Ngoni Egan

The story behind Ngoni Egan’s first drum machine is one of chance and charm. 

Having promised his friends in San Francisco a present for letting him stay for two weeks, Ngoni’s Craigslist research led him to the drum machine listings – his welcoming hosts got a coffee table and Ngoni arrived back in Ireland with a Roland TR-707.

Music has always delighted Ngoni, and as he grew up it moved from passive enjoyment to passion projects. His obsession progressed into production, promotion and purveying all things electronic – co-founding electro collective Lepton, DJing, and releasing intergalactic jams on labels such as Winthorpe Records and All City.

The Roland 707 has been joined by a host of other synthesizers and drum machines to make up a much-loved home studio. During his recent move from Dublin to the Netherlands, his equipment also made the journey. For Ngoni, home will always be where his machines are.

We chat about small pivotal moments, the importance of his peer group, and the impact of music on his life.

The first time music really moved you

As a kid, I always loved music – there was always music around the house growing up. My Mum, Dad and sister would play Nina Simone, Luke Kelly and The Pogues, R&B hip hop, Hindi music, music from Botswana – where my family’s background is from. It was a mix of really random styles of music, I was always very open to different styles of music. 

When I was a teenager I always had my iPod or my MP3 player on me – I really started to appreciate music when I started going out to gigs. That’s when I was really amazed, it wasn’t just listening to music at home or outside –  that’s when the passion got more intense.

The biggest influence on you?

The enjoyment of listening to music, the enjoyment of making music is what influences me. Whenever I came back from a gig I always felt like “Oh my God, that was amazing”.

Whether there was a live set or DJ set, I would be thinking about those sounds in my head, and thinking I really want to make some music now.

Having an interest in music, drum machines, and synthesizers – that’s another thing that influences me. Whenever I feel like producing, I look at the drum machine and think “I want to play with that”.

From enjoying music to creating music

I dabbled with music production and when I was about 16, I downloaded Fruit Loops and made some hip hop-like beats and did nothing else for a while. I didn’t really know what I wanted to make, what I wanted to do. 

I started to learn to DJ when I was about 19 and started getting gigs a few years later. Whenever me and my friends were going out to gigs, I was always really really interested in what equipment the artist was playing,  if it was decks or a live set, I was always really blown away.

My best friend’s older sister would have brought us out to a lot of techno gigs, she would have been like a big influence on me and all my friends.

So whenever she brought us out to gigs and I was always the one saying, you know “this person is using this equipment or you know this person is doing this”, and then she said to me “Ngoni you have such a big interest in music, would you not ever think about taking DJing or music production seriously?” 

So I started going to the DJ society in DIT, I’m still really good friends with some of the people I met there.

 

A studio of my own

Years ago, we always used to go back to a house after gigs and one of the guys had a couple of drum machines and synthesizers in the sitting room, that was the first time I saw somebody with a home set up like that.

I didn’t understand how any of it worked but I was able to have a little go and I thought, “I’ve no idea what I’m doing but this is really cool.” That was my first memory of a home setup. Then I really wanted a home set up but I was in college and was also broke, it took years till I was actually able to get set up.

I got my studio shipped over when I relocated- they said it would take two weeks for it to arrive, but there was really bad snow in Rotterdam, it took them three weeks. I was panicking for a little while because I phoned the company in Ireland and they were “like oh, you know we don’t really know what’s going on right now”. I was really freaked out but they delivered everything ok.

My studio consists of a Roland Tr-707, Elektron Analog Rytm, Elektron Analog Keys, Nord Lead 1, Roland TB-3, Korg MS2000BR, Modular rig, Guitar effects pedals and a Soundcraft 16fxii Mixing desk.

I didn’t have room to get my Nord Lead 1 shipped over but I recently took it back from Ireland on a Ryanair flight –  I booked a seat for it… it only cost me 30 quid! It’s my baby, I’m happy to have all my equipment here now. 

Adding to your studio? 

There’s a lot I would like to add, and I know that I should feel happy with what I have because what I have is more than enough.

The thing is, every time I get a new machine, it takes a while to learn that machine, so I have to stop music production and focus on learning.

So I’m not going to be making music for a while – it’s probably gonna affect my music output. 

I think ideally with music production it doesn’t really matter whether somebody is using hardware or software, it’s the end output or whether the person enjoys the process of making the music is the main thing.

How do you approach making music?

Ableton is my master clock, that’s the brain of my whole setup, and then I have this MIDI Thru box. All the drum machines and synths can be timed from Ableton. 

Usually, I start off blank or with a couple of pre-loaded drum machine patterns. I’d start off making the drums first, so I’d go to the ELEKTRON Analog rytm, that’s the main drum machine that I like to use. I don’t always start using hardware, sometimes I get kicks and snares, my percussion from samples. 

Usually a lot of the time I don’t use all the machines in one go, I would select a couple of machines. I could use two drum machines and two synths or another time I could use one drum machine and four synths to make a track. There are times I might use no drum machine and just Ableton, and two synths –  it depends. If I get bored of something on one machine or move on to a different machine.

 

Finding your sound

Once, somebody suggested replicating a song by one of your favorite artists to get better at production. I actually tried that once and then ended up scrapping it – I just wasn’t feeling producing that way.

It took a while for me to get to a point where I could just be like “Oh yeah, I have an idea in my head about what I want my music to sound like”, and actually implement that. 

Defekt helped me a lot when I started producing electro a couple of years ago. With techno there are so many different styles, it was much easier to make tracks. When I started producing electro, it’s a much trickier genre because it’s more about the groove and the feeling that makes it electro. I was really struggling with making tracks, I was thinking is this even really electro? 

I asked Defekt and he gave me a lot of really good tips – like the type of snares that are important, the type of snares he uses, making patterns on drum machines that give it that sound. He gave me a lot of guidance around making baselines – he showed me how to use an arpeggiator for basslines.  That really did influence my music a lot and help me to get my sound to a better place and to be really satisfied with what I was making.  

