- 16 May 19
Producer and DJ John Gibbons assesses the current Irish dance landscape.
Is Ireland a good place to be creating electronic or dance music in 2019?
Definitely. Ireland has a wonderfully solid electronic-music bedrock, built in no small part off the back of the momentum generated over the past couple of decades. This came courtesy of the international success of a number of Irish artists, spanning multiple genres. We’re now seeing more and more Irish electronic artists confidently creating and polishing their own sounds, niches and fan-bases, and carving careers from an initial base in Ireland. They’re doing this rather than automatically leaving the country for London, Berlin or the US in search of perceived greener pastures. A fantastic producer culture has emerged here, with technology allowing more affordable access to the necessary creative tools. This trend is only set to continue.
Is it a tough place for DJs to earn a good living?
Whilst there are a number of DJs earning very good money in Ireland, when measured against the opportunities – both commercial and otherwise – on offer in other territories, Ireland doesn’t really compare. We often forget how small our country really is, and – without a consistent presence on the international circuit – this comparative lack of size and population makes it very difficult to develop and sustain a long-term DJ career. Quite simply, we don’t have enough clubs or promoters in Ireland to allow for long-term sustainability without audience fatigue, and financial success tends to be fleeting or at best cyclical. The situation is certainly not helped by draconian Irish licencing laws.
Was that why you moved to London?
My focus began to shift away from Ireland gradually, as I realised that there were only so many times I could keep playing the same clubs. I’d signed with Good Soldier Records in London, and I was beginning to work and produce with an increasing number of artists in the UK, so it made sense for me to embrace this changing dynamic. Whilst I still do a lot of work from my own studio in Ireland, there’s no substitute for first-person interaction with as wide and diverse a range of creative people as possible. My abilities and sound have developed far more rapidly as a result of this.
How can we change that?
I think that electronic music (amongst many other things) should be accepted and promoted as a potentially viable career option for young people, and those who express an interest and aptitude for it should be encouraged in their endeavours from a young age. It disgusts me that the so-called ‘education’ system in Ireland will require creative and dynamic young people to fester in uninspiring classrooms, being force-fed a diet of scandalously insipid academic claptrap for rote-regurgitation. They could be passionately developing skills in which they are actually interested. When I look to countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands – where electronic music can be chosen by young people as much more than just an extra-curricular addendum to Peig Sayers, cloud formations and the life cycle of the liver fluke – I see an example that Irish society could learn from.
Is there a good infrastructure in Ireland for rising electronic artists and DJs?
In live terms, not really, and this is through little fault of the venues or promoters, many of whom unfairly receive the blame. It has become almost impossible for promoters and venue owners to survive in the current climate, consisting as it does of restricted opening hours for venues, exorbitant licensing charges, and the scandalous and legally questionable system of rates, which appears to be little more than a state-sponsored protection racket – the list goes on… This suffocating climate has made it difficult for electronic artists and DJs to emerge from their bedrooms and home studios, and hone their craft in a regular and meaningful way. It’s testament to the artists and DJs and their level of talent, graft and persistence, that so many are actually emerging. On a positive note, Irish radio is fantastic in its support of up-and-coming acts. There are a multitude of bright and progressive individuals in Irish radio, both on-air and behind the scenes, who are genuinely passionate and in tune with the different styles of music being made in this country.
What advice would you give to Irish artists and DJs who are starting out?
Turn off your TVs, open your eyes, ears, hearts and minds, be respectful to those around you, and be persistent and professional. Above all, put yourself in an environment that will allow you to grow creatively and otherwise. Learn to follow your heart, while using your head.
What are you up to yourself over the coming months?
I’ve a hugely busy and exciting summer ahead. Following on from my recent remixes for Picture This and Westlife, my new single is released in just a matter of weeks (watch this space for the scoop!), and I also have remixes coming for US act Disco Fries. On the live front, I’m all over Europe this summer, and there will also be a couple of massive Irish shows, which will be announced very soon.
I’m also about to launch my new label, Blindsided Records, which – whilst not being exclusively Irish in terms of output – will have a strong focus on emerging Irish electronic artists. I’ll also be launching an accompanying ‘Blindsided presents Fresh Eire’ club night this month, with a complementary focus – it’s going to be something very special indeed!