- 22 Jul 21
Mark McCabe and Darren Rice were independently successful DJs. But in collaborating on 'Count To Ten', the new duo found magic.
What do you get when two of the country's most stalwart dance DJs – Mark McCabe and Darren Rice – put their heads together? The answer, ladies and gents, is 'Count To Ten', the breakthrough single from their new collaborative project, ANIM. Having crossed paths over the years in the DJ circuit, the duo decided to collaborate on the track – and found kindred spirits in each other in the process.
Born somewhere between Electric Picnic and Burning Man, the epic, trance-like pop crossover has an almost spiritual feel.
"I was doing a show at Electric Picnic," McCabe explains. He and Rice hadn't seen each other for 20 years, and during their catch up, Rice mentioned he had a sample he'd been toying with for quite some time.
"We talked about it in September and then we talked about it again at Christmas, and then in February we were like, 'this either needs to happen soon, or it won't happen,'" Rice explains from his home in Waterford.
"From the time we opened it to the time we got something that was presentable, it was like 18 months. But I'd already been working on it for 3 years at that stage."
This is where Burning Man comes in.
"I don't know how much you know about Burning Man," Rice says, "but the Playa is where it takes place. It's a lake bed in the Northern Nevada desert. And there's a famous saying at Burning Man: 'the playa will provide'. It's essentially all about surrendering yourself and letting yourself go. Being a participant more so than an observer.
"I got up early one morning because I'd seen some sunrise pictures and the place was absolutely epic. I set off on a little hike, and I was in search of this club that takes place on top of a double decker bus that drives out into the desert called 'Robot Heart'. I couldn't find it, and instead was presented with a giant pink unicorn."
Rice stops momentarily to laugh at how insane the situation sounds.
"This sounds like the maddest trip ever," he jokes.
"I was taking some pictures, surveying the scene, and there was this guy who was fully wild, completely out of his senses. He approached me almost in tears, asking me if I knew who was DJing or what the song was – he was turbo emotional – it was this dreamy, chilled female vocal. I didn't pay much mind and I went on my way."
Two days later, Rice was cleaning up his RV and the melody from that morning popped into his head. "I didn't know what it was, and it took me a couple of hours, but I eventually realised that I had a video and it was the track from that morning. The playa provided, as such," he concludes.
When Rice returned home, he spent a few weeks playing with the track, but eventually gave up and forgot about it.
"From years of being involved in dance music and DJing, you have that sixth sense sometimes that something might work," he says. "I had that inkling about the track, and there were a couple versions, but I kind of got to a stage where I forgot about it."
Later that summer, Rice's Spotify was on shuffle and the original song came up, so he went to dig out the rework.
"I remember thinking to myself that I'd love to do something with it, but I needed someone who had the same sensibilities as myself in terms of underground taste, and knows what works that way, but I didn't have the experience or knowledge to produce something to a commercial standard that would work on radio as well as the dance floor."
Enter McCabe, creator of one of the biggest dance tunes Ireland has ever seen – 'Maniac 2000'. McCabe provided the other half of a perfect duo, it turns out. In fact, they clicked so harmoniously on 'Count To Ten' that the potential for future releases and live performances seems too obvious and apparent to ignore.
"With this track," McCabe says, "it just really clicked that it was something you could keep listening to. You get to a point with a track where you're micro-analysing every kick drum, every hi-hat, and then not only that but getting guitar loops replayed and lining up vocals.
"I remember sitting back and listening to 'Count To Ten', thinking it was like a perfect synergy. The vocal was doing what it should, the track is doing what it should, where it should. There's a lot of luck in the music industry, and sometimes things happen in the right time at the right place. And I definitely think, so far, this has been a culmination of that. Sometimes things are almost meant to be."
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Rice and McCabe have similar tastes beyond just electronic music.
"I was very surprised to find that we were both massive Rage Against The Machine fans," Rice says. "Given our involvement in dance music in Ireland for the last 20 years. And our involvement in commercial radio. I never thought Mark's taste would be that left-of-field from what he was making."
In the 90s, Rice says, you were either "a raver or a grunger."
"If you were a grunger, you liked Nirvana and Pearl Jam. And if you were a raver, you were into dance music. But I kind of sat on the fence for a while. I learned to play guitar, and then got myself a set of decks when I was 19."
Despite his grunge beginnings, Rice maintains that his love of dance music grew very naturally.
"I would go to clubs in Wexford, where there was a real collective of people coming from all over the southeast to congregate at this one point, that played serious dance music. At 17, that's a real eye-opening experience and a real sense of community. It was life-changing for me, and just snowballed."
McCabe, on the other hand, rode the Ibiza wave from pirate radio to international notoriety.
"It was really the time where all the money started to come in to everything related to Ibiza and dance music," he recalls. "Stuff was crossing over from the club into the mainstream, and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time in terms of the pirate radio station we were running, called Pulse FM.
"We were just in sync with all of that, as the whole thing started to explode. But I also, a bit like Darren, fell into it. Because I was also a rocker."
"But the 90s were a strange time in that sense," Rice adds. "So many things that weren't deemed commercial ran youth culture. It was a real melting pot, and the dance music world is really like that as well. There are so many influences that come to congregate in one area."
Watch the video for ANIM's debut single 'Count To Ten' below.