Last year’s lockdown was the busiest I ever was in terms of finishing tracks. I had a studio in Cabra, I could go in and spend the weekend there. It was a positive input on my creativity in the beginning. Now it’s not even the pandemic, it’s more so other things in life – getting settled into a new country and into a new job that slowed down my output.

Hardware vs software?

For me, I think it held me back a little bit because I was focusing on hardware. I was like oh, I’ll get this drum machine, but the reality was, I needed software and a soundcard to listen and sync the drum machine and record and time it in Ableton. 

I jumped into it too soon and I didn’t really do enough research. I was seeing things and being like “oh my god, I really want that”, and then getting it and then realise oh crap, there’s a whole lot of other things that I need to make this work. 

So I was learning as I went and then that slowed me down because if I had just focussed on Ableton, having a set of monitors, soundcard and a MIDI keyboard – a small set up like that, it would have been easier for me. 

I think some people can start off with hardware if they have the right people around them if they have people who know what they’re doing around them. I just think from my personal experience, one thing that did slow me down was jumping into hardware really soon – I got there in the end and started to understand everything.

Getting your music released?

Things have changed from when I first started producing –  it was really difficult. I had no connections or I didn’t really know where to go in terms of record labels. I would finish a track off and think of record labels that I like and I‘d think ‘how the hell am I going to get in with those people.’ 

In the beginning, it was really difficult, I hadn’t a clue who to approach or where to. But the longer I just kept producing and more people I was introduced to, meeting people through Lepton gigs, asking people questions in terms of production, things to do with record labels …the more I started going to gigs and the more I started being around people who are in music. That’s when you get guidance from and suggestions from people saying “maybe do this” that that’s what really helped.

Once you get the first couple of tracks out it becomes easier, – there are people from labels that keep an eye on you.

A Lepton label is in the works – there is a record coming out at some stage next year, it was actually supposed to come out last year and then the pandemic really slowed things down for us.  We have talked to a distributor and a pressing plant, it’s in the works. 

I’d love to get running and programming gigs and events again – it was always really exciting. I really do miss it, I know I will get the opportunity again when the right time comes. 

Can you find Ngoni on Soundcloud, Facebook, Instagram and Bandcamp. 

You can catch Ngoni playing at : 

Oct 23rd – Wigwam, Dublin IE

Oct 24th – Circles at Index, Dublin, IE

Oct 27th – HÖR, Berlin, DE

Nov 7th – with Loraine James, Sugar Club Dublin, IE

27th – 29th  Nov –  SpiltMilk Festival, Sligo, IE

3rd Dec – Amsterdam Weekender, Amsterdam, NL

Interview with David Kitt

Meet Dublin Ghost Signs


National Folklore Collection

“Collect the fragments, lest they perish”. These words, adopted by The Folklore of Ireland Society in 1927, outline their mission to collect, preserve and publish the folklore and folklife of a fast-changing Ireland. Out of the society came the Irish Folklore Commission, who between 1935 and 1970, gathered one of the world’s largest folklore collections from every county in Ireland.

These collections go beyond fragments. They include transcribed tales from Peig Sayers, first-person recollections from the 1916 Rising and questionnaires that describe matchmaking, tally sticks and The Great Famine. 

Jonny Dillon, Archivist with the National Folklore Collection, outlines the background to the collection, how they collected and collated such an enormous body of work and the challenges that come with protecting and utilising this material for our modern age. 

It’s a story that is as interesting and steeped in history as the collections themselves.  

Background to National Folklore Collection - why was it set up?

The National Folklore Collection continues the work of the Irish Folklore Commission, an institution which was established in 1935 with the aim of collecting, preserving and publishing items of Irish folk tradition; the unofficial, informal, traditions and customs, beliefs, narratives, and crafts of the Irish people.

The Commission received government funding throughout its existence – a sum of one hundred pounds was initially set aside for the collecting of folklore from every county in Ireland (including Northern Ireland) and folklore collectors were trained and sent out to conduct fieldwork, the results of which they posted to Commission headquarters in Dublin. The collections they made, consisting of manuscript and audiovisual material, form the basis of our archival collections today. These collections are now known as the National Folklore Collection and held at University College Dublin.  In December 2018, the collections were inscribed into the UNESCO ‘Memory of the World’ Register, The Book of Kells is the only other Irish inclusion. 

What was Ireland like at that time? What led to it being established?

Ireland at that time was a newly independent state. The years preceding the establishment of the Commission saw the country racked by the 1916 Rising, the 1919-1921 War of Independence, the partition of the island into separate states and the 1922-1923 Irish Civil War – a conflict which left deep bitterness and political polarisation in its wake.

I think that following this period of great upheaval and discord, the country was seeking to renew and affirm itself; the valorisation of folk culture offered a means through which new visions and forms of national identity could be asserted in order to emphasise our independence as a nation.

The Structure of collecting and collating

Folklore scholars from Britain, Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden were hugely instrumental in supporting the work of the Commission. International scholars felt that the work being done in Ireland could shed light on the broader European cultural landscape; since Ireland is a peripheral nation located at Europe’s north-western fringe, many customs and traditions which had died out elsewhere still formed part of a living tradition here.

 

The Commission worked carefully to document and collect traditions at a point in Ireland when the Irish language was in serious decline, while the effects of urbanisation and industrialisation had not yet eroded older cultural patterns and practices. Because the material with which the Commission was concerned was part of an oral tradition, it had to be documented through extensive fieldwork collections. In practical terms, this involved a network of folklore collectors travelling townlands the country over and collecting material for the Commission. There was a pressing concern at the time that our folk customs were in danger of passing into oblivion and slipping away without a trace, and so the remaining ‘fragments’ had to be collected as a matter of urgency.

