Racks of enviable equipment and releases with labels such as Don’t Be Afraid, Bodytonic, Lunar Disko, Apartment and Photic Fields. TR One have been remixed by Lerosa and Juju & Jordash, mastered by Alden Tyrell and have collaborated with New Jackson and Phantom Planet Outlaws. This is not a studio in Berlin, London, or Dublin – but in Carlow.
TR One – Eddie Reynolds and Dean Feeney, run a strictly hardware homestead. Known for their ruckus filled live shows and slick, savage releases – they are the perfect example of doing what you can, with what you have, with where you are. Eddie talks about the importance of community, finding your confidence and channeling your influences into your signature sound.
The Early Days
My introduction to music was through friends. I first met Dean at secondary school – he was a DJ and I was getting heavily into music at the time. I loved listening to Dave Clarke’s World Service, Richie Hawtin’s – Decks, EFX & 909, Jeff Mills – Live At The Liquid Rooms but especially D1 Records. The First 8 Years Of D1 mix from Active Service Unit was a major stepping stone for me – it peaked with that mix. It felt like I was the only guy my age in Carlow into this music, but it felt good.
I became obsessed with buying D1 Records from Rob Rowland, Decal, Decoy, Active Service Unit, Visitor – all the D1 classics. I was amazed that this deep Detroit techno was coming from Dublin and only an hour up the road from where we were. We started collecting records – travelling to Waterford to Rotate Records, up to Spindizzy in Dublin and Selectah. Looking at the art and sleeves on the way home on the bus is a good memory. I eventually saved up to buy my first set of 1210’s from a good friend who ironically bought them previously from fellow Carlow man John Gibbons – I still have them!
It was just the DIY ethos of music, seeing all the grainy pictures of old Detroit and Chicago producers with their drum machines – it felt like anybody could do it and we could do it.
They just made such an impression on us and we eventually got our first record released and it snowballed from there. We got more and more gear, more into the scene and into the Irish dance music culture.
Our first piece of equipment was the Yamaha SY77 synthesizer – a mouse actually crawled into it and shit all over it and destroyed the circuitry, that one is now in the graveyard somewhere! Also the Jomox Xbase 09 – it’s a 909 clone but with a unique sound and I still have that – it’s one of my babies.
I’m not musically trained but I’m self-trained over the years – to anyone that is getting into production – it’s trial and error and you will find your own sound and you will realise what’s right. You make a lot of bad, bad tracks, but it’s a learning process like most things. We felt it was right and it was great – but listening back it was heavily out of key and it was so bad …but it was just the energy.. that feeling it gave you.
At the moment Dean is in Canada and before that he was in Cork at university and his life was down there and mine was up here and we didn’t make that much music together.
At that stage with me personally, any track I made it wasn’t good enough. I was comparing it to all the other great tracks I was hearing it every week. The anxiety was building up for making my own music, it was just unbearable and I just froze every time I turned on a machine. I was just eating myself up inside thinking it wasn’t good enough.
Eventually, you get your head down and maybe you realise it is good enough. Dean will be back making music but I’m enjoying making music on my own at the moment ..it’s good to find your own sound and eventually, it should go back to being the two of us.
This is advice to anybody starting to make music or experiencing this right now, just stick at it and no matter if you think it’s bad and you are anxious over your tracks, they are good. The fact you are putting creative energy into these tracks is amazing – you are putting your time, thoughts, love and emotion into these tracks – that is enough. People have to sit back and realise the tracks are good enough and just give them time. All it takes is a friend or someone from a label to say that’s good and then your idea changes.
The Live Show – and the lamp!
The lamp is actually sitting in my sitting room now! When we got our live show on the road ..which was basically bringing our whole studio. ..it was an absolute nightmare but obviously great. The lamp idea came from one of our favourite movies of all time which is ‘Stop Making Sense’ and David Byrne had a lamp in one of his tracks. And we said we would take it like that, set it up beside us on the stage and make it our little calling card. It eventually featured on our vs Phantom Planet Outlaws record. It started out as a bit of a joke but then we got known for it. The lamp will always hold a special place in my heart!
With the sheer amount of midi cables, wires and jacks for the live shows, there was always something that went wrong. One classic story was in the Twisted Pepper – our battery ran out on our DX100 and we had to send New Jackson out to the shop to replace them. During performances sometimes things just don’t work – but it’s all part of the energy.
