Jamie Behan has been a stalwart on the Irish techno scene for well over a decade having made his name both home and abroad with his consistently quality DJ sets. Add to this running the hugely successful and respected Bastardo Electrico label and clubnight and he’s been very busy indeed. All the while studying for a PHD. The clubnight reaches it’s 10th birthday tomorrow night and they’re doing it in style with DJ Bone making his way over from Detroit. It’s been an eventful ten years and Skirmish caught up with Jamie ahead of the birthday to see how it all came to this point.
I suppose firstly what was it that got you interested in electronic music and techno?
Well its a tough one to pinpoint as to what exactly attracted me to electronic music at the outset. My first contact with electronic music came through radio when I was a kid. It wasn’t uncommon to hear tracks like Altern 8- Activ 8, The Prodigy- Charly, and Bizarre Inc. Playing with Knives on daytime commercial radio as all this early rave music was hitting the charts at the time. I used to hang around at weekends when I was 11 with my finger on the record button of one of those lunch-box radio cassette recorders waiting for tunes like that to come on. This was how I first got interested and then when I went into record stores I used to look for compilations with tracks from these artists on it which is how I discovered the likes of Lil Louis’- French Kiss.
After that one thing led to another, my friend’s older brother used to record all the BBC Radio 1 Essential Mixes and one DJ who particularly grabbed my attention was Derrick Carter, who was like the godfather of Chicago house in the mid-90s. I was hooked. This music was like nothing I had ever heard before. I didn’t have the words to describe it then but now I can say it was hypnotic, jacking, acidic, and above all else extremely funky. It was then I decided that I wanted to DJ so I saved up, stopped eating lunch at school, gave up on computer games etc etc and got my first set of belt-driven Kam decks combined with the worst plastic mixer that was ever made. At the time I thought they were great though! I was still like 14 years old at this time and the school I was in was pretty bad, worst teachers I’ve ever encountered in my life, and I hated every minute I had to spend in the place; my time spent playing music at night-times and weekends, this was my real schooling.
At the same time I had started sneaking out to clubs, specifically the Metroland in Waterford City, where I got to see Derrick Carter play live for the first time. This was also where I encountered techno for the first time through seeing DJs like Dave Clarke, Gayle San, and Slam play. Again this was another new development for me. It was heavier, edgier and more intense and machine-like yet still really really funky. So I went looking and I found Jeff Mills- Live At The Liquid Rooms.
At first listen I was converted. I had no idea of what artists or labels I should be buying at the time as techno was completely new and everybody in my hometown was into house, so I remember begging my mother for a loan of money and going down to the local record store with a list of all the tracks played by Mills on the Liquid Rooms Mix and buying everything they had off it, along with the majority of the small techno section they had at the time.
I must actually thank my mother here for being open-minded enough to encourage me in playing music, at a time when other people in the village automatically labelled me as a ‘druggie’ for listening to dance music, and for getting me my first set of Technics. I quite honestly think they saved my life as music has gotten me through some dark times.
Tomorrow night sees the 10th anniversary of Bastardo Electrico with DJ Bone making a welcome return to Cork. Ten Years is a milestone for any club promoting underground music.
What can people expect from the night? Maybe you could tell us about the history of the club. What’s been the biggest challenges you’ve faced while running it?
All this week, I’ve been scratching my head saying ten years, it can’t be ten years really. The biggest challenge of promoting a club has been and I guess always will be the financial side of things. Losing a couple of grand in one night, thanks to the weather killing the crowd, can make you wonder what the hell am I doing and are there dark forces at work trying to deplete your bank balance. To pick yourself up after that and move onto promoting the next is quite hard mentally. It may sound like cheap and clichéd psycho-babble but when those nights happen you just got to pick yourself up and focus on the positive, and I wouldn’t be doing this interview if it wasn’t worth the sweat, blood, and tears.
It all started back in early when I was resident at a Thursday night techno night in a now defunct Cork club called The Attic. A few months after this had started off Warren Knowles got offered Thursdays in Sir Henrys for the Oil Barons Ball night which he was involved in. I thought it was pointless to have two small local Thursday techno nights running against each other so I bowed out of the Attic in favour of Henrys.
