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On Climate Change, Music and Activism in The Arts

13 Nov

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Rhea H. Boyden

It is late October 2018 and I am standing in my stepmom and dad’s vegetable garden at our family home in West Cork, Ireland. It’s raining. The leeks, kale, spinach and beets look delicious. This is the first time in my life that I have stopped to fully and truly appreciate and show gratitude for this garden. I am wondering if Ireland’s climate will still be stable and predictable enough to reliably grow vegetables in 2040 when I am 65 years old. I am thinking about the alarming new report that has just been published by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that states the urgency of climate action NOW if we are are to cut risks of extreme heat, drought and poverty that will affect hundreds of millions of people in the coming decades. I have been reading a lot about climate change the past few months and I find it all completely distressing. I pick a leek. The rain begins to come down harder and I am getting soaked but I don’t care.  A headline flashes through my head: ‘Climate Genocide is Coming.’ As I unearth a few beets I remember a few more headlines: ‘It’s five minutes to midnight on climate change.’ and ‘New Outlook on Global Warming: Best Prepare for Social Collapse, and soon.’ I carefully pick a few leaves of spinach and kale and then finally go back inside the house to escape the rain.

2018 began very well for me creatively. I was reading nothing about climate change and science at all. After a few years of writing venue and DJ reviews in Dublin I decided to delve even deeper into music reviewing and I ordered a pile of books that would deepen my knowledge of what is going on technically in the electronic music I was listening to. I spent months joyfully reading all about music theory, the neuroscience of music, the history of dub and the rise of  electronic music. I talked to music writers and DJs about music. PHEVER: TV-Radio DJ Hugo McCann assisted me in my quest to learn more about the music. Last summer, in the middle of an unprecedented Irish heatwave, Hugo and I met up for the afternoon to listen to some music and analyse it. As we listened to one of his many brilliant mixes he patiently explained to me what we were hearing. ‘What is that sound?’ I asked. ‘That is a Jamaican concave drum,’ he said. ‘And that sound?’ I continued. ‘That is hi hat cymbals, and then you hear organs and a sequenced clap,’ he explained. I am intrigued. It is good to finally understand what I am listening to. I want to learn more. We moved on to his latest mix that he had just aired on his weekly show the previous weekend. I always love Hugo’s mixes but this one irritates me when I listen to it the first time. ‘It’s a bit too full on for my taste,’ I tell him. ‘Well, yes,’ he says, ‘The tempo of the promos I am being sent has been increasing in the past couple of years. The tracks keep getting faster and faster,’ he says. I tell him I find this no surprise considering the pace of people’s lifestyles as well as the temperature of the planet keep increasing too. And while we are enjoying the hot July day we are also fully aware that it is absolutely not normal for Ireland and we are already well over a month into a drought accompanied by record-breaking temperatures. We talk about climate change and environmental doom as we discuss Hugo’s mixes and where he draws his inspiration from.  


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PHEVER: TV-Radio DJ Hugo McCann

My intention after my meeting with Hugo was to continue learning about music and instruments  and to use this knowledge to bring my music reviewing to a new level. I haven’t published a single music review since then. Why not? Because I have been questioning the whole value of writing art, music and literature reviews at all with the increasing number of terrifying articles about climate catastrophe that keep pulsing through my newsfeed. So I have been reading every article about climate change I can get my hands on and as depressing as it is, I find it important to inform myself fully about the latest reports, data, projections, predictions and projects that are being implemented to protect the most vulnerable on this planet from the worst effects of climate change. And I have been talking to others about it. My friend Paul Sullivan in Berlin is a music writer, photographer and the editor of Slow Travel Berlin, a magazine I wrote for when I lived in Berlin. I have also recently read his brilliant book about the history of dub entitled ‘Remixology – Tracing the Dub Diaspora.’ ‘So what do you think about the spiritual and psychological implications of the latest reports on climate change? and ‘What do you think about the merits of continuing to review music and art? ‘ I asked him. ‘In terms of the arts and music as a response,’he said, ‘I would be tempted to say that first and foremost we should probably be dropping them in favour of direct political action. Maybe mass art protest could be useful but I think looking at paintings and listening to music just doesn’t cut it in the current climate,’ he said. I told him I fully agreed and that it was a recent encounter with a painting that made my blood boil regarding this exact topic. I was standing in the National Gallery of Ireland last summer in the large exhibit of  the work of German Expressionist artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956). I reviewed the exhibit in depth but one painting and Nolde’s description of it made me so mad. It was a beautiful oil painting of the North Sea painted in 1950. Nolde’s description of the sea was the following: ‘The wide tempestuous sea is still in its original state; it is the same today as it was 50,000 years ago.’ ‘Well, the sea is not in its original state any more!’ came my audible response in the middle of the gallery. Ocean acidification is killing off coral reefs and it is projected that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.