Hardware or Nothing
Have I ever used software? No, even the way I record.. after I put the structure and the spine of the track together, I always record live and in one take. I record as a live performance with live effects. If something is not right.. if the levels are off and I can’t really change it, I have to re-record the whole thing but traditionally you have a certain amount of sporadic energy in tracks that happen on the fly and it seems to work so I stick at that.
The Creative Process
This is something I have been thinking about…subconsciously throughout the week or throughout the day you are picking up ideas..it’s like a track or an idea starts playing in my head on a loop and I think I have to try and get this. But ironically I think this happens due to something that happens throughout the day….and it’s your brain and your mind.. it’s trying to transfer it to what you know best. That’s the creative process…you have to get it into the studio.
It’s all hardware based which is a lot of maintenance but I just don’t know any other way. I love the hands-on approach of making music. The MPC 2500 is the heart of the studio. From there I have a midi patchbay going to a Juno 106, a Korg minilogue, a Jx8p, a TG500, a TX81Z, the Yamaha DX reface, JP8 amongst many other things. The TX81Z cost me 80 quid and it’s such a solid little module. No matter how expensive your gear is, it’s all about how you use the machine. The cheaper items always have such character.
I have about 7 mini channels going into that alone and then I’ve got a couple of drum machines, samplers, outboard effects units and a compressor. I’ve got the space echo which adds that signature fog to the mix. I will always start with the skeleton of the track and usually start with beats. Sometimes I think it’s better to start with the music elements and then work with your beats around it. But I’m so stuck in my process, I’m so used to it at this stage. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t, again for me it’s the live take and the live performance are something we have always done. That’s why the tracks transfer into the live show so easily, we were used to that jamming in the studio. It has its pros and its cons, but it’s the signature sound from TR One.
I’ve always wanted to have the foresight to realise what a track might sound like on a dancefloor but I just don’t have that. It has to please me – I’m not really sure what I’m looking for. You could spend 6-8 hours in a studio and the next day they just sound shit – your ears have just gotten so used to the loop.
‘Herd Of Trains’, the B side of ‘Living In, Now’, that came together in an hour and a half. We started off the MPC, we overdrove the kick drum in an effect and the effect was from the boss but that had no effect on it so it was just giving this crunch. It was kind of a random discovery, this crunch to the beat, and then we just took a lo-fi bass sample and looped it over and over to get that unique sound underneath it and it just enveloped from there. And then something like ‘A Month Has Passed’, that took me about 6 weeks to finish. I just don’t know what it was about it – I was just never happy with it. But eventually, when I recorded it, I still say to this day …that it’s the one track that I’m truly happy with.
When I listen back to tracks I’ve recorded I always turn my chair around and turn away from the monitors and look at the door, and it gives you a different perspective – so you are not focusing in on the speakers. In that moment you can almost think how someone else can hear it.
My biggest influence would be music itself. I’m obsessed with buying vinyl. It’s just hearing that one track that someone has done – it might be fresh and different, you are not necessarily going to want to do something the same as it, but it spurs you on to just think – ‘yeah – just get on with it’. There is so much good music out there, it’s just amazing ..and in turn, as well you think there is so much good music – what makes yours stand out? And then you think, do you want it to stand out, or do you just want to have it there? It’s nice to know it’s there – that you might have a bit of a legacy.
On Working with Labels
The biggest lesson from working with labels would expect and be able to take criticism for your music. It’s something that you do in the early days – you put so much love, time and effort into music and someone just turns around and says no, it’s not good enough. But you have to be open and realise if you want your art to succeed in the world you have to let it go….you can’t be too obsessive about it.
I have a good working relationship with Kenny from Apartment Records, for the release with Lunar Disko I knew Barry and Andy well so I just sent them the tracks. It helps that we all became good mates over the years. With Bodytonic, I have worked with them over the years especially Trev and Conor Lynch who I have the utmost respect for – it’s nice to have another passionate crew there now. I was a big fan of the Don’t Be Afraid label – Benji is a great guy. I just said fuck it, I will send him a couple of tracks. It was during that period where it was very quiet and I had just come out of that lull of making music and I was starting to get confident in my music and to hear that he liked the music and that he enjoyed it, was really good. It comes back to my previous point, it’s good to have someone to challenge you ..there is a lot of back and forth – a lot of ‘can we do this to make it better’ and you come to the conclusion that you do want the best music out there.
