in the right place at the right time. When people didn’t want things I was lusting after them. I wanted a 303 so bad and Pat Colgan of Futuresque records sold me his for 90 quid.

DS: And they are probably more like 2 grand now. Or at least over a grand.

TH: And they are pretty robust because they are a plastic piece of junk. I have a 303 Devilfish too (303 customised by Robin Whittle in Australia) and I think it was the 6th  one ever made. That is pretty serious business to have one of them, ya know. It was very early internet days.

roland-tb-303-devil-fish-34366

DS: And what is the prized item in your studio? What’s your favourite piece of gear? The 909?

TH: Well, I have modified mine a lot by this stage so it is a very unique machine and I love it to bits. But every piece of gear has its  thing that turns you on about it, and I appreciate that Ableton and desktops are all great and all, but that doesn’t fire my imagination. I need to take it out and play with it and experiment.

DS: And that would be my next question: what would you say to say to young guys here who are just sitting with a laptop and a load of VST instruments and a pair of headphones, obviously until they get their hands on a piece of kit and start experimenting it is never going to feel the same. What is your advice to these young guys, or indeed, what would you advise a younger you looking back?

TH: Well, with a younger me, there were no rules, so I think I did very well because there was no one to ask and we had no internet, but we at least had dial-up and bulletin board communities – we ran one for Scary Eire – So there was communication using computers from all over the world, and we were able to swap files and collaborate on things way back. We had been doing that since 1984. That was there but there were no rules in electronic music, and I got away with it because no one had done it before so no one could tell you you were doing it wrong. But, if you are stuck with your laptop and stuff, ya know, what will happen is, you will be thrilled and have a lot of fun and you will make a lot of tunes and it will be great but then something will be missing. And when I find something is missing, I buy a new toy or I dig out the toy I haven’t used in awhile or I try and do something different with the toy I have, and with a laptop you can’t really do that, and the real truth of the matter is, when you put your hands on something and have it make noises when you touch it and move it and you have a tactile relationship with this thing that makes noise, it creates a different path in your brain for your thought processes, it would be like if you kill your brain from drink or drugs and you are depressed all the time, learn to juggle or learn to play golf and you will cheer up because it will make connections in your brain.

DS: You are rewiring your brain.

TH: Yes, and if you wire your brain for a laptop to play Call of Duty you are making different things happen in your brain than if you play a guitar, for instance. Do your laptop stuff, have fun, but if you hit a brick wall get a toy and play with it and I mean there are just so many toys now, Korg make good stuff, there are fun guys doing stuff with arduinos, there are all sorts of midibox org kits you can build, and they are not expensive and they are an absolute joy. My God, there is so much fun you can get for 50 quid now.

DS: Yes, it’s very true. Okay Timmy, I don’t want to go keep you much longer but I want to talk about the upcoming gig which is the 25th anniversary of the inception of the Soundcrowd. Now you have done a hell of a lot more than just Soundcrowd. You have produced under various monikers and various names and you have worked with some really big names, but there is no point in me listing all of this right now because it is far too much to mention, so if you will, just tell us about this big event. It is a landmark as it is the first of its kind in Ireland because obviously you guys were there from the very start. Tell me what to expect from this event.

soudncrown

Timmy Hannigan and Mark Kavanagh – Soundcrowd XXV at the Button Factory – Dublin

TH: Well, we are going to DJ. Mark will be doing most of the DJing and I will aswell because I do that but the hard work has gone into going back to the original elements for a lot of things, including floppy discs and stuff for the Atari, the early PC and the old Akai S900 sampler discs, and a lot of them were corrupt and I had to resample things, but what I wanted to do was to make the noises again with the same gear, so I bought up a lot of the stuff that I had sold, really cheap because no one wants it anymore, it didn’t cost a lot which was great, and we have been working now for three months to get the music together which is done and now, the next thing is the visuals which will also be live.

DS: And is this something that you are generating aswell?

TH: Yes, all of it will be generated live, there will be a PC with the old 1992 software in it, the last revision of VOYETRAincluding 3 midi ports, an emulator 4, a Roland Sound canvas, A midiverb, a distortion pedal, a Quasimidi quasar and am Oberhiem matrix 1000, and of course the Roland TR909, and that is all we have! With all of that shit we are able to do this. Because that is all I had to make all those records. Fair enough, we have a SCSI drive now in the sampler, and we don’t have to use floppies, and we are going to play live. And when I say live, we are going to fucking actually play live. There will be no stems, no cheating, every single thing you hear will be live, on the fly and that is that. And so will the visuals. That is where we are taking it up a notch, because you can say what you like about people playing live, because I have been working with RTE now for 19 years and I have been into every major festival in this country and I have recorded and watched all bands and DJs and everybody play, but the only act that I have actually seen in my entire career that actually plays live, and I mean everything you hear is being generated on the fly and live is Orbital, Everybody else compromises, and I am not saying they are cheating because I have cheated myself at times.

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Soundcrowd XXV Live at the Button Factory – Dublin

DS: You have to sometimes, you know?

TH: Yeah, of course you do. You have to and stuff breaks and when you are going on tour it is mad.

DS: Yeah, there is only so much a group of people can play as there are a lot of elements in electronic music.

TH: And the two Orbital guys have real machines, sequencer, bang. That’s it.

DS: I would like to have their synth collection.

TH: Yeah, man, we have spoken about this.

DS:  Yes, we have spoken about this.

TH: So we are going to do an Orbital, and it will be one hundred percent live and it may break! I mean the average age of the gear is 25.

DS: Bit like ourselves!

TH: It might die and if it does die, I am going to get my knob out because we will be screwed.

DS: Ha ha aha ah ha ha!  Timmy Hannigan you are a legend. It is so good to catch up with you. I can’t wait til this live gig.


Further info on Timmy Hannigan:

With numerous production/release aliases including:  Sound Crowd, Mista Fantastic, Nitrogen, Profundo Rosso, Hole In One and more doubt more…

Track releases via: Spring Recordings (own label), Manifesto, West2, Southeast, Mostiko, Pogo House, DT & Unity plus others.

And at least 2 albums: the Fifth Nine & Voyager on Spring

Recordings https://www.facebook.com/mrspringofficial/https://www.mrspring.net/https://www.discogs.com/artist/7001-

MrSpringhttps://2fm.rte.ie/2fm-shows/the-spring-sessions/https://www.mixcloud.com/discover/mr-

spring/https://www.facebook.com/soundcrowdofficial/https://twitter.com/djmrspring

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXa53gBLBWw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bcDRloMxXHQ

Credits:

Soundcrowd XXV graphic art by Posterboy

Soundcrowd Button Factory photo by Michael Donnelly

Human League – Dare photo by Dean Sherry

Button Factory balcony shot by Rhea Boyden

All other images courtesy of Timmy Hannigan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PHEVER: TV-Radio – Glen Brady and Rhea Boyden talk to DJ Dean Sherry

24 Nov

Below is the soundcloud clip of me on PHEVER:TV-Radio last weekend with DJ Dean Sherry and Glen Brady aka DJ Wool. We were discussing the interview that Dean conducted with Glen last year which I transcribed, edited and published on my blog accompanying a colourful gallery of some well known Dublin DJs. This on air discussion took place right before Glen played a fantastic live set on Dean’s weekly PHUNK’DUP Radio show which airs Saturdays from 4 to 6pm on 91.6FM in Dublin or global via PHEVER.ie livestream. As always, I had a lovely time at the studio. It’s such a pleasure to be part of a friendly, inspiring, and creative radio collective.

Listen to phever_GlenBrady-RheaBoyden_Nov2017 by PHEVER IE #np on #SoundCloud

Photo by DJ Pablo C

Interview: PHEVER: TV-Radio’s DJ Dean Sherry speaks to Glen Brady aka DJ Wool

17 Nov

 

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Glen Brady

Transcribed, edited and with an introduction by Rhea H. Boyden

A little over a year ago I tuned into Dean Sherry’s weekly PHUNK’DUP radio show to listen to his interview with Glen Brady who is an Irish music producer, audio engineer and DJ. I was fascinated by the interview especially because Glen had lived in all the same places I had lived, namely Dublin, Berlin, Philadelphia and Northern California. After listening to the interview I  began reading more about the history of hip hop and break beat which I knew little about before. Dean’s interview was in depth and fascinating and included this incredible mix which was played after the interview to  promote Glen’s album ‘A Life in Breaks’ which was released shortly after this interview aired. Glen has had an impressive and successful musical career to date, living all over the world. He recently moved back to Ireland with his family after touring Europe as support for The Cranberries Acoustic tour in 2017 as part of D.A.R.K. He is now developing an act from Co. Wexford called ‘Blackwater Hardware’ with a release about to drop on Trax Couture.

A couple months ago I sat down and listened to the interview again and painstakingly transcribed and edited it in an attempt to turn it into a readable piece of journalism and add a colourful photo gallery to it. Below is the result. I had the great pleasure of being introduced to Glen right after I had spent the entire weekend working on the transcription.

This Saturday November 18th I will be joining Glen Brady and Dean Sherry in PHEVER: TV-Radio studios to hear Glen perform a new live set on air. He will also be DJing with Arveene in Izakaya in Dublin on December 10th.

Dean Sherry:  Today we have a very special edition of PHUNK’DUP Radio featuring an interview with Mr. Glen Brady, aka DJ Wool, who is one of Ireland’s finest expats now residing in sunny California. He has been based all over the world, including Berlin. He is one of the true originals to break away from the norm and do really well and is a true success story. His latest album is titled  ‘A Life in Breaks.’

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DS: Glen, welcome. We have been talking about this for a long time and finally I get you on a call, with an 8 hour time difference. You are in California and I am in Atlantic windswept Ireland.

GB: Where are you in Ireland, Dean? Dublin?

DS: I am. I am in North Dublin, the good side, ya know?

GB: Excellent. I am from Dublin too. I spent a good bit of my childhood in Castleknock and then in Ballsbridge so back and forth you know.