 

In order to coherently arrange material received from the field, Seán O Súilleabháin (Archivist to the Irish Folklore Commission) travelled in 1935 to the Dialect and Folklore Archive at Uppsala, Sweden. Over a three-month period, he made a detailed study of the archival system in use there, familiarising himself with the methods employed to arrange, classify and catalogue fieldwork collections of folklore. The system he adapted for use in the Irish context laid the foundation for approaches to archival arrangement and description still employed at the National Folklore Collection today.

 

The Archival Collections

Our archival collections are broken into several series. The Main Manuscript Collection comprises more than 2,400 bound volumes of interviews in both Irish and English from all thirty-two counties in Ireland. Our Photographic Collection consists of more than 80,000 photographs, encompassing glass plates, prints and film negatives. The Sound Archive features approximately 12,000 hours of audio on early formats such as wax cylinder, wire-tape, magnetic-tape and acetate disc (along with more recent formats).

The Schools’ Collection consists of over 1,200 manuscript volumes containing material collected by senior primary school pupils over the period 1937-1939. Under this scheme, the collecting of folklore was made part of the school curriculum by the Department of Education, and every Friday senior pupils would ask their grandparents and parents questions on items of folklore which were covered in a booklet compiled by the Commission.

We also house a specialist reference library with over 50,000 titles, along with a considerable art collection. In 1970 the staff and holdings of the Irish Folklore Commission were transferred to University College Dublin. Now the National Folklore Collection, we ensure safeguarding, preservation and access to these historic collections, and oversee the implementation of new collection projects. Further, students can now study folklore from BA to PhD level, while utilising the collections at our disposal.

How do you operate and structure your work?

It’s very varied. We always have a very broad array of people looking to consult our collections; academics, students, genealogists, historians, writers, poets, visual artists, musicians, singers, film and documentary makers, radio producers, school children, elderly people, relatives of those recorded in our collections, others with a local interest they want to explore – the list goes on. As a result, you have to be able to shift your focus constantly to best suit the requirements of those you meet in the course of your work.

Some who visit may never have set foot in an archive and can be daunted by the enormous card indices and manuscript tomes (not to mention the considerable scope of the material). Our job is to guide, assist, advise, contextualise, explain and provide access as best we can. It’s a very rewarding process, though not without its own challenges.

Challenges

There are many challenges – time management is one. We are a small team, and meeting the volume of interest generated by these collections can be demanding. Digitisation poses challenges too – traditional archival materials can withstand a certain degree of benign neglect. That is to say, you can close the door on a manuscript and come back in 50 years, and if the conditions are okay, it should still be there on the shelf in decent order. Not so with digital material; once an item has been digitised you need to keep it constantly fed and watered, juggling from platform to platform or format to format. With these challenges though come enormous opportunities; new ways to conceive of and present the collection, along with new entry points and approaches to analysis.

 

In the context of digitisation, ethical considerations also play a very important role. We maintain a keen awareness of the sensitivities of the archival material and its context. These aren’t just pie charts or numbers on a screen, these records deal with real people, with local communities, with people’s parents and grandparents. 

 

As such, we always need to remember our duty of care to those people who are represented in the records, and to the communities from which they were collected.

The Instagram account

If not for COVID-19, I don’t think I would have set the account up. I saw it as a way to reach out to people throughout the lockdown. Personally, I take somewhat of a mixed view of social media, but this experience has actually been really positive, and the material seems to resonate with a broad reach of people. I’ve had people contact me because pictures I’ve put up have shown their late father or grandfather.

Others have found something positive or meaningful in some of the excerpts from our early literature I’ve posted on there. Something as simple as a poem matched with an image, or the description of some event or calendar custom with which people can relate – all of these things can have a positive impact on someone’s day. I think that’s important, especially nowadays.

I want people to know that we in this country are sitting on an enormous treasure trove of native literature and thought; of wisdom, wit and imaginative artistry. Something uplifting, humorous, poignant, sad, whatever – it’s all there.This material is rooted in the past but can help us to navigate the present in a way that is meaningful and uplifting.

Future for the National Folklore Collection – how will It evolve?

I think increased access via online platforms, and digitisation will continue to be of central importance to our work. Our online platform www.dúchas.ie is a collaborative project with our colleagues at Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge, Dublin City University – they’ve done fantastic work in developing a technical infrastructure upon which our digitised collections can be hosted and navigated by the public. When this material was first collected in the 1930s there was a great sense of urgency to the overall project, and a fear that all of this material was in danger of being lost forever. Today we can really open up these collections to communities all over Ireland and further afield, allowing people to draw on them freely, to learn from them and use the material in a multitude of different ways. This opens the collection up to a much broader array of people beyond the confines of a University setting, and allows us to highlight the importance of traditional culture and inheritance in contemporary times.

Our modern lives are being documented on camera phones and Instagram, do we need collectors to preserve our history?

Folklore collections, in comparison with records generated on social media, tend to be wrought very slowly. Trust is an important part of the process of recording – these things take time, and when done well, offer insight into the lives and voices of individuals and communities who might not otherwise be heard. Personally, I feel that while social media can have a positive impact and allow for a broad reach, it also facilitates a certain communal loneliness or isolation. So, while it is certainly easier to reach out to like-minded souls online in a way that we couldn’t before, many of the records being generated today seem to me to encourage a sort of collective solitude, atomisation and passivity which has surface appearance as its ultimate concern. 

I think the modern imagination has been stripped of many of the reference points which oriented our forebears and which provided meaning and cohesion to the world. It’s as though in modernity we have ‘liberated’ ourselves from all meaning, and, having heaved memory overboard like ballast now find ourselves lost in a world whose pace is increasingly frenetic and relativistic. Many nowadays are thirsty for meaning, and I think it is for this reason (among others) that folkloric material resonates with people. Our communal traditions, in all their multiplicity, are suggestive of a shared history, which likewise implies a shared destiny.

So, this Instagram account is intended as a vehicle to present the richness and variety of these customs to people. If it has a positive impact on someone’s day, I’m happy.

