Featuring artists such as Decal, Phil Kieran, Americhord, Chymera, Magnetize, Metroneem, John Braine and Takeover Sound, the new Dreams of Electric Bleep compilation (released on Earwiggle’s Bandcamp on 6 October) shines a light on the emerging electro scene in Ireland at the turn of the Millennium – specifically the period from 1999 to 2005.
It was a scene that drew a loyal following – if you dropped in to nights such as Phunk City at The Funnel, Bleep at Bodkins, Model One at Switch and midweek club Electric City – you were likely to run into many of the same faces: DJs, producers and electronica aficionados proudly coming together to further the cause.
According to Sunil Sharpe, who curated the Dreams of Electric Bleep compilation, at the time that he first entered the club scene around the year 2000, artists such as Decal already had a “kind of cult following. Even if you hadn’t been to The Funnel – which I was never in – you had likely seen them play somewhere, heard them on the radio or read about them.
“My first direct communication was meeting Dennis [McNulty, one half of Decal] when doing a guest slot on Power FM, which was probably not long before I met John Braine, and also discovered [independent label] Front End Synthetics.
“Looking back, although the venue infrastructure in Dublin was bigger than what we have now, the community of serious heads seemed relatively small and close-knit. We were also connected through message forums in a way that placed a quite microscopic focus on the local scene and encouraged open discussion, which was really positive.”
One of the striking aspects of the nascent electro movement in Dublin was that it tended to revolve around smaller club spaces, and ‘clubs in pubs’, which were “a good fit” for electro type events, says Sharpe. “Then, obviously, things pushed on further as nights like Electric City became more prominent in Dublin nightlife. Between various nights and activity, and personally from working in Spindizzy [Records – legendary Dublin record shop], it felt like electro was embedded very strongly into our local music culture.
“DEAF – Dublin Electronic Arts Festival [curated by D1‘s Eamonn Doyle] was a solid reminder of this too, as was the presence of electro at quite a few nights outside of Dublin as well. It had also become the antidote for many who wanted a rest or diversion from super hard and loopy techno, so the timing of its growth made a lot of sense.”
As to why he believed the time was right to put Dreams Of Electric Bleep together, Sharpe said that he was seeking to both celebrate a “coming-of-age period” for electronic music in Ireland, and also reconnect the community.
“I think the only producer on the compilation who I didn’t know personally back then was Magnetize, who ironically is the one who I’ve gone on to make music with and stay in more regular contact with,” he says.
“Interestingly, Dublin has kinda re-entered a new ‘club in a pub’ era and I think the opportunities for more electro based gatherings can become more plentiful in the future.
“Although this compilation is a focus on electro, the scene itself was interconnected with other styles and scenes – ambient, electronica, IDM, techno and even guitar music. It often feels like the bandwidth dedicated to regular niche and specialist music events has narrowed in Dublin, but little reminders of where we’ve come from are a good exercise I feel.
“What should be pointed out too is that even though this music is from years ago, all of the producers involved still have a lot to give creatively, and the majority have continued to put out great music. The future is theirs too, and that’s something I feel very passionate about.”
To mark the release of Dreams of Electric Bleep (released on Earwiggle’s Bandcamp on 6 October), 909originals caught up with several of the artists on the compilation – Decal’s Alan O’Boyle, Phil Kieran, Chymera (aka Bren Gregoriy), John Braine, Magnetize (aka Stephen Gethings) and Takeover Sound’s Thatboytim – as well as Neuromantek’s Paul Watts and Electric City’s Simon Conway, who were responsible for some incredible electro-infused nights (on a personal level for 909originals, those Thursday nights at Electric City will live LONG in the memory). 🙂
909originals: When did you become aware of the emerging electro scene in Ireland, and what was the artist/label/release/club night that kickstarted it, in your eyes?
Alan O’Boyle (Decal): To be honest, I never saw a ‘scene’, as such. There were a bunch of clubs who played a lot of electro from 1997 on – Phunk City, Model One, Neuromantik, Bleep, Electric City, Let Loose – but no real scene, and to be honest, as a form of music it wasn’t all that popular.
There was nothing outside of Dublin initially, but then there was a small gang in Galway with Noid The Droid, aka Belacqua, and maybe the Acroplane folk in Belfast.