DS: Very good, you are circling good areas there. It is a pleasure to have you on air, I haven’t seen you in years, I think the last time I saw you might have been the Pod, and that was a long time ago. We both Djd there but never together but I have been aware of you for years and I am sure vice versa, so thanks so much for joining me today. We are going to talk about your origins, how you got started as a DJ and as a music producer. What was going on for you in the 80s and 90s Glen, what were you listening to, what were you doing and how did you fall into music?

GB: Well, like most DJs, music was a big part of my life long before I started DJing. It was what got me up in the morning and what got me through the day, you know? I think my first big musical moments were when I was about 12 or 13 like most people. I was in boarding school in Ireland and my parents were away in America a lot at the time. I had dark teenage years.

DS: Years of rebellion?

GB: I wouldn’t even say rebellion, I was just a dark teenager. I wasn’t a happy kid. I was away from my folks, so music really saved my life, and in fact, continues to up to today. When I was 12 and 13 I was really into The Smiths and The Cure. Talking Heads were one of my first big loves when I was very young and I was very influenced by the older kids at school. I was really into skateboarding at the time and that exposed me to a lot of what we would have called alternative music in the 80s and 90s. That is where I was exposed to The The, Bauhaus, The Wedding Present and a lot of Irish spin offs from all that, smaller bands who were playing around Ireland. That was kind of my start.

DS: And did hip hop not grab you around the same time?

GB: I think hip hop grabbed me before that.

DS: Grandmaster Flash and all that.

GB: I was in the States til I was about 10 years old, I spent a year or two in Ireland when I was about 5 and 6 in County Meath but my old man worked on the pub scene in New York, so I was going back and forth til I was about 10 and my father was a big GAA player in the States so we spent our Sundays in Gaelic Park in the Bronx. Anyone who knows Gaelic Park knows that the Subway circles the entire park about 50 feet in the air, so my first exposure was simply that those trains were all covered in graffiti. That area of the Bronx where my father lived and worked was just totally hip hop territory. I didn’t even know what it was and then we moved back to Ireland and I got into the music we discussed, indie and so on in my early teens and then I rediscovered hip hop later when I was about 15 or 16 with Public Enemy.

DS: Of course.

GB: And to this day, how they made their beats and how that was done is a very big influence on me and the music I make.

DS: And so would that have been a turning point for you? Obviously, you were listening to the alternative rock music of the late 80s. I would have been into slightly different music at the time such as Depeche Mode and more into the electronic darkness, you know?

GB: They were definitely part of it. But I see the industrial crossover there. Nine Inch Nails were around a little later. The older I get the more I realise that a lot of this music seems alike. And as you know, a lot of that music that was industrial and dark and electronic melded with the indie stuff and gave us a lot of spin offs and crossover that then became the Manchester scene.

DS: Exactly, and all that came out of Joy Division as well, that kind of sound.

GB: And they were using beats and sampling techniques that I then heard in a lot of hip hop as it moved forward and then of course I was listening to the Happy Mondays and Primal Scream. Massive Attack’s first album was a huge game changer for me.

DS: Was there an album or a song that made you go ‘Wow! This is the direction I want to take musically?’ Or can it all be traced back to Public Enemy?

GB: Do you mean how I went from ‘I really like music’ to ‘Okay, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life?’

DS: Yes.

GB: I was doing some vocals in a hip hop band in Dublin. I wasn’t djing yet and somehow in that band I got given a drum machine – an Alesis HR 16 – and I didn’t realise that a lot of these drums were sampled at the time. I remember the three albums that influenced me the most at that point were The Beastie Boys- Check your Head, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde and Enter the Wu-Tang.

DS: Had you received any formal musical training yet?

GB: Nothing conventional at that stage, no. But I went home with that drum machine and I guess I was about 19 or so and I programmed every beat on all those records.

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DJ Wool aka Glen Brady working his electronic magic

DS: Excellent.

GB: It took me months

DS: And they weren’t the easiest thing to program because they didn’t have a step sequence and big buttons like an 808 or 909 would have.

GB: No, to save each track you had to send each one out to a cassette tape and record the digital noises, that we hear as white noise and then you would have to play that white noise back into the machine to hear your beat again and of course you would never get the same thing out of it twice.

DS: Yeah, wow.

GB: And so around that time I was having personal trouble and had finished school and hadn’t gotten into college to do what I wanted to do. I was depressed and sick of Dublin. I was about 19 and I had a friend living in Philadelphia so I just got on a plane with about 35 dollars in my pocket and went there. I had a return ticket but I didn’t know when I was coming back again. A friend of mine had tried to kill himself, we had all been through the whole rave scene so I just legged it really. And when I landed in Philly I had a girlfriend whose boyfriend or housemate – don’t remember their relationship – had moved out, and left about a thousand hip hop 12s.

DS: And you inherited them?

GB: Yeah, I inherited them for the 6 months. When I went to Philly I started working and I worked all day and mixed all night.

DS: And was there a set of decks there?

GB: Yes, there was. A set of decks, an old battle mixer and all the records were marked by hip hop styles.

DS: So that was almost an induction by fire, I guess.

GB: Yes, and plus I had a fairly extensive record collection myself. I mean, none of us had a lot of money back then let’s face it, but a couple of times a year I tried to get into Abbey Discs and buy the records that I really liked.

DS: So you were kind of late getting into DJing actually at age 19-20, right? Because you kind of have to teach yourself and that doesn’t happen overnight.

GB: No, it doesn’t and I had those 9 months in Philly, but leading up to that in my late teens I had spent a lot of time with a few people who are still in the music industry. You might know Leo Pearson (from Future Bones) out in Monkstown and there was another guy named Joe McHugh who played in Sides and a couple other guys. Those guys were doing hardcore breakbeat and they had become my mates and I was from another part of town so I would just head over and stay in their gaff for the weekend and they had decks and records they were going in and out of record shops in Temple Bar – you know that one that was under the arch?

DS: Yes, I remember the one under the arch.

GB: They had really great records in there. And anyway, these guys had introduced me to really fast breakbeat mixing in my teenage years so when I got started myself, no one had ever showed me, but I had sat there and watched my mates mix for 5 years so I had an idea what I was doing when I went into it, and as I said I had been in a band before, I had done vocals. I hadn’t been formally trained but I was musical I guess, and so when I came back to Dublin I joined a band and I got a set of decks when some of my friends emigrated and that year when I was 20 and 21 I just spent the whole year in my flat mixing. I started touching base with people like Johnny Moy and others I would later work with and so within a year I was mixing. I wasn’t battle mixing, but I was able to mix.

DS: And what was your style of music, was it just hip hop or turn tablism? What exactly were you doing?

GB: Well, the mix I have made for you for the show today really tries to represent what I was trying to do back then. It starts at 90 BPM and ends at about 160.

DS: Excellent.

GB: And the challenge for that type of mixing is not to sound like it is cacophony of nonsense.

DS: It’s a journey.

GB: Yes, it’s got a vibe, you can’t just drop crazy stuff here and there and clear dance floors. At that time big beat was happening in New York, the breakbeat thing was happening in Florida, the electro breaks thing was happening in Philly, big beat was in the U.K. and even in Berlin there was a deep break thing going on.

DS: Are we talking mid nineties?

GB: Yeah, around 94 – 95

DS: Yeah, because I would have been big into the progressive type scene back then. I remember the break scene emerging at that time with the likes of Hybrid and a few other big artists but there was a whole other level because I remember going to see you guys, you did a show in the old Academy, it was called the HQ I think. Some brilliant shows, crazy Thursday night hip hop, but it wasn’t just hip hop it was a mash up of beats.

GB: Yes, a year or two before that, probably around 94 Johnny Moy and I started a night in The Kitchen called Whatever.

DS: Yeah, tell me about the introduction there, how did you meet Johnny?

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Johnny Moy

GB: I met Johnny when I was about 17 when the raves started. I started going to Sides when I was about 15 or 16.

DS: As we all were.

GB: Being creative, I guess I just wasn’t drawn to the regular clubs, they were pick up joints and places to just get drunk. I used to love going to Sides because it was more open-minded, you could be gay, straight, black or white. I remember you telling me about your early days in Shaft (a gay club) I used to go to Minsky’s which became Shaft.

DS: Exactly, that was before Shaft.

GB: Minsky’s was a hard core gay club. Very heavy stuff for a straight kid who didn’t have a clue.

DS: Yes, I was about 19 when I got asked to play in the Shaft and I had heard about the club and I had to tell my dad I was Djing in a gay club and could he drop me into town and he looked at me and said: ‘That’s a gay club, you can’t be going in there.’ and I said to him, ‘No, no, it’s changed,’ and I had to justify it to him. I mean, I was innocent too, but not that innocent, but in hindsight I was completely oblivious as to what I was walking into, but it was great and it worked out brilliantly for me. I loved it.

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Dean Sherry in the Shaft nightclub DJ box – 1995

GB: Yeah and the thing about it was, I was thinking about it after we spoke the last time, some of my favourite tracks now, I was hearing in Shaft and Minsky’s. I remember hearing MC 900 ft. Jesus and who was the guy in the Dead Kennedys who used to play with Sinead O’Connor? Jello Biafra, right?  All those songs like ‘Grow More Pot’ people think, gay club, must be 24 hours progressive but that came later, all these places, Sides, Minsky’s, Sir Henry’s and so forth were very eclectic, in fact, and I was always influenced by that and it was definitely all on the more housy side, but one of the main reasons I wanted to DJ in Dublin is because I had reached a point where I really didn’t like house music because I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing it. So around 1994 I thought, right, I am going to start a club where we do something a little different. It wasn’t out of offence to anybody, it was just time to move on.

DS: That is a very brave decision for any DJ to make because at the end of the day you’re standing alone, away from the norm and you have to admire it because it will either work or it will kill you.

GB: Jeez, well I am guilty of that my whole life. That’s all I ever did.

DS: Trial by fire, mate.

GB: I think it is more stupidity than anything else and I am still at it. I do so much production, I mean even yesterday I had someone throw a song at me that they wanted me to do something with and I just hated it and I said ‘Dude, sorry, it’s just not a good song,’ and the guy was totally pissed off at me for saying that despite that fact that it had gotten 2 billion soundcloud views or whatever. It just wasn’t good.