Visit duchas.ie for more information about the Collections, you can follow the incredible Instagram account here. 

Some favourites from the Instagram account

I love this photograph. It shows James Hamilton Delargy (Director of the Irish Folklore Commission), Seosamh Ó Dálaigh and Micheál Ó Dónaill collecting from Seán Daltún at Cúl na Sméar, county Waterford in 1948.

Halloween observances will be known by many in Ireland and further afield. This striking photograph by Maurice Curtin shows a young boy playing a divination game, in which saucers containing clay, a ring or water foretell death, marriage or travel. The child is blindfolded and spun around before extending their hand over the saucer to divine the future.

I love this photograph by Tomás Ó Muircheartaigh, though we have very little by way of contextual detail regarding it. The beautiful poem is from the 7th century, and asks where is God to be found.

This is a favourite of mine. It shows the solemnity a funeral on Inis Mór, and I thought it fitting for the winter. The excerpted poetry is from Thomas Telynog Evans, and the opening line of the piece was rattling around my head all winter. I’d been reading the letters of Rainer Maria Rilke again at the time, and I included a quote of his in there. All three pieces seemed to ‘click’ at the time.

This shot from Ballycastle, county Mayo shows a bride dancing with Strawboys – uninvited male ‘guests’ who would appear at the wedding feast and ceremonially steal the bride for a dance before playing music and providing entertainment. The text reproduced from the manuscripts describes practices on ‘Chalk Sunday’, in which the unmarried were marked with chalk on their way to mass on the first Sunday in Lent.

This was a post I put up containing a few lines from a Kerry poet whose work I like, Micheál Ua Ciarmhaic. In these few lines, the river explains how it will be here forever, flowing slowly in a relaxed and unhurried way. I was delighted to receive a note from Micheál’s daughter, who was glad to see her father’s work on the page. The photograph shows a stream and some dwellings in Dún Chaoin county Kerry, and there’s an easy and relaxed air to the whole scene.

Interview with David Kitt

Meet Dublin Ghost Signs


Claire Prouvost - The Queen of Colour

“One day at that sketch club, I took some gouache, and instead of drawing with a line, I was like, “oh, I will draw with colour blocks”. And I think that’s what stayed with me. And the moment I did that portrait, I thought, “Oh this, is it…bright colour, enough of this black line!”

Cubanist characters, sharp silhouettes and clever colour pops – Claire Prouvost’s designs can be found anywhere and on anything. From murals, tshirts, Gucci artwork, Guardian articles and electrical control boxes in Temple Bar – Claire’s work is as transferable as it is unique.

Claire chats with me about how lockdown has impacted her industry, discovering your niche, creating creative habits, challenging Instagram opinions and protecting your curiosity.

How your industry and business has been impacted by lockdown

2020 has been pretty hard in many ways on creativity, but also good and so kind of transformative. It was my first year being a full-time freelancer. And before that, I was working as a graphic designer. And then I took the leap into being a full-time freelance illustrator at the end of January 2020. Little did I know!

I had so many things lined up that ended up being canceled. Some of them involved traveling and teaching workshops and going to festivals and I had a residency as well. All of that was out the window, like most people, we have all had to adapt. It was a bit hard at the very beginning because I was trying to adjust from being a full-time employee to my own rhythm. And I’ve never been there before. So I can’t really compare it to 2019 saying “Yeah, and March was a bit slow.”

I had worked for a while before going freelance, so I had savings. So all of that was set up for me to start. And so there wasn’t too much stress for a while, it was really good to just put my head down and create a lot of things, and use that time to draw.

It was really good to transform my practice and see the things I needed to adjust or what I wanted to work on more, it was a great time to reflect and get feedback…I got a few portfolio reviews. I took that time to really focus on that, and I think it is really necessary to do that.

And then over the summer was nice, because I had a few festivals in Ireland. That was nice to see other artists and feel like you’re part of a community, because that’s the biggest challenge I think, the creativity part is also fueled by community and feeling like you’re part of a creative community somewhere.

And then for the whole field, I don’t know if we can already say we can measure the impact? And again, I have no real reference points. But I know for me work dried up during the summer, and at the end of the summer, and then it picked up again before Christmas. And now it’s crazy. It’s amazing.

And I also think it’s because I’ve spent that time working on different things. And there seems to be work out there. And I’ve heard a few people in the industry saying, look, we can’t have photoshoots, we can’t have exhibitions, so people are looking at illustration and influencers to promote things or create custom artwork or make some animations. Murals are popular because exhibitions have been canceled, people are trying to find ways to get art into public space. People said, ‘Oh, we had all these exhibitions lined up but can you do just a mural?’

Your creative journey

I always knew I wanted to have some kind of creative career. In France, we have an option for secondary school, what we call Applied Arts for three years. It gives you a big overview in architecture, design, fine arts.

I got into one graphic design school and one product design school. And I chose the product design one because it was closer to my home…which I didn’t end up liking! That was a two-year course. And then you have to do an extra year course to get to Undergraduate and then you can get a Master’s. So I’ve done a lot of different kinds of little coursesto get to the master’s degree. And that’s the moment where I realized, oh, product design, I’m not sure I like the 3D aspect of it, imagining a product in its usage and in real life, so I just switched to graphic design and I knew that’s really what I want to do.

And I came here, and I got an internship, then working for four years before going freelance. I was working in publishing and it was a great way to get to know the illustration world. It was in a lovely environment in the Fumbally Exchange where I was working – photographers, illustrators, architects. And they kind of became my second family. They were also very inspiring to start going your own way. I started building a network and feeling good in that community…in that environment. And then through building a community online and Instagram, you can see who is in your city and who is doing what. So I met a lot more artists outside of that bubble that way. It’s easier in Dublin because it’s a small city.