The new record with Bodytonic
A favourite of mine is ‘From Me To The Rain’. I made that about eighteen months ago, it just really came together even the way the snare and the hats swing in it, it’s absolutely perfect and I love how the strings develop towards the end. Surprisingly, some tracks that you think are dead or you think are not good enough would be tracks that other people love. You are constantly surprised.
His Record Collection
My records span from some hip-hop to a lot of disco, a lot of old soul music and to classic house, Chicago house, Detroit techno into the deeper ends of techno. I have an unhealthy obsession with all Detroit based electronic music which influences my buying habits. I’m really into the Hessle Audio and Shackleton sound at the moment. UK Bass is exciting especially with the elements of techno intertwined. I find it impossible when people ask what your favourite record is – it’s like asking which is your favourite child… I can’t answer it! Every one of these records has given me a special moment. We are DJ’s first and foremost and a live act second. The question is will I, or we ever play live again..we definitely will play live again.. I’m just not sure when.
Sampling is a fine art – people like J Dilla and Moodymann have made sampling their own. There have been a couple of tracks where you attempt to sample but you have to be very skilled at it. I would like to be better at sampling but then you hear people like Terrence Dixon who I read doesn’t agree with sampling culture – it makes you think beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. That’s what is so amazing about electronic music. Some people have a real talent for it, a real ear for it, and hopefully, it’s something I can work on in the future.
The Community Found in Music
The scene is very supportive, but because it’s small it’s almost a victim of its own restriction as well. There is only so much that can happen in a country this small or in a city like Dublin, especially when things are restricted.
Again it’s great that the clubs are selling out every weekend but part of me thinks maybe the big clubs and the big names are not the way forward. It’s great to see so many young people into music but when they look back it’s just going to be a lot of faceless nights.
It’s crazy, the amount of people we have met over the years and you hold friendships with them. I have also now have a monthly show on Dublin Digital Radio – it’s amazing how they are opening boundaries and are harbouring an amazing aspect of togetherness.
There is so much good music coming through now but it feels good but this country is not nurturing the talent like it should. These draconian licensing laws, you have 3 or 4 hours and that’s it. How can a DJ even build his own set in an hour, hour and a half? I hope we get the traction with this ‘Give Us the Night’ programme. Realistically there is so much talent in this country – but there are not enough venues. There are not enough venues, not enough hours to play to develop a scene..therefore so many talented producers just give it up. You can see it over the years and why it happens and how it happens. I think it’s just time to change that, we need to nurture what we have here.
This year I want to get more music out than I ever did – there are a couple of things planned. I feel like it’s a good period, it’s a good time for me making music personally, I feel like this year could be something different. I’m also going to continue with my DDR show that I’m thoroughly enjoying.
My idea of success has gotten more realistic since our first record was released. Success is skewed in a way because success can be playing to 10,000 people on a weekend or playing in a different country every weekend, or it can be knowing your music is getting out there. I’ve always had this idea that maybe you might not become international, become mainstream, become big…but there is that one time where you think that your track was played by a DJ somewhere and there was someone on the dancefloor that had that moment – they might be smiling ..and you get a bit of solace in that. Maybe that’s the best way to judge success.
It’s frustrating too because the way the internet is today – it’s so full. You have to sponsor your posts on Facebook for them to be seen and that’s just wrong. There is nothing wrong with that and I would never rule it out, but it just goes against the idea of being 17 years old and going into a record shop and discovering a record, looking up that artist and finding more of their records. Now there is so much good music released – which is great, but it’s very hard to balance that promotion aspect because you are not just a DJ or producer you are now a promoter and agent and a manager. Part of me just wants to be in the studio making music, I don’t want to be that guy that tries to sell himself because it stands against what I want to do with music. But then you want to see people come and see you and you want to have gigs.
There is not a lot I could change going back to those early years because the journey I went on good and bad has helped shaped my music, your sound develops over periods of bad shit and good shit in your life or just music in general. But my advice to anyone starting out would be definitely develop your own sound. Don’t do it by the numbers house music, deep house, or thumping techno music…just jam with your machines and come up with ideas and don’t be afraid to develop them.
Ask people for advice or their help. The mixing end of things is important – it doesn’t have to be a perfect clean mix, to be honest, I think that’s a good thing – if you have that bit of edge in your mix. A bit of distortion on the hi-hats or whatever or the low end that might be a little shaky..it’s giving you that signature – that taste of your own music, and that’s how I think artists can develop their sound.
Thanks to Barbara Reynolds & Liz Rooney.