DS: You just can’t teach musical taste, I have the same thing; people send me music and if you don’t like it, you don’t like it, you have to be honest.

GB: It’s true, but anyway that was how I got known because I tried different things I guess.

DS: You did sound, different, I remember it well. I remember being in the Pod with Barry Dempsey and he said, ‘Wait til you hear Glen, you just never know what he is going to play.’ We were standing there in the Chocolate Bar listening to you and it was great: it was different, it was funky and it was exactly the opposite of what we were doing in the big room.

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The Pod nightclub which was in the old Harcourt Railway Station

GB: Yes, I remember chancing my arm one night in the Pod in 95-96 when Martin Thomas was doing Strictly Fish there and he really wanted to stand out from what was happening so he hired me to play the Pod and so I did my gig and played a lot of R&B and stuff I knew I could get away with because people were just used to house and that is what they came for and at the end I threw on a tune that was the first crossover jungle tune – it was Alex Reece and it was a sort of housy tune but it was about 150 bpm and I thought, this is the end of the set, I am just going to chance it and I remember Rory ‘Panty’ was in the box with me and he turned to me and said: ‘They are gonna fucking kill you.’ But then 2 minutes later the whole place erupted because they had never heard music like this and that song became an anthem and was a huge hit. I remember getting off the decks and going back stage that night and it was a big deal that I had played a jungle track.

DS: Well, it had probably never been done up there before. And did you get into that jungle scene or was that just something that you dabbled in?

GB: For me it is breakbeat, it is part of what I do. The mixtape (made for this show) starts at 90 BPM and ends at 160 BPM. It was that sort of mixing that you go in and you could start with hip hop and end with jungle. You build it up slowly over the night. A lot of that technique was borrowed from watching Liam Dollard and Billy Scurry and Johnny Moy play techno. They would start out with deep house and then build it up. Billy especially does tempo changes effortlessly.

DS: Billy is a master at that.

GB: Billy is a fucking brilliant DJ. You know, it’s funny because the mix I did for you is totally different from what I am doing now because I haven’t played like that in 15 years.

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Billy Scurry

DS: Yes, I remember speaking to you and telling you the concept of what I wanted to explore here on my Origins series and you had a smile on your face and told me you already had it done.

GB: Yes, I was trying to showcase in that mix what it was like to play in The Kitchen in the 90s.

DS: Was The Kitchen your first major club residency? Because I know you got into the Influx thing with Johnny too?

GB:  Yes, it was a Wednesday night in The Kitchen and Aoife Nic Canna gave me the gig.

DS: Yes, Aoife is amazing, She is an unsung hero in this country too.

GB: Yes, for me she is seminal in the whole scene. She is important to what happened with good music in Ireland and she has empowered a lot of people. Her brothers are also great hip hop DJs and great friends of mine. I know a lot of people in Limerick who I love; Aoife lived there and funnily enough I ended up working a lot the past two years with a singer from Limerick: Dolores O’Riordan from The Cranberries. I mixed her new album ‘Dark’ which will be released sometime in the next week or so. I have come full circle because that album was co-written by Andy Rourke from The Smiths and that is the first band I liked as I told you earlier.

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Aoife Nic Canna

DS: Excellent.

GB: I had him staying in a hotel near my gaff here in Northern California.

DS: I love stories like that. I met Morrissey in Lillie’s one night and I gave him Barry Dempsey’s mother’s address and he came back and knocked on the door and woke his mother up out of bed… ha ha.. so let’s get back to you… I think the Influx years were very formative and that is what put you on the map in Ireland and on a global scale, am I right?

GB: You know, I loved playing in Ireland and I was very appreciative of those years  but there was no internet back then and I always felt like there was a wall between me and the U.K., America and Europe. And I loved DJing but I was actually just using it as a way to spend 12 hours a day in my studio. I can’t even count how many hours I did in the studio in those 8 years between 1992 and 2000. I had a studio down in Sheriff Street at one point and it was dangerous to leave that place after 7 o’clock in the evening. No messing, (It was gang territory) and if you left the studio in the night hours you were dead, so I stayed all night and mixed and wouldn’t leave til 9 o’clock the next morning.

DS: Yes, so it was a lock in.

GB: Yup, seven nights a week for years.

DS: And did you have a discerning moment on the production level? What was the first thing you managed to get signed because I know from experience that it doesn’t happen overnight.

GB: No way, and I am at it 20 something years and it still ebbs and flows. There were a lot of moments at that time. At one time one of U2’s engineers phoned me up and had me come in and remix a Howie B song. I think it was for Sony at the time.

DS: Yes, I have that 12 inch somewhere.

GB: And my name didn’t get on the promo at first and then I get my own record on promo without my name so there was a lot of good stuff happening but a lot of disappointments too. I had a track at the time on a big compilation called Common Ground which was kind of post trip hop London thing and they started taking me over to places like Turnmills and I got to play there, so that was just the beginning and then I did the DMCs in 98 which kind of got me out a little bit and then I started to do a bit of programming for REM because they were coming to Ireland a bit and then I decided between 98 and 2000 that if I was going to progress I had to leave Ireland.

DS: And unfortunately that is the nature of being in Ireland, isn’t it? It is an island on its own and I think any artist who wants to make an impression gets to the U.K., Germany or the States. It doesn’t always work out but I know Irish artists in Berlin who are doing well over there.

GB: Yes, I spent some time in Berlin too. I was there from about 2008-2012.

DS: And do you think there are more opportunities to get yourself heard in Berlin?

GB: I have asked myself this my whole life. There is no reason why anyone should have to leave Ireland to make it in the music business these days, in theory, but there is just something to be said for being in a city like New York or Berlin and being out 5 nights a week, at the clubs where the record label people are. People are more likely to work with you if they have got drunk with you, and if they are on your text or your snapchat. People are simply more likely to collaborate once they know you better.

DS: And you are not just cold calling and sending out demos.

GB: Yeah, and you know I felt it a bit again- the same isolation that I had felt in Ireland-  the past 4 years because I took a break from the way I was running my career and I moved up here to Northern California. But it wasn’t as isolating as it would have been were I just starting out here because I am established. And also the way we see music after 5 or 10 years of following it in Ireland is skewed. Let’s take a genre, Dubstep, for example, and someone is from Dublin and they love Dubstep and they are into all the artists and then you form an idea of what Dubstep must be like in London or Berlin.

DS: It’s a different interpretation.

GB: Yes, and in a way, that is your strength but it does separate you from what is happening. I notice it too, as I get a bit older that record label owners are very specific about the sounds they want for their labels until they put a record out that sounds a little different and it blows up and all of a sudden they are all about that.

DS: It is fickle.

GB: Very fickle. For me it was challenging to get out of Ireland when I was making music there.

DS: Tell me about some of the other collaborations you got involved in, some of the things that worked and some things that didn’t work?

GB: Well, if we go chronologically, I did a bit with the DMCs in 98 in Ireland and a bit of touring around and then I put out a 12 inch with Johnny’s label Influx that got me out a bit. I also did a 12 inch with Plant Records in New York. It had been started by Marcus Lambkin who is now Shit Robot and Dominique Keegan who is a publisher for Kobolt. That was the first DJ Wool release. They started Plant Records which shared an office with the DFA crew (James Murphy) and they put out one of my records and so I exploited that. That was the beginning of the new school breaks scene, Adam Freeland was reviewing my stuff.

DS: Adam Freeland is a legend.

GB: I moved to a new era then. That is when I decided to move to the States and that is when the DFA thing was blowing up, there was a whole electro clash scene, it was a whole world. I needed a break from the break and hip hop and I needed a fresh scene. It was cool for me. I started that band the Glass with Dominique around 2002 and I toured that around Europe and America until I moved here to Northern California in 2012.

DS: And from viewing your career from afar it would appear that you have settled into a family oriented life where you are enjoying your music again, but it also seems that you are someone who could never say they have found their sound because you definitely are someone who will continue reinventing themselves.

DJ Wool Album Launch Brooklyn NYC

DJ Wool album launch – Brooklyn, New York

GB: I am definitely a lot more grounded than I was because I was djing 5 nights a week for 20 years. I was taking every gig, going everywhere, especially my last 4 years in Berlin from 2008-2012- there wasn’t a weekend where I wasn’t in some pub in the south of France, or in Switzerland or Trondheim in Norway. And it was in 2012, I had just gotten married and I played a gig in Malmo in Sweden, which is one of my favourite places to play, a place called Babylon there and I had been playing there for years. And you know what? The gig was just shite that night. I played a party that should have been my kind of party, a breakbeat, hip hop night and I got on the plane the next day and thought I am knocking this on the head for awhile. I don’t know why it happened because I always just wanted to DJ, but I needed to rediscover what I was doing.

DS: I think you come back from that better though.

GB: Absolutely, It’s really important to take a break or else you are just mind-boggled. And so I actually just disappeared from Djing altogether for 4 years. I have put out a lot of records in the past 4 years and I have done a lot of collaborations and mixes and I have a live show, until now actually. Now that I have the record company I am motivated to DJ again so I am just starting to book shows again, but I am only booking about 10 DJ shows a year.

DS: The right kind of show.

GB: Yes, and then probably an additional 10 live shows. So the first show I am doing when I come back to Ireland is at Minus in Cork.

DS: Right, you will be back on these shores on a fleeting visit soon and I am hoping to have you live to the studio but I know you are busy.

GB: Yes, I am coming over for Dolores O’Riordan’s new band’s tour of Europe so they have asked me to come over for a few shows and right now I am working at the university here in Sonoma. I am the technical supervisor for performing arts. There is a fairly big symphony hall here, in fact I had to move my computer out of my office because there were 20 ballet dancers in there looking for something.

DS: Excellent.

GB: So that is my life. I am there more or less full time. So, I just want to play the shows that I know will be good.

DS: So tell us about the shows, what is coming up and when?