The scene really overlapped with the techno and electronica scenes. You’d see the same people across loads of clubs. Depending on the crowd, you could sometimes clear the floor with electro early on. It took a long time to get people latched on to it.
[Decal] had been producing bits of electro since we started. One track got picked up by Tony Thorpe’s Language Records in 1995. Also our Lo-Lite album was maybe half electro, but still kinda rooted in electronica. We would play bits live but weren’t 100% focused on it.
I reckon the Electro Boogie series for X-Mix was the fuse for the more dancefloor end of things for us, and loads of others. The ‘nu skool breaks’ thing can’t be underestimated either. That very quickly started drawing on electro sounds, and you would regularly get great electro dancefloor tracks from some of those producers. The tempos were similar.
So, in terms of a scene, there wasn’t one until maybe Electric City – by that stage, people were well clued in to it. In terms of kicking it off in clubs, it was possibly Phunk City and Model One. Both played electro, Phunk City probably a lot more of it, especially towards the end. Label-wise? Probably Trama Industries. I don’t think there was another electro label until Takeover.
Phil Kieran: In the early ’90s, a few friends and I were fans of music on Warp Records, including Autechre and Black Dog. This period marked the emergence of a subculture interested in a different kind of dance music. Compilations like Artificial Intelligence were released, focusing on home listening. This trend continued into the late ’90s and the early 2000s, with people becoming fans of electro and breakbeat music. The same individuals were also into artists like Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, and drum & bass.
In retrospect, I see it as like-minded people with an interest in this kind of music naturally gravitating towards each other. We organised small nights and events, although they were never particularly crowded. However, a few of us made an effort to promote music that was a bit more left of centre.
When playing in clubs, you generally have to make people dance, so electro and breakbeat became the alternative sound in the back rooms of small clubs. Some of us started by playing records, and then we ventured into producing records that would work on the dancefloor we were playing on.
Simon Conway (Electric City): I think [it started in] the days of The Funnel, with Phunk City in particular. To have a space where this music was showcased from both Irish and international artists was great.
You had also the likes of The Fear, D1 and a rake of Power FM DJs all playing and coming for the dance. It felt central and lots of connections were being made.
Chymera: I got into electro maybe a few months after I got into electronic music, in late 2000/early 2001. It was via Dave Clarke, possibly World Service or one of the X-Mix series, I can’t quite remember.
I was a latecomer to the electronic music world – throughout my teenage years I was predominantly listening to guitar-based music. At the start I was listening to – and buying – a whole bunch of stuff, from trance to french funky house to techno to electro.
At that time I really looked up to Decal – one of the few Irish acts at that time who were making waves on the international scene, at least through their records. Of course, they were on World Service too – a huge deal for anyone I would think. I remember seeing the secret Dave Clarke electro gig at the Kitchen – an absolute banger of a set.
Paul Watts (Neuromantek): I moved to Ireland in 1997 and, even though there’s a good case to be made that the electro scene had already started at that point, it took me a bit of time to get settled in and actually encounter it. I’d say I first became aware of it around ’99, after a couple of years of regularly going to gigs and getting a feel for the various types of music being produced in Dublin.
I don’t think I had any single epiphany moment or anything like that, but I gradually realised that one particular musical act, Decal, was making music I really liked, and that they’d often play with other acts – both homegrown and international – putting out great electro as well.
But then I noticed that the same people would show up over and over at these shows, and found that there was a genuine audience for this particular music. I got to know lots of them – thanks, IE-Dance! – and realised that there was an actual scene that had developed around this music that we all loved.
Thatboytim: I think when we started the [Takeover Records] label – or at least decided to press up a 12” and see what happened – we weren’t aware of anything you could have called an electro scene. It was fringe to the dominant club techno and house in Belfast at the time.
Davy [Lowry, aka producer therarelowry] had lived in Glasgow for four years where operators like the Rubadub record shop and their ’69’ parties where steeped in Detroit’s sounds and styles. Aux88 were a big one for sure, of course Drexciya and UR – Interstellar Fugitives is a collection of tracks I still come back to – but also UK artists like LFO, The Advent, Space DJZ and Luke Slater doing electro tracks, and of course the first Dave Clarke Electro Boogie comp.
We started out with cracked software. Our monitor speakers and pressing plants were paid for on credit cards – high on naivety and desperation – and influenced by the DIY punk attitudes we’d grown up surrounded by.