Photographer, Writer and Slow Travel Berlin Editor Paul Sullivan

A little over a year ago we experienced the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia which wreaked havoc in the south and west of Ireland. Roofs were blown off houses and thousands were left without power. Last March we experienced the humorously named ‘Beast from the East’ – a blizzard which brought the U.K. and Ireland to a standstill. We are definitely not prepared for this. I have spent many winters in the United States and Germany where there is, of course, a great measure of snow and ice preparedness because it is the norm every winter. On my street in Dublin, the pavements never got cleared and they were packed with ice and snow causing many injuries to pedestrians. I did not suffer at all during either of these events. I didn’t lose power and I didn’t run out of food. My room was warm and I stayed home from work and read a tonne about art and music. I enjoyed the days off. I guess you could say I was pretty lucky. You could also say I was pretty smug and complacent. I feel that my reading of the past few months has stripped me of a great deal of complacency. My recent reading has informed me that we citizens of affluent countries most certainly will not be spared the effects of climate change for a whole lot longer than those in the poorest and most vulnerable areas of the world. We are all in this together. A leading climate scientist named Peter Wadhams believes an ice-free Arctic will occur one summer in the next few years and it will likely increase by 50% the warming caused by the CO2 activity produced by human activity. The temperature was 20 degrees above normal in the Arctic in early 2018.

During the blizzard last March I read and reviewed a wonderful memoir entitled ‘Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands’ by Will Carruthers who was a bass player in Spacemen 3 and Spiritualised, two pioneering British psychedelic bands of the 1980s and 90’s. His book is the funniest and most heart-wrenchingly real book I have read in years and I have been praising it and promoting it all year. Will writes so beautifully about music and politics, and life in a touring band and I have thoroughly enjoyed studying his work and listening to his music this year. I also asked him what he thought about climate change and climate doom and his first philosophical response was: ‘Every second is doomed to fall.’ I pondered this. He then said ‘Have you heard of the Dark Mountain project? It is a website for enviro goths who have abandoned all hope.’ I told him I did not want to abandon hope and that despair and gloom will not mobilise us into climate activism. He told me there was also hope to be found in despair. Will has also written about climate change and, in fact, I laugh out loud when I read what he has written. A bit of comic relief is essential. An excerpt from his brilliant piece on climate change goes: ‘A terrible darkness descends upon humanity, as nature claws back what is hers, eventually the balance is restored as cockroaches and rats get to have a go at the top of the food chain. The billionaires are the last to go, having been forced to watch the terrible fate of humanity unfold in real time with an increasingly uneasy feeling that survival might not actually be the best prospect, even if you are rich. The last human sound on Earth is the screaming of billionaires being nibbled by rats.’


Musician, Artist, Writer and Poet, Will Carruthers

No, I most certainly don’t want to give up hope and I also don’t want to give up reviewing art, music and literature either because it brings me a lot of joy and connects me to many wonderful people. I do feel, however, that my reviewing henceforth will become more focused on activism. I truly believe at a time when arts, music and cultural funding is being slashed and also not being prioritised in schools that writers, artists, musicians and DJs have a duty to fill this void. So I have been having a look around for people who are doing great things and one person I have connected with recently is artist Stephan Crawford who is the executive producer of the ClimateMusic project which is a group of scientists, musicians and composers based in San Francisco who create music based on climate data. They then throw concerts to communicate the urgency of climate change activism to the public. I asked him about it and he said: ‘Our concerts combine science-guided music with data animations and visuals to viscerally communicate the urgency of climate action. We then engage our audiences in conversations about solutions and we connect them to a network of organisations that can help them learn more about the issue, take action at home and build community around engagement.’ I am completely intrigued by the work of the ClimateMusic project and the following is a lengthy quote about a current project of theirs:

‘ ‘Climate’ is an original composition by Erik Ian Walker. It was made by identifying four key indicators and assigning each of these a musical analogue: Carbon dioxide concentration is reflected in the tempo of the composition with increasing amounts of CO2 accumulating in the atmosphere causing the tempo to speed up. Near Earth atmosphere temperature is represented by pitch where a rise in temperature translates to detuning, increased dissonance, harmonic complexity and/or a rise in pitch. Earth energy balance (the balance between incoming energy from the sun and outgoing heat from the Earth) changes are audible as distortion, ring, modulation (a wobbly metallic sound), volume and a general ‘unhealthy’ unevenness of the atmospheric tone. The greater the imbalance, the greater the distortion and the loss of natural harmonics. Ocean pH is represented by compositional form and as the pH in the ocean drops (becomes more acidic), the compositional form degrades.’

