The Belfast Photo Festival 2021 is underway and runs until the 30th June at various venues around the city. There are 2 themes – FUTURE(S) and OFF THEME of which there looks to be some fantastic exhibitions from both international and local talent – we are particually looking forward to checking out Event Horizon at Creations and Shroud at Riddell’s Warehouse. Right in the immediate vicinity of our shop we have 2 exhibitions – the excellent ‘The City Is A Choreography’ by Melissa Schriek and the interesting ‘One of Them Is Human’ by Maiji Tammi in which you have to work out the human from the androids. Go check them out!
DONEGAL SOCIAL CLUB
Thanks to David from Donegal Social Club (aka Colpey Calling) for our next mix. David plays regularly in London at places such as Brilliant Corners and has a monthly show on Threads Radio where he also recently ran a takeover showcasing amazing Irish talent of the musical underground from the likes of Mark Reid (Touch Sensitive), Marion Hawkes and Brian Not Brian. Settle in for a ‘summer sunset, beers by the skate park vibe!’
Gus Van Sant Polaroids on the Twin Peaks set
Whilst Gus Van Sant did not direct Twin Peaks, he did move in the same circles as David Lynch and in 1989 Van Sant took these incredible Polaroids of the cast members before the show blew up.
ROADRUNNER: A Film About Anthony Bourdain
62 DONEGALL STREET
Launching on Saturday 29th May, 2021 from 11am – 5pm.
Open from Monday 31st May every day.
62 DONEGALL STREET
MON-THURS 11AM – 5PM
FRI & SAT 11AM – 5.30PM
SUN – 1PM – 4PM
NEVER NEVER | FRIEZE MIX 7 | MAY 2021
‘Yours in Music’: Iain McCready on the rhythm of life before and beyond the Art College
Iain McCready danced four nights a week as a teenage mod in Belfast city centre and went on to become a pioneering acid house DJ in the late 80s, breaking ground with his good friend David Holmes. He has recently been treating our collective ears to the far-out sounds of his record collection through extended radio and online streams, and we wanted to discover more about his story. ‘I remember everything’ – he tells friend of Never Never, Jonny Carberry…
Thank you for doing this, Iain – how are you keeping? What’s your day-to-day life like at the minute? The mantra of one of my favourite labels is ‘things will be better in future times’ – you down with that?
Hi there Jonny, yeah sure I would go along with that. I’m generally a ‘right here, right now’ sort of fella, every day maximum effort but I definitely feel there is something on the horizon…
Are you living in Belfast at the moment? What’s got you through the last year or so?
I am living in Belfast but still have interests in Brighton – the last year hasn’t changed the day to day running of my life except that I haven’t been cutting much hair. I’ve been lucky to have had good company to get through it. Musically I’ve always had varied tastes and the lockdown has given me more time to delve deeper into them. If I come across a couple of tracks that fit well together, I’ve been developing on that, expanding the genre, trying to make it into a style or feeling that I can play out.
Through the years I’ve always had an interest in vintage clothing, antiques and decorative arts, so I’ve been collecting pieces along the way with a view to selling them online and eventually in my own place, side by side with hair cutting.
Just to set the scene, I never had the pleasure of hearing you play at Sugar Sweet or any of the vital acid house clubs. Those beautiful, important times have been well documented & in this chat I’m hoping to find out more about the other clubs you’ve been involved in, as your taste is so broad across punk, soul, jazz, ambient, dub, hip hop…
In fact, it’s the last few years from your 6 hour (plus!) Belfast Underground & online streams that have really caught my ears, and I just want to say that I think very few people can touch you as a ‘contemporary’ DJ – you consistently surprise with your (perfectly mixed) shows that take in new, old, noisy, groovy, deeply soulful, unusual… and I think your music deserves a wider loving audience.
But let’s rewind ‘x’ number of years. Did you grow up in Belfast and was music a big part of your childhood?