I think electro provided an escape from the increasingly loop-based techno sounds of the late 90’s. It allowed for electronica that was also danceable – and I think it appealed to people who had a background in alternative rock or industrial rock, I know that Magnetize, Chymera and Alan and Denis of Decal came from that kind of background.
So, perhaps the possibilities of electro attracted mavericks. It allowed for dark, moody or aggressive sounds but could also encompass fresher, life-affirming sounds too. The sound of this second wave electro was being influenced by the techno sounds the first wave had helped inspire – as well as drum and bass/Jungle and bassy UK soundsystem music. Things were quite open ended – it wasn’t some 80’s revival.
Magnetize: To be honest, I never really thought of what was happening at any time in Ireland as an emerging electro scene. It’s only when I look back that I can see that narrative around the time-frame that the compilation covers:1999 to 2005.
My own personal experience of electro in Ireland started with breakdancing in rural Donegal in the early 80s. An older brother of a friend of mine was heavily into it and used to practice in their garage. One day, we came in to check his poppin’ and lockin’ and I wasn’t so much interested in the moves, but was having my tiny mind blown by the mutant futuristic rhythms of Hashim and Cybotron blasting from his boombox. That was the start of it for me.
At that time, particularly in my neck of the woods, the only real way to get these tunes – and this is a man who should be rightfully lauded as the John Peel of electro – was through Morgan Kahn’s Street Sounds electro compilations. I was able to pick up a few of these on sporadic visits to Woolworths in Enniskillen with my mam.
This would also have led me down the parallel and related roads of early Human League, John Foxx, Cabaret Voltaire, and Suicide. I found that I either really liked mad futuristic/other-worldly stuff, like Model 500 or Kraftwerk, or the skuzzy/wonky stuff, like Suicide, Cabaret Voltaire, etc.
On to the 90s, and to my ears this early electro heavily influenced the really popular electronic music that was being released – LFO, Aphex Twin, Orbital, and so forth. I could relate to it, but always found myself drawn to the same two aspects of electro I mentioned – madly futuristic sounding, but also rough and skuzzy.
During the mid to late 90s in Dublin, the main places to hear that would have been the Model 1 and Phunk City nights in the Funnel. Although the difference between then and now was that things were less segmented, so Phunk City would have had as much techno as electro, with Krautrock and other weird sounds thrown in, and all sorts of live acts from every end of the spectrum.
So, my dual-aspected itch was scratched by these nights, and also by the electro that Decal started to release on their own label, Trama Industries.
John Braine: Well, I came at it from a more diverse angle. I was always into hip hop, electro, electronica/IDM, Detroit techno and house, but I was also a raver and big into hardcore, jungle etc.
I was heavily influenced by Jeff Collin’s Sweatbox – an amazing weekly radio show on [pirate radio station] DLR that covered all ends of the spectrum: jazz, funk, hip hop, hardcore, jungle, electro, balearic, house, techno etc. You’d be as likely to catch me at a warehouse rave as you would at a D1 night, and most of my friends would have been more part of the rave/party scene.
I bought a computer in the early 90s just to make music and then got online soon enough and joined forums like UK-Dance, the IDM list and the 313 Detroit Techno mailing list. I was also quite unwell at the time, so in a lot of ways my scene was online and global. Production wise, I was mostly just doing my own thing in my home studio in Dublin, unaware of anyone else making similar music in the mid 90s.
Of course I loved going to D1 and Ultramack nights, and everything in between, but I never really got involved with a local crew at the time. It was only years later that I got to know Decal and co a bit more, though after my debut release, Front End Synthetics and Neuromantek came along and I became a bit more involved with them, releasing and DJing for both.
So I guess that’s when I was most aware of a scene, which would have been about 2000/2001 – a good few years after I started producing. Then, more promoters emerged over the years, who put on great nights like Electric City, and other labels, like Psychonavigation, started to emerge.
909originals: Was there something uniquely Irish about the electro scene here? As opposed to the scenes in Detroit, London, The Hague etc?
Phil Kieran: At times, it was tricky to even play an electro record into your DJ set without clearing the dance floor, let alone hosting a club event dedicated solely to electro. From the mid-’90s, I began exploring new forms of dance music, becoming more interested in breakbeat and electro.