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I am thrilled to be reading this and it lifts my spirits and inspires me to read more.  For in it I have found a wonderful description that rolls into one the two things that have been preoccupying my thoughts the entire year; descriptions of music and climate change. I watched and listened to a clip of what this is trying to get across to the audience and essentially you hear very clearly how the pitch and tempo of the music increases to an anxiety-inducing level in line with carbon dioxide levels and earth energy balance over the years. It makes me think of another book I have been studying this year: ‘This is your Brain on Music’ by Daniel Levitin in which he writes: ‘Pitch is one of the primary means by which musical emotion is conveyed. Mood, excitement, calm, romance and danger are signalled by a number of factors but pitch is among the most decisive.’ And it also instantly reminds me of what Hugo told me about tempo increases in the music he has been airing on his show. I go back and listen to his mix again that was a bit too full on for me before. I listen to it twice and three times and with each listen it grows on me. It is dark and it is evocative of doom and gloom, but like all of Hugo’s mixes he has shared with me, it takes you on a journey. And I can’t help but think about environmental doom when I listen to it. Daniel Levitin explains is his book exactly why, from a neural perspective, I am making these associations: ‘Each time we hear a musical pattern that is new to our ears, our brains try to make an association through whatever visual, auditory, and other sensory cues accompany it; we try to contextualise the new sounds and eventually we create these memory links between a particular set of notes and a particular place, time and set of events.’ The event was the heatwave and the discussion with Hugo was about climate change and I am brought right back to that experience by listening to the music. It helps, of course, that the vocal samples in this particular mix of Hugo’s include the words ‘foolish’ ‘frightful’ and repeatedly the word ‘justice.’ It isn’t hard to link it to climate change. I now love this mix and it has become my climate doom soundtrack that inspires me to write and act.


Anthropologist, Writer and Eco-Feminist Activist Carolin Cordes

So what about Climate Justice? Another person I have recently become friends with is the lovely Carolin Cordes. Carolin is a writer, anthropologist, and eco-feminist climate change activist based in Dublin. She tells me the latest IPCC report has also spurred her on to greater activism. In her article entitled ‘Women, Climate and the Rise of Eco-Feminism’ published in Green News, Carolin writes the following: ‘In 2010 former president of Ireland Mary Robinson  founded the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice which works towards securing justice for the most vulnerable victims of climate change.’ Carolin points out in her article that climate change disproportionately affects those who contribute to it the least, and also that according to UN statistics 80% of those displaced by climate change are women. I have been talking to Carolin a lot and she and I have been sharing ideas and articles. Eco-feminism is a cause close to her heart. ‘Women have a strong link to the environment because globally they represent the majority of those working in small-scale farming, as well as resource management around water and wood,’ she writes. ‘Females also preserve strong traditional knowledge by saving seeds and farming organically, hence they protect the natural world with their long-term outlook.’  When reading Carolin’s writing I once again think about music and the maternal and feminine nature of dub that Paul writes about in ‘Remixology’. He writes beautifully about the penetrative and male nature of the heavy bass beat as it vibrates the body, but he also writes the following: ‘A great case has been made for dub’s maternal nature. Music listeners such as Simon Reynolds have noted dub’s ability to take us back to the ‘amniotic sea of the womb… the lost paradise before individuation and anxiety.’ ‘ Individuation is, of course, a hallmark of our carbon-fuelled society.

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The main piece of literature that has inspired me to write this piece is a 30 page research paper by Jem Bendell, who is a professor of sustainability leadership and the founding director of the Institute for Leadership and Sustainability at the University of Cumbria. His paper entitled ‘Deep Adaptation: A Map For Navigating Climate Tragedy’ is both riveting and terrifying. He spells out in detail how doomed we are as a species by quoting all the latest climate data. If you believe what he writes, that we are now facing runaway climate change with no way of preventing it, as I am tending to believe now, he offers practical solutions to prepare ourselves for the coming decades of inevitable climate chaos.

He offers a three step plan of what he calls ‘Deep Adaptation’ – Resilience, Relinquishment and Restoration. How can we make ourselves spiritually and psychologically resilient once we have entered into the post-climate change denial stage which I feel personally, I am slowly moving into. Do we completely fall apart and lose all hope? No, we prepare, we collaborate and we adapt, something we are good at as a species if we put our minds to it. I think of my own resilience training. Every morning, I cycle 4.8 miles to work in Dublin and 4.8 miles home again in the evening. This may not seem like much, but I do it in all weather besides a hurricane or a blizzard. As the weather becomes more unpredictable this is something I need to plan a little more cautiously. I am dealing with traffic and dangerous obstacles every day. I believe it keeps me mentally and physically fit, enabling me to manage many other challenges in my day to day life.

Bendell writes- ‘Given that analysts are now concluding that social collapse is inevitable, the question becomes: What are the valued norms and behaviours that human societies will wish to maintain as they seek to survive?’ This question then brings us to Bendell’s second step in his plan which is relinquishment. On a more global scale this will mean moving away from coastlines and shutting down vulnerable industrial sites. On a personal level it will involve giving up personal pursuits that only exacerbate  problems such as flying. When I was recently home in West Cork my brother, who is now helping my father to manage our property, turned to me and said ‘Rhea can you come home some weekend soon and help us with firewood?’ With guilt I thought of the two flights I have just booked: one to London for New Year’s and another to Portugal in February. I love travelling. I have been doing it my whole life. My family and friends are spread all over the United States and Europe and the travelling lifestyle is one I am well accustomed to. Our property in West Cork has beautiful woodlands on it that my father has been sustainably managing for decades. It provides us with plenty of firewood for our wood-burning stoves. In the future I will spend more time at home chopping firewood and expanding our vegetable garden in the hopes that the climate will cooperate. It may not be glamorous but it is life-sustaining.