Sure I grew up in Belfast, I was born in the Dundonald Hospital or the Ulster Hospital as it is now just like every other kiddie in East Belfast and grew up in Bloomfield. I had asthma as a kid and spent a fair few years between that hospital and home. I went to Greenwood then Strandtown school, before going to Inst after passing the 11+. So as far as growing up with music, sure my dad liked music and played trumpet when he was a teenager but apart from the radio or records he was listening to I had to find my own way. My older sister was a Marc Bolan head – she loved the pixie, had all the singles and scrapbooks full of his pictures cut out from the girls magazines, so she was playing compilation tapes of his music on a tiny radio/cassette player. The turning point came when she passed the tape player onto me – that opened up music for me… now I could compile my own tapes of what interested me.
So imagine a sick kiddie with plenty on downtime on his hands, not at school so days passing by into months… I read a lot, still do and I listened to the radio a lot. If I heard something I liked I would hit record and get it down. Now my old man had an electrical shop so blank tapes were not an issue, I had access to loads of them along with batteries.
Haha, endless supplies. Do you remember any particular tracks or artists that made onto those tapes? At what point did music become an obsession or did you start buying records?
I listened to John Peel and vividly remember every Xmas getting down his Festive Fifty, damm I wish I still had them now. I must have had 3-4 of them over loads of tapes, gold dust, ether to the young mind…
Tracks that standout: Public Image Ltd. – Careering, The Cure – A Forest, The Pistols – Pretty Vacant was charting year after year just moving down in the chart, X-Ray Spex – Germ Free…
So that was late 70s/very early 80s. At what point did you start getting into soul music or rare groove? Would you describe yourself as a mod, then and now?
So going to Inst because it was in the city centre I was close to record shops – Good Vibrations was up the street. At our school there was a sixth form guy in Rudi and another guy played in one of the other punk/ new wave bands involved with Terri so I used to go in there after school. Also the youth club up the Kings Road I went to, I remember I think it was one of the Defect brothers, Buck maybe coming in and playing the first Outcasts album – so I’m not sure of the date but I was only in first year and I was born in ‘66 so that puts it late 70s.
I was buying up Pistols records, Stiff Little Fingers – big on both of them. You could get the German EMI copy of God Save the Queen, different sleeve than the UK one and even in Smithfield I remember picking up Pistols records.
The mod thing came after the ska revival which came from the punk thing.
So through the emergence of UB40 with ‘Signing Off’ and ‘Present Arms’, both the album and the dub, along with the two-tone beginnings I’m starting to get into black music. There was a guy I went to school with who was a rude boy and he liked Laurel Aitken and the Jamician stuff which went back to the sixties, so I was starting to hear the original ska Prince Buster, Skatalites etc which sparked an interest in black music of that era so the movement into soul was natural to me…
Now there was a thing back then around youth clubs called a blue lamp disco, which was run by the police to spread a more positive image about themselves (though I guess in was only in Protestant areas).
My older sister started going out with a guy who DJed these discos, and so after the gig rather than drag all the singles back to the station he would leave them at our house. From the boxes of 7’s I would have it away with Small Faces, Rolling Stones, Beatles and really any sixties record in there worth its salt. I remember as I was getting into older black music, I started buying mainly then from Michael up at Heroes and Villains, old blues records and jazz from the 20’s/30’s.
So really I started at the origin and worked my way through jazz into the blues onto rhythm and blues into early soul stuff…
These records and the sixties stuff from the boxes were starting to shape up as I moved into mod, and that was a bit of a game changer right there musically.
And stylistically, you immerse yourself into the culture of mod and the detail, always about the details whether it’s the clothes or the music, the look, the sound… that was what was important. Couple that with mod clubs being on 4/5 nights a week and my O levels went out the window… As my pal Gavin put it: 2 c’s, an e and 5 fuck yous.
I still have a bit of the mod thing in me although I packed in the scene because it was so into itself. I still bought black music though.
I prefer your streetwear tees and baggy trousers anyway ha.
Haha that’s what it all about.
I could tell you blow by blow about the clothes, I’m trying to remember some records I bought around then, the jazz stuff, the blues stuff…
Just one more bit on the mod scene. I can’t believe you were 16 doing that. Whenever you/Sugar Sweet/David Holmes are profiled, it does always mention that scene. Can you tell us a bit more about the vibe of the nights & what made you think ‘I’m enjoying this DJing biz’. Also, 2 or 3 of your favourite tunes to DJ from that time?