GB: So I am arriving in Limerick on September 15th and I am going to see Dolores’s new band on the 16th then I am taking the tour bus with them down to Cork to see them play in Cork, then I am playing Minus in Cork on the 17th which is my first gig in 4 years really. And then on the Sunday night I am playing in Izakaya with Arveene. (Billy booked that gig) Then I am coming back here for a few weeks and then I go to New York and I am doing a full live show with the album.

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Arveene, MC Shamon Cassette and Glen Brady at Izakaya, Dublin

DS: Tell us about this album ‘A Life in Breaks’ and the concept behind it. Fill our listeners in on what to expect.

GB: So we have been talking a lot about my origins and the album I am putting out now is kind of a concept I have had in my head since the mid nineties.

DS: The title alone says ‘Here is a little statement of my life.’

GB: It is definitely a statement of the early part of my musical life. And so as I was describing my new mix, the album does that aswell, there is some hip hop stuff of the 90 BPM variety and then it works its way up and I believe there is even a jungle tune on there of about 160, so the concept behind the album was just to crystalise that sound from the 90s that I was into, except the main difference is, there are no samples on the album and so anything that would have been a sample, I recreated with analogue.

DS: Brilliant.

GB: So it has a lot of analogue synths, modular here, analogue effects, stuff like that.

DS: So you are turning into Vince Clarke slowly but surely.

GB: I wish. There is someone who worked for Depeche Mode for many years who influenced me very much in my time in Berlin with the whole synth thing and he introduced me to modular and brought me to the shops and what not so I have had a good influence from that scene. Basically, so that concept I had for the album in the mid nineties….

DS: When does the album hit the shelves?

GB: October 21st

DS: Because I am going to drop in and promo some of the new album after we play your mix.

GB: So the album ‘DJ Wool – A Life in Breaks – comes out on Dither Down Records and Tapes from New York on Oct. 21st. It’s vinyl and digital so it will be out on all the digital stores and the vinyl in specialist shops or ordered online.

DS: Perfect. And just before I let you go do you have any message to young DJs and producers in what you are trying to do with this album.

GB: Well, I can say that this mix is made all from vinyl and then I edited it digitally and so what I would advise is to not get too bogged down by one person saying you should use vinyl and the other guy saying you should use digital. Pick the tracks you like and learn how to mix them properly. It is always good to pay respect to the past, so don’t lose the ideas, the artistry and the artform and I think my mix is a good example of how I started which was all vinyl, having said that, it is pretty difficult to make a 90 minute mix with changing tempos. Keep an eye on the technical but don’t get lost in it because it will come if you keep practicing. Ultimately, the thing one needs to remember about music, whether you are a DJ or a violin player, is practice, practice, practice. If you really like something, do it a lot and have confidence in yourself. Yeah, I am a purist, I have a lot of analogue synths, but I also have controllers and a digital keyboard. I have everything and I use everything. I mean, personally I think analogue stuff sounds better, but having said that I have heard tracks and I didn’t know how they were made and they sounded great.

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Glen’s live rig for PHEVER: TV-Radio show

DS: Very true. I have one more question. Where does the name DJ Wool comeI have a big curly head, and I was putting out a record for Plant Music for Marcus and Dominique and they phoned me up and I was out in Leo Pearson’s house in Monkstown and I said ‘It is going to be called ‘Glen Brady… blah blah…’ and they said ‘Ah, come on, with the wooly head on you, can you not come up with something better and I replied: ‘Okay, call it DJ Wool.’

DS: And it stuck?  Do you still have the wooly head or do you have a nice tidy haircut now?

GB: It’s tidy at the moment but you never know.

DS: Thank you so much Glen Brady. Our listeners are going to love this mix.

GB: The last thing I want to say is that none of this would have been possible without having come from Dublin. You asked me how I got out of Dublin and became successful elsewhere. For me, Dublin nurtured me while I learnt how to do it, so I just want to give a shout out to Dublin and everyone there and thank you Dean.

DS: Nice one, mate. Talk to you soon, buddy.

 

Credits:

Cover photo of Glen Brady by Rainer Hosch

Photo of Glen in studio by Simon Sun

‘A Life in Breaks’ album cover graphic by Lindsey Brady

Other pics of Glen and his equipment courtesy of Glen Brady.

All other photos throughout this blog unless otherwise stated taken by Rhea Boyden

Photos of Johnny Moy, Billy Scurry and Dean Sherry courtesy of Dean Sherry at PHEVER: TV-Radio

A special thanks to Glen Brady and Dean Sherry for their time, expert feedback and for providing me with graphics and photos.

 

 

Review: Documenta 14

3 Sep

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by Rhea H. Boyden

I am sitting on my queen-sized bed in my beautiful room at the Best Western Hotel in the centre of Kassel, Germany. My travelling companion is sitting on her bed and we are both leafing through various books and magazines that review the huge array of work that is on display by the more than 160 artists who make up this year’s Documenta which is being held in both Kassel and Athens. The book I am currently perusing is ‘A Documenta Day Book’. It dedicates each day of the exhibit (which runs from April 8th to September 19th) to one of the 160 artists. I am curious, first and foremost, to see which artist is responsible for creating the 16 metre high obelisk that we had just spotted around the corner from our hotel in the centre of Königsplatz. The obelisk is inscribed on its four sides, in four different languages: German, English, Turkish and Arabic with a quote from The Book of Matthew: ‘I was a stranger and you took me in.’ The obelisk is the work of Nigerian-American artist and writer Olu Oguibe and the day that is dedicated to him in the Documenta day book is July 11th. I am overcome with emotion. July 11th is the day my mother died and here I am, less than 3 weeks later in the beginning of August at Documenta. I am here to try and find some solace and comfort in art. I am here with a good friend, the same friend who I attended Documenta 13 with 5 years ago. I somehow doubt that this Documenta, which has already received scathing reviews, will provide me with much comfort, but I will strive, nonetheless to find hope and joy where I can in the two days we have allowed to immerse ourselves in this exhibit, which is a tiny slice of time given the immensity of it.

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‘I was a stranger and you took me in’ by Olu Oguibe 

Documenta was founded in 1955 by the German architect, painter and curator Arnold Bode and takes place every 5 years. Its original intention was to showcase artwork in the aftermath of the second world war that had been banned by the Nazis. It has since become the most important contemporary political art show in the world and is a highly anticipated event drawing thousands. The home of Documenta is the industrial and provincial town of Kassel in the German state of Hesse which is a couple hours’ train ride north of Frankfurt. The city centre was destroyed by allied bombing raids in 1943 and was rebuilt quickly in the 1950’s and its architecture is grey, functional and austere. The surroundings of Kassel are beautiful, however, featuring the lush Karlsaue Park which runs along the River Fulda as well as the Baroque Orangerie that was built between 1703 and 1711.

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The Orangerie in Kassel where many Documenta pieces are exhibited

This year, however, the exhibit is contentiously and confusingly being located in both Kassel and Athens, Greece with most of the commissioned artists exhibiting their work in both cities over the course of the show. It is curated by polish-born art director Adam Szymczyk who has already been criticised by politicians and teased by art reviewers for his strange and unorthodox curatorial ideas. Art Net News writer Ben Davis writes the following in his review entitled ‘Straining for Wisdom, Documenta 14 implodes under the weight of European Guilt’:

‘It’s hard to put into words how perplexing the experience of Documenta in Kassel is’, writes Davis, ‘People who like their art to be entertaining are going to hate it, because it is a strikingly alienating show. This is deliberate. At the Kassel press launch Szymczyk was asked if he thought that art needs to ‘look good.’ His answer: ‘If you think of aesthetics as more akin to cosmetics, as a pretty thing, I suppose this can be useful sometimes, but we are more interested in the texture and the structure.’ Davis then writes: ‘A simple ‘NO’ would have sufficed.’ When I read this I laughed out loud, which felt great and gratifying because I have shed more tears of sorrow than I have laughed in the past weeks. I agree with Davis and I found Documenta perplexing and confusing and I found myself floundering for meaning as I meandered my way through a handful of the main exhibition spaces.

Back to the obelisk at Königsplatz: this statement ‘I was a stranger and you took me in’ is a politically loaded one and refers to the many refugees that Germany has taken in over the past few years. It is a statement and policy that Angela Merkel will also find hotly contested in upcoming elections. This obelisk, its statement and the artist who created it is one of the leading discussion points of Documenta and on a personal level I think of my mother who shares the death date of the artist’s allotted date in the book. I think of her life and how she also arrived in Germany in the autumn of 1990, a single mother with my three younger sisters in tow and was also taken in by new friends and strangers alike, I think of her Bohemian life in nineties East Berlin, and of how, after she was settled in Germany herself, she then opened her door generously to all walks of life and took them in. She was big hearted, passionate, engaged fully in the arts, founding an English language magazine in Berlin and taking the time to support her artist and musician friends in the exciting and uncertain early post Berlin Wall days.

When I attended Documenta 13 five years ago I was in a very bubbly, happy and enthusiastic mood. I had a lot of fun and was really inspired to write by what I saw, including the incredible installation by South African artist William Kentridge entitled ‘The Refusal of Time.’ It was a mesmerising exhibit that had me spellbound. I wandered through Documenta eagerly soaking up everything: the tough political themes that were then being discussed such as Occupy Wall Street as well as lighter artistic themes. This has made me think of myself as a reviewer and of how my own state of mind fully and completely affects how I am able to engage with art and how I am subsequently able to write about it. I am, at present grieving my mother’s recent death so I am finding it difficult to take on board all the really tough political, social and economic issues that Documenta grapples with.

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Documenta Halle in Kassel

Documenta 14 opened on April 8th in Athens one day after Greece and E.U. Finance ministers signed an agreement on new austerity measures. Bringing Documenta to Athens has been criticised by many Greeks as being a form of ‘crisis tourism’ and graffiti in the city has abounded with slogans such as ‘Crapumenta’ being spray painted on walls. The head curator’s decision to place Documenta in Athens was to form a North/South solidarity to bring the show away from the heart of industrial power in Europe to the place where the two themes of economic crisis and refugee crisis are felt the strongest. The title of the Kassel leg of this show is ‘Learning from Athens’ but what has been learned from Athens in Kassel? I had a long conversation with an Asian-American art historian who also attended the exhibit in Kassel and he says it has failed. Why? I asked him. ‘Because we are still in the midst of this economic and refugee crisis and there is no perspective yet. Germany is economically strong and can absorb refugees. Greece has reached saturation and exhaustion point. It is two completely different scenarios. We need perspective.’