During the late ’90s, the music scene was dominated by the era of the superstar DJ, with commercial house and trance making their way into the charts and mainstream culture. Dance music was no longer underground, and it seemed that the era of the art college scene in Belfast was coming to a natural end. The Good Friday Agreement had brought peace to the North, ushering in changes everywhere, including the music landscape.
A few friends and I shared a belief that breakbeat and electro could evolve into something we wanted to pursue. Perhaps we were in search of the next interesting thing. Personally, I was seeking something new, something different from what had been played in the mainstream.
Everything felt like it was in a state of flux or a change happening. Electro and breakbeat weren’t popular choices at the time; most people preferred certain types of house, techno, or even trance. However, it felt like the right music for me at that moment. We created and played it because we loved it.
Chymera: It’s hard to say, to be honest. At that time, in the early 2000s, I didn’t really travel to other countries to go clubbing, or to festivals, so I had nothing to compare it to. The internet was also young – YouTube didn’t exist yet – and I was just mainly immersed in the Irish scene.
It was a great time. Lots of really sound people, all united by a common love of music. I’ve got so many wonderful memories of those years.
Magnetize: The London nights I went to weren’t that hugely different – it was a small scene over there too, albeit that Weatherall and Dave Clarke were playing some electro at the time.
In Dublin in that period, there was only really Decal’s night in Bodkins, Neuromantek and Electric City as regular club-nights that would have electro artists play. D1 was great too, but was more techno focused, in my opinion.
The ‘uniquely Irish’ part would probably have been that the regular rooms for these nights were basically small pubs, and sometimes the places were rammed beyond, let’s say, health and safety guidelines. So depending on the craic on the night in question, the energy could be through the roof. This wasn’t a ‘two hours of rumble with some squiggles’ vibe’.
Alan O’Boyle (Decal): For the most part, I think [electro] was heavily influenced by techno here. There was almost no electro that you could consider traditional, as such. Not many vocoders, robots or sci-fi. So we probably had a bit in common with London, and particularly Weatherall and the Haywire gang.
You can kinda hear it in the compilation too – even in terms of the tempo. Most of us on the compilation did loads of other types of music too.
Paul Watts (Neuromantek): It’s hard for me to speak too generally, since the only other scenes I have any real experience with are the US and UK ones. Certainly, one thing that distinguishes the overall music scene here from those two is its scale, obviously.
The fact that Ireland is so small means that the scenes here are much more country-wide; if you’re into a particular genre, you likely know most of the other people in Ireland who are also into it. I very much doubt that’s true at all in the US and is almost definitely much less true in the UK.
However, I think this applies to all Irish scenes. I don’t think it was specific to the electro scene – it was/is true of the singer/songwriter scene, the indie-pop scene, et cetera, and isn’t specific to music either.
I’m guessing that all Irish-sized countries – like, say, the Netherlands – may be similar. So overall, no, I don’t really think there was anything ‘uniquely Irish’ about the electro scene.
John Braine: For club nights, I don’t really think there was ever strictly an electro ‘scene’. Electro and techno are very closely related, so it was usually a broader mishmash of electro, electronica, IDM and Detroit techno. And that’s a great thing.
I think a pure electro night might have gotten stale quickly, which I think has happened to a lot of single-genre scenes. Also, I don’t think our small Irish cities could ever compare in scale to somewhere like Detroit or Berlin to sustain a relatively niche scene with a decent regular turnout.
But when you zoom out a little from pure electro, the likes of The Funnel was packed out every week, and of course Irish music heads have a great reputation for being loyal and passionate about good music and good parties. That fuelled a lot of amazing nights. That was a golden era for post-rave techno/electro/electronica.
In terms of the production scene, again I just wasn’t really rubbing shoulders with local producers. My production scene was either online, or with my face stuck in a production magazine like Sound on Sound or Future Music.
Funnily enough, I’m probably more involved in the local music scene now more than ever, via interesting events like the listening parties Daniel Jacobson is putting on at The Big Romance, which is a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon listening to and chatting about music with other producers. And I’m a regular at Reclaim The Mainframe, who I think are currently carrying the biggest and brightest torch for amazing underground electronic music, put on with love by, and for, sound heads.
909originals: What venues or club nights were pivotal to the development of electro in Ireland?
