The full broadcast of White Noise 300 show can be found here.
[Full transcript of interview with Don O'Mahony for Cork Evening Echo - August 4th 2011]
How did you get into DJing?
A growing interest in how djs were manipulating the records was the main reason. I didn't know how I would be as a dj but I thought I had a decent sense of rhythm and a more active interest in the music than most of my friends, so getting a set of turntables seemed like the right thing to do.
What year was it?
What attracted you to the music or scene?
When I tuned into it originally, the choice was either to be a raver, a rocker or to be into rap. Rave or dance music seemed so more fresh and alive to me so there really was no contest. After discovering rave and techno, I soon got into jungle and later on trance. TV had a bigger part to play, so watching MTV or UTV late at night would often alert you to new music, djs and producers. I was also fascinated by psychedelic visuals and how the music had this complex and seamless way of presenting itself aurally and visually together - it really was like being on the outside of another strange world that was pulling you in.
At the beginning I was into collecting tapes and cds, and practicing different dance steps or robotic body movements and stuff like that. By the time I started going out properly though, and not just to discos, I noticed myself dancing differently and not needing to try anything fancy! For the next few years I did a lot of raving and thoroughly enjoyed it, but soon needed something more than just partying. By the time I was 18, I felt like I had had a good run, and that concentrating properly on music was the logical next step. Up to then my record collection was quite miscellaneous, but over the coming time I started to really find out what records and producers were for me.
Where did you get your first break?
Well there were a few. It took me a little while to put myself out there, where I felt my skills were good enough to play in a club, especially as the competition amongst djs and to get gigs then was fiercer. In 1999 I did some shows on Kiss FM, and then appeared a bit on Power FM mostly on Giles Armstrong's show, and later met Cozzy from Creation, who added a mix of mine onto their website, which at the time was a big thing for me also. These were little steps along the way to playing my first gigs, but my first 'break' as such was when after playing with Francois at Joe McGrath's Damage night in 2000, I was asked to play with Surgeon at a gig for JDP, which was to be only my third ever gig. I didn't know how exactly they even knew to ask me, but later found out that Francois had recommended me to them. I should add, that Joe did a lot for the techno scene back then by giving new djs an opportunity to play out; he didn't get enough acknowledgement for that really. There hasn't been a night quite like his since, that focused solely on local djs. That was invaluable and we all benefitted a lot from playing there.
Outside of techno, what do you listen to? Does this inform your productions in any way?
I have a strange relationship with music in terms of listening. For instance I never sit down and listen to music; I can't discipline myself to do things like that. I don't use an i-pod, so listening is occasionally done in my car or at the record shop in All-City. I generally prefer the option of non-dancefloor music; have been giving Siouxsie And The Banshees 'Tinderbox' the most repeated plays the last few weeks. Siouxsie has such an amazing range in her voice, and the band behind her was incredible. I guess I'm intrigued by the rawness of the scene they were in at the beginning, and some of the themes they concentrated on in their music. It has no real bearing on the music I make but I love listening to music from this era, particularly British. Style wise a lot of it is really just dark pop music - creatively though, it's miles ahead of pop music from that time. As a kid it was easier to accept happier, manufactured music - and loads of it I love - but getting older you want to connect with all the bleak and morbid stuff that you missed out on then. It's interesting how some of this music can resurrect certain memories or associations with times or places you remember as a child. I think that's why I generally value listening to older music rather than new - it goes beyond just hearing a song or track, it puts way more pictures in your head.
Looking at some lists you wrote-up (set and end-of-year lists) names like Grain, Mika Vainio and Alec Empire crop up. Not typical listening, I’d imagine, even for those into harder techno sounds. Silver Apples also feature. What kind of influences do these more leftfield artists have on your productions?
Actually, that particular Grain is probably the old techno producer from London, but in terms of the others, I suppose it's just their individuality that shines through for me. I don't actively listen to industrial music so much these days, but the industrial aesthetic has definitely made an impression on how I sometimes like to make music. Techno on a whole is plastic and disposable, it's important to connect with the good stuff outside of it, especially if you want to put something good back in.
Regardless of whether one has been listening to techno for 20 years or has recently got into it, who is the one DJ/producer around today worthy of major respect?