It was certainly a step up for techno to be back in Henrys on a regular basis as the music had been confined to the sidelines and free party scene (not knocking that either!) since Immrama (imo the true godfathers of the Cork techno scene) had left Henrys in 99. Shortly thereafter again Warren moved to Holland and handed the Thursday night in Henrys slot over to me, so myself and a guy called Luca Pentek (one of the best DJs in the city, who I must drag out of retirement one of these days) took over as weekly residents. At first we were wondering whether it would work, will anyone show up? And it was touch and go for the first few months over the summer of 2002. Then bam, it literally exploded in around September.
The club was rammed every week, whether it was for a residents night with just myself and Luca, or for some of our (then relatively) unknown guest DJs, such as Sunil Sharpe, Giles Armstrong, Rob Rowland from D1 etc. Later in the year we moved to Friday nights and the main room of Sir Henrys, with our first international guest Billy Nasty. Unfortunately just as it was really kicking off, and we had the likes of Thomas Krome, The Advent, Space Djz, and Adam Beyer booked to play, Sir Henry’s lost its license in quite dubious circumstances, so we had to look for another home. We ended up in the Pav (known as Club Renaissance at the time) which was probably the most untrendy spot in the city at that stage. We stayed there until our first birthday with Adam Beyer, which was incredible. We had to lock people out at half 11 and there was still queue going all the way down the lane down onto Paul St. I was quite honestly shocked, delighted at the turnout. Techno was back!
That was however, due to a disagreement with management, the last night we were to do nights in that venue until I was invited back by Stevie Grainger and Joe Kelly in 2010. At that time we were also doing Saturday nights in Sir Henrys, who had taken the massive leap (to much booing and hissing) of doing techno instead of house in the main room on Saturdays. Alas that would only last a couple of months after our first birthday.
The last night in there ever was Dave the Drummer and myself in June 2003, although we didn’t know it at the time. The next week on the same morning the billboard posters arrived for the August Weekender with Umek and Kevin Saunderson booked I got the news that it was gone. Ever since then Bastardo has had a fitful existence, in various different venues and various different guises and projects.
After Henrys it moved to the Half Moon Theatre for a while, we hosted the main tent at the infamous Ballincollig Biker Raves for two years in a row in 2004-2005, and it survived as a radio show on Radio Friendly, Tech Fm, and Sub Fm, during the years 2004-2008 that I was resident at Bass and Schmutzig.
The germ of an idea for a label was there from Bastardo’s inception. Me, Luca, Warren Knowles, and Glenn Keohane were all dabbling in making tracks, but it wasn’t until 2007 when Sunil Sharpe sent me on the tracks that would form 2008’s Blabbermouth EP that I started to really take the idea seriously. It took years for the first record to come out as I really did not know what I was getting myself into and at the time I had other real-world commitments which needed to take precedence but eventually after much tooing and froing it landed in December 2008 getting support from the likes of Dave Clarke.
The clubnight relaunched in October 2010 with Mark Drummond coming on board as new resident alongside myself for a series of gigs in the Pavilion with our first guest being Bone (who tore the roof the place), followed by Ben Sims, Ben Klock (some night!), DJ Rolando, James Ruskin, Steffi and Prosumer, Surgeon in a co-pro with Electric Underground, Sunil Sharpe.
We also started a new monthly night in the Audio Rooms with myself, Warren Knowles, and Philip Deasy as residents, which is going back to our roots, more like our original Thursdays in Henrys, showcasing local and national talents alongside lesser known international artists that we feel Cork needs to hear, such as Chris Finke, a resident at the UK’s biggest techno night Atomic Jam landing on 12th October. We are also keeping the Pavilion going with two tenth birthday parties, one focused on Detroit and the other on Berlin. The idea is to bring these twin techno pilgrimage locations to Cork. First up is Bone, this Friday 5th October with myself and new resident Philip Deasy supporting.
Arguably this party is going to be the more personal one for me, due to the close connections between Bastardo and Subject Detroit. I’ve heard some recent sets from Bone and he is on fire, so from him you can expect a full on 3 deck masterclass in Detroit techno and house, while before him Ill be mixing up some lesser known classics from over the years as well as some current current floorburners (see my October JunoChart), and Philip will be getting things moving with some quality deep techy chuggers. Anybody who comes down to this will also get a free pass to a special secret party that is going down on next Sunday with some very special and surprising guests. All will be made clear on Friday night!
You talked about Sir Henry’s and as an aficionado of the place how important was the club? There’s a huge nostalgia around the place.