This brings me to Bendall’s third step which is restoration. What are the values that we will wish to restore that have been eroded in our carbon-dependent and growth-driven society? Bendell writes: ‘Examples of restoration include rewilding landscapes so they provide more ecological benefits and require less management, changing diets back to match the seasons, rediscovering non electronically powered forms of play and increased community level productivity and support. When I read this I immediately thought of my closest neighbour in West Cork, a wonderful woman a few years younger than me named Jessica Mason. Jessica is a mother of two, a gardener and an environmental educator. She has a lot of great skills and a tonne of energy to achieve wonderful things in a rural community. After my decades of city life, I am very grateful to have someone like Jessica as my neighbour to offer me advice when I eventually move home, whenever that will be. I have also been talking to her about all these topics and we have been sharing articles and book recommendations.

Gardener, Mother and Environmental Educator Jessica Mason

If all of this seems alarmist and extreme it is also heartening to read what Bendell writes about how people react when he discusses his ideas with them. ‘In my work with mature students,’ writes Bendell, ‘I have found that inviting them to consider collapse as inevitable, catastrophe as probable and extinction as possible, has not led to apathy or depression. Instead, in a supportive environment, where we have enjoyed community with each other, celebrating ancestors and enjoying nature before then looking at this information and possible framings for it, something positive happens. I have witnessed a shedding of concern for conforming to the status quo, and a new creativity about what to focus on going forward.’

In a Guardian article from April 2018, 86 year-old British social scientist Mayer Hillman said ‘We are doomed.’ He told a shocked audience at the University of East Anglia that accepting the impending end of life on Earth as inevitable might be the one thing that will help us prolong it. He says when someone is told they are terminally ill they generally appreciate life more. He claimed that the important things will be music, education, community and love as we adapt to climate chaos. The best that can be hoped for is community support because the likelihood of us now pulling together as a planet and stopping carbon emissions are slim to none. The recent election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil spells catastrophe for the rainforests. He is only the latest in a series of far-right politicians to gain power across the world. And while scientists and activists work valiantly to provide solutions such as large machines that will suck carbon out of the atmosphere, such a machine is largely a fantasy, and in any case, to produce something at scale takes a lot of time and money, both of which are in short supply. I am not a scientist. I am simply quoting from what I believe are trusted sources and trying to make sense of it all for my own life. I am sure I will have critics for writing this essay, but it is too important and has been on my mind obsessively the past months to not write it.

Despite all this, I still live in hope and I find my solace in continuing to learn about music, writing, reading, and continuing to collaborate passionately with people I care about. The nature of projects I work on will likely change over the next while but I still do truly believe that the arts and music are important in helping us build resilience and form connections in an uncertain climate and by no means a frivolous pursuit.

Paul Sullivan writes the following in ‘Remixology’  ‘Since echo is also related to human memory (the human brain codes remnants – the echo – of a memory), it can be used as a tool to transport listeners to the past. Jamaica’s dub pioneers used echo in combination with the sentiments and spirituality of roots reggae to provoke a sense of Jamaica’s ancestral African roots.’ Does music hold the power to bring us back to the simpler lifestyles many of us led before our lives were so driven by consumerism and growth? I think of life in West Cork in the 80s. How we lived with very little money and no running water or electricity while my parents were building our house. We and most everyone else in West Cork lived pretty frugal lives. An important ritual in rural Ireland back then was the trad session in pubs. Everyone brought instruments and there was a great sense of community. I took Irish dancing lessons and I remember dancing in pubs a lot as a child. This tradition has nearly died out in Ireland. Perhaps it will return in the future. We have to live in hope for a restoration of less carbon-intensive activities otherwise what is the point.

I wrote this essay while I was sitting in bed alone on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Dublin in November. I spend a lot of time alone, but it is also worth noting that the word loneliness only entered the English language around 1800. I love my solitude to read and write but there is certainly a thin line between solitude and loneliness, for modern loneliness is, after all, largely a result of our pursuit of individual lives in a carbon-fuelled world.

 

There are other ways of living.

 

Thank you for reading my story.

 

With love and gratitude,

 

Rhea Boyden

Dublin, Ireland

November 2018

 

Many thanks to Paul Sullivan, Hugo McCann, Will Carruthers, Carolin Cordes, Jessica Mason, Stephan Crawford and many others besides for sharing their stories with me.

Photo of Will Carruthers by Francesca Sara Cauli

Thanks so much to Paul for his photo which he took of himself.

All other photos taken by Rhea Boyden

 

 

Review: Hang Dai Chinese – Dublin

10 May

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By Rhea H. Boyden

Over the past few months I have been going to a spectacular new spot on Camden Street in the heart of Dublin city: Hang Dai Chinese Restaurant run by Dubliners Karl Whelan and Will Dempsey. A few weeks ago, I was there on a busy Saturday night and I had the pleasure of being introduced to them both. Karl, who is the executive chef, had just pulled a beautiful duck out of the oven when I met him and he looked very happy with it. And so he should be. Hang Dai, which opened its doors last November is doing a roaring trade. ‘We are delighted with ourselves,’ Karl told me when we finally had a chance to have a longer chat about Hang Dai’s decor, food and importantly, its sound system which was custom built to the highest standards. Karl told me that they had played around with different ideas when trying to get the desired feel and ambience for the venue.

