M&RL O2 Dublin 13-09-13
We have confirmed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the o2 Dublin September 2013+ Read more…
We have confirmed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at the o2 Dublin September 2013+ Read more…
How has the music scene changed in Ireland? We at Echoplace like talking about what made our country one of the best countries in the world for live music and producing artists and how the internet has affected the way we consume music. We are advocates for cultural change and look to champion those who are advocates for positive change.
In February 2011 we had a chat with Cian Ó Cíobháin, resident DJ for RTE’s An Taobh Tuathail and one half of the ultra-successful 110thStreet team. A Kerry man with floppy hair and a cheeky smile, whose dogged determination has introduced many listeners to ambient, post rock and all things electronic. His life is good music and he represents the need that Irish people have always had to party and to express themselves creatively. He is regarded as one of the leading DJs in the country and is a recognised advocate of lengthening the Irish licensing hours. An Taobh Tuathail is Cian’s baby. It is a radio show, presented in Irish Gaelic, a show that he started in May 1999 on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta/ANOCHT FM and is dedicated to bringing listeners the best of underground obscure and original music from around the globe. His most recent compilation release An Taobh Tuathail Volume IV summarises the type of music that is played on the show. This interview gained interest from all over the world and is well worth a read, ENJOY!
On Radio in Ireland
EP: The commercialisation of music and media in Ireland, as most businesses in Ireland, have become very much about ROI return on Investment. How do you see this affecting radio in Ireland?
Cian: Lyric FM must be under commercial pressure, putting in Marty Whelan in the morning. I know there is uproar from listeners about it and I don’t blame them. It’s confusing the identity of their brand. There are die hards involved in the station, people like Niall Carroll and those types of people know their music inside out. 4FM is about the only one I can think of besides Raidió na Gaeltachta that isn’t pandering to the same designated playlists as all the other stations. They just play old songs, and although it is aimed at the older market, I find it’s way more interesting than listening to the same old pop hits every hour.
On Clubbing in the west of Ireland
EP: Why did you start 110th Street?
Cian: It started in 1998, it was difficult to get a gig anywhere besides bars so I realised the only way to do it was to start my own night.
EP: Was it a case of, there was music that you thought people had to hear?
Yeah that time I had got seriously into and I mean crazy into black music and latin music…
….early hip hop and all of these things that were new to me at the time, you know and I thought, oh yeah, why not throw a good old fashioned block party. Aran McMahon was doing Jazz Juice and he was concentrating on newer strands so I thought maybe if I could do a night with some of the older stuff, that that could work. Aran had Jazz Juice for a couple of years before that, and Feet First before that, again during the early 1990s in the Castle. He used to play stuff like ‘Supersharpshooter’ a drum and bass tune or De La Soul tracks. I recall him playing stuff off one of the early Beck albums.
EP: Around that time in the 90s you had clubs like The Hacienda in Manchester. Could that have been done in Ireland?
The drive that people like Peter Hook had, along with access to large populations were contributory factors over there. In the big cities, tiny niche, microscopic club nights succeed when you have millions of people within a 20 miles of you. You only need a few hundred interested and passionate souls to jump on tubes and buses and head to your club.
Ireland had a decent club scene – it still has a decent production scene – but it definitely had a good club scene from 1990 to 2005. We can say those fifteen years were the good years. If you think about Sir Henrys down in Cork, late eighties and early nineties, had buses coming from Waterford and Limerick and buses coming in from other areas, as did the Castle in Galway. The way people travelled long distances just to go clubbing was similar to the Northern Soul era in the UK. You don’t have that level of interest or passion anymore.
On the impact of the Internet on clubbing
EP: Is that because of laziness or the internet?
Cian: I think it could be that the music is easily available on the internet. Cyril [Briscoe – Cian’s 110th Street DJ partner] made a good point when he said that records we playing in the GPO 110th Street era, playing LCD Soundsystem or The Rapture, a lot of that stuff was only initially available on vinyl. It hadn’t come out on CD yet and most people wouldn’t be buying records and the internet hadn’t taken off back then.
YouTube didn’t have millions of music links then so basically if you really wanted to hear those records again, you had to go back to the club the next weekend to hear them. Unless you bought records and had a record player in your house, there was a period where you would have to go to the night to hear the track. Downloading hadn’t yet taken off back then, say the first years of the millennium.
I remember playing ‘Losing My Edge by LCD, we just loved it and people hated it…
…at the beginning but eventually got into it through playing the record over and over in the club, the track wasn’t available on CD until a year or so later. Now you can have your own night at home, a YouTube night. You don’t even have to buy the music anymore to have a record collection.
On ATT radio show listeners?
EP: Why do people listen to your show?