It goes without saying it was hugely important, nay central to the development of the Cork music scene in the 90s. I used to regularly travel there from Waterford in 96/97/98 and there was something very special about the place, an atmosphere that couldn’t be found elsewhere. It was also hugely important to me personally as the place where I earned my stripes as a DJ, and I’m hugely honoured to have been a part of the club, even for that short amount of time, and to have played on the very last night there.
However, the nostalgia is just that, nostalgia. Not necessarily a bad thing but not a good thing either when people whinge about how its not like it used to be or repeat the mantra “The tunes were better in Henrys boy”. Everybody is entitled to their opinion, and its mine that there is some incredibly exciting new music coming through right now and right at this moment Cork’s clubs are starting to kick off again in a big way. Maybe it’s something to do with the recession, maybe it’s just part of a cycle of generations with a influx of new people going to clubs. Who knows. The main thing is look to the present and the future with a nod to the past rather than staying in a rut of nostalgia. Its not the Ninties anymore, its the 21st century.
Along with the clubnight, you’ve been running Bastardo Electrico as a label also. What was the ethos behind it when you started it? What releases are in the pipeline?
The ethos behind the label is basically the same as my DJ sets, the wish to eschew genres and the ever increasing sub-classification of music into pigeonholes. I say fuck that 🙂 The label has been on hold for a while now, as I’ve been waiting for a new distribution deal to come to fruition, but its coming back with a bang this November. Next up is an E.P. by Ku.Bo, aka James Kumo and Roberto Bosco, who between them have released on some major labels like as Delsin, Figure, Ann Aimee, Be As One etc etc.
They have given me three great tracks, varied in approach from the knarly bassline driven of the lead A1 track ‘Let’s Go’ to the cavernous booming Berghainesque sound of ‘Sweaty Palms’ and the dubby funk of ‘Detox’ on the B-Side. This is due out early November on 12″vinyl from all good record stores and will be available digitally on Beatport, I-Tunes etc in December. Really excited about this one!
Following that all our releases in 2013 will be available on both vinyl and digital (its up to your what format you use!) starting with myself and Trench’s ‘Architects’ EP in early February, with further releases and remixes lined up from Trish Van Eynde, Sunil Sharpe, Lee Holman, Dan Sykes, Stephen Brown, Perc, Madben, Matthew Collins, Carlos Nilmmns, Glenn Keohane, as well as a solo EP from myself.
As a producer, how do you approach writing a tune? Was producing something that came naturally to you through years of listening to and dissecting other people’s tunes and know what works?
Well, first and foremost, I consider myself a DJ. As a producer my output has been very sporadic over the years. This has been mostly down to the pressures of my day job which has taken up an increasing amount of time and with the challenge of balancing DJing, running a label, promoting a club night and as a result only having a limited amount time left to produce music.
When I do find time to go into the studio I have no set way of working, I am usually prompted to make something by a sound I hear on TV, a word or phrase in a book im reading, or a picture I see that conjures up an idea. The task then is of recreating this idea in sonic form, which means I can start off with a melody, a bass-line a drum pattern, or a sample, it depends. It doesn’t always work out and often leads me off in a different direction than I had originally intended.Consequently the majority of my work cant be easily pigeon-holed and radically varies in tempo, intensity, and mood from track to track but I suppose it could be characterised by its use of melody.
I’m in currently in the process of upgrading my set-up, bringing in an Octatrack, to give me more intuitive control over samples, and my current batch of productions that Im working on now have taken a decidedly more dancefloor orientated approach, keeping my own dj sets in mind and concentrating more on the dynamics of the tracks. My forthcoming collaboration with Trench, a member of the Subject Detroit crew, features a combination of both approaches with one of my tracks being built around the interaction between the melody and the percussion while the other is much more stark and bass driven.
You’ve been known to throw some unusual tunes into your set. How much of this is pre planning or is there a lot of just trying something out to see what works.
Am I? LOL I didnt know that! Well I suppose I dislike sticking to one linear style for a whole night which could result in some eyebrow raising track selections. No real pre-planning goes into my sets, except for the obvious job of picking what records to bring to a gig, depending on what particular event I’m playing and what time-slot I’m playing, which I guess is a form of pre-planning in a way. All track selecting after that is done on the fly and is down to what I feel is right for that moment.
Sometimes I can see the floor falter a bit if I play lets say either a vocal house track in a techno set or an old early 90s trance tune (from before trance became trancey-pants as we know it now ) especially if its a younger crowd who isn’t familiar with that era of dance music. However, for me that’s part of the joy of DJing, being able to play something completely new to people that will make them stop and think what the fuck is that. The odd time it doesn’t work and then you have to do your best with damage control tactics but for the most part dropping an unusual track works in that it gets the attention of the crowd.