I feel in my own life I have reached saturation and exhaustion point with my own grief and the confrontation, confusion and turmoil that has followed my mother’s death. I was looking for some escapism and comfort at Documenta. I was looking for colour, beauty, music, poetry, erotica and I found little of it there. The only real sensual comfort I found was in the hot bubble bath of my Best Western Hotel room and the delicious sun ripened tomatoes and fresh strawberries that I dined on in local restaurants. I know fully that I am privileged to be able to enjoy these delights. There are currently 65 million people wandering the world looking for a safe place to land. Syrian filmmaker Charif Kiwan stressed at a Documenta press conference: ‘With news of a chemical strike in Syria followed by Trump’s retaliatory airstrikes why should there be any place for beauty at Documenta with such indignity being imposed on victims?’ He has a point. And despite Documenta’s head curator claiming that enjoying Documenta should begin with a process of unlearning, it is poorly curated (despite its 37.5 million Euro budget) and extremely inaccessible to the under educated and poor with its emphasis on confusing and very challenging artworks, as well as glass vitrine upon glass vitrine of papers, letters and legal documents for you to peruse if you have the time and inclination. I had little interest in stopping to read long excerpts that were displayed under glass of the trial between one Jousset Ante Sara and the Norwegian ministry of food and agriculture. And even if I had been interested in standing there and really taking it all in I would have been in the way of the throngs of people who wanted to walk past me.

And I only went to Kassel which cost enough with the return flight from Dublin to Frankfurt, train to Kassel, two nights in a hotel, food, tickets and so forth. If you really wanted to enjoy all of Documenta you would also have to go to Athens. Doing all of this demands time, money, interest and education. So is this the whole point? For the few of us who are privileged enough to do all of this to be reminded by art that the world really is in a very bad state and that art is in a very confused state? A writer and artist friend of mine did go to Athens as well as Kassel and she said the Athens leg of the show was very inaccessible, spread out and very challenging to navigate.

And this is, of course, the main gripe that I and several other art reviewers have, that despite how bad the world is, one of art’s functions is to be a call to action and collaboration and if it leaves you feeling confused and lacking hope then where is the incentive to act in a positive manner to improve things?

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Daniel Knorr ‘Expiration Movement’

One particularly contentious art installation in Kassel was by Romanian artist Daniel Knorr entitled ‘Expiration Movement’. It features smoke emitting consistently from one of the towers of the Friedericianium which is one of the main Documenta museums on Friedrichsplatz. It has caused many calls to be made to the local fire department in Kassel which is costing taxpayers money. The installation itself is also costing a fortune to run. ‘What a waste,’ was my comment to my friend as I lacked any energy to look at any deeper symbolic or metaphorical meaning to it beyond the obvious that it could perhaps remind us in the West of what it might be like to live in a war zone and to wonder in confusion what bomb or explosion may have caused the fire. I was simply pointing out the wasted money and resources: firefighters, etc. ‘But perhaps that is the whole point,’ my friend offered, ‘That we are wasting resources and things are not really being done very efficiently in a time of flux and complicated bureaucracy for many.’ As we wandered through the Friedericanium there was also a loud bang behind us which made me and my friend jump. A bomb? A gun? No, it was just emitting from one of the artworks with no warning whatsoever. I am in too vulnerable a state emotionally to deal with this.

We moved onto the Documenta Halle at the other side of Friedrichsplatz which was built in 1992 to house the ever expanding Documenta. It was in here that I finally found a bit of solace and it was to be found in music. This suited me well as reviewing music has been my main focus the past year since I have been collaborating with PHEVER:TV-Radio in Dublin. Music as a tool to help humans escape suffering and to bring them together in harmony and collaboration was an idea that cheered me up after I once again became emotional after encountering an exhibit in the Documenta Halle that featured the music of Ali Farka Toure, a favourite musician of my mother’s.

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 Guillermo Galindo

In the main hall there was an exhibit by Mexican artist Guillermo Galindo which featured the remains of fibre glass and wooden boats which is clearly alluding to refugee boats. Attached to one of the boats were harpsichord and piano strings. Galindo is a composer who began working on a piece called ‘Border Cantos’ a collaborative project that took him along the the Mexican and U.S. border. He collected items discarded by refugees, migrants and border control agents and began constructing musical instruments out of them. He intended for these instruments to sound out into the world thus giving a voice and hope for the future to migrants.

Another exhibit in the Documenta Halle that finally lifted my spirits was a collection of paintings by Dutch visual artist, composer and painter Sedje Hemon who developed a method of putting her musical scores onto paintings. Various musical parameters such as pitch and timbre would be extracted based on the points along the lines and curves of the paintings. And while I lack the musical training and background to really understand how this works, I found it fascinating and hugely inspiring nonetheless. Hemon is a woman who knew suffering in her lifetime. She was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 for joining resistance groups. While interred in the concentration camp she played violin in the camp orchestra.

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Sedje Hemon – Flanquant en Bas

It has been nearly a month since I attended Documenta and it has been a month of emotional turmoil and unhappiness for me. I happily wrote a review of Documenta 13 five years ago but I didn’t think I was going to be able to write anything this time and my motivation levels have been down. I have been depressed, sad and not really captivated by what I saw and experienced there for the most part. So I have been listening to a lot of music and thinking too much, sleeping too much and not reading as much as I would have normally because I lack the energy and emotional stability at the moment. But here I am finally sitting down and writing and it feels good. I have a warm room, food, hot water, a comfortable bed, photos of my mother at my side. I have music and I have memories. And despite the bad and depressing reviews of Documenta that I have read, I want to remain hopeful and this is what I have learned from Documenta: that our stability is fragile. Emotional, economic and environmental stability is extremely fragile. I have also been reflecting on the fact that inspite of this fragility, I have many reasons to be grateful. I am not in the middle of a devastating flood in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Houston. I am in my warm and dry room. I am thinking a lot about the future and I, like many others am afraid. But hope, support and collaboration must come before fear. I know that my mother would want me to be fearless. She certainly led a life devoid of fear and was not afraid to take risks and travel the world. And as I continue to write and regain my energy to get back to my serious reading, I am keeping her spirit alive as I listen to her favourite music and through my tears reflect on the difficult and confusing lessons of Documenta which may take a long time to really sink in.

Featured image is one from the series Flanquant en Bas by Sedje Hemon.

 

 

Preview: Solas Festival in Aid of Pieta House

3 Aug

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by Rhea H. Boyden

Last week I was cycling over the Samuel Beckett Bridge in Dublin city centre and I saw a huge yellow truck that had the following written on it in bold lettering: ‘The finish line of darkness into light is where the journey starts.’ It was advertising the very important work that is done by Pieta House in helping and counseling people who have been contemplating suicide or who have been directly affected by suicide in their circle of friends or families. I was not previously aware of the work they do, but yesterday as I was cycling home I saw a man crossing the street wearing a t-shirt the same shade of yellow as the truck that was also advertising the work of Pieta House. Now that I am aware of it I am reading and learning more about Pieta House, which only survives and continues to grow because of community support throughout Ireland. Between 85 and 90% of its income comes from fundraising efforts.

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I spoke with Pieta House Fundraising and events coordinator Brian McEvoy who said: ‘Our round-the-clock services are provided by fully accredited therapists. We work to bring people from a place where suicide and self harm seem like the only option to one of comfort and hope.’ Brian also told me that since 2006 over 30,000 people have availed of the services of Pieta House and that there are now 11 centres around Ireland which offer suicide intervention services and four centres offering bereavement services. Brian also said: ‘Our vision at Pieta House is to develop our services in response to the needs of our clients and to achieve our goal of a world without suicide.’

This ambitious goal is being aided by many wonderful groups and activists around Ireland and if you are a fan of the very spectactular range of electronic music that Ireland has to offer then you too can make a difference and help fund the work of Pieta House by attending Solas Electronic Music Festival which will be taking place on Saturday August 19th at a secret location outside Dublin. The event is being organised by PHEVER:TV-Radio and Mystik and will be a mini one-day festival showcasing some of Ireland’s top electronic music artists and acts with the popular Loco and Jam, who are Derry’s finest Techno export, headlining the festival. I spoke to some of the DJs and promoters who told me themselves that they are motivated to take part in such an important cause for charity because they too know the pain of having lost loved ones to suicide.

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The festival will run from 1pm to 11pm with special buses taking festival goers to and from the event from various locations around Dublin city. The tickets are very reasonably priced at 35 euros which also includes admission to an after party at 39/40 Aaron Quay.

The collectives that are coming together for this cause include Melodic, PHEVER, Bookclub, Vision Collector, Stereo, RAW, Culture Shock, Mystik and many more. There will be over 20 Irish acts including Full Funktion, Arte Artur, Moduse, Frankie Moorhouse, Dean Sherry and many more spread across two indoor areas and one outdoor stage showcasing the very best in house, disco, techno and dub step. The festival will also be the official launch of the Irish Electronic Music Awards 2017. This event is strictly over 18s and the full line up and more details can be found on both the Solas and PHEVER Facebook pages. Tickets can be purchased via eventbrite.ie

Solas site map by Frankie Moorhouse

Solas Festival graphics and flyers by Raymond O’Connor

Review: Flashback Fridays at Number Twenty-Two

9 Jul

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by Rhea H. Boyden

The entrance hallway of Dublin’s club Number Twenty-Two is adorned with quite an impressive collection of black and white photos which give you an insight into the history of the clubs which were on this same location over the past 50 years. Number Twenty-Two opened its doors last November, but in the past System Nightclub, McGonagle’s and The Crystal Ballroom were located on this same spot. The walls are hung with excellent prints of Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison, The Virgin Prunes and Thin Lizzy, as well as photos of a very young looking Bono and Adam Clayton. All of these musicians performed or made their debut at the iconic McGonagle’s club in the 70s and 80s. I am sure many who came to McGonagle’s would get a rush of nostalgia when looking at these photos. And while I am not a Dublin native and was never at these clubs in my youth, it was a nostalgia for the classics of the 80s and 90s that had drawn me to attend Flashback which has now been running on Fridays for a little over a month at Number Twenty-Two.