On one side of the wall there is a subway car with plush dining booths. I asked Karl how this idea came about. ‘Our original idea was to have a glass and rubber handrail going down to a subway in an open stairwell so it would feel like an escalator, but then the idea morphed and we started looking at train images and train parts. We were aiming for a sci fi-esque look.’ The result is spectacular. They commissioned talented graphic designer Donal Thornton to create the graphic art that fills the spaces where one would find subway ads. One of the graphics is a subway map of various nightclubs. ‘We wanted to do a bit of music lineage from Jazz clubs to modern day clubs,’ he told me. ‘We are also planning to update those graphics and keep them fresh,’ he said. On the opposite wall there are impressive dragon murals which are the work of artist Johnny Fitzsimons. ‘He is our resident artist and is currently working on more murals in the bathroom,’ Karl said.

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Karl, who was formerly executive chef of Luna Restaurant and sous chef of Michelin star restaurant Chapter One among many other fine dining places, told me that they have recently revamped their menu. I have sampled their asparagus spring rolls with spicy bean curd hollandaise, as well as the steamed eggplant in fermented chilli sauce and their super special fried rice, but the star of the menu appears to be the apple wood-fired duck. Karl and Will have been to China several times visiting Beijing, Hong Kong and Chendu to research the food and culture of China. One big aim of these trips was to learn how to prepare Beijing duck in a wood-fired oven. Another menu item that caught my eye was whole brown crab in the shell ‘typhoon shelter’ style. I asked Karl about it. ‘We are just coming into summer and it is crab season,’ he said. ‘One dish we ate in Hong Kong were these massive crabs at a restaurant under a bridge where the fishermen come and shelter with their boats from the typhoon so that is where the inspiration came for that dish,’ he said.

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And while the menu is superb, Hang Dai is by no means only about food. Co-owner Will Dempsey is a record collector and DJ and a lot of time and effort was put into having the highest quality sound system installed. They both want quality late night music with the priority being talented vinyl DJs playing using the handmade rotary mixer that was sourced in Japan by Will. The rest of the system was built by the talented Toby Hatchett, who is a boat builder by trade but also constructs custom-built sound systems in his West Cork workshop. I also spoke to him about his work at Hang Dai and he said: ‘The brief was that it needed to be a very clean, undistorted sound, so that the listening experience is very pleasant while people are dining and it is not too loud. I built the DJ console around the rotary mixer which is really the heart of the whole sound system,’ he said. Toby worked with sound designer and engineer Abe Scheele on the sound design of the room. ‘We measured the whole room with microphones and we did it in a very detailed fashion in order to get that clean, clear sound wherever you are in the room,’ he said. Toby also told me that he loves Hang Dai and that it is a joy for him to continue tweaking the system.

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Dragon mural by Johnny Fitzsimons

Toby also did the decor and sound system for the recently opened upstairs section of Hang Dai – The Gold Bar, which is also stunning with a fabulous balcony looking over the bustling Camden Street below. As I stood on the balcony with some friends speaking to co-owner Will Dempsey, he proudly pointed out to me that they get sun all day long which makes it the perfect spot to enjoy the smaller upstairs menu of 8 cocktails and 8 dishes. ‘8 is a lucky number in China,’ Karl told me, ‘So we thought that was significant.’ Downstairs there is an extensive menu of expertly crafted and delicious cocktails including a house favourite, the Hang Dai sour.

The roster of talented DJs includes Sally Cinnamon, Nialler 9, Aoife Nic Canna, Eddie Kay, Donal Dineen and many others. ‘We recently had Brian Cross in to play,’ Karl said. Cross who is originally from Limerick is a successful photographer and DJ in Los Angeles and he was home giving an exhibition of his work. ‘He is a success story, so we were delighted he joined us for the night.’

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DJ Aoife Nic Canna and DJ Eddie Kay at Hang Dai

DJ Aoife Nic Canna who shares a monthly Saturday evening slot with DJ Eddie Kay told me: ‘Eddie and I get on well and I love the ambience. Our job is to keep the diners there after they eat and to keep it a Saturday night party set. I really look forward to playing there more during the summer.’ I have been at Hang Dai a few nights when Aoife and Eddie were on the decks and their music certainly kept me dancing a little longer than I had anticipated. I was about to call it a night the last time I was there when Aoife played the thrilling new release from Irish producer Glenn Davis entitled ‘Body and Soul’. Hang Dai’s menu and cocktails enjoyed while listening to quality music surely are a treat for the body and the soul and I am very happy to have found such a great new local in the heart of Dublin.

Hang Dai is at 20 Camden Street in Dublin City

Photo of Duck by Terry Mc Donagh

Featured image of dragon mural by Johnny Fitzsimons

Thanks to Karl Whelan, Will Dempsey, Toby Hatchett and Aoife Nic Canna for their stories.