Cian: I think the show is an outlet for people to hear good underground music that they might not otherwise have the chance to hear. For the two hours that broadcast every night, there might have been a period spent of four or five hours of listening to all kinds of awful shit that the listeners to the radio show doesn’t have to hear. Though not everybody will like my taste, my job is to filter it with my own ears before it gets to the radio. So you hear the two hours but it’s not just the two hours,
…there may have been hours of awful stuff that I would have listened to that morning where I would have thrown my coffee cup up out through the window in disgust…
…and there have been mornings like that where I would be three hours listening to stuff going “There is absolutely nothing there I can play tonight”. I get stuff sent by download now and there is a long process, a slow process, before you might get around to checking out the music and formatting it for airplay.
The music comes from recommendation and, of course, certain pluggers send it in. There are also sites I use and certain people’s charts but then I have contacts or listeners that just say “You might be interested in checking this out”. A German friend is hooking me up with loads of labels that I hadn’t heard of before. And slowly, over time, they become part of the fabric of the show. The artists are delighted they have an outlet to get stuff played on national radio. It doesn’t bother them at all that it is in Irish, not one bit, they think it’s fantastic: there are no ads, and I get to play whatever I want so we don’t have to deal with commercial pressures. Every single show that goes on is streamed the next day. The only thing is that we can’t do the podcast, it’s a very grey area copyright-wise, RTE and Today FM won’t go near it because, in essence, they’d be giving out free music.
On his massively successful compilation series An Taobh Tuathail Vol I, 2, 3, 4:
EP: You gave away the new version of your compilation as a download?
Cian: Yes Vol 1 2 3. Volume 1 got the least publicity and sold the most because it was 2006 and 2007 and people weren’t downloading as much then. Each CD got way more publicity than the previous one did, but sold less as illegal downloading became more prevalent. By the time the third one came around it was being written about in Australia and America, I haven’t got sales figures back yet, hopefully get them back soon for the third one. Peak sales for Vol 1 were close to a sell-out, I think… I’m not really sure.
By the end of it I had started seeing the compilations pop up on illegal downloading sites in Russia and the UK, on Rapid Share and all those, and Keith [Keith Downey, Psychonavigation Records] the label owner kept contacting them saying “Please take them down,” and I told him that it wasn’t worth doing as a CD anymore and if I could to it as a free download instead. Keith suggested doing it on iTunes and give away all the tracks individually, but the ATT experience is not just about the tracks it’s about the sequence you hear them in. I didn’t want anyone to be saying ‘I like these three or four tracks so I’ll only download these,’ I wanted it to be an immersive listening experience. It’s an hour and a quarter or so, so I just wanted it to be listened to and experienced in a certain way. It makes most sense to me in the order it’s programmed in. If you happen to be someone who already has all the music on the compilation, you might experience the tracks differently this way.
On the international music scene and government support or lack thereof:
EP: The artists on the compilation seem to benefit from having vibrant music scenes like Rekjavik or Stockholm in their home towns, did you find this?
Cian: You mention Iceland and I think that Iceland is fairly well funded and supported by the government, arts council and so on. Ireland isn’t, not for music. Montreal is hugely subsidised, that’s why you had this golden age of late with all these indie bands such as Arcade Fire coming out of Montreal at the same time. You see it on the inside sleeve of the album cover, ‘Thanks to the Canadian Arts Council’. If you think about Galway’s creative era when people like Julian Gough and Tommy Tiernan were starting – around the late 1980s, early 1990s – where the rents were lower and you could live on less.
…Most of Galway’s youth seemed to be involved in the arts in some way and there was a few bob in it to get by, people were happy to live here because it wasn’t hostile towards how they were trying to live their lives…
…Now it’s different. People like Julian Gough have moved to Berlin.
EP: How can we stop them moving?
This is a big issue. We don’t have enough money to keep those kind of scenes going. The new government are going to be tied up trying to reduce the budget deficit and the arts will suffer. They kind of forget little things, like how a lot of creative people would like to live here but for the reasons we mentioned already, are unable to. A few months ago I met Mary Hannifin, then Minister for Tourism in Dublin, where she was talking about pushing Ireland as a good food destination. I approached her and put it to her how about pushing Ireland as a clubbing destination. I said “What about our club scene?” Why do people have to go to Berlin at the weekends to get their kicks instead of spending their money here?”