Flashback is a sister gig to the recently premiered Glitterball club night on the same location. It is presented in association with the expanded PHEVER: DJ agency headed up by DJ/Producer Dean Sherry who is the weekend promoter and booker with Number Twenty-Two. Flashback Fridays showcases an excellent selection of expertly remixed and classic tunes from the 80s and 90s presented by a team of talented Djs. I was not disappointed as I walked down into the club and heard DJ Tom playing the music I had danced to in the late eighties and early nineties, including hits from Dire Straits, Gloria Estefan, Madonna, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Micheal Jackson, Simply Red and The Pretenders. The music is accompanied by an excellent visual and lightshow created by Christian Boshell of bakroom visuals.

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DJ Tom

One of the reasons I was also very much drawn to the Flashback event is because it is also attempting, alongside the faster-paced dance music, to bring back the slow dance set which was a feature of many Irish night clubs and discos in the late 80s and early 90s. When I was 17 and 18 I lived in Bantry, West Cork where my friends and I would go to our local club Amadeus. The slow set was a highly-anticipated part of the evening giving you a chance to dance intimately with someone you liked. I spoke to DJ Tom and he told me he had also DJ’d at Amadeus back in 2001. On the night I was at Flashback he also played Falco’s hit ‘Amadeus’ which made me smile from ear to ear and brought memories flooding back to me. Naturally this was a song that was played frequently in our West Cork club of the same name. I was curious to know what my friends thought of a slow set revival and what their favourite slow set songs were from our teenage years and so I turned to Facebook for feedback. The response was overwhelming. My friends posted all their favourite classic songs from both the slow and faster-paced sets and also posted many comments with their memories of our exciting teenage years. My friend Flora Wieler from school in Bantry said: ‘I cringe and blush when I think about it, but I loved the slow set – my favourite songs were ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me’ by George Michael and ‘I Will Always Love You’ by Whitney Houston. Another good school friend of mine, Hannah Dare, added: ‘I remember the anticipation and the fear of the slow set. Girls on one side and boys on the other. Who would cross the divide?’ Hannah also told me that the opening bars of ‘Take my Breath Away’ by Berlin still gives her the shivers. Other favourite tracks were ‘Crazy for You’ by Madonna, ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael and ‘It Must Have Been Love’ by Roxette. These were the same three songs that DJ Tom played for his slow set two weeks ago.

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DJ Gavin Duffy 

PHEVER:TV-Radio DJ Gavin Duffy is another DJ who is featured at Flashback and last Friday he played hits such as ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ by Bonnie Tyler and ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ by Lionel Richie. I asked Gavin about the slow set and he said: ‘People are a little shy and slow to embrace it but there is definitely interest and potential.’ I also asked some of the ladies at the club what they thought of the slow set. ‘I LOVE a slow set and I am married. I really hope it picks up,’ one woman told me. I also spoke to singles in their early forties who are very eager for a slow set revival. So far I have just been observing and taking notes but I also intend to go back to Flashback and have hopes of dancing a slow set with someone special. It seems that both singles and couples are eager to embrace a revival especially in an age awash with online dating and social media interactions. But while we await the slow set with the same nervous anticipation of our youth we can continue dancing to the large and superb selection of faster-paced classic hits that are delivered weekly by talented Djs in the lavish and inviting setting that is club Number Twenty-Two.

Number Twenty-Two is at South Anne Street in Dublin city centre – Just off Grafton Street.

Flashback opens at 11pm and admission is free before midnight – Smart dress, over 25s

Flashback Graphic logo by Christian Boshell

Photo of DJ Gavin Duffy by Mark Walsh

Book Review: ‘Dark Chapter’ by Winnie M Li

5 Jun

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by Rhea H. Boyden

A little over a year and a half ago I was in London to attend my good friend Erin Reilly’s birthday party and go to a few art exhibits. Erin has a wide and diverse circle of friends and she had invited a lot of fascinating Londoners to this party. I was a little overwhelmed, however, and not feeling the most sociable that night and so after awhile I told Erin that I needed to go home and rest. ‘But wait’, Erin said, ‘Before you leave I really want you to meet Winnie. She is an incredible writer and as a writer yourself, you really need to connect with her’, she told me. ‘Okay’, I said, and I was ushered over to where Winnie was standing, a brief introduction was made and we exchanged social media contacts.

Now, a year and a half later, I wish I had been in a more sociable mood that night and had stayed longer to speak to the incredible and inspiring Winnie M Li because I am now extremely interested in her story. Thanks to social media, however, I have been able to connect with and follow Winnie and her story is an intriguing one. She has just published a brilliant debut novel ‘Dark Chapter’ which is a work of autobiographical fiction that was inspired by a horribly traumatic event that she lived through: being assaulted and raped in a Belfast park when she was there on a business trip in April 2008.

Winnie Li, a Harvard graduate based in London, was enjoying a very successful film producing career when she was invited to Belfast to attend the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Good Friday agreement. ‘We were invited to take part in a symposium with various politicians. It was quite prestigious,’ she said. One of Winnie’s passions is hill-walking and hiking and she has travelled to many interesting and remote places to pursue this passion including hiking in Germany and helping to author guidebooks such as the ‘Let’s Go’ guidebook series. After the Belfast symposium she had intended to go for an 11 mile hike through Colin Glen Forest Park in West Belfast when she was followed and subsequently violently attacked and raped in the woods by 15-year-old Edward Connors. After the attack she walked out of the woods and called the police and then came the police statement, the forensic exam and the horrible realisation that she is now a rape victim. There is a section in her novel where her protagonist Vivian realises this in the full sense of time and tense: ‘I am now a rape victim. Was raped. Have been raped. Am raped. A nighmarish conjugation through all the many tenses, without knowing where this verb will take her. What happens in future tense? I will be raped…. I shall be raped.’

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Winnie M Li

And why try and turn your traumatic real world, life-shattering experience of rape into a piece of fiction? And how difficult is this a task to undertake? Vivian, the novel’s protagonist is very much a representation of Winnie herself and her own lived experience and yet, this is a piece of fiction, and a very convincing and brilliantly researched piece of fiction too. Winnie has said that she read a lot of very helpful and interesting rape memoirs following her own assault but that she wanted to attempt something more ambitious; to also tell the story from the point of view of the perpetrator to try and gain a deeper understanding of what led him to commit such a violent act at such a young age.

‘Dark Chapter’ expertly describes the experience of both the perpetrator and the victim in alternating sections told in both of their voices. It recounts their role models, education (or complete lack thereof) and sexual experiences to date leading to the point where the two meet in the park in this violent encounter. It then goes on in their separate voices, to explain how they both deal with the aftermath of the ordeal. Johnny, the perpetrator, still high on drugs and alcohol from the night before goes back to the caravan he lives in with his Irish traveller family, or at least some of them. His parents are split up, with half his siblings living with his mother and he with his alcoholic and abusive father and older brother who are rarely, if ever, around to look after him. His shot at having a good life is pretty slim from the outset and for this you pity him. Vivian, on the other hand, flies back to London the next day to attend the red carpet premiere at Leicester Square of a film she has just finished producing. This part of the story is pure autobiography- Winnie herself, did in real life fly back to London the day after the attack, adorn her beautiful gown, cover her bruises with concealer to attend the premiere of ‘Flashbacks of a Fool’ starring Daniel Craig, which she helped produce. Another film she had previously produced ‘Cashback’ had been nominated for an Oscar.

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When Winnie returned to London, she told her closest friends about the attack and she got a lot of support and was believed. This was such a horrific ‘stranger rape’ attack that no one could discredit her story. It was covered widely in the media and she waited months for the trial in Belfast, at which point her attacker, Connors pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 8 years in prison. Winnie got justice without having to testify, which helped in her healing process. Nonetheless, she still had deep depression, agoraphobia and post traumatic stress disorder, staying in her room and avoiding social contact. I think back to the night I met Winnie in London. I was not in an especially good mood and was not feeling particularly sociable that night. But I stayed and met Winnie and I am glad that I did. I cannot even begin to imagine the agoraphobia and social anxiety that Winnie has dealt with in the past years and it is hugely inspiring to see her turn her trauma into art, social action and literature in an attempt to raise more awareness around the topics of rape and sexual assault.

Winnie’s film career was effectively shattered by the trauma and depression that she experienced after her ordeal, rendering her unable to work for 2 years. She eventually got some work at the Doha Film Institute in Qatar where she served as program manager for the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. She also slowly began to take hikes again and get out on her own in nature, though still traumatised and wary of strange men. She eventually asked herself the following question about her rape and assault: ‘How can I deal with this in a professional way that can have some kind of public impact?’ She has answered and is continuing to answer this question every day. ‘Dark Chapter’ is excellent and is a must read in order to keep an open dialogue about rape culture and also to honour all the victims who have not seen justice in court or who have felt shamed into silence. By taking on representing the role of the perpetrator and giving him a voice we see how an understanding of sexual consent is not at all to be taken for granted, but it is something that has to be learned. The novel describes Johnny’s influences who are his older brother and friends in the Irish Traveller community who effectively teach him that violently forcing women to have sex with you is okay, watching pornography is okay. Her command of the vernacular and the Irish colloquialisms is spot on and perfectly captured in her novel. In the acknowledgements at the end of her novel Winnie also states: ‘Resources and staff at An Munia Tober, Pavee Point and the Traveller Movement helped illuminate the challenges and uniqueness of Irish Traveller culture. To this day, Traveller society remains misunderstood and misrepresented and I do not intend for my novel (inspired as it is by my own lived experience) to portray an entire community nor to malign it.’ Her fiction novel shows the case going to trial and it is gripping and anger-inducing to read it. The lies of the perpetrator, his denial that he has done anything wrong, him saying how she wanted sex and was asking for it. Her character Vivian just standing in the courtroom crying and trying to control her rage as her rapist gives his awful and untrue statement. One section of the trial expresses just how violating the whole ordeal is to her: ‘How many more times does she need to be flayed alive in this process? Every single step of seeking justice involves exposing herself more and more. Until there is nothing left of her. And yet everyone watches on, wanting to see how she will react.’

