By Cóilí Collins
Cóilí/Shampain is a resident DJ in Electric nightclub, former electronic music editor of District Magazine, contributor to District and Four Four magazines, former resident DJ of Hangar, and has written for Mixmag and worked on Rinse France.
“When people start getting booked because they’re sound rather than because of their sound, we’ve ran ourselves into a bit of problem.”
A few months back I penned a piece about people taking underground music too seriously in relation to Denis Sulta and his BBC Radio One Essential Mix which contained an edit of a somewhat notorious Scooter track. That sentiment is something I still stand with today, and within music there’s nothing more important than having fun and dancing, especially when it comes to nightclubs and festivals, but are we really being honest with ourselves?
There’s an Irish stereotype that we’re not gifted when it comes to being honest, especially if said honesty has negative connotations. Examples include when someone puts too much milk in your tea and you say it’s grand, when the barber asks if your haircut is OK and you nod your unavoidably red cheeks, only to curse him or her out the minute you shut the door of the shop, or when you offer someone a chip and they take two, much to your annoyance. Moments like that are what make us, for better or worse, one of the easiest bunches of people to get along with. Long may it last, but the line between being honest and being pernickety is blurred when it enters the realm of underground electronic music in Ireland.
Along with stating that we’re taking electronic music too seriously, I said that this is one of the most impressive batches of young Irish talent we have had in some time. While it’s great to have an abundance of talent, it’s important that we measure everyone equally, and don’t let our standards drop as the rate of producers increases.
It’s natural for people to be inspired by a certain genre or sound that’s doing well, resulting in them throwing their hat into the production ring. Everything is an imitation of something else, that’s why there’s always a loose comparison that you can attach to a track or artist. Assessing current and past trends and reinterpreting them is something that is done across all types of creative industries, but it’s always the true innovators that stand the test of time.
So, if we bunch together this group of producers and DJs the green isle has, with a number of hungry party goers looking to emulate their success, it’s inevitable that a peak in the output of Irish tracks is going to be reached, and it seems as though we’re very near the summit. With DIY labels and collectives looking to gain a foothold in a scene that seems overpopulated, it’s forgivable that they would play host to tracks that may not be exactly bad, but of a lower standard to what we’re used to hearing.
We are responsible for making sure that this new group of up – and – comers grows in the best way possible, not only for them, but for all sectors of the electronic community. Once someone comes in and kicks down a door, we can’t just open the floodgates and let every Tom, Dick and Harry in.
I don’t mean to sound like certain individuals that love to inhabit comment sections, proclaiming the death of this scene and that scene, but more so that we should hold our heads higher than we currently are. We’re too nice as critics, and we’re probably too nice as producers too. This means it can be difficult to critique some people when this country is so small.
There’s no room to piss someone off, yet there’ll never be enough space to keep everyone happy. Thanks to the glories of social media, it’s as if we can tell who has a nice personality and who doesn’t. Thankfully in Ireland, the place is so small that you’ll find out who are and aren’t savoury characters in person.
With that in mind, it can be quite difficult to be honest with up and coming producers without being labelled mean or not up for the craic or being too protectionist of the ‘scene’. While they are all very valid points, when people start getting booked because they’re sound rather than because of their sound, we’ve ran ourselves into a bit of problem.
With the number of slots reducing, given the number of clubs that are shutting their doors on a regular basis, the openings for up and coming DJs are thin. This means promoters’ decisions are difficult when it comes to picking who plays and who doesn’t. With the number of producers and DJs being so high, it has come to a point where people’s personalities are coming more so into play than their actual music. That is the only thing that’s being considered: how many people can be crammed in to watch someone that’s good fun behind the decks play a few tracks.
That’s all well and good when we have a plethora of clubs to go to, but unfortunately that mentality is suffocating the quality of music emanating from the country right now, as we’re looking to keep everyone happy, rather than keeping everyone on the best track. Producers are looking to copy an already successful formula, meaning that instead of having another impressive crop of young musicians to look forward to, we’re left with a sea of endless disco edits and filter house tracks that are being uploaded at what feels like breakneck speed.
Tech house suffered a similar fate a few years ago, but it seems like we’ve already forgotten about that (Mixmag just noticed apparently) and now it’s as if we’ve grouped together to land the knockout blow on another genre. All the while, we are suffocating the rest, so we don’t have a back up plan when the current one bottoms out, because people are too nice to be honest and the country is too small to receive criticism.
Every producer remarks in every interview of how democratised music making has become, with the ability to make tracks only a computer away, therefore it shouldn’t be labelled as negative and protectionist to criticise producers. The bar to begin producing has never been lower, so we must expect the initial standard to lower along with it. If we then as listeners, critics and promoters don’t in turn uphold our honest opinions, all that will happen is people will get sick of hearing the same sub – par sound over and over again, and that the ‘scene’ at large will be left entirely burned out.
Electronic music is at a fragile state in Ireland despite it never being as popular. With few legitimate venues for it to be played and lots of high quality acts, it’s imperative to be honest with each other and to speak up when we don’t like something, or when it is bad quality. All we’ll end up doing is squandering our own talent within our own echo chamber. We have international talent, and even more talent should naturally follow that, but we will waste it if we continue to emphasise sound people over people’s sounds.