And in this country you have all the clubs shutting at two or half two, mayhem on the streets, public order disaster, huge pressure on taxis and on many resources, when you could just have clubs open later…
…and people probably behaving better as there wouldn’t be the pressure to get the drinks in so quickly. It would probably take people a few weeks to get used to not be guzzling down their drinks in a short space of time, all these rational, reasonable ideas I put to her and she goes, ‘Are you proposing a staggering of the closing times?’ And I said ‘Yes’. She replied ‘Well they call it staggered for a reason, because nobody will be able to walk home if it’s going to be like that”. Basically she was insinuating “We are a nanny state, we tell you when you have to go home, because Paddy has no idea what time to go home unless he’s told.” The point being, I wanted to tell her it would be good for tourism, in particular pitching Ireland as destination for young people to visit. We hear of all these DJs [Erol Alkan called 110th Street his number one club in 2007] coming to Ireland and saying this is the best country to play, the craic is mighty and so on… and they can’t believe it finishes at half two!
EP: And the famous incident in the GPO in Galway around 1998 when Fat Boy Slim was told to turn off the music at twelve midnight so as the cloak room staff could serve chilli con carne and spaghetti Bolognese to a bunch of ravers while the Gardai enforced the half hour sober up! It was a joke!
Cian: Imagine Ireland had a club scene that was open until 6am on a Saturday and Sunday morning, that’s not asking a lot you know, I think there would be huge knock on benefits for employment. People like Give Us the Night have met nothing but frustration along the way.
On the Cultural Scene in Ireland
EP: When we talk about culture in Ireland it is difficult to find cultural outlets for people. Late night drinking and commercial clubs and pubs have taken over, can you see any other cultural outlets?
Cian: I wrote a feature for Foinse [www.foinse.ie] a few years ago and interviewed a load of people about the late night drinking laws. Most of the politicians were dead against it with the exception of Labour’s Pat Rabbitte. Think about it. If Brian Cowen and our senior politicians could only see the state of our cities at 3am in the morning, when everyone spills onto the streets at the same time – but they are in Tullamore or wherever, tucked into bed – then they might appreciate the mayhem that our licensing laws create.
I drive home from gigs and see the state of people, and it just doesn’t have to be like this.
It must look frightening to tourists…our cities and towns at the weekend like a war zone, people’s shirts hanging off them, bust lips and all round craziness. Why do the government choose to ignore this? Why do they do it? It’s because the vintners don’t really want their pubs to be open too late as they would incur more costs. They are happy enough to have their pubs shut at a certain time, so as they are not paying extra expenses… electricity, staff, insurance and security.
Their notion seems to be if someone goes out and drinks ten pints on a Saturday night, the vintners would rather that person drink those ten pints in their pub in the shortest period of time and don’t care about anything that happens afterwards. You get the impression that they would hate if that person had the option of spending more time on their premises, sipping away in a more civilised fashion, as it would cost them more. They have such a hold on the government’s policies.
On Musical Sun Beams:
EP: You used the term, “A musical approximation of sun beams, unexpectedly shining across a slate grey sky,” to describe a song on the new album. I am going back to basics. When you hear a track like that, is that just pure happiness for you, hearing something new like that, something that blows your mind? Or what is it?
Cian: There is that. There is the new stuff that you hear. I remember sitting at the computer one day and suddenly something so amazing catching my ear. I had a CD on that I had never heard before, a Finnish label, I was sitting down at the computer, the music playing away in the background and suddenly something happened in the first two or three minutes, sonically that I hadn’t heard before. It was just an amalgamation of ideas, I can’t think of the name of the group, I can see the cover, something like that you just shudder and go ‘JESUS!’
EP: Is it that if more people have those types of experiences people will be happier, generally?
Cian: Yeah, it’s almost a soul thing.
EP: Why do people have an interest in art or creativity? What about the people that don’t have an interest in it? Do they deep down have a soul? Can you push people to having more soul?
Cian: There are a few things I can say about that. I know that a lot of people are creative and arty and don’t even realise it until they are exposed to it. Some people lead very sheltered life from culture, you know, because they spend their time watching ‘Pop Idol’ and reading the same safe magazines and the same tabloids all the time. I know some people, who you wouldn’t initially regard as creative, where I have played stuff for them and – something we take for granted when both you and I listen – they were genuinely, as soon as they were exposed to it, completely blown away. Some of these people went on to become avid music lovers. The feelings we maybe had about music when we were fourteen or fifteen, they are having them in their mid-twenties, or later, because – for most people in the western world – everything is force fed to you now, homogenous radio playing the same sort of stuff, day in, day out.
EP: Talking of a homogenised culture, following commerciality and having no soul, is torturing and killing us from within, killing the country.
Cian: What breaks my heart is when most radio stations decide they are going to do an alternative radio show you know, their alternative radio show, usually means playing indie guitar rock, which has become just another Top Shop brand at this stage. Some of that stuff is so bland.I would rather listen to a Rihanna album from beginning to end than listen to Mumford and Sons and that kind of stuff. No problem, give me Rihanna all the way, or Lady Gaga… they are far more interesting to me than most of these ‘indie’ bands. Mortgage or landfill indie is what I hear people calling it.