Well you see I wasn’t DJing back then, I was a punter, dancer, whatever you want to call it but I remember taking records along and asking the DJ to play them.
I remember I got a copy of Dobie Gray – Out on the Floor which was a small run reissue that I got played out.
From that came the solid bond that we all took literally. But I had never DJed then – that came later around 85.
The nights were simple affairs lol – someone would hire a room above or at the back of a pub and pop up posters. So the group I hung out with from Bloomfield – Dunlop, Mertz, Wee Andy, Eddie Donnan – would go along and meet up with the other groups from around the city we had met on a Saturday. There were clubs all over the place, The Abercorn, The Viking, The King Arthur, Rumpoles, The Midland hotel, The royal Avenue hotel, even a club in Newtownards that I can’t at the minute remember.
So yeah you’d get dressed up listening to The Who or Small Faces, some Motown stuff, some Stax stuff and head out, get a carry out, drink it on the bus and you’re all set. Up the stairs, music pumping, along with the endorphins into a smoke filled room full of likeminded people, a delirious feeling. ‘Agent 00-Soul’ hahaha. Although that was another mod, Mark McBride, who had that on his business card he would hand out on the dance floor.
And of course it was your first experience of meeting girls into the same stuff. Throw all that in the mix at 16/17, the clothes, music, alcohol, girls… fucking quicksilver, alchemy.
Is there a song that brings you right back to that time?
So current labels like Athens of the North & Numero Group who are reissuing lost soul/black music – do they interest you or is that something that’s from another time in your life? You play only occasional soul tracks on your sets at the min?
I really like the music coming from both those labels, obscure, dance floor friendly sure that’s interesting to me but records tend to come my way, I wouldn’t be looking for a soul track specifically but may come across one that I could use.
And in it goes to the bag, maybe a year would pass before I got another and so on. Everything I’ve heard has been brilliant but I can’t buy everything…
You mentioned 1985 as the year you started DJing – tell us about that… the reason, the venue, the tunes, the highs, the lows…
Well Mertz or Gavin Bloomer and I had hung about for years and used to go to The Delta and The Plaza together after we stopped living our lives through Mod, and when they shut down there was a void of places to go – so basically he came across a venue in a working mans club called Tatters at the end of Ann St (which was loosely connected with the Ulster Sports Club through Gabriel the guy who owned Tatters). So we decided to do our own night based on our experiences at the once gay clubs -we started that on a Friday night 10.30-4.30am, bring your own.
We decided to also run a soul night on a Monday at the same venue, and as I had a big record collection I was in the frame to DJ. I printed up some words off Jay St John’s computer in Zakks hairdressers where I worked, and cut a picture from Blues & Soul and pasted it up in Bradbury Graphics and that did the posters which we put up in Laverys off sales along with other places and we were set to go.
Roll on the night of the gig and really I was shitting it, now I’m a soul man but my thing really is the ballads, the Southern stuff, gospel, bluesy, ‘damn it baby I miss you’ sort of soul – so I was rightly worried that it would bomb. I was so nervous I drank 8 cans of larger before the doors opened, never mind the few pints beforehand.
Now as the place was in Ann St and the town was locked up at night, you had to come through High St to get into the city centre – but not everyone could be bothered with that, so they were climbing the gates at the end of Ann St instead, the barriers with the three prong spikes at the top, not everyone made it in one piece… this incident and the nerves… so I start playing and in comes David Holmes, Big Mackers the northern soul dancer from Belfast but living in Manchester, and Desy Maguire another face on the mod scene and they were wanting things a bit more uptempo.
I remember playing Quicksand which worked, but they it was a duh moment, ‘what next?’. I was getting asked for The Snake, this, that… duh… duh… then David said he had a bunch of records and would I play them. To which I replied ‘why don’t you play them’ and so I stepped aside and he did, the place had its tempo and rightly the dance floor took off. Lucky he had the records, lucky as it didn’t make me look as thick as I felt, bloody amateur…
After that Mertz and I asked him to do the Friday and that is how we started.