In that co-working space, we had a sketch club. We were just drawing each other every Friday at lunchtime. That’s really what got me back into drawing. For a long time, I’ve been collecting images that I really enjoy. I guess this inspiration ends up in your work in some ways, like what you’re instinctively drawn to. And then we were experimenting – we might be drawing with your left hand, bringing a new tool, drawing without looking at the page. It makes you think and makes you look at references and your drawings and something and start there.

One day at that sketch club, I took some gouache, and instead of drawing with a line, I was like, ‘oh, I will draw with colour blocks’. And I think that’s what stayed with me. And the moment I did that portrait, I thought, ‘Oh this, is it…bright colour, enough of this black line!’.

After that, ‘ve just set myself a challenge, which was called The 100 Day Project. I think it initiated from Yale University – with research projects, habits, and the things you can develop within 100 days. It’s just about creating a habit and developing a practice. And that was groundbreaking for me because it brought me an audience on Instagram. Just working with the same tools with an idea in mind. I thought, ‘Oh, I really like colour blocks, and how can I explore that?’ And I like drawing women, I saw the idea of a theme, medium, and style. I had some people ask me ‘Oh, would you like to work for us?’ So that’s kind of really started. And I always recommend taking on challenges like that if you want to grow any kind of creative practice.

It was almost like putting it out there in that community… some kind of accountability and support but it wasn’t really for feedback but it just pushed me to be accountable and draw everyday.

On finding inspiration

I think something comes from the difference in observing and being in daily life. But I also spend a lot of time online. I’ve been putting a lot of paintings and styles that I really like on boards and on Pinterest. And that comes back from when I started studying, I started to see a pattern in what I like. I have these huge collections of books – all of that compiling, that works! I try to refer to that, to see how they approach perspective, colours. But then I try to put a modern twist on it…what is happening in daily life now.

There were so many things that I tried for curiosity…I want to try so many different things. But there is a bad side. You can very easily spread your energy in too many ways instead of focusing on one thing – I try to focus on one or two things and not get too distracted. There are many other things that I’ve tried. I think one of them was writing a comic book but that’s not really my vibe.

What’s great is that now I have agents – they take on all of the contracts, quoting, invoicing, so I’m delighted to be able to dedicate most of my time to illustration. The agency approached me – at the time they only had 10 or 12 female illustrators.

It’s a pretty new field, and they want to really advocate for equality and gender balance and getting fair rates, not only for illustrators, because that’s already hard, but also female illustrators and getting projects that resonate as well. It’s exciting to build up a relationship like that -see where they go, the variety of people they try to represent.

What you would look for in a client or in a brief?

For now, my priority is to explore as many ways as possible that I can put my illustrations on things. You have so many objects or trends that are coming out right now that you wouldn’t have thought. When I was studying Initially, I hated illustration or the idea of illustrating children’s books!

Right now, I’m getting a lot of exciting projects, they are not the typical illustration project. I’m working on patterns for shoes, ideas for some reusable menstrual pads, skincare products. Things that just wouldn’t come to mind when you think of illustration. I’m just experimenting and seeing that there is a world of opportunities within illustration.

There are also other things that I would be careful about – some people contact you for your artwork, and some people contact you for your followers on Instagram. At the very beginning, I was just so happy to get work and to get the attention of a brand or project. And then you quickly realise they don’t really care about the illustration, they just care about what kind of message you’re going to put out there, how many times you would tag them. Once I was asked to give my login details from Instagram to a brand, which I turned down, but that’s really when I realised oh, okay, they really don’t care about what I’m doing – they just want my platform. Now I would definitely try to draw the line between my value as an illustrator and as an influencer.

But on the other end, I want to do more murals, there is a different kind of engagement. That’s out of the office or out of the studio.

Protecting your work

Recently, someone was found to be copying my work for a client project, I got many messages of support which was very much appreciated. A freelance designer took some of my work and put it on a client project – mirroring the illustrations, changing the colours and adding elements. And that’s not ok to do that. It’s ok to take inspiration from my style, from my palette, and maybe the subject and turn it into your own. We all take inspiration from other artists and feel inspired by some topics we see, but we are smart about it. So, maybe copy things to learn for your personal experience, and don’t share them online.

But obviously sharing that kind of stuff and basing your portfolio of work on someone else’s is not ok. And it’s going to come back on you at some stage. It might benefit someone in the short term, but not in the long term. You can’t build a career on that.

In the end, it was a frustrating experience but I got what I wanted, the artwork isn’t going to be commercialised. I hope the person that copied the artwork will have time to think about where they want their career and maybe build their own work. They should work out a style and not build it into anyone’s work. Yes, it takes time, work and research. But it’s totally worth it to have your own style. 

Epoch and painting murals

Epoch was another online meeting. It’s been very interesting as a journey because again, referring to a community, it’s really important to have people you can refer to and work with to grow. I’m a really big collaborative practice person. There were many, many things that were scary at first, when you’re on your own, like painting a mural

And we all had that idea and desire to paint murals and find ways to do that. We painted our first big mural in Lucky’s two years ago, which was a learning experience and gave us the confidence to do some more, individually and together. I just love doing them, it is so rewarding and allows me to get away from the computer and work with my hands in the real world. I guess it took the fear out of doing bigger scale things and also going to people saying, ‘Hey, we are five girls looking for an exhibition’. It’s just a lot less scary and a lot less intimidating. Right now the idea is to get more people on board. But we’re very much at a stage, like a lot of things during the pandemic, where we want to start shaping what it is that we want to do.

People contact us for a mural or say we’d love to have you involved in this. But sometimes it’s really obvious why we should turn down projects because they don’t reflect our ethics. We’re really trying to define what we are about and what we want to achieve with this group. We haven’t really done anything with a direct political message. We wanted to do one for direct provision, we were supposed to do it at the Bernard Shaw, but then the pub ended up closing. But it’s definitely something we would like to do more of. We contacted other artists to maybe start and do a project together. And a few of them were saying I’m making a point of not making my art political or not taking one side. So it’s a choice you have to make at some stage.