Review: Bazza Ranks and The Prisoners of Audio

24 Mar

By Rhea H. Boyden

Last week Barry O’Brien aka DJ/Producer Bazza Ranks sent me over his latest release: ‘Where Would We Be (Without Our Music)’ which is a top notch collaboration with Irish hip hop group Prisoners of Audio. P.O.A. as they are also known, comprise MCs Ricki Rawness from Dublin, Russell Flow from Waterford City and Leiko Tola who is originally from Zimbabwe, but has resided in Ireland for the past decade.

I listened to the track and I immediately liked it so I asked Bazza to tell me a bit more about it. ‘It is a 90s style reggae hip hop track that fuses reggae samples and dub basslines with classic Boombap hip hop drums and tight rhymes,’ was his response. That seems like an awful lot for one track to cover and I realised when he told me this, that I really know very little about the magical fusion of all of these genres and how they all influence on and work with each other. I also spoke to MC Russell Flow who told me: ‘All of these genres are hinged together in some way, shape or form; that is the beauty of urban music. It’s very easy to dabble among different genres; to me hip hop and reggae are the lego pieces of the urban music world.’ Bazza Ranks also told me that he doesn’t like to limit himself to one genre and that he produces everything from reggae to hip hop to dancehall and house music. They both told me how much they love the vibe and music of Jamaica and are both reggae and hip hop fanatics.


The past week I have been listening to the track ‘Where Would We be Without Our Music’ and I have been reading about Jamaica and reggae, hip hop and dub. And indeed, my big question now is, Where would we be musically without Jamaica and reggae? One book that has enlightened me a lot on this topic is the brilliantly written and very entertaining ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. In it they write the following about Jamaica: ‘This tropical volcanic rock only 200 miles long was where many of dance music’s key innovations were first made flesh. To many, reggae is just a quirky local flavour, bouncy beach-party music. In fact, it is one of the most forward thinking genres in history. Reggae was the first style to value recorded music more than live performances. As the meeting place of African, European, North American and native influences, the Caribbean, as a whole, has an astonishing range of musical cultures.’

Bazza Ranks and The Prisoners of Audio

I asked both Bazza Ranks and Russell Flow a little more about their musical influences and backgrounds and the musical cultures that have inspired them the most. ‘Growing up in Dublin I had an older brother who used to give me tapes and I know it is a little cliched, but one of the first big ones that I loved so much was Bob Marley and that fired a love of reggae in me.’ Bazza, who is now 36 said he was a little young to be a part of the Irish rave scene, but it affected him musically nonetheless. ‘I loved rave and house and became a huge hip hop fan, ‘ he told me. He is one half of successful Irish electronic music act The Dirty Dubsters who have toured all over Europe, Canada and the U.S and have been a staple on the reggae stage at the annual Irish music festivals The Electric Picnic and Body and Soul. He has held many residencies in London where he currently resides and performed at numerous festivals all up and down the U.K. His musical bio to date is impressive indeed.

MC Russell Flow, former member of acclaimed hip hop group The Animators was introduced to hip hop and reggae in the U.K. as a teenager. ‘In 1995, there was a budding Jamaican scene in London. I was only 15 and was hugely influenced by the likes of early hip hop group London Posse and various local acts in Luton where I was living.’ He told me that the new release ‘Where Would We Be Without Our Music’ of which he raps the last verse, is truly a love letter to music. Each MC raps a verse about his own love of music and what music means to him.

We also spoke about the challenges they face producing music together seeing as they are spread out over 3 cities – London, Dublin and Waterford. ‘Recording is easy enough. I can record things and send it over to the guys and vice versa;’ Bazza told me. He told me that the ‘hook’ – the line of audio, ‘Where Would We Be Without Our Music’ is a sampled part and that gives the MCs a direction. He gives them that and a beat he has produced and then they fill the empty space in between with their rapping. It certainly is intriguing to hear about the process of how a song is constructed. ‘Filming the video was of course a little more challenging;’ Bazza told me, ‘Because naturally we all have to be in the same place at the same time to do it, so it was just a waiting process until we all had time.’ The excellent video was filmed at The Record Spot on Fade Street in Dublin as well as in North Strand where Dublin’s Rub A Dub Hi-Fi have their soundsystem. There is also a clip of Bazza Ranks on the decks at The Purty Kitchen in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin.


We also spoke about how elements of dancehall music and hip hop have a bad reputation for glorifying guns, violence, and drug use and also how many lyrics are degrading to women and blacks. Bazza admits that is true in a lot of cases, but he also hopes that the tunes that will withstand the test of time musically will be the ones with more spiritually uplifting vocals. Hip Hop sprung from Jamaican and Bronx ghettos after all, and a lot of it expresses the harsh reality of life there. In his book ‘Caribbean Currents’ Peter Manuel writes: ‘The glorification of guns may be primarily rhetorical, especially insofar as it expresses the theatrical rivalry between between DJs. Many DJs claim to be singing about a lyrical gun; it is better than taking up a real gun and pointing it in a man’s face.’ Indeed, my further reading about the history of hip hop in the Bronx has shown this to be true. Music was a saving force for many in the ghetto with the police turning a blind eye on extremely loud Bronx block parties, reasoning that it was far better and more peaceful than the alternative which was gang warfare and gunshots.