Winnie was very relieved that she herself did not have to go through the ordeal of the trial and that her perpetrator pleaded guilty. But she also pointed out in an interview with the BBC that only 6% of reported rapes in England and Wales lead to a conviction and it is very damaging for a victim to be disbelieved, discredited, shamed and to not be given any social justice. And so Winnie continues her work of making rape an acceptable topic to discuss openly and she has gone very public with her own story completing television, radio, newspaper and magazine articles and interviews internationally to try and increase the dialogue between men and women about sexual violence and rape. She is also a co-founder of Clear Lines Festival in London, which explores issues around sexual assault and consent through the arts, discussion and debate.

Winnie and dog

Winnie has accomplished so much and her experience of how she has dealt with her rape should be an inspiration to women and men everywhere. I have been speaking to my friend Erin more about her and we are both in awe of Winnie’s work. Erin said ‘She is a powerhouse of both intellect and courage.’ That she most certainly is. It is impossible for me to list all the incredible things that Winnie has accomplished in her life to date but since 2015 she is also a Ph.D researcher in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics. She is researching the impact of social media on the public discourse about rape and sexual assault on an Economic and Social Research Council grant.

She also blogs for the Huffington Post and wrote a significant article about Brock Turner, the Stanford University perpetrator who was only sentenced to 6 months in jail last year after asssaulting and raping a 23-year-old female student. Judge Aaron Perskey defended him by saying that a harsher sentence would have a ‘severe’ impact on him. His own father also defended him by saying that his son’s life should not be ruined by ’20 minutes of action’. This sparked outrage on social media and the victim’s harrowing 12-page statement to Turner went viral and was widely read and shared. Winnie has taken a huge interest in this case because social media is allowing the victim to have a voice against this insanity. In the aftermath of her own rape many friends and aquaintances admitted to her that they, or an aunt, cousin, sister or someone they knew had also been sexually assaulted. Rape is shockingly pravalent in our society, but sadly, many, many victims remain silent. Winnie is certainly on a mission to change this with her own novel, activism, articles and festival work, opening a dialogue and keeping it open on a tough topic that our society still has trouble dealing with and speaking about. ‘Dark Chapter’ is a must read and Winnie’s story as a whole, one to be followed.

Photos courtesy of Winnie M Li

Author photo of Winnie M Li by Grace Gelder

‘Dark Chapter’ is published by Legend Press, London and can be ordered online. You can also support Winnie in her cause by asking your local bookstore to stock this brilliant and important novel.

Review: Opening Night of Glitterball – Dublin

11 May

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By Rhea H. Boyden

I walk down Dublin’s South Anne Street frequently but I had not noticed the beautiful blue door at Number 22 until I found myself standing in front of it last Saturday night wearing a sparkly blue dress that was just about the same shade of blue as the door. I was excited to see what lay behind this portal and so I entered and walked downstairs into the stunning new club named simply after its address: ‘Number Twenty-Two’ which opened last November. The event I was there to attend on Saturday was the opening night of DJ/Producer Dean Sherry‘s  glamorous new event: Glitterball – Saturday Nite Phever. The opening night was spectacular and most certainly did not disappoint. Dean opened his set at the stroke of midnight with the fantastic Nile Rogers/Bernard Edwards Remix of ‘Lost in Music’ by Sister Sledge which really was the perfect track to commence a new Saturday night residency that he will hold weekly in this beautiful and stylishly refurbished building. ‘Glitterball’s focus will be on promoting Irish musical talent with small group rotations and occasional international guest DJs,’ he told me.

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DJ/Producer Dean Sherry 

The ‘Number Twenty-Two’ venue is decorated with well-restored antiques, plush curtains, stained glass and large gold -framed mirrors. It hosts dinner shows in a 1920’s New York theme, as well as traditional music, folk gigs and jazz with Sherry’s weekly Glitterball event adding classic house, soul, funk and New York disco to the repertoire. I really did feel like I was in a New York club as I sat in the large leather booths on the balcony overlooking the dancefloor, stage and dining tables below.

When Dean Sherry finished playing ‘Lost in Music’ he launched straight into ‘Benediction’ by Hot Natured – a song I love. I sang along to the line: ‘I feel like my love has found a home,’ and as I did I was also struck with the thought that sexy, civilised and quality late-night clubbing has also found a new home in Dublin and this is something to get very excited about. The music was accompanied by top-class visuals and graphics provided by Brian Byrne and Christian Boshell.

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Niall Redmond 

Dean was joined on opening night by the hugely talented DJs Jay Carpenter aka Muska who opened with the track ‘Club Soda’ by Thomas Bangalter and Niall Redmond who played ‘Clouds’ by Chaka Chan which went down a storm. As I observed Niall in action it occured to me that Djing really is a physical activity. I could see the passion and music flowing through this extremely talented man and it is quite remarkable to observe. But then Dean Sherry himself is a huge talent who surrounds himself with a pool of talented DJs. He is an award-winning DJ and owner of PHEVER:TV-Radio which he set up in 2014. He has held residencies in almost every leading dance club in Ireland over the past 2 decades as well as touring extensively and internationally with his successful PHUNK’DUP Soundsystem. He also held a residency in the late 90’s in a hugely popular underground club called The System which was in the same location as the freshly refurbished club on South Anne Street. Dean is now returning to the same spot to DJ nearly 20 years later with his new sparkly and sexy Glitterball club night.

Jay Carpenter

Jay Carpenter aka Muska

I have learned a lot more about the history of the location in the past week, and 22 South Anne Street, being in the heart of Dublin city centre, has a colourful musical history. In the 1950’s it was home to The Crystal Ballroom which was where many young people went dancing to jazz/swing orchestra bands. This week I was introduced to Dublin songwriter/musician Andy Jack who told me a little more about his personal family connection to The Crystal Ballroom. ‘My uncle Henry Jack who is now 82 years old was resident crooner there in the 1950s and would sing only the most lavish of songs with the in- house jazz/swing orchestra. He had a voice that could sing classically as well as big swing-jazz numbers of the time. He was often compared to the Hollywood legendary singer Mario Lanza and he would perform songs by the likes of Dean Martin and Elvis Presley as well as many of his own songs, ‘ he told me. Henry Jack went on to have a very successful singing career in New York.

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Henry Jack – Resident Crooner at The Crystal Ballroom in the 1950s

The Crystal Ballroom has also been immortalised in a U2 song of the same name. Bono’s parents used to go dancing there in the 1950’s too. And on the same location as the Crystal Ballroom another club sprang up in the 70’s, – the iconic McGonagle’s which featured a mix of indie bands, acid house and pop dance. U2 played there and many Irish bands made their debut there in the late 1970’s and throughout the 80’s. I spoke with DJ Aoife Nic Canna and her close friend Ailbhe Ni Mhaoilearca who both told me that they have fond memories of seeing New Model Army in McGonagle’s in 1988 when they were young teenagers. ‘The gigs on Saturday afternoons were free which made it all the more appealing when we teens had very little money,’ Ailbhe told me. The venue hosted such bands as Thin Lizzy and The Virgin Prunes.

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It has been fascinating and intriguing for me to talk to so many different people this week about the history of this location that I knew absolutely nothing about before. I have lived in Dublin for a little under 3 years and there is still so much musical history for me to uncover. I very much look forward to attending more of Dean Sherry’s Glitterball club nights in the near future especially now that I learn that this is the fourth music club to be located on this very spot since the 1950’s. Dean has a lot of exciting plans for his Glitterball residency. He told me Niall Redmond will be spinning on stage with him frequently and that they both have a special guest lined up who they will soon reveal. I can’t wait for the second night of Glitterball this Saturday May 13th when Dean will invite DJ’s Speedi D (Purty Loft) and Frankie Moorhouse to join him in working their musical magic on the decks.

Glitterball Dublin is delivered in association with PHEVER.ie featuring exclusive resident DJ Dean Sherry plus weekly guests. For VIP guestlist applications please PM to Glitterball Facebook page and leave name and email address. The club also offers supper club deals from earlier in the evening. Glitterball kicks off at midnight. Doors: 11pm. No. 22 South Anne Street (off Grafton Street) Dress to impress. The event is strictly over 25s.

Photo of Henry Jack courtesy of Andy Jack.

Silver Glitterball image from Wikimedia Commons

Review: Debut Panel at Cuirt International Literature Festival, Galway

6 May

Cuirt

by Rhea H. Boyden

Last Thursday morning I took the train from Heuston Station, Dublin to Galway. As we rumbled across the flat midlands past yellow flowering gorse and dark peat bogs, I felt sorry for the many new-born lambs who must wonder, indeed, what they have been born into as they gaze at the towering grey clouds and bear the unseasonally cold weather. I was wearing my finest winter coat as I sat on the train. ‘It’s nearly the first day of May, do I really need to bring my winter coat on this trip?’ I asked myself as I packed. Yes, I do.

The cold weather did not dampen my mood, however, as I was very excited to be heading to the Cuirt International Literature Festival which is only one of many festivals Galway hosts. This beautiful town in the west of Ireland is truly a hub of arts and culture. Cuirt (which is the Irish word for Court) runs for a week every April and has been held every year since 1985. It was founded as a poetry festival but has since expanded to include events showcasing many forms of literature.

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Several months ago I was invited to moderate a Debut panel at the festival and I immediately said yes to such a wonderful opportunity even though I had never taken on such a job before. I love a new challenge, however, and so I threw myself wholeheartedly into preparing for it. The panel was to include four writers who have just published their first novels and one writer of short stories who has recently had her first collection published. I received all the books by post from the festival organisers and I read them all with great interest in the weeks leading up to the festival.