I still get embarrassed about that night when I think back lol.
At what point did you become interested in the art of DJing ? Was New York disco/early electro an influence on you at that time? Your friend Sean McCann wrote a class piece on the Delta, Jules etc and the playlists jump out because of their eclecticism: Bauhaus to Bohannon, Soft Cell to James Brown to Grandmaster Flash…
Well I was getting Blues & Soul religiously from about 1980/1 and that was my internet really. I told you I like to read and most of what I read stays with me, artists, titles, labels etc. So that was my bible really and through the mid 80’s I was reading about a new black music culture in hip hop – so I started buying a few that kept appearing in DJ charts: Kool Moe Dee, Boogie Down Productions, Marley Marl, Spoonie Gee, Run DMC and so on. And that was becoming more my thing than the soul and funk, it connected though the samples of old soul and a lot of the samples sat with my southern ballad roots, but the beats were more me. For all my love of a song with lyrics I find it hard to hear the words, I have to play them over and over before they sink in but the beat and the baseline and the arrangement now that’s different, I pick that up first pass. So now I’m listening to beats and wanting to put them on top of one another.
The electro thing I liked, Bambaataa was slamming and I loved Curtis Mantronic – so yeah I was feeling electro but really the New York BDP/Marley marl was more my thing.
At this stage I couldn’t mix a gin and tonic never mind two records, that came along later – I would try but I didn’t understand it really.
It took someone to show me and then I would practice it, two copies of the same record to make it easier. By this stage I had convinced the owners of Zakks to sponsor me a pair of Technics and a mixer, and in return they would get their name in lights on all the advertising.
The disco thing was an extension of soul music to me, I didn’t call it disco really.
So the early hip hop, were you playing this on Friday nights in Tatters? 2 or 3 favs from then would be mega
And then at what point did you first hear house music or get deep into it?
The house music came through much the same way as Washington Go-Go and Hip-Hop from the pages of Blues & Soul. I would read reviews of these records wondering what it was, and then I started seeing them creep into peoples’ charts – so I ordered a couple along with some garage stuff from City Sounds records in London, who I bought stuff from and ended up with Marshall Jefferson, House Master Baldwin, Chicago stuff, early jack tracks…
I still wasn’t really DJing yet but I was building a right little collection of that type of music which sat beside James brown, Jackson sisters, the go-go, the hip-hop, the rare groove but also New Order, The Sugarcubes, Colourbox, Bronski Beat, y’know alternative stuff.
Were you into The Face, i-D, NME as well? It’s a cliche but I grew up in a small town in the country and I remember the first issue of The Face I bought and the excitement/discovery that came with that… Hope you still have some of those Blues & Soul copies. Are magazines still an influence on your record buying?
Yeah I was a big reader, I bought Blues & Soul, Echoes, i-D, The Face, Record Mirror, Paper Magazine from the states whenever I saw it – all those were important sources of information and that would lead me to making lists of things I was after, I still do that…
The knowledge is important in music as it is in all aspects of the stuff I do, be it vintage gear, antiques, books, art, pottery… the list goes on and on but it’s back to the details again. It’s very important to be savvy when going through a garage of records or clothes that you don’t buy no donkey (although many times I have, hee-haw).
The other thing is I don’t have pots of money, when I’ve got it I spend it and then I have none until I can get some more. There’s nothing more heartbreaking that having spent money on a Dudley, and I’ve done it man.
I keep finding myself in a situation where I have to give it a punt, most times I’m pretty close to what I thought it was but sometimes I get caught out, lesson learned.
So are you still excited by digging through the old? What I love about your sets is that they combine the brand new with older bits (that make sense in the story you’re trying to tell, as you mentioned earlier). I’m reminded of a Weatherall quote about ‘proceeding in a slow & orderly fashion towards the future with half an eye on the past’…
I never tire of searching things out, that’s the buzz really. You could get on to Discogs and blow your wad or pick things up along the way you haven’t heard before, and every now and again another gets ticked off the list. Weatherall was a wise old sage when he said that – it all has a connection to the past. It’s how you put your slant on it that makes it fresh.
