Sunil Sharpe is a name many Irish people into their tunes are familiar with. He’s provided many a session with many a tune! Not only from his own productions but his djing has caught the attention of people with a passion for music and looking for something different. His radio shows on 2FM have provided listeners with some badly needed tunage at an hour of the night where pumping tunes is an essential. Check out his soundcloud as it’s a haven for mixes and old shows with guest mixes.
You’ve been djing since the days of pirate radio and have continued to dj at loads of different gigs. How have you seen the Irish music scene change in this time?
There was a tipping point early on, in about 2002/3 I think, where venues moved away from dance music, as well as the sponsorship from drinks companies of dance events and print publications. That Irish singer-songwriter thing had really taken off and there was a huge move back to live music in general. Since then the electronic music scene has been surviving more on its community spirit, and has probably been more inventive in terms of the less obvious venues used and so on. The main feature since has been the fluctuation in attendances. The low point was at a time during 2004-2005 where everything went really stale, techno got too heavy for most, and too male. The average weekend techno night was the dj banging it out to ten blokes with their tops off, was a bit grim.
Soon it was mostly Polish people that were keeping drum n’bass and techno gigs going in Dublin, while much of the Irish crowd seemed to turn their noses up at underground nights and go for comfort in a club above the music. Things have improved since – I’d say clubs run by those who actually have a passion for music, like Twisted Pepper, has made a difference in this regard. The old scenario of a club owner turfing good promoters out after a night because the bar didn’t take enough, has changed a bit, as they can’t afford to pick and choose as much as before. Also with more promoters or ex-promoters now running venues themselves, it tends to lend well to the longevity of clubnights.
Ireland is no different to many other countries in that our scene changes according to the popular musical movements out there, although given our size some things never gain enough traction. I’m glad that the scene domestically and internationally is more diverse now; there definitely is a greater acceptance with playing different genres side by side on the same night and bringing different crowds together, which I like.
Are there Irish artists and djs who have stood out to you as pushing the electronic music scene here?
Yeah, quite a few. Makes me think of the guys that I’d love to be more actively involved again too, like Alan O’Boyle.
From your experience, do you think electronic music gigs are becoming more popular because of the music or the session that goes hand in hand with it?
Well if they are, I don’t know what the exact reason is. There’s certainly less of an elitist or stereotypical geeky/trainspottery following to house and techno now, I’m not sure whether that’s always a good thing though. Sometimes that snobbery in people works hand in hand with the overriding quality of music that’s being made, even if those people’s dedication towards it can soon wane. On the other hand you have those who go to nights for a while but aren’t as concerned with the music, in as far as they can take or leave going back, with those nights often quickly folding as a result. That’s the challenge for any night – hanging onto the initial crowd as long as possible and replacing it over time as people drop off. Some people just genuinely love and know the music, and want to keep on going out as long as they can. They’re the heroes that keep any music scene going.
Your latest release is due out on Works The Long Nights, which I’m really looking forward to after listening to the previews! You’ve released tunes on other labels too so can you tell us a bit about what the process is like making music and getting it signed?
To be honest, most of the things I’ve released have been done in a casual way where someone might have asked for tracks,
I eventually came back with some, and we tied something down. I’ve mostly known or met everyone I’ve released music with. This usually makes the experience more straightforward I think.
In terms of getting music ‘signed’, I’d say forging a relationship with a label first or sending to someone you already know is a better way than sending music off randomly with no prior contact. Record labels are more easily accessible now than ever but not necessarily more willing or receptive than ever, so you’ve got to try to make sure that if you’re going to the trouble of making music for a particular label, that it isn’t going to fall on deaf ears.
Who are your favourite artists/labels at the moment?
There are lots. I think my radio playlists or charts are probably the best place to look at for that as it’s hard to single people out. Rather than just individuals I think I’m more encouraged by the volume of strong records coming out now even if the range has narrowed a little. I’m not just saying it because I’ve released for his and Pariah’s label, but I do think Blawan’s influence on the techno scene has been very positive, especially at a time where the raw sound is coming back, with people like him championing it to a new audience. Techno needed some new blood and it’s good for many of the older producers in the scene too, who seem to be upping their game a lot. Even the reappearance of guys like Aubrey has been great – heads who are coming back and showing that their skills are ever-improving and in tune with today’s sound.
What makes a tune interesting to you? If you’d to pick three examples, what would they be?
An effective track and an interesting one can be two different things sometimes, in a dj context anyway. Sometimes a track that’s more linear with a strong sound and intent is great to dj with and achieves more on a system, whereas something else is a more interesting track to listen to but sometimes gets lost on the dancefloor. These are a few random ones I’ve played out that I think can work in both ways:
AFX: XMD5a (Rephlex)
One thing I appreciate about Aphex is his way of making one tune sound like about three in one, all seamlessly unfolding one into the other. ‘Felix Funk’ on the flip of this does that and so does this in another way. Around 5.00 where those whining synths come in and the strings shortly afterwards, is just a really vivid and electrifying moment, definitely one of his most magical!
Tim Exile – Deathface (Mosquito)
My favourite ‘experimental’ dancefloor track of the last decade. A fine example of computer software being used to the max with pretty much no template being adhered to. Kind of ironic that Mosquito had distribution problems and wrapped up after this release. A sorely missed label.
Adam Rivet – Inside Looking Out (Naked Index)
This was the track of 2011 for me. Heavy swinging kicks, short bullet-like bass drones, vintage Warp style tones, and crazy filtered riff at the end. A lot of Rivet’s stuff has been kind of flying under the radar, but I don’t think that’ll last for too much longer. Great producer.
What inspired you to start Earwiggle?
Originally myself and some friends put on a gig at DEAF (Dublin Electronic Arts Festival) in the Eamonn Doran’s venue of all places. We called it ‘Earwig’, and it worked out much better than we imagined. A few years on in 2009 I began to work for DEAF to program their club event schedule. I noticed room in it for something really proper and decided to put on my own gig with a friend Jack, so we brought over Planetary Assault Systems and Ancient Methods. It seemed fitting to keep a similar name so the night’s name became ‘Earwiggle’. The gigs we put on were fun but I don’t vibe off promoting as an ongoing occupation, especially when there are plenty of others around that are more promoter types than us. The record shop side of Earwiggle was so there would be still an outlet for new techno vinyl in Dublin. I thought of starting my own shop after I left Spindizzy, but operating it within All-City has been the perfect move. The label has still to develop, I haven’t rushed to put stuff out, but there are some interesting releases coming up. We’re pretty low-key with the Earwiggle thing to be honest, and I like it like that. It’s handy in that it’s all quite flexible and can fit around the other music related things I’m doing.
Do you think Irish licensing hours are affecting the music scene?
The licensing laws have been neglected for too long and are in need of a radical overhaul, and yes they impact massively on our music scene.
Actually, a far more detailed bit of what I think is in this recent interview:
If you could work with any producer/dj ever who would it be?
Well, generally I don’t hear other people’s music and think that I’d love to work with them, more so that I admire what they do and that they continue doing it!
I think I’d liked to have hung out with The KLF in their time though… maybe just to get a lift around in their car for the afternoon or something.
Looking forward to any summer gigs?
Yes! Don’t want to single out any to be honest as I always look forward to every gig. Am of course looking forward to June 1st in Cork a lot though 🙂
Much thanks to Sunil Sharpe for this insight into music Irish! Us here at Skirmish are really looking forward to his Cork gig with Electric Underground & Bastardo Electrico this June bank holiday weekend, so check out the link here for more details 🙂