Alan O’Boyle (Decal): The Funnel, The Metropolitan and any of the bars that let us play, like Thomas House and Bodkins. But I guess it really started to come into its own in the bar clubs, like Bleep at Bodkins and Neuromantek at Thomas House. Then Electric City at The Metropolitan. There were a couple of legendary gigs in bars, including the Andrew Weatherall one in the Thomas House.
I think an overlooked aspect would be the record shops, like Big Brother, D1 Records, and Selectah for a start. They all played a huge part in bringing the music in. It’s also where you’d bump into people and hang out a lot and the people – Killian [from Big Brother Records], Eamonn Doyle, Graham O’Sullivan, Simon Conway and others were playing a lot of this music too.
Thatboytim: The Bleep night in Bodkin’s pub on Bolton Street was an early ‘pub in a club’ spot – and a number of other promoters operated out of there too. Alan [O’Boyle] seemed to run Bleep – and it I think focussed entirely on giving gigs to local DJs or live acts . There was plenty of room for electro but the music policy was completely open – I’m sure I remember Alan playing AC/DC.
Other promoters like Let Loose had the likes of Ed DMX, Radioactive Man, Dexorcist and others playing there. There probably weren’t many clubs that would have managed to host those people at the time.
I only ever got to a couple of Neuromantek events – one for the screening of a Miami Bass Documentary for DEAF Festival, upstairs in the old Thomas House, and other times when they were in Gray’s of Newmarket – a venue where the taxi driver warned me to ‘come straight out to the main road when I was leaving and to watch myself’ – hosting Bass Junkie and Scape One.
I had been buying records from Simon Conway at Selectah when they were still shop-sharing on Crown Alley, and had realised he was a serious electro head. When Giles [Armstrong] and himself – with Alan Carbery in the early days – started the weekly Thursday night Electric City parties, it was amazing. I worked most weekends in a bar, so a Thursday night bringing great names in techno, house and of course electro to an intimate setting was a dream come true.
It was also a great place to meet other DJs, producers, enthusiasts or label owners that you might have only known by name before.
Chymera: For me at least, it would have been Electric City at the Metropolitan. I also played some of my very first gigs there. [Simon and Giles] always brought over the cream of the crop and mixed it up between electro, techno and house, often in the same night.
Paul Watts (Neuromantek):I think most people point to Phunk City at The Funnel as the obvious starting point, but I only ever went there twice toward the end of its run, so I can’t personally judge that. Most of my own experience was with the club nights and venues that followed those.
As for venues, I think the one that I most associate with the electro scene is the Temple Bar Music Centre. It was there that various promoters – often U:mack, but many others as well – would bring over international acts like Dave Clarke and Two Lone Swordsmen, but their opening acts would almost always be local ones and so gave exposure to what was going on here.
Most of the people interested in Dublin electro would come along to these, so they also served as a sort of ‘social glue’ for the scene.
Apart from the Temple Bar Music Centre, specific club nights that I think deserve huge amounts of kudos for fostering the scene in its early-to-mid-’00s heyday would be Electric City and Model One, as well as a bunch of smaller pub nights around Dublin – primarily Bleep, but also ones put on regularly and semi-regularly by labels like Invisible Agent and others.
Phil Kieran: I ran a few nights of my own at the end of the 90s – some good and some not so good. I can’t recall the exact timeline of all these events, but in Belfast, I began playing at Shine at the very beginning, around ’98. I was often booked as the ‘Room 2’ or ‘Room 3’ DJ, mostly breakbeat and electro.
If we’re focusing on electro music at that time, the closest you could come was a night called Research and Development at the Front Page, and then Phunk City in Dublin. Timo and Pete, the promoters, would feature acts like Autechre and Ed DMX. It leaned more towards left-field electronica, occasionally including electro records in the mix.
I have memories of playing a few shows at the Temple Bar Music Centre, sometimes even in the foyer, where I managed to slip in some electro records. It was during this time that the connection between myself and Decal began to form.
John Braine: Ultramack, D1, DEAF, Front End Synthetics. They were the big players.
909originals: The period in question coincided with the rise of ‘electroclash’ in popular culture (although Irish producers didn’t go down the electro-pop route that others did). Was that a help or hindrance to the scene here?
Magnetize: It was probably a net help, in that electroclash’s popularity helped raise all boats. DJ Hell’s Gigolo Records was the pre-eminent electroclash label but he also released some great electro on it too – I-F, Advent, Der Zyklus/Dopplereffekt, and so forth.