Roisin O’Donnell was one of these writers and she has recently published a powerful collection of short stories entitled ‘Wild Quiet’ which deals primarily with multiculturalism in modern Ireland. As I sat on the train heading towards Galway I thought of her story ‘How to Learn Irish in 17 Steps’ which deals hilariously and tragically with the difficulties encountered by a Brazilian primary school teacher living in Ireland as she attempts to learn Irish. The character in the story also takes the train from Dublin to Galway and to the Gaeltacht to learn Irish. Before taking this drastic measure, however, she has attempted to learn it at an Irish school in Dublin: Step four in her story commands: ‘Enrol in Irish for beginners at the Scoil Ghaeilge on Dame Street. Classes should begin on an October evening sweet with the fragrance of rotting leaves. Most of your classmates will be Irish retirees in search of a new hobby. If they gawk at you and ask you why the feck a Brazilian girl like you is learning Gaelic, explain that you are a primary teacher with a master’s in education from Sao Paulo University, you moved here to Ireland because you fell in love with an Irish man, and that you must learn Irish in order to teach at primary level. Notice your classmates eyes glazing over (at this point you should probably stop speaking). Learn your first phrase in Irish, and enjoy the Gaelic words undulating on your tongue. Ta tuirse orm: the tiredness is on me.’ It was this section from this story that Roisin chose to read during our panel discusssion and it was very fitting and well received.

Roisin

Roisin O’Donnell was born in Sheffield with family roots in Derry. Her stories have been anthologised in The Long Gaze Back, Young Irelanders and The Glass Shore. She has been shortlisted for several international prizes such as the Cuirt New Writers Prize, The Pushcart Prize, The Forward Prize and the Brighton Prize. ‘Wild Quiet’ has been shortlisted for the Katie O’Brien award and longlisted for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.

Our panel discussion took place in the lovely Galway Town Hall Theatre at 3pm on Friday April 28th and after I had introduced Roisin and she had read I moved onto introducing the four lovely debut novelists on our panel. The first to read from her freshly published novel ‘Harvesting’ was Lisa Harding who has written a shocking but stunningly brilliant novel that was inspired by her involvement with a campaign against sex trafficking run by the Children’s Rights Alliance. I had no idea before I spoke to Lisa and read her novel that Ireland is a destination for sex traffickers and sex tourism. The novel’s main characters are Nico, a sensitive, innocent, animal-loving 13-year-old from Moldova who gets sold by her family and trafficked to Ireland where she ends up in a brothel, and Sammy, a 15-year-old girl from a wealthy, but damaged home in South Dublin. Sammy escapes her abusive and alcoholic mother (and her father who is rarely home) by running away from home. She is smart and sassy and somehow views the brothel as a joke and a sick challenge until she gets pulled into all its horror. She and Nico meet in the Dublin brothel and form a bond to help them deal with the trauma their young bodies, minds and hearts are dealing with as they are essentially held captive as sex slaves. Lisa Harding has very bravely taken on a tough topic, and one we must face and contend with. It was estimated in 2012 that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year and with the migrant crisis this number is only increasing. According to Europol, 10,000 child migrants disappeared in 2015. It is, of course, impossible to really know how many young girls are forced into sex work and exploited in this way due to the extremely secretive nature of this crime.

Harding’s novel has beautiful prose and language and I found it especially compelling to read how she has turned a tough and very disturbing topic into art and has given a voice to the many young victims of sex trafficking. The oppression of these girls is expressed as Nico says: ‘The thing I want to say gets pushed back down and lodged in my stomach like a stone.’ Harding describes throughout the novel how the girls deal with the terrible trauma they are going through. Nico says: ‘My body is stiff and I have vacated it, watching the men hauling it. My body feels like it doesn’t belong to me, neither do my limbs, my hair, my fingers, my nails. Every part of me feels like it might float away. Sammy says: ‘I’ve kind of gone all floppy, like a rag doll, or this guy’s muppet. It’s like there is nothing inside of me.’ The novel achingly describes how the girls get lost in fantasy to escape their pain.

Lisa

Lisa Harding is an actress, playwright, and writer who completed an M. Phil at Trinity College, Dublin. She has had plays professionally produced and various short stories published in The Dublin Review, The Bath Short Story Anthology and Headstuff. Her works have been placed in various competitions including the inaugural Doolin Short Story Prize.

The next novelist I introduced to read on the panel was Alan McMonagle who has just had his first novel ‘Ithaca’ published by Picador. It is an absolutely side-splitting and hilarious novel that takes place in a town in the middle Ireland following the crash of 2008. It is set in the summer of 2009: ‘the summer all the money disappeared’. The novel tells the story from the point of view of Jason, a 12 year old who (like Sammy in Harvesting) has to deal with an alcoholic mother and a missing father. This story goes one step further however, in that the main task for Jason is to try and elicit from his mother, who indeed, his father is. He asks her if it might be Flukey Nolan (one of the many colourful characters in the novel with equally colourful names) and she says: ‘Tell me Jason, how old are you now?’ to which he responds: ‘Nearly twelve’. She just laughs at him and says: ‘Twelve years old and he wants to know who his da is.’ I absolutely loved McMonagle’s book because I have always loved dark humour, so once I picked it up to read it I couldn’t put it down again. His descriptions of the dreariness and depression of recession Ireland are fantastic, especially those of the town the story is set in: ‘Our town was slap bang in the middle of the country, miles from anywhere and built inside a hole made out of bog, weeds, and the soggiest soil you might ever see. If that wasn’t bad enough, we were surrounded by a dirty black drain that spent its time fooling everyone into thinking it was a river. There were two sides to our town. The rich side on the hill beyond the railway tracks and the side we lived on. The ghetto, Ma called it. I was walking down the back lane. Of all the places in the ghetto the back lane was the place to hang out. Anybody who was anybody on our road wanted to be seen out here, taking a stroll through the muck, hanging out by the ditch trees, making conversation about the Swamp in the wasteland beyond.’

Alan

Alan McMonagle has written for radio, published two collections of short stories (both of which were nominated for the Frank O’Connor award). He has contributed to many journals in Ireland and North America. ‘Ithaca’ is his first novel and has just been longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Award for debut novels.

The next novelist to read on our panel was Amanda Reynolds who is a teacher of creative writing living in Cheltenham. She read from the very beginning of her freshly published novel ‘Close to Me’ which is a gripping psychological thriller about a woman named Jo who falls down the stairs and loses her memory of the past year. Jo is afraid of her husband but she does not remember why. Amanda told us during the panel discussion that she thought it would make for an interesting story that when someone loses their memory instead of helping them to heal, you use it against them in deceitful ways. She certainly has a fantastic grasp of an interesting and intriguing use of narrative as Jo, her main protagonist tells her story in alternating chapters, both before and after her accident, building to a stunning conclusion. She really leaves you guessing until the end why Jo has such distrust of her husband: ‘My husband’s slow steady breaths and the familiar nighttime noises within the house find my ear. I pull the duvet around me and allow my subconcious to take over, unlatching from the present, an almost physical letting go. As I succumb to sleep the memories come, but I know they are unreliable; broken and unpredictable. The harder I search the further they retreat, but then something breaks through, at once unbidden and yet desperately wanted. As much as I crave the past, I fear it too.’

Amanda

Amanda Reynold’s gripping novel (which I read in a couple of days) has been optioned for T.V. starring a major Hollywood actress who will be disclosed to us soon. She has a two-book deal and is currently working on her second novel. It was so inspiring talking to her about her processes and her writing habits and it does not surprise me that such a thrilling story would be optioned for T.V. I will be following Amanda closely to see how these exciting deals work out for her.

The final novelist on our panel to read was Paula Cocozza who is a feature writer at The Guardian where she has covered everything from football to feminism. Her debut novel is the intruiging and unusual ‘How To Be Human’. Mary, the novel’s main character, develops a relationship with a fox living in her back garden in London. We are never quite sure what is real and what is fantasy in this story and while I have read different reviews of this novel, I like to think of Mary’s relationship with the fox as the perfect metaphor for an unconventional relationship which she craves being surrounded by couples after her relationhip with her boyfriend Mark has ended and he has moved out. I also see her relationship with the fox as perfectly embodying what we urban dwellers need desperately to really remain human; to regain a deeper connection to nature. Being single myself, I perfectly relate to Mary’s reaction to being at her neighbour’s Eric and Michelle’s garden barbecue party: ‘Her fellow guests were transforming before her eyes into the building blocks of family life, clicking into place as the day drew on. Had these couples been together when they arrived and she had failed to see them as such?’ The novel’s first sentence seriously grabs your attention: ‘The was a baby on the back step.’ The baby is Flora, her neighbour’s baby and how it got there is a mystery. Mary has a special connection to Flora throughout the novel; she babysits her and holds her at the barbecue. I would imagine that many single, childless women in their mid thirties can relate to Mary’s musings as she holds Flora, especially the line: ‘A baby: a passport to a socially accepted solitude.’ Mary is lonely and this novel deals with that loneliness, which is, very much a modern affliction: ‘Mary herself was barely a pinprick on the world’. Paula read spectacularly from her novel to us, her fellow panel members, and the audience seated before us in the Galway Town Hall Theatre.

Paula

Paula has an MA in creative writing from the University of East Anglia where she was recipient of the David Higham Award. Apart from being a features writer for The Guardian, she has also been published in The Telegraph, The Independent and the Times Literary Supplement. When she finished reading we had a lively discussion on each writer’s driving inspiration behind their works, as well as discussing the differences in form and structure between the short story and the novel. I then opened up the discussion to the audience and before we knew it the 2 hours was over. We then went to the bookshop out front so that the authors could sign their books for the audience. It was truly magical for me to meet all these talented writers in person and get to know them a little after having spent 3 weeks reading their works. And it was a real honour for me, not being a novelist, to be given the fine task of representing them at this splendid festival in the magical town of Galway. I loved it, and I as I boarded the train back to Dublin on Saturday evening I felt very satisfied and inspired and I can’t wait to read more of all of their writings.

Photo of me on stage at the Debut Panel at Galway Town Hall Theatre courtesy of Cuirt Festival organisers.