On the love of sound:
Cian: The Journal Of Music Of Ireland approached me about writing something recently and it occurred to me that An Taobh Tuathail isn’t just about a love of new music or an interest in new music, it’s about a love of sound. If you listen to… again, my issue with the top of the pops and charts isn’t necessarily about bad song-writing or pressure to follow a certain, ‘deliver everything in the space of three minutes’, you can still be creative doing that. It’s the fact that they all sound the same. It’s all a very harsh, crushed, pro-tooled block of mid treble and bass, that is designed to be listened too VIA tinny computer speakers or mobile phones. All day long that’s what you are hearing. It’s can get really sore on the ears, really painful. Someone said to me before, “You are a real champion of lo-fi music, where the production sounds like it was recorded in the room next door, or it sounds like it was recorded under a pond.” Which made me smile. I recall my father listening to the show once and I played something really old and crackly and him going, “You shouldn’t play records with bad sound quality, you’ll put people off,” I had to explain to him that was only actually recorded two weeks previous, intentionally, in a really good studio, to get that effect.
But so it’s about a love of sound. I play a lot of drone stuff, Noise with a capital N, or post rock or all those type of genres, or just weird psychedelic records, where you can hear the rain falling, so it’s all to do with sound and giving the ears room to imagine.
EP: So what about the last song on your new compilation? You put these tracks in at a certain period in the podcast, that was a phenomenal one to finish with, because that is basically what you are talking about.
Cian: Alva Noto, yeah, amazing, It’s a sound thing, no melody just mood. I’m glad you brought that up because I nearly didn’t put that one up. I listened to them all and put them in sequence and said OK! Where does that fit? It doesn’t fit anywhere so I better put it last and people who have heard the compilation have loved that track and I’m so glad I put it on now. I actually thought it might alienate people.
EP: Did you research the artists prior to the release of the compilation?
Cian, I read The Wire I suppose, it’s all about all those kind of artists, it’s so up its own arse, it’s hilarious, you either love it or hate it, I appreciate both those reactions. Alva Noto is pure Wire.
EP Speaking of outlets, your show is as good as we will get as an outlet.
Cian: We also have Dineen which is great, and we have a few more outlets there but someday we may not have any more outlets, let’s hope that day is a long way off.
Interview by Colin Barry
Twitter @therusheen+ Read more…
Recently we met with Uachtarain na H’Eireann Michael D Higgins at Áras na Uachtarain in Dublin to present him with his signed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis photograph of the Irish flag, taken by Jason Koenig, co colaborator and director of some of the finest music videos in the world, Can’t Hold Us, Otherside, Wings. The Irish flag plays a central role in all of Macklemore’s personal history dedicating his Irish celebration song to his Grandfather and his people who came from Cork. This is the letter that President Higgins received:
Dear President Higgins,
Please accept a gift from me on behalf of three good friends of mine. It is a photograph taken by the photographer Jason Koenig of these three amazing global cultural ambassadors, Ben Haggerty (lhs), Owuor Arunga (centre) and Ryan Lewis (rhs) of the band Macklemore & Ryan Lewis on Friday October 12th 2012 in Seattle, Washington. In October 2011 they became very big fans of your work when they spent some time in Dublin, two weeks prior to your election.
To summarise their achievements to date, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, as of today have secured, for the third week in a row, the number one single in the Billboard Hot 100 American charts. The band are also number one in ten countries including Australia and New Zealand with their song Thrift Shop. This song’s fun loving commentary on buying clothes in a second hand thrift shop and being proud of your own personal style speaks to young people today that creativity is of far more importance than materialism. The band’s biggest achievement to date has been their contribution to gay rights issues in the US with the penning of the song ‘Same Love’ in support of Washington State’s passing of Referendum 74 in favour of marriage equality. This amazing song that is also topping the charts all over the world speaks of equality, beauty and love and helped pass this landmark legislation in Washington State last year.
To put the importance of this photograph in context, it was at this exact moment in time that the world finally stood up and listened. Our Irish flag plays a major role in the Macklmore and Ryan Lewis identity. The origination of Ben’s family from Cork has always stuck with him. His Irish American heritage plays a solid role in every live show they play with the song, Irish Celebration, proudly celebrating Irish American traditions.
President Higgins, I quote from your lecture on Culture, Democracy and Participation, ‘The cultural space should be one defined by celebratory citizenship, as available to the unemployed as to the employed, and not scarred by patriarchy, exploitation, domination, ageism or racial prejudice.’ For me and millions of others worldwide, this band communicates exactly this.
Colin T Barry+ Read more…