And that maybe links back to your previous question. What do you want to say? How do you want to say it? And, yes, there is a power in that. But you have to also accept the consequences of that. Let’s say I’m taking on a bit of commercial work but I have to be careful as well, not to be too political in all the things that I do.

I am first and foremost a commercial artist for hire, and trying to find a balance in between that and my personal practice. I do stand up to my values, and will speak about issues that are close to my heart and to my community, but I don’t think that makes me an activist. I guess that with Epoch, we would like to promote the diversity of female made art, and overall just promote a fairer and more equal pay for women in the industry. It is also to have a female representative body in an industry that is quite male-dominated. I suppose agencies and other companies are delighted to have a go-to collective when it comes to promoting female art and meeting their ‘quotas’ in terms of gender equality. But this is still a work in progress and we have a long way to go in terms of having more women involved and a more diverse group.

Acknowledging privilege

I think making the effort to step out of that Instagram bubble, whatever we are into, and that’s something I find hard to do. Because, you know, I post things maybe online on Instagram, and I’m used to an audience that’s very positive, very supportive, very encouraging, and stepping out of that zone and maybe challenging somebody’s opinion – maybe you’re facing rejection or criticism. Maybe step out of that comfort zone and engage in conversation that you weren’t feeling like having. And also researching and opening more circles of not only news and the people you follow. Going the extra mile to find more about what it is that people are doing and also reflecting on your practice and how you contribute in some ways to that circle.

Diversity in your creative work

This is something I’m trying to work on overall because I started painting things, I suppose that looked like me. And I follow a few artists that are just 100% all the time putting themselves in the picture. And they are the main topic, and it’s a reflection of their mind. I try to use colours that are completely so far away from what the real skin or hair colour is so that you can wander. I’m challenging myself in the making, in the process, to create that ambiguity. And she thin? Or is she thicker? Does she have curly or straight hair? That’s something I enjoy doing and kind of mixing. So people can see what they want in the image.

For example, I see a lot of things about fatphobia in socials in France at the moment. It makes me pay more attention every time I draw somebody like this or like that, I definitely learn a lot from other people. As I now have more people looking at my art, I definitely don’t want to come across as a person that only thinks of drawing skinny white girls. When you go to a museum, it’s mainly men’s art throughout history. And it’s mainly one body ideal ..representing the trend at a given time. That perfect Venus surely doesn’t represent the diversity of women and female form present at the time.

You can find more of Claire’s work on her website,  Instagram  and agency page. 


The Wonderful Worlds of Blusher

Where does your imagination take you? For Aidan Wall, thoughts feed into music, art, writing and gaming – intricate realms are designed, detailed and described. Born in Dublin, now based in Amsterdam – Aidan has been releasing music under various aliases such as Soil Creep, Hipster Youth and Porn on Vinyl since 2007.  Aidan’s latest project Blusher, appears to be a creative crosswords. A forceful combination of electronic and folk elements from previous releases – a creative full tilt tapestry.  ‘I want my music to make people dance or cry – or both!’ If you have experienced the album Tren Rezno, you will know this objective has been obliterated. Soft, sharp, strange and satisfying…Tren Rezno is full of multi coloured contrasts. From the full force whack of Wake Up a Skeleton, the blissful brilliance of Bifo Ulrich, or the face fracturing PAy Up – Tren Rezno makes it through your veins with a vengeance. Serene yet sense kicking, Aidan has created another cosmos that we will keep coming back to, time and time again. We chat about Aidan’s creative journeys, processes, influences and how that album name came about.

Background

I started doing recordings in my gaff when I was a teenager, so when I was about 13 or 14 a friend in school said ‘hey download this thing you can record songs on it’ –  so I ended up getting Audacity. I pressed the red circle and did loads of layers of things. 

I was doing that for a couple of years – so I had an initial project doing folky music and guitar stringy sounds, while at the same time I was getting interested in electronic music. An internet friend told me to check out Fruityloops – so I ended up playing with that. That friend just recently put out an amazing album under their Nopomo moniker. 

I had these 2 parallel things where one of them would be the songs I would write on my guitar and then the other songs I would write on my computer – I was doing that for 10 years. Over the course of time, I had put out a few different albums on a few different projects. 

I had Soil Creep (pre Blusher), and that was when they started coming together a little bit closer. With Blusher the idea was that ‘I’m just going to put all the things together and not worry too much about whether they are a perfect match’.

It was actually a really nice time to be making music in a way, because I had always figured that it was a hobby. I was a teenager or in my early 20s when I was putting out stuff, so I was in college and living with my parents – I could just do stuff.

I wasn’t worried about it being a career. That was at the time where blogs were first getting popular and there was the idea that maybe you put your album out for free and maybe a blog would post it and 20 people would get to hear it.

It was nice, you’d find a lot of weird communities sharing music and you’d definitely find some people who liked your stuff and who would support you

Education

I ended up doing a PLC course after my Leaving Cert because I wanted to go to art college. I had originally wanted to be a graphic designer when I was 16 or 17… the teachers on the course were really encouraging and saying I would enjoy NCAD – that it would suit the way I think about stuff. I ended up applying there rather than doing graphic design.

After I graduated from NCAD I started focussing on writing a bit more than pursuing an actual art practice. For the past 2 ½ years or so I’ve been studying for a masters in Critical Studies in Amsterdam – it’s a Fine Art Masters focussed on writing.

I had started doing art reviews and game reviews back when I came out of college…and in this course I was like ‘oh you can write weird fiction or weird theory?’ So I started working on prominently that kind of stuff.
I was lucky that in my 4th year at NCAD they were open to me doing other things. I actually ended up making a couple of zines for my end of year degree show and they were about video games. They were half personal essays, half theory essays at that point. I’ve been wasting half my life playing games, so I thought maybe I can say something interesting about it from the position of being a weird time waster!

Studying in art college was a really great experience. It teaches you to think about what you are doing and you can apply that thought process to music.

