909originals chats to Fish Go Deep’s Shane Johnson about new album ‘This Bit Of Earth’

Fish Go Deep‘s Shane Johnson and Greg Dowling are as close as Ireland gets to house music royalty, as the custodians of the long-running Sweat night at Sir Henry’s in Cork, as well as for their sumptuous productions, on labels such as Defected, Brique Rouge, Nite Grooves and their own Go Deep imprint.

While the duo have been quite prolific on the release front over the past couple of years, remarkably, it’s been nine years since their last album, Draw The Line – unless you count So Far So Deep Volume One, a compilation of choice productions and remixes, which followed in 2013.

High time, therefore, for another long player… and with that in mind, Fish Go Deep’s forthcoming album This Bit Of Earth, is set to be released on 28 May.

According to the press release, This Bit Of Earth‘functions as a kind of travelogue of journeys past and planned, real and imaginary’, and it certainly comes across as a contemplative piece, with smatterings of dub electronica and playful jazz rhythms. For us, the standout track is probably Alice On Jupiter, a cosmic lullaby to get lost in. Blissful.

909originals caught up with Fish Go Deep’s Shane Johnson to chat about how the album came together.

Hi Shane, thanks for chatting to us. Production on the album started in 2019 and finished in 2020, two vastly different years for the world. How is that reflected in the mood of the album?

Well, the world wasn’t exactly coming together in peace and harmony before the pandemic so I think the album was always going to be reflective, and a bit apprehensive.

What happened next maybe pushed it further in that direction but it also brought out more of the expansive elements as we tried to evoke the places we couldn’t be and journeys we couldn’t make.

It’s quite a downtempo, introspective album, and I remember when we spoke last year, you mentioned you found it hard to get motivated to make music with everything that was going on. Is there a hint of personal angst in the album as well?

There’s probably a bit more navel-gazing than usual, but we tried to balance that with a wider view and maybe, by the end of the record, a little optimism.

2020 ended up being quite a productive year for us. With the uncertainty in the first few months of lockdown, there wasn’t a lot happening in the studio so I started archiving old DATs and cassettes, scanning old flyers and photos and doing general studio housekeeping. Boring, but strangely soothing, and a distraction from the doom and gloom. Greg got stuck into his modular racks.

Once the new world order had settled a bit we flipped back to the more creative stuff – finished the album, took on some remixes and started on a couple of other projects.

What other artists also worked on the album?

Just ourselves this time out, although we did work closely with our mastering engineer, Walter Coelho, to shape the overall sound of the record.

A couple of the tracks from the middle of the album, namely Alice on Jupiter and Back Trace Dub, get into real dub electronica territory – quite a bit removed from the house music you are famous for. A new direction for you?

Could be, although dub has been a thread throughout our productions over the years. We’d never really say: “let’s do an ambient track” or “let’s do a dub track”. Music just happens… you sit down with an instrument and something comes out.

Shane Johnson (left) and Greg Dowling (right) of Fish Go Deep

At times, the album sounds like a film score, and there are a couple of notable vocal snippets in there – I Could See samples the movie Pi. Is this the mood you are trying to convey, a soundtrack for these strange and unusual times?

In a way, the whole album is a soundtrack… trying to evoke the mood of particular places or times. With movements so restricted over the last year, one of the ways to travel and project forward was through the music we were making.

The last few years have been quite prolific for you, singles wise, but remarkably this is only your third full album. What was it about this collection of tracks that led you to want to put them out as an album?

We tend to move slowly with our productions, so an album is a big chunk of time to set aside. And you need to have something to express with a long player. Two singles and a bunch of fillers isn’t going to cut it. A couple of tracks on this album started life in earlier projects but most came together quite naturally, one leading to another over a relatively short period of time.

What sort of dance/electronic scene will emerge in Ireland once the pandemic blows over, what will have changed?

Initially there’s likely to be a major shortage of venues. In Cork, we’ve already lost great spaces like Dali and the Kino and I’m sure there will be many others around the country that won’t reopen.

But there will also be a lot of empty buildings to rent and a huge pent-up appetite for communal music and dancing so hopefully that will lead to a bunch of new openings.

The proposed new licensing laws also have the potential to transform the way we go out. You’d hope that the government realise that they need to enact these quickly to both protect the clubs that have survived and encourage new businesses.

[Read More: How Sir Henry’s came to rock Homelands Ireland 2000]

Fish Go Deep’s This Bit Of Earth is released on 28 May. For more information, click here. Photos by Jed Niezgoda.

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