In the course of my conversations with them, both Bazza Ranks and Russell Flow enlightened me on many further aspects of how all these genres work in harmony and how the music works. ‘Some of the 90s dancehall stuff is some of my favourite music with its powerful basslines and what drives me to that music is the tone and voice of Jamaica. I just love the sound of a Jamaican singer or toaster over a hip hop drum,’ Bazza said. ‘Yes, and if you take hip hop and reggae in its rawest form you can do so much with it,’ Russell Flow told me. ‘You can take reggae and add something to it and then you have dub, for example. I decided to read more about dub of which I knew little before and ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ contains the following stunning description of it: ‘Dub is a new universe of sound. It is the first full flowering of the dance remix. Dub opened up such dramatic possibilities that it is considered a whole new genre. Dub techniques are so powerful they are now used across the entire spectrum of popular music. A dub mix is essentially the bare bones of a track with the bass turned up. Dub separates a song into its stark component parts and subtracts each strand of sound until a new composition is made. By adding space to a track what is left has far more impact. By boosting a bassline until it’s a monstrous shaking presence, dropping out the whole of the song except its drums, sending a snatch of singing into a reverberating echo, stretching out a rhythm with an interminable delay, dub can make a flat piece of music into a mountainous 3-D landscape.’


Dub, reggae, hip hop and dancehall; they certainly seem to collide and fuse frequently with each other and my reading and discussions the past week have opened my eyes a little more to this world. Bazza also told me about his record label Irish Moss Records. ‘Irish Moss is a famous drink over in Jamaica so we thought that was fitting. It is a dance music label with a very definite reggae heartbeat,’ he said. ‘Yes, a love of reggae is very definitely something that bonds us,’ Russell Flow agreed. Bazza is also a podcaster providing a platform to speak to many other DJs about their musical passions. ‘It really is something I love to do. It was born out of talking to DJs at length when I bumped into them. I don’t really have access to the A list of DJs but it is great because people like to hear about the hard-working local DJs just as much.’ And it really is true. There are so many fascinating stories to hear about people’s many creative projects.

‘Where Would We Be’ is released on Irish Moss Records

Photos and graphics courtesy of DJ Bazza Ranks and MC Russell Flow.

‘Where Would We Be’ video courtesy of Dan Gill

Black and white photo by Tara Morgan

Review: Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands

11 Mar

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By Rhea H. Boyden

I am lying on my bed relaxing and listening to Spacemen 3’s 1989 album ‘Playing With Fire’ through my headphones. This is the first time I have ever heard this album and I am intrigued. I listen to it a second and a third time and with each play it grows on me more and more. I especially love the song ‘How does it feel?’ I have been prompted to listen to this album because I have just read Will Carruthers’ stunning memoir of his time as a bassist in Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized, two pioneering British psychedelic bands from the 80s and early 90s.

‘How does it feel?’ I love this song and it really makes me think about my feelings after reading Will’s book. It is a book that takes you on a magical rollercoaster ride of feelings. At one moment I am laughing til my sides ache and the next I feel anger at the manner in which Will and his band members were treated by mainstream British society and the Thatcher government of the 80s. This anger is then calmed by reading on as Will writes beautifully, poetically and philosophically on a host of topics, and then I am laughing again as he tells yet another anecdote in his fantastic, self-deprecating wit and style. This book is superb. I am hooked. It makes me feel everything and I want to learn more.

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Musician, author and bookmaker Will Carruthers

I became acquainted with Will back in 2011 in Berlin. We lived in the same neighbourhood and had some mutual friends in the music scene and I saw him perform a few times. I have since been following his adventures as he moves around between Donegal, Ireland, Iceland, Berlin and other places. Now that I have read his memoirs I am intrigued by his multiple talents and am studying his work and listening to his music. ‘Can you tell me a bit more about the beginning of this song, ‘How does it feel?’ I ask Will on the phone. He fires back without hesitation: ‘Yes, it is a Vox starstreamer guitar using a built-in effect called a repeater.’ I tell him I would not have even known it was a guitar if he hadn’t told me. I clearly have a lot to learn. Quite apart from providing me with the technical descriptions of instruments, Will is a man who can write about music so beautifully which is refreshing and breathtaking to read in ‘Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands.’

Describing playing a gig in the north of England, Will writes: ‘I took myself, sliding, up to the top octave on the bass and held it for a perilously long time, until that high thin note hid itself in the drone, and when I ran back down the neck, the bass came surging up like a shark out of the deep blue sea.’ He writes about how well Spacemen 3 were received in the north of England: ‘Maybe they understood drugs and desperation more completely up there.’ Maybe indeed.