Most of that electroclash stuff was re-hashed 80s fluff, but like most genres it still has some standouts, particularly Adult and Fischerspooner. I remember at the time it generated great debates around ‘sell-outs’ and ’bandwagon jumping’ but that’s always been the way with any musical movement. The purists are never happy.
For me it’s generally its the intersection between the formative and the new that makes exciting music, such as I-Fs best stuff at the time. The Portrait of a Dead Girl EP was a meld of ‘traditional’ electro and rough-as-fuck Chicago house.
Chymera: That was the beginning of the commercialisation of the scene in my opinion, and it kind of mutated into more of a fashion-forward scene.
I didn’t really see a huge amount of connection between that and the more classic electro sound. but that said, I did like some of it and bought and played it too.
Phil Kieran: I remember that, at the time, I thought electroclash was quite different from what I was into. However, looking back on it now, I see that it had many similarities or at least shared some common elements. I actually enjoyed many records from that era. For instance, DJ Hell’s International DJ Gigolos label featured some excellent electro records, so there was indeed a crossover.
In those days, you wouldn’t typically have a night dedicated exclusively to electro music; it was more eclectic. The sets were often mixed with some techno and breakbeat. That’s the perspective I was coming from, and to this day, I still enjoy DJing that way.
Alan O’Boyle (Decal): A good bit of that stuff got played, but for the most part it was hard to distinguish much of a difference, unless you saw the haircuts.
It didn’t really influence anything, but the hype kind of helped the popularity of electro – particularly around the time Electric City was up and running. They would definitely have been the most consistent electro club in Dublin.
Electroclash brought the sound into the overground – or at least the overground of the underground. Fischerspooner’s Emerge was a huge track. And there were a good few electro acts who got caught up in the hype, like Adult and Kitbuilders. DJ Hell was basically the driving force behind it. He has some amazing electro tracks on his Disko B records from the mid-90s.
Simon Conway (Electric City): Electroclash had a big following with the fashion, music and art school mix-up.
Gigolo, in particular, was at the front and they released some amazing stuff from The Hacker, Dopplereffekt, DJ Hell etc that referenced synthpop, which is a key part of the development of electro. Also, the Backlash club was really popular, and got great crowds out for a Thursday. It was all great for the scene.
Paul Watts (Neuromantek): My own opinion was that [electroclash’s] influence was pretty small. As you say, electroclash was much more mainstream-orientated than electro – that’s not meant as a criticism, merely an observation – and so catered to a somewhat different audience than the much more low-key and DIY electro scene.
Plus, to my ear, electroclash had more in common with the post-punk revival movement going on at that time than it did to the electronica underground. Check out Fischerspooner’s brilliant cover of Wire’s The 15th for evidence. So I think it had relatively little impact on the Irish electro scene, although that may not be true elsewhere.
909originals: Towards the tail end of the 2000s, it seemed like the Irish electro scene had lost its momentum somewhat – or the focus shifted to other genres. Do you agree?
Chymera: Maybe even earlier than that I would say – possibly it started tailing off in the mid-00’s. The scene was kind of swept up by various movements, the main one being minimal. Then there was the indie-dance scene too, of which electroclash was a precursor.
I left Ireland in 2006, and I just remember that when I would return for visits, things were changing every time. My tastes also moved on a bit as well – I was definitely more into techno and house at that time.
Paul Watts (Neuromantek): Almost all scenes have a finite lifespan, and I think the Irish electro scene was reaching the end of its own around 2006 or so. People and their tastes move on, which is a positive thing, in my opinion.
I think another factor that probably played a role was the increasing availability of all sorts of music on the Internet. People found that they could get music at the click of a mouse and so didn’t have to go out to venues or club nights to get their electro – or whatever genre – fix. I suspect the same thing happened to most small music scenes all around the world as well.
John Braine: We started having children around that time and I wasn’t as active on the dance scene for a few years. I think a lot of our generation were in the same boat, and the next generation seemed to be more into a harder more minimal sound – in general there was always more of a taste for four-on-the-floor, in Dublin at least.
So I think electronica and electro took a bit of a back seat for a while. Though I could be wrong, when you’re less involved for periods of time, a whole lot of interesting stuff tends to happen completely under your radar.
Alan O’Boyle (Decal): I think the whole club thing had started to lose momentum around then, not just electro. There wasn’t really a lot going on, venue wise, with the recession and so forth.