Here’s another quote for you, from David Holmes, circa 2000 and before he released Bow Down to the Exit Sign (the one he made in New York with a pre-DFA James Murphy).
‘Sugar Sweet was probably the best acid house club ever to come out of this whole country… There were queues to get in, people were swinging from the balconies, the stage was mobbed with people. McCready and I, we had a really great partnership because we were playing different music. All we wanted to do was party, make a few quid, buy more records.
I learnt a lot from Iain. He was ahead of his time in a lot of ways. We ended up going off and doing our own things. But they were definitely the best days of my life, without a doubt. Without all those mental nights, I would never have what I have now.’
How do you feel when you read that? So much has been written about the cultural/societal impact of Sugar Sweet, but could you tell me more about those musical differences between you & David and the musical balance of the night? And if possible, 2 or 3 of your personal favourites from Sugar Sweet?
I wasn’t aware of that quote Jonny, I feel quite touched by David’s words, it’s like a vindication that I have been on the right track in my approach to the music that interests me and he’s quite right they were once in a lifetime experiences of the moment for us both. We were just like all the other dancers, customers, whatever you want to call it – at the beginning of something powerful, spiritually uplifting, a rhythm of life that was the start of house music, the acid house culture along with the positivity that goes with it. This was our ‘one nation under a groove’ moment and I still feel that way, it’s our thing, not David and mine but our generation, we were there and still are…
I’ve a quote for you from Greg Fenton, who is from Belfast but moved to Manchester and did the Most Excellent and Spice Balearic nights with Justin Robertson – he said that Jack was the new Jesus to our generation and in the middle of Thatcher’s Britain it’s not hard to see why it exploded.
Musically the foundation I had is not too far apart from that of David. We both came up through the punk thing, we were both Mods who liked our clothes and records and we both got into house music. David has a big personality that suits the peak of the night – he is very skilled in the mix, he practiced to get it right. Mixing doesn’t come easy, you have to work at it – the more you put in the more you’ll get out of it and David would graft away.
I preferred the earlier part of the night which would not have the same pressure, although the warm up of the night is really important and if done well can take some of the pressure off the peak time later. Now because I would do the early part of the night as people were arriving and taking their position within the hall, I would have a longer time to play – normally 3 hrs, the Art college opened at 8pm. I’d normally start with a few odd things I’d picked up, not necessarily dance music and move into hip-hop instrumentals to get a bit of practice getting the beats lined up and get the levels set up, before moving into American deep house and garage before ramping up the tension – so I was playing all sorts of stuff just the same as I do now.
I would always try to keep the start of the night interesting playing more leftfield music to link up the different sections, ambient links, soundscapes, like introduction to move the minuscule to a different style, much the same as I still do, they work most times…
The crowd would be up on the floor, dancing, hyped before David or the guest took it up another notch and then another etc. The energy coming from the crowd was unbelievable, fevered and then up it went again to another level and so on. Being caught up in that hysteria was life affirming, positive, safe in one family with your worries firmly left at the front door. That’s really what it’s all about Jonny, getting to that level, the dance floor nirvana lol.
There’s a few tracks off the top of my head – there were so many, we were breaking tracks all the time. I tended to buy a lot of American house music as I thought the production was so classy compared to British or European cuts. I still do, maybe because there were more vocal recordings they were using pro-tools rather than a cracked qbase on an Atari lol.
There were times when David was playing American records like Tony Humphries and I was playing J Saul Kane and tougher beats and then it would flip round, I’d be playing deeper soulful music and David would be ramping up the tempo and having it away with Jeff Mills and the German headers. We just moved through whatever direction that we felt at the time – no fixed formula, always pushing forward, sourcing new music, we didn’t take what we had for granted that’s for sure.
It’s important to remember also we spent more money on the sound system than all the other costs combined. If you’re serious about the music you buy and are trying to put that music across to the crowd, inform them it can’t be done without a quality system – you want to hear clearly what the artist has put together, the sounds, arrangement, vocal whatever while still being driven with a pulsing, pushing rhythm without going home deaf as a post for a week.
