Interview: Subconscious Exploration – The Return Of Ron’s Mobile Disco
It’s rare enough that you get a chance to rewrite history, but Irish techno producer Ronan O Ciosoig isn’t shying away from the opportunity.
Back in the early 2000s, O Ciosoig – or Ron’s Mobile Disco as he became better known –was one of the biggest names on the Irish dance circuit, supporting the likes of Dave Clarke and Richie Hawtin, and even playing the Witnness Festival (the precursor to Oxegen) back in 2001.
On the production side, O Ciosoig launched One Louder Recordings in 2001, as an output for his musical musings, with his debut EP, Subconscious Threat, gracing the record boxes of the likes of Funk D’Void and Laurent Garnier. And then…. nothing.
Well, not quite nothing. Following the collapse of the firm that was distributing One Louder – leaving O Ciosoig with hundreds of undistributed vinyls – the young producer moved to Barcelona, taking up a residency at the trendy Zentraus bar, until it too closed its doors in 2007, marking what could well have been the end of the Glenageary native’s musical chapter.
All that changed in early 2017, however, as an appearance on a mix by Berlin-based DJ Onur Özer catapulted Ron’s Mobile Disco back into the spotlight, and its chief protagonist back into the studio.
With Subconscious Threat having recently been re-released on Seven Hills Records – some 18 years after it was first launched – 909originals caught up with O Ciosoig to chat about a musical journey that has unexpectedly come full circle.
Q. Let’s begin at the beginning. How did Ron’s Mobile Disco come about?
I was DJing quite a lot in the late 90s and then I had to stop in order to focus on my exams. Once I got my degree out of the way, I found that I couldn’t just walk back to where I was, because those open positions were no longer there.
The people looking after the venues had changed, they had no idea who I was. So I had to come up with something different. I went out and picked up some hardware – I already had amassed quite a lot – and started making my own music.
My first live gig was in what was at the time the Rock Garden in Temple Bar, around April 2000. I brought along a big monitor, a 16-channel desk, and about a million cables, plus a large 1998-era desktop Mac. I had to bring a CD player with me as well, because while all the tracks were recorded to the Mac, I had a problem with the changeover, because the tracks didn’t load quickly enough.
It was a bit of a nightmare to be honest – moving the stuff around for one thing – plus a few of the cables would come loose, and things weren’t working as they should.
At that gig, a friend of mine who was a graphic designer came along and offered to help me with my marketing, to try to drum up a few more gigs. We made up a t-shirt, which read ‘Ron’s Mobile Disco – All The Hits And Then Some’, which had a photo of me on it.
I no longer have that t-shirt unfortunately; I threw it into the crowd when I was playing the Witnness Festival, and that was the end of it. I kind of wish I hadn’t done that.
Anyway, on the strength of the first gig, I got another one two weeks later, and then another one after that – it was adding up to about one a month. I didn’t have a ‘DJ name’ at the time, so the Ron’s Mobile Disco thing just stuck.
Looking back, the irony is that today I’m involved in mobile software development.
Q. Capitalising on that momentum, you set up One Louder Recordings in order to give yourself a platform for your musical output – Subconscious Threat was very well received at the time. But there ended up only being two releases in total. What happened?
With Subconscious Threat, I went over to London and met the hard techno boys at Routemaster Records in Hackney – that’s where I got it pressed up. They were good guys. The distribution was done by a company called Victoria Distribution.
All was going well until about a year later, when I was about to bring out the second record, and they went out of business. I had about 1,000 copies of the second release pressed up, and then I got word that they weren’t being sent to distributors.
Q. That must have pulled the rug out from under you?
It did. One Louder had only just got started, and the only releases at that stage were my own music. I was asking Warren K and others for tracks – ‘Warren, would you ever finish that f**king track’ – but they weren’t ready on time, and then the label was finished.
I had lost quite a bit of money at that stage, so I moved to Barcelona. The job I took on at first was quite low paid, so I never really had the money to go and sort the level out again.
Q. Were you happy with the two releases you put out on One Louder?
There were a couple of things I would have loved to have gone back and fixed – when the first record came out, I was comparing it with other vinyls, and I got the feeling that the EQing on wasn’t that great. They didn’t have a nice shine at the top end, and the low end seemed a bit heavy and harsh.
Some people, of course, have a totally different opinion – instead of rose-tinted glasses, they have nostalgia-tinged hearing – and they love the way it sounds. But to me it always sounded unfinished.
Q. When you moved to Barcelona, you kept playing and making music, mainly in Zentraus?
Zentraus opened in December 2003. I went to the opening night of the bar and I landed a residency there pretty soon after that. They were great times, up until they changed the law in 2007 – they started putting sound limiters in bars that were playing music at night. It kept going, mostly as a restaurant until 2013, when it finished up for good.
The owner, a guy called Moreno, went to open a new place last summer – it was refurbished and ready to go – but then the local mayor wouldn’t sign the licence. In theory, it was all ready to open, and I was going to restart my residency, but it just didn’t happen.
Q. How did the re-release come about?
In April or May 2017, out of the blue I got a message from somebody asking ‘hey, where can I find your vinyl’? It took me by surprise, but I had a spare one, so I sent it on with a thank you note. Then a week later, I get another message.
At that stage I was worried that I might have given away my last copy of the first release – thankfully, there’s a copy in my parents house in Dublin, that’s not going anywhere.
I still had plenty of copies of the second release; of the 1,000 that were pressed, around 700 ended up being sent to the dump would you believe, but I managed to hold on to a few boxes of them. All of a sudden, people were interested in my music again, so I put a post up on Facebook, and sold all of them in two weeks.
On the day I sold the very last one, by coincidence one of the guys behind Seven Hills sent me a message saying they wanted to re-release it. I was like, ‘Yes, perfect! Sign me up!’ So that’s where I am now, we’re going to be doing a few re-releases, and also some original stuff.
Q. There were echoes of Fatima Yamaha’s What’s A Girl To Do about the track’s re-emergence – it was ‘discovered’ by Onur Özer and included in one of his mixes, wasn’t it?
That’s right. There was a mix of Onur Özer‘s that was doing the rounds, from some place in Berlin, and it had both the first and second release on it.
All of a sudden, all these vinyl trainspotters are going nuts – the vinyls start going for $100 on Discogs.
Q. With the release of the Subconscious Exploration EP, inevitably, the focus is now going to turn to future releases – what’s in the pipeline?
I’ve been going back over old tracks and refreshing them, and I’ve also been recording new material. There’s no time frame for their release, because I’m toying with a few different ideas. I have to be more focused and say ‘this is the one’.
A lot of the stuff I did back then was just for fun. Obviously there are some good tunes there, but I had no intention of releasing them – I was just having fun.
Now, the focus will be different – what tracks can I release, and on what labels? I used to do a whole variety of different styles, now I want to be a bit more consistent. I don’t want to lose the essence of what I had before; retain some of that lo-fi feel. Keep them a little rough around the edges.
After all, how often do you get the opportunity to correct the mistakes you did in the past? Not very often.
The EP is out a couple of weeks now, and its selling well. It’s being distributed by Subwax, and its on Juno, Deejay.de and a couple of other sites. In fact, it’s selling so well, that there’s a good chance they’ll be doing a second pressing before long.
It really is a case of onwards and upwards.
[Buy Subsconscious Exploration on Juno.co.uk by clicking here]