I think electro in the early 2000’s showed a lot of promise – there was a brief period where people were doing a lot of different stuff with it – but it never really developed into something bigger.
Simon Conway (Electric City): Perhaps it was the end of a wave, but at that time you had labels like Earwiggle and producers like Defekt coming on strong and keeping the sound fresh and pushing forward.
Magnetize: Looking back, I think that all things have their day, but you would need to put it in the wider context of the decline of the clubbing in general in Ireland.
As has been well documented, the number of venues were decimated, the recession kicked in and vinyl sales plummeted. These all contributed to a very difficult environment to be playing and releasing marginal music.
The people involved in the original scene moved onto other things, too. Personally, I started a couple of labels that were mostly releasing off-centre experimental electronic/rock music. I was just involved in what I found to be exciting.
I did release some electro on that label too – The 15 Dead Minutes – but by and large what I was hearing in that genre wasn’t very interesting to me. I felt, and still do, that electro and techno became largely all about production values, gear acquisition, Eurorack ‘wank-fests’ and standing on stages, rather than the energy, the vibe, the WTF moments and the dancing.
909originals: What is your stand-out Irish-produced electro track and why?
Alan O’Boyle (Decal): Takeover Sound – Together In The Dark. It was always in my bag. Just a really, really great track that can fit in anywhere. Amazing bassline.
Chymera: Possibly Decal – Freekin Empires, epic track. I remember hearing it when they played at the Guinness Storehouse, for DEAF 2004 I think.
John Braine: I think all my favourite Irish releases are mostly electronica rather than electro. Decal’s 404 Not Found album is a masterpiece. And The Ground Floor compilation was a real gem. As for electro, Decal and Americhord and many others on the compilation would be right up there.
Derek Carr has produced a lot of classics over the years, too. I think he’s another producer who mostly ploughed his own path outside of any local scene or crew and I think people sometimes forget about producers outside of the D1/Ultramack/Bassbin family.
I’ve massive respect for them all, but there was always other stuff going on too, so it’s fantastic that Sunil dug a bit wider and deeper for this compilation showing again the amazing support he’s always had beyond the obvious.
I don’t really have one clear favourite Irish electro tune to be honest, but I’m going to go for Derek Carr’s Penthouse 3AM, from his classic Copper Beech EP in 2001.
Magnetize: Has to be Decal – Riptide, off their first Satamile EP. It’s a killer track that lifts off in the second half. To me, it’s a great amalgam of traditional electro underpinning with aspects of distorted drone rock, like Loop or Spacemen 3, on top. I could have picked several Decal, tracks to be honest.
Thatboytim: New Twists – the EP which Together In The Dark featured on – was probably our most successful. That track ended up on Radioactive Man’s Fabric Live mix CD which was a big deal. We’d actually paid for our next release to get pressed with our advance from fabric and sales of the previous 12” – then our distributor went under.
I remember Killian in Big Brother telling me and running off to make a call and find out what had happened. We lost it all – and never released TAKE04, until I put it on our Bandcamp in 2020.
Simon Conway (Electric City): Decal – Electric City, on Satamile.
Paul Watts (Neuromantek): If I was diplomatic, I’d go for the hackneyed ‘I couldn’t pick just one track; they’re all great!’ But I’m not diplomatic, and at the risk of pissing off all those talented Irish producers who made genuinely excellent tracks, my own personal standout is Decal’s T*Shock. It’s the one I associate most with those great nights in the Temple Bar Music Centre, or Bodkins, or Traffic, or wherever.
Apart from its nostalgic value, it’s my personal favourite Irish-made electro track from a musical standpoint as well. I’d say I play it every few months or so and still get a great rush off of it.
Phil Kieran: I’d have to mention a Decal track; for example Machine Gun, I was so grateful to get my first record on the label and had some great times as friends hanging around at a few events. These were some good times, and I look back on it as a special time in my life.
That’s why its great for this compilation to come out, and I’m very grateful to Sunil Sharpe for going to all the effort, it’s much appreciated. It’s a great thing to have, and to be part of.
Dreams of Electric Bleep: A collection of Irish electro [1999-2005] is available now via Earwiggle’s Bandcamp page. Article by Stephen Wynne-Jones. All photos by Giles Armstrong unless otherwise stated.