Will writes candidly and openly on many topics including his and the band’s drug use. It was part of the subculture they lived in as they struggled to survive in Thatcher’s Britain: ‘We weren’t very well adjusted to the prevailing reality of our times,’ he writes. Drugs and making music were his escape, especially, from the drudgery and repetition of factory life in Britain. He worked an exhausting night shift in a sheet metal factory in Birmingham ‘putting the same bend in five thousand identical strips of metal.’ His book details the many jobs he has held over the years as a labourer, builder and handyman – digging ditches and hauling buckets of cement. Living hand to mouth, going into debt and then trying to climb out of debt by cleaning windows, all the while, his love of playing music being the passion that sustains him through hard times. His descriptions of British politics of the era are spot on: ‘The deathknell for post-war optimism had been sounded and we were witness to the breaking of the social contract in favour of personal gain, war and hate. Despite this, we were somehow hopeful in our despair.’

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One of Will’s exquisite hand stitched books

Living hand to mouth and maintaining hope is challenging indeed, especially when you are a touring band and decent, cheap food is hard to come by. This book has many parts that are laugh-out-loud funny, but Will’s descriptions of some of the dreadful British food he encounters are hilarious. When invited by his bandmates for dinner he describes the roast pork he is served: ‘The piece of pig had been cooked beyond the limits of endurance and lay in the puddle of congealing treacle sauce as though it were undergoing some advanced form of culinary rigor mortis. It is said that we should not speak ill of the dead, so how then should we speak of the ill-cooked dead? This was a pig that had died twice, the first time at the hands of a slaughterman, and the second time of embarrassment at the indignities it had been forced to endure on the plate.’

With food like this who wouldn’t take drugs and escape into music for nourishment? In another chapter Will describes being stoned and playing at an arts centre in London. In this stunning chapter Will gets to the core and essence of what music does to your perception of time: ‘Spectral shapes, motifs and melodic archetypes drift in and disappear, while the occasional mythical beast emerges from the ocean of drone…and the drift of time is forgotten within the boundaries of limitless sound.’ Throughout his book, Will references having a strange and unique relationship with the passing of time whilst playing a gig and this has inspired me to read more about what other philosophers have to say on this topic. Pioneering American philosopher Susanne Langer (1895-1985) writes the following: ‘The elements of music are moving forms of sound; but in their motion nothing is removed. The realm in which tonal entities move is a realm of pure duration. Like its elements, however, this duration is not an actual phenomenon. It is not a period – ten minutes or half an hour- but it is something radically different from the time in which our public and practical life proceeds.’

How one segment of Will’s public and practical life proceeds when he is not performing music is summed up in his meeting with a dole officer who is challenging his claim to a payment of benefits. ‘Mr. Carruthers,’ the dole officer questions him, ‘What do you see your role in society as being?’ Will goes on the defensive to this question and asks the dole officer what his role in society is and that he simply wants the small government benefits that he is entitled to. This dole officer has very likely never considered how challenging life can be for people who are attempting, against all odds, to lead a life that is more artistically, environmentally, aesthetically and architecturally satisfying than what was on offer in the British towns of Rugby (Will’s hometown) Coventry or Middlesborough. Will’s description of the polluting chemical factories and hideous architecture of these towns are yet another impressive and well-researched part of this memoir.

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Hand carved lino for handmade books by Will Carruthers

A further chapter details how Will receives a green bolt of yew for his birthday. He has had a few lessons from a character who he refers to as Elron the Bowmaker on how to make a bow. He becomes fixated on the task at hand: ‘I was prepared for an epic revenge story of tragic proportions. I set about my task of making my weapon like a man quietly possessed. I felt wronged and felt only vengeance could make it right.’ I had to read this chapter twice before I understood that the enemy was an imaginary foe. I asked Will about it. ‘I deliberately made that part vague,’ was his response. And now I am beginning to see why. There is no one single enemy that you could possibly shoot the arrow at to make yourself feel better and so it is better to keep making good art and music than resorting to vengeance. This is the role of the artist after all, to make life a little more colourful, bearable and infuse it with meaning and emotion. Will’s wise words are arrows enough. I am reminded of an article by Maria Popova as she writes about Susan Sontag’s philosophy: ‘Sontag said: ‘Words mean, words point, they are arrows stuck in the rough hide of reality.’ Popova continues by saying: ‘If words are the arrow, we ourselves, our interior landscapes, our outward actions – the authenticity of our lives – are the bow.’

It is the authenticity of Will’s life that make his stories so compelling. ‘I never used that bow for anything except entertainment. In the end I chose music instead of revenge, creativity instead of destruction and something else instead of money.’ he writes.

Will is currently back in Berlin making books from his beautiful handmade lino prints. He stitches each book himself and is making stunning boxed editions as well. ‘So how many have you made so far?’ I asked. ‘About 160 and I am hoping to make about 300 in total before I leave Berlin again,’ he told me. ‘Playing the Bass with Three Left Hands’ is certainly a book that deserves a beautiful handmade cover.

A hand stitched copy of Will’s book can be ordered on his Squarespace website

Books also available on Amazon.
Photos courtesy of Will Carruthers
Photo of Will Carruthers by Francesca Sara Cauli.

Follow Will Carruthers on Twitter and Instagram

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

DJ Tom

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