Spend the bread on quality gear in the broadest sense of the word. Straight faces now…
Can you tell us how or why Sugar Sweet – like all good clubs – came to an end? Or how the NI ‘clubbing’ landscape changed as dance music become more mainstream? What did post-Art College and the rest of the 90s hold for you musically/as a DJ?
This is where the difference musically David refers to comes in. I was getting into deeper, more soulful, jazzy recordings as David was really getting deeper into techno, faster, tougher in style. Quality all the way as usual but polarising really, so it was well you do one month and I’ll do the other…
Around that time my dad who had been living with Alzheimers died and I would say that probably had more of an impact on me than I let on, coupled with studying music down Bangor college, DJing about the place and working part time for Lyndon I had a pretty full on schedule. I was drinking way too much into the bargain, so all those things were I’m sure having an impact my relationship with David. So you could say it seemed to be the time really for our night together to end while we were still close friends. Looking back, it was the perfect time for us to do a different thing. I kept up with the studies with an eye on going to university in England, but reality kicked in and I had a mortgage to pay, so started working with Lyndon full time in Hope and Glory which helped fill my time.
Sorry to hear that about your father, Iain, and have been thinking of your mum during this chat. What about 2000 onwards? Are there any particular clubs you would like to talk about, those that worked out or some that didn’t? Any particular sounds or scenes that caught your attention? Did you DJ much outside of Belfast?
Well I’d sort of stopped playing out, moved to Brighton in ‘98 and worked retraining in haircutting whilst being a colourist, I wasn’t buying records at the start as there wasn’t much money. So I went back to basics and bought a tape deck and started taping again, making lists while I was waiting for the money from my house sale. Happy times recording Russ Dewberry on a Sunday afternoon, keeping informed, my usual gig, doing my homework.
I didn’t tell anyone I was a DJ apart of the folks I lived and worked with but every once in a while someone would suss me out and ask me to play, but I basically kept myself to myself. When my money came through then it was straight onto the distributors and record shops filling up the collection again along with trips up to west London for the broken beat ,bootlegs and beers.
And so began the Brighton section of the records I’ve picked up and believe me there are plenty of shops to relieve you of your dollar, with thanks to Rarekind Records and Across the Tracks for the soul stop.
Club wise The Jazz Rooms with Russ Dewberry was a regular drop-in as you’d get some of the heads down from West London – Noel Watson had a studio in the same building as IG Culture, Mark de Clive-Lowe and I think Dego had theirs, Phil Asher would be there when I used to go for records and a nicer bloke you’d be hard to find. That was a great source of music as they distributed most of the music made round there, Mike and Spencer big up yourselves and you too Noel mate.
Apart from that I would go to the odd party – Disco Deviants would put pretty good nights on or I’d go and listen to Nick the Record if he was playing but I wasn’t out every weekend. However I was still picking up tunes and had a pair of decks, so I could still get a few sessions going but really for myself.
I would get booked to play when I was coming back over to Belfast to visit my old dear (she used to pull me up when I referred to her as that). It was on one of those returns that I was booked to play at Voodoo and as a promotion for that I was asked to play a set on Belfast Underground. Now I’m not a revivalist but the gig was for a really good cause and I was asked to play records from back in the day – this lead to a visit to the farm outbuilding where I stored them 20 years earlier, barn fresh when I turned up to Dilly’s Underground and preceded on a 4-5 set can’t remember, washing them as I went lol… that then led to me doing a show on Underground Radio each time I was back, which in turn led me to meeting you Jonny and playing at Bullitt with you.
So as for some of the club nights I’ve organised or helped organise, there’s a few little forgotten gems starting with Stoned Love upstairs in the Duke of York with David Smith and Jimmy McDonald which was a SLO beat sort of jam playing Mo’ Wax, smokers-type music with the joss sticks and moody lighting, good night or two. Monkey in the Middle upstairs in Vicos every Thursday with Mark ‘mad’ McIlvenny playing American garage, deep soulful house music and Strictly Rhythm, Nu Groove kit – we got a good run at that until the money dried up (in Enzo’s pocket, RIP).