Impossible to pick one, but in their own different ways I would say Jeff Mills, Surgeon, Mad Mike, Regis, Ben Sims and Dave Clarke. Sure there are many others, but I think the first four best represent a sustained character and purity in their sound, while Sims is the most skillful dj out there that is still symbolic of the old and best way of dj-ing, which is with records. Dave Clarke, well he's just Dave Clarke, probably the best ambassador for the music that there's been, on many different levels. Of people who I rate highly for their original contribution in techno, but in different ways, there's Aphex Twin, Marc Acardipane, Joey Beltram, Richie Hawtin, Luke Slater, Frankie Bones and first wave Detroiters. I should also mention that Freddie Fresh was my main introduction to far-out weird sounds in techno. I really miss his records.
Give Us The Night. How did this come about and how did you become involved?
A growing anger towards negative press about the club scene and the government's head in the clouds approach to the licensing laws. I got talking with some like minded people here, started up an online petition in reaction to a then Garda proposal to close Dublin clubs earlier, and it all kind of started from there. The success of the petition helped us realise what a necessity a lobby group like GUTN was.
What’s the state of the campaign now?
It may be that changes will now take place quietly behind closed doors. That's what we're currently hopeful for, given justice minister Alan Shatter's more open willingness to discuss the issue with the INIA. They recently met with him, although we still have to see what comes of that. Give Us The Night will be there for as long as it has to be, but we now monitor the nightclubs' own efforts to push their agenda before we go campaigning on their behalf, which is essentially what GUTN has done since 2004. It's all very well having our group or the INIA's Barry O' Sullivan speaking out; but there need to be more dissenting voices out there to achieve widespread change. For instance, if nurses or farmers have a problem, they literally arrive up to the Dail in their uniforms and tractors and shout their heads off about it. Why do so many nightclub owners not want to protect their interests? Why have so many of them allowed their businesses go under without saying a thing? It's barmy.
Speaking as someone living in Cork the GUTN campaign seems a remote one. I don’t know how much traction it gained in Dublin but it never really became a cause to rally behind here. Sure, people would like later opening hours – who wouldn’t! – but there seems to be no commitment to campaign towards it. Is this a fair assessment?
That's entirely true, and that's partly because most prominent Cork club owners are under the thumb of local Gardai and don't want to rock the boat, or else don't really need the extra business. It's like Copper Face Jacks here - that's a club that could be influential in creating change, but there seems to be no will there. I really feel for people down in Cork as they have it worse than we do in Dublin, but similar to Dublin I think there are too many complainers and not enough changers, which is not a basis for trying to achieve anything.
The underlying problem, and it's the same for Irish people on a whole, is that many feel awkward around the issue, and that it will be seen as silly or trivial. Well, you know what's more silly? Only living once and not doing something about what you know is wrong and that affects your enjoyment in life. Allowing older generations' opinion or people's more conservative attitudes hinder how far you're prepared to push your own views, is sad. Anyone that goes to nightclubs and would like the simple option of going out later should be taking an interest in this subject. This is an industry and music scene that could grow considerably if given the chance. We have always had our door open for people to contact and get involved, nothing has changed there.
If so, as someone who took on a vociferous role in the campaign do you feel people were happy to let you take the burden? You’ve been described as an activist. Is that a fair description? If so, where does that come from?
Well, we were at a crossroads where someone had to take the lead for the campaign to continue as it should, and I was that person. I actually wasn't that keen on being the spokesperson at first, but it soon made more sense to do it than not. Some of the members of GUTN have changed over the years but we've always had a good core group that discuss and plan things amongst each other. Yes, I guess activist seems about right. I've always been a bit of a loudmouth, and often questioned things I didn't agree with. GUTN was a good opportunity to put some of that to positive use.
Yours was the first release on Bastardo Electrico. How did that release come about?
Jamie liked the stuff I was making and asked me to do a release. That was it really.
You were one of the first guests for the Bastardo Electrico clubnight in Sir Henry’s in 2001. Any memories of this?
Yes, a little bit alright. The crowd was crazy, they really went for it. I seem to remember these weird railings or metal barriers that were up the front near the dj box and everyone was shaking and pulling out of them, was a very intense end to that gig!
How does the domestic techno scene compare between now and when you first got into it?