So I can ask myself, what does it mean when I do this, what is its effect? Thinking back on some of the things I’ve done, it’s like I was sampling stuff I shouldn’t have been sampling.

I think within music now you see a more progressive look towards the politics of sampling – there are meaningful conversations. I feel really lucky that I get to study politics and cultural theory and think about cultural appropriation and things like this. It affects what I want to be working on musically.

Building Worlds

Gaming is definitely a strong thing in my life. The thing that I like about gaming and thinking about science fiction is, you are building an atmosphere – you can build this thing that someone has never built before. Particularly with my DDR radio show – it’s what I want to convey with it. I know music does that, but I feel l learn a lot from reading and games.

For the most part, I make tabletop games, non-digital games and role-playing games – you sit at a table and pretend you’re somewhere doing something or different deviations on that formula.

Collages

I’ve been making collage work since I was in my early 20s in college and I really liked it as an art form, finding nice shapes and textures and composing stuff. At the moment it’s another thing I’m working on that fits in with the other stuff.

My Studio

It’s funny, the music on Tren Rezno was made across a 2 year span – a lot of that time was non studio based. There are maybe one or two songs that were recorded in a studio on Middle Abbey St…back in the day! It was a shared studio, the first time I had a space to do music. Then I ended up going to Amsterdam and there was a lot of working on a computer as opposed to having an actual studio. 

Right now, I’m in a really lucky position– a friend of mine got a cheap studio in Amsterdam and there is enough space for 3 more of us. 

When I first starting making stuff it was nearly all computer and using Fruity Loops and then Ableton, which I use now. For Tren Rezno I used mostly virtual synths in Ableton but I’ve been accruing hardware for my live shows and working more with those.

So now my studio setup and workflow is a sequencer, drum machine, bass synth and a little synth. I enjoy having this workflow……it’s a lot more physical rather than looking at a screen. When I first started doing stuff it was all VSTs (Virtual Synths).

I still use a lot of that stuff when it comes to sitting down to make a song.

 

I think the snobbery around making music on computers is a bit of a hangover from an earlier time. But with that said, I know a lot of people who I really respect that are champions of that kind of stuff. I would never want to be a champion at the detriment of someone who didn’t have access to it though. I know a lot of people who make unreal music just using Ableton and samples and virtual synths.

Getting nervous putting my stuff out? Not quite –  as I don’t think I have ever put something out under my own name! I think I’ve played 1 gig where I used my own name…and that was a bit of a weird one to say the least!

All the time there was an anonymous aspect to having different monikers. I can’t go back to a lot of it now, but at the time there weren’t big stakes because it was just ‘hey I’m working on this song in the evening’ and after 6 months I would be like ‘oh this is an album’

Do I like anonymity? I’ve always treated it that each project is a different thing –  it’s why this stuff is not called Soil Creep. When that’s done I will move on to the next thing…so there is a nice aspect of a fresh start or a change – or it opens you up to do different things.  

Creative flow and approach

It’s a mixed bag. A lot of the time I will either hear something and think I want to sample this – mess around with it in Ableton and see what works. Sometimes that totally fails and sometimes it doesn’t. I will take a shell out of part of it and bring it somewhere else and start working on it. 

Sometimes I will hear something in a movie or on a video online – most recently I was watching ‘The Rocky Road To Dublin’, and there was this lad who was like ‘the old guard is still in control, they’ve got to be removed’….so in my most recent song it’s a ridiculous techno song with this aul Irish lad talking.

For sampling stuff live, I like humming and whistling and so I cycle around with my recorder. There are songs that I have in my head that I just whistle to myself that I have never properly recorded….I’m nearly writing some songs for like five years. 

The way that I usually work is sometimes I will go two months without working on something and then in two months time I feel like I want to work on music and I will write loads of songs. I always have bits and bobs lying around… I like assembling things together and seeing how they work. 

If I hear weird noises I’ll try and record them – the track ‘Roof on the album …it was just me on a roof, and there was a fan humming somewhere so I thought I will try and sing along with this from the roof. Or the washing machine in my parent’s house – it was really rhythmic so I ended up using it as the basis for a song. I’m so regretful when I don’t record stuff I hear – it’s like ugh I wish I’d done that. 

Tren Rezno

I originally wanted it to be a double album, because there were dance aspects and then more ambient aspects, so I wanted one side where it’s ambient and another side dancey. 

Where did the name Tren Rezno come from? The name is after Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, as I have a bit of a soft spot for him. He’s always done stuff that is off the beaten path but also following his own trajectory of what he’s working on. I always thought it would be really funny to name something after him, so I just decided, I’ll just take off the last letter off each name. It’s funny..I had sent the link with the clips to a friend and she was like ‘oh Trent Reznor’s new music sounds pretty banging’.  

So when I did make Tren Rezno into what that is now –  I kinda envisioned it as a bit of a mixtape in a way. My original plan was that I was going to put it up as a free download, but I sent it to some friends and I think Robbie Kitt said I should send it to the Patrúin lads – and they really liked it! 

I sent it to them – we had been planning it and it ended up being nearly a year after we first started talking after it finally came out – which is usually the case with music stuff. 

Tren Rezno doesn’t have any distinct themes or anything, there is definitely a lot of bounces into different places and some of them were songs that I was just like ‘hey I want to make a dance track’. I would always say that my goal with a lot of the music is to make people dance or cry – or both! 

Naming the tracks? I don’t even know. I think sometimes I’ll be working on something in Ableton and I will just write down a name that will make no sense, and at other times it’s a perfect excuse to make a shitty poem.

It feels like a document or an archive of this two year period, of weird turmoil and a lot of change in my life. I feel like it’s a nice in-between, some songs are recorded in Dublin some are made in Amsterdam and some in both. 

It was incredible holding the album, the only personal goal I really had with music was to have something on vinyl, as I was putting stuff out on cassette for ages.  I love cassette as a format…but there is something about that big square! It was amazing, I almost didn’t believe it – it’s still a bit surreal. 