The back room in the Parador with David on a Thursday night after Queens Bar, where we rocked the boat and never got out of it.. in the beginning Lil Louis blackout and coming off the decks on half a microdot and the ten inches of dance floor like something out of Tron with me laying on it ( cheers Dallas for that )
The warming up for bands in The Rotterdam venue across Pilot St after packing in DJing when my dad died, and supporting The Selector when a lady came up to me an told me while I was playing that she was with my old man when he died… heartbreaking.
Playing with the Horny Organ Tribe on a Sunday night in the Temple Bar, Dublin spinning Siouxsie and the Banshees next to two copies of Primal Scream ‘Higher than the Sun’ for half an hour…
Damn there’s so many nights, I remember them all including the shameful ones when I was spiralling downwards about ‘97, for which I still feel the shame for being a right arsehole. Namely the Sligo Soul and Disco festival, a great gig to get but I got pissed and full of coke that I’d cut half and half with speed to make it go further and played seven or eight Erykah Badu tracks in a row along with some speed garage track, Spin Spin Sugar I think. And slobbered at one of the organisers and then nearly got hit up with the hotel bill the next morning – that one’s the worst, still feel bad about that one. I was having a shit time and I was being an arse, which is not me at all.
The ups and downs of playing records, there are so many more. Honestly I remember them all and the records…
I remember that young kid cleaning your records during the first Belfast Underground set – hope he was taking notes 🙂 Let’s fast forward to the present day. You don’t need me to pay you a compliment, but the best thing I could say about your sets is that they are ‘individual’. All the electronic music you play has soul & groove & depth – I generally know very few of the records and am left wanting to know about them all. Can you tell us more about your approach to those extended radio/online sets? You said earlier that you try to tell little stories & it’s clear to me that a great deal of thought goes into each set… What are your digging habits like at the minute & will it always be vinyl for you?
Well because I pick up varied styles of records both new and second hand, I wait until I’ve maybe 50-70 twelves and then begin to work through them on the decks. As you know or anyone knows, when they get new tunes and start putting them together you can get a right result when you’re mixing them, like really you go ‘fuck me they go well together’. Well when that happens I write down the names in a jotter and crack on. Now over time you’ve a few pages of tracks written down that work together but could be all over the shop tempo-wise. So I then try and group them by tempo, ambient, slower beats, mid-tempo, quick, jazzy, disco, dub etc etc and work them into a bit of a rough running order.
I would then arrange the records roughly in the same shape and start fitting in things I already had that expands on each certain section, b sides, old things, whatever – I change the playing speed a lot from 45 to 33 then build on top of that with records at the right speed, so you maybe had say three records in a dubstep sort of half time, which then I would work up with whatever sounds good with it. So the bags are packed with 150 twelves and I’ve a rough idea about how it will flow tempo wise and I just crack on and try and mix all the buggers together without making too many mistakes… lol
About the little stories, for example on the last Twitch mix from Sunday there I was playing a The Bug Vs Earth lp track or something and it’s slow, grinding, white noise kinda thing with a Henry Rollins punk screaming horse male vocal on it (that I played but bottled rather than letting it all play) – which was a bit hellish if you get my drift, but wild interesting and out of that came an angel voice of an ambient introduction to balance it out with the heavenly light. So yes, there is a narrative to the shows.
They tend to be built up over a couple of months, adding to the book here and there – so over the time when they are all put together it is like a reflection of my subconscious of whatever is going on in my life. Say on the January 2021 show, I’d just lost my mum on November 1st so you can definitely hear aspects of that grief in there and the requiem of the ambient section at the front of the show. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no doom and gloomer but it comes out without me noticing. It’s only when I listen back to the shows that I can see why I was picking up that type of record. David tells me that he never returns/re-listens to a mix he did, but I do – I think it’s important to give it a good listen so I’m aware of what I’m playing, as apart from the bag set up it’s more or less off the cuff and it’s only on the playback that I notice a theme that I can maybe develop further y’know, for another show.