From a nostalgia point of view I miss the 'old' techno scene and a lot of the people who were involved then, and of course the record shops. That said, there were also a lot of fair-weather techno fans who were into the music in the better days, who acted like authorities on it, but who quickly moved on once things started to change or the next trend came along. I am happy that the po-faced snobbery in techno has reduced itself a lot; that was really off-putting for people on the outside looking in, and was also pretty hypocritical given the fact than many of these so called fans don't even follow this music anymore. Although I wouldn't mind seeing some new faces more often, I do think there's a very loyal and dedicated crowd now, which is perhaps more close knit in a way. The clubs have seen busier days but this recession is just a really difficult time.
The current scene of Irish producers and domestic record labels, has it been as good or could it be better?
Production wise, the scene has reached completely new levels. There are great tracks and releases coming out of Ireland all the time. It's not just a select crew, it's many different people. It's really cool the way heads here have shed the old "we're from Ireland" inferiority complex. It's one of the positive things to have come from the internet, and the level playing field it created. I think it's interesting to see the different generations of active Irish producers now too - like for instance a younger act like Defekt, to someone older like Fran Hartnett through to an older guy again like Donnacha Costello. The scene for production here has matured in a way that no-one would have anticipated, but that was only possible once time moved on and more experience was gained. The success of various producers here has definitely inspired more of a can-do attitude in Ireland, that wasn't there back in the days of hardware-exclusive studios, when Sound Crowd, Decal and a few others were the only ones doing anything.
In terms of record labels that actually release records, we have always been at a disadvantage in a way that the UK and mainland European countries are not - in terms of distribution, shipping cost advantages etc. There are however some great little labels from here and new ones still popping up. Without being biased though, I think All-City are the best example here of a successful independent label. I've been so impressed by what Olan has done with it, and I think if people looked a bit closer at the label's catalogue and releases they'd think so too. We've such a big old-skool crew here, but I'd wager that most haven't heard the Hudson Mohawke remix of Krystal Klear. I suppose in many ways, people still label All-City as hip-hop only, the same way heads assume everything Psychonavigation put out is ambient music. There really is so much good stuff right under people's noses here, and it's not hard to find out about it.
You were voted Best DJ at Best Irish DJ at the Irish Dance Music Awards. What does that mean to you?
My instant reaction was that I didn't deserve it as I'm not sure what it is that I've done in the last year that is different from other ones. But looking on it differently, I took it as an acknowledgement to what I've done to date. I still find the idea of yearly awards in a small country like ours to maybe be unnecessary and often something that breeds more negativity than positivity, but when many people after the awards told me they had voted for me and that I deserved this type of recognition, I felt quite humbled. It was a nice feeling.
What are your forthcoming plans?
I have just finished a new 12" with Jon Hussey under the name of Tricaustic. That comes out on Komisch next month. In terms of solo material, there is various stuff in progress, have been using this month to wrap what I can up. I am a lot happier with where I am at production wise, so I think the regularity of my output will start to increase from now. Gigs wise, I will be playing regularly as normal. As usual I have lots of plans in my head but maybe not as much time to execute them as quickly as I'd like.
There’s not much information on you on the internet, which begs why this would be so, and is why I can find no info on Mantrap? What happened or is happening here?
Other than Ed Devane's album, Mantrap was a label that ran just in 2008/9. We've had no 12"s since and no more are planned. I have refocused on doing a label again though. Earwiggle 001 was by anodyne, 002 will be a split techno/electro 12" by Dez Williams, and 003 is by one of my all-time techno heroes which I'm very happy to have been able to make happen!
I realise that there is not loads of background information up on me or that I don't have a personal website, but after grudgingly joining Myspace and more recently Facebook, I feel that I have more than enough ways to let people know anything that's currently relevant.
Could you write some words on a track in your set that you currently regard as your ‘secret weapon'?
New: Bas Mooy – Krull [Ortin Cam remix] (Darknet) : For some reason I often ignore Ortin Cam's records, and I don't know why. Nearly everything I have by him is top drawer. This one is a bomb!!
Recent: Justin Berkovi - Backshredding [Forward Strategy Group remix] (Perc Trax) : Pure primal techno. The type that bears, wolves and tribes would be dancing to together in a forest, if we had that kind of harmony.
Old: DJ Hell – Sprung Aus Den Volken (Disko B) : One of my favorite Hell (with the help of Richard Bartz) tracks. Completely Jeff Mills inspired, with some killer synth action over the top.