Album artwork

I can’t remember the exact process for designing the collages for Tren Rezno. They were made a year or two beforehand. I think it was Ros at Patrúin’s idea, he suggested that Mel Keane and I could collaborate on the artwork. 

It’s funny – it’s half intuition or something – it’s ridiculous that I will look at a piece of paper and move it five degrees and rotate it, and think oh yeah that’s it! It’s mostly playfulness. 

I would completely link collage work and my music together. The way I approach my music, it’s really similar to how I make collages. I will find and collect images I want, and then I put a few images that I want to work with aside. With music, there are some samples that I like and then I think ‘oh this chord progression works’ …and then it’s just muddling around with the materials in the same way. 

Recent work

My most recent stuff… I was lucky to be asked to play The Emigrant Disco back in December, and I thought I would love to prepare some new stuff for it. I ended up preparing songs that I haven’t yet recorded. The most recent song I made started out as one I made for playing out live which I then sat down and made into a song. For the most part, it is just playing around and seeing what works. I’m never quite like ‘I need this to be this’ – but I have a lot of tendencies that I like, like bass drums and acid. 

There isn’t a new album planned right now. I’ve been contributing a few songs to a few compilations, I did one for DDR and for Bandcloud, and I have one forthcoming on a Dutch compilation. I also recently did a song for the 101bpm project. 

I’m in the process of gathering and making the stuff and it could be that in 3 months I will put the junk together. Right now I’m kinda working on finishing college and making that my priority. 

Playing records v playing live

I’ve never done any big parties, the DDR Party in Galway was my biggest gig playing records –  it was so much fun, I really like mixing a lot. There is something trance like… when stuff is just working together. 

The one thing that is really nice when playing live is getting to listen to your own music really loud, and then seeing people’s reaction to it. 

I feel so lucky to be part of the DDR community, in Dublin, people say it’s quite difficult to excel as a DJ, that Irish people are always the support act, but I think it’s very different now. The DDR parties exemplify that.

Community

It’s funny –  I’ve been around Dublin long enough, so you kinda get to know everyone. I guess through being in NCAD there were a lot of people who were friends with people. 

Robbie Kitt and I would also go to a lot of the same gigs back then, late thousands – indie was still alive! There’s a weird overlap with people who make experimental music and the people that make dance music, they all like the same things, there is a natural comradery. 

I really miss it over in Amsterdam – I think Amsterdam has a big dance culture but it’s a lot bigger and a lot more impenetrable – I don’t really know the music scene there that much. I would know a couple of venues that do some interesting stuff and have a lot of friends who make good music there, but it’s not really comparable to the wonderful community here, it’s just so so magical in Dublin. Getting to see smaller local DJs get a headline slot is amazing and seeing the room go off!

Impact of social media

I had done a workshop in the RHA, a young writers workshop and someone who had been at that really liked the workshop, asked if I wanted to do one at IMMA (Aidan hosted a workshop at IMMA titled: Rebuilding the Self – examining how the development of technology has impacted on the relationship between photographic portraiture and identity, particularly since the development of social media and online profiles). 

I was invited in to give my perspective on the workshop’s themes. I’m interested in the idea of social media being like a spread of different ways in which you can present yourself, almost being a collage of specific elements of images and text that form a sense of yourself – how you want to present online. 

In terms of self-promotion, I know there is a lot of conversations about it at the moment in dance music.  Because I am this jack of all trades…I don’t really have a career from this – it’s three or four side jobs in a few different things – I have to be like ‘I’m doing this’ for people to know that I am doing x or y. That’s how I engage with my social media. 

I think social media has done some amazing things for some really amazing people who might not have found the opportunity otherwise. I think there will always be ways in which things are utilised in strange ways for strange means. I think you are lucky if you don’t have to rely on social media. A lot of people don’t have managers, don’t have booking agents, it is a really hard process when you have to do all that yourself. You have to remind people what you are doing. 

How mediums work together

Sometimes depending on what kind of context you are working in, there can be a literacy for certain things and not a literacy for other things. For example in the course that I’m in, there are some people who are working in sound, one person in particular, Luca Soudant, who is doing really interesting work with hardcore gabber music…and they are making this unreal music and also thinking about the theory of loudness and masculine noise. 

But for me I think I’ve always had a bit of a struggle between how different things I make fit together perfectly. I would sometimes do performance work with scripted performances where I use some of my music in the performance. 

It’s funny…I’ve always seen my art and writing as being separate, I like to think of myself as being an artist with an artist practice, but it’s also something that is a bit like a side job. I’d be lucky to get cash from it. 

For the most part, they only bleed into each other every now and again. I do see them as different. Ideally, I would love to be at the point where my three side hustles can become some kind of a coherent hustle. At the moment, they are all in their different places ..which is a shame because I love writing, I love making collages and making music, and it’s like you could nearly combine them. It’s difficult to know where to focus my energy on.

Most challenging mediums

I take a funny approach to a lot of stuff, I’m an incredibly anxious person. 

I think when you prepare music for a live show you can rely on the machines even if you do something wrong, it’s ok the music is there. A lot of times you can have something to fall back on. Sometimes performance stuff can be very vulnerabising – you just have to actually present yourself – it can be weird. 

The last performance thing.. someone had invited me to do a performance at a small art event. I was pretending to be a person who was a wrestler who used to be an artist…and then decided they were going to quit art because it’s too hostile so they went back to wrestling.

Follow Aidan on Soundcloud, Facebook and Instagram. Support Tren Rezno, pick it up online on Patrúin’s website here or in store at All City Records. 

Big thanks to Liz Rooney for the headshots, check out more of her work here.

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Chi-Carlow's finest -TR One


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TR One: Chicarlow’s Finest Talk Shop

 

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!

 

 

Getting Started

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.

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

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 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.

The Future

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.

Success?

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.

This interview originally featured on bodytonicmusic.com

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