There’s something very mysterious about playing a really long set, it’s a hard nut to crack on the playback as it’s enveloping. You get so drawn into it that you can’t remember what happened 45 mins earlier, and the longer you listen the more time gets confusing, especially if I’m double coping records to make the intros longer or phasing some and then dropping into a different feel like half time, and coming back out again. That’s the plan, time messes up as much as some of the mixing but I’m giving it a go. I still haven’t got one perfect, I’ve got close and that’s why I keep doing them – one where I can go ‘fuck me mate that’s seamless’ – some day…
And you’ve started archiving your sets on a new Soundcloud page – https://soundcloud.com/user-99309589 – love it. You mentioned Bullitt and it was really our pleasure to have you – psyched to do it again 🙂 Let’s talk about the Sugar Sweet reunion last December. You mentioned that you’re no revivalist & that night again you were all about pushing things forward. I noticed lots of young kids getting down in your room. How do you reflect on that night how? I know you & David had been searching for a venue but I think the Ulster Sports Club suits you well – good people there too who will give you that freedom. Are you planning on doing more when we come out of all this?
When I get this next show up on Soundcloud that will be nearly 100 hrs of music including the Underground shows and that is what I wanted, to leave a series recordings behind.
I had a great night at The Sports Club, from the start when it was decided we would be playing separately I was a bit apprehensive as I would normally warm up and David would take it home. But the fact I was in the downstairs room made up for it. It’s a good shape for a start, with a good long bar. The smoking area was right beside it as were the toilets and if the bar was too busy you could pop into the front bar too, perfect and doesn’t hold as many people but having not much seating it’s geared more towards dancing. The fact that we were both doing six hour sets I thought this would justify the cover charge, which also helped pay for pumping up the sound system and adding visuals. I’d been playing long sets so the six hours was right up my street too.
The crowd were open to different tracks too, as I mentioned neither David or I were going to wheel out all the old tunes – that was never our intention. But we did think we should pepper the night with tracks that have stood the rest of time, hence there was maybe 10% at the most that would be recognised and that would be enough. Damn really what we wanted was a fuck off venue, private with outside space and a free hand to fire away but Stormont turned us down. If you know anyone who has a country pile and is up for the craic then I’m sure David and I could oblige. As to the Sports Club again, I’d do it in a hearbeat…
So I can’t believe it but this is it. We could talk about music endlessly & I’ve learnt so much – it’s been fascinating Iain, thanks again. I think the perfect way to finish is for you to list 3 of your favourite tracks from your recent Sunday session, another insight into where your head & heart are at the minute…
I must say it’s been a pleasure talking with you. I am hoping to get a shop where I can put all the things I have an interest in together – so haircutting, records, vintage gear, musical equipment, lighting, art, furniture, pottery, books, films whatever and try and make a living from it. Watch this space.
Enter The Void – Opening Title Sequence
The stunning opening credits from Gasper Noe’s Enter The Void. A barrage of typography in an epilepsy-inducing and typically unsettling style from Noe and designer Tom Kan. And of course LFO’s Freak setting the scene perfectly for the trippy life-after-death, DMT-fuelled story to come.
RUDIMENTARY RECORDS MIX FOR NEVER NEVER
Rudimentary Records boss Andy McHugh supplies us with the next instalment in our mix series. Rudimentary are an independent label based in Belfast and have been around for over 10 years releasing records and running parties in the Irish DnB and bass music scene. And they also have a great eye for graphics and design. Check them out here – www.rudimentaryrecords.com – thanks Andy!
For SS21 we are pleased to be stocking Mei Yong’s Liberaiders. Mei is a streetwear OG, having moved from Bejing to Japan when he was 20. Throughout the 90’s he worked along side some the industry’s most influential characters and has been a creative force behind many other projects and brands. He is also a prolific photographer and his work (and his brand) is influenced by his love for rock ‘n’ roll, travel, streetwear, non-conformists, rebels, and those that create new values that they live by.
The brand has a serious feel to it with the production and materials all fantastic, manifesting from Mei’s original culture, background and spirit.