You’re signed up with Book Real DJ’s, home to legends such as Dj Bone and Juan Atkins. How did this deal come about?
This came about quite casually after I had warmed up for Bone at Schmutzig in the Liquid Lounge back in 2008. He liked what I was playing and the Ahnne from Book Real DJs asked me to submit a mix. She liked it and asked me would I like to come on board.
Naturally I accepted, and it was quite an honour to have my name up there beside some ‘real’ legends like Juan Atkins and Bone. I’ve also forged some lasting connections and friendships through the agency with other like-minded artists such as Trish Van Eynde, Belgian’s first lady of techno, Klaina, and Trench, a Detroit artist with who I am after collaborating with on the release for Bastardo.
As someone whose been involved with the Irish scene for over a decade what big changes have you noticed throughout this time?
From the point of view of techno DJ, the mid 2000s were a time of major change, and for a while the situation looked quite bleak. Starting from around 2003 venues all over the country starting either closing down or turning their backs on dance music.The events that were still there were generally characterised by thinning crowds, while at the same time techno was getting heavier and heavier, which wasnt a good mix. This was happening everywhere in Ireland, and in the space of two years I went from gigging weekly to, if I was lucky, monthly or every second month.
From the particular point of view of Cork, there was no stable venue for crowds to go latch onto. Nights would run for a few weeks or months before the promoters got told to leave because of the ‘druggie’ element it was supposedly attracting.
On the musical front the minimal explosion came along, closely followed by dubstep, which led to further diminishing crowds, and left quite a lot of techno DJs like me looking for other jobs, marching down to the dole office, or back to college accompanied by the background chant of ‘the tunes were better in Henrys…’
However, the last few years have seen something of a renaissance both musically and in terms of the scene operates. At the moment we have variety of venues and many different promoters running success nights with something going every weekend across the entirety of the electronic music spectrum from deep house to techno, to dubstep, drum n bass, minimal, tech-house or whatever it is your into.
A lot of these nights are smaller and more based around a community than say events in the 90s and early 2000s but what I am seeing again now for the first time since the 90s is a cross-filtration between musical scenes, more integration, ie. less diehard deep house only til I die heads, or people who only go out to techno nights. I think this is a reflection of how different styles of electronic music have merged to create something new, with the recent hybridisation of techno, house, and dubstep being a case in point. This is healthy, it shows things are progressing.
One centre of continuity in the scene over the decade, which I cant leave without mention, is PlugD Records which is also celebrating its tenth birthday this year. Congratulations to Jimmy and Albert and here’s to the next ten years.
What Irish DJ’s/producers are currently impressing you?
Sunil Sharpe is really killing it big time at the moment with his productions. Just have a listen to his recent releases for Black Sun Records and Blawan and Pariah‘s label Sheworks. He is also the best techno DJ in the country as far as I’m concerned.
I must say that Lee Holman, however, is the most exciting Irish producer for me at the moment. The four releases he has put out on his own imprint Kawl have been some of the best records of the last couple of years, and he is also a great dj to boot.
On the house front, Shane Linehan and Glenn Keohane are also about to take things to the next level with their next releases on ‘Basic Grooves’ and ‘Never Learnt’ respectively. So many other producers that I could mention but here’s a quicklist of some other Irish producers who have impressed me lately – Lakker, Conan, Automatic Tasty, Dan Sykes, Tr-One… The list is too long!
On the homefront here in Cork, with regards to DJs, I was extremely impressed by Philip Deasy. We were looking for a new Bastardo resident to take over Room 2 and Philip really stood out from the crowd. Expect this guy to go places!
What do you consider makes an excellent mix?
When the tracks in the mix come together to create something more than the sum of its parts. This can be either through creative mixing, bringing 3 tracks together to make something new, DJs like Jeff Mills, Ben Sims, and Derrick Carter are masters at this, or by telling the audience a story and bringing them on a journey through your track selection.
What’s the greatest set you’ve ever seen? If you had to choose.
Okay this is definitely the most difficult question! Do I have to pick one? Sorry I cant choose, Ill have to give you a selection.
Derrick Carter 3 hour set at The Bridge in Waterford 1997. He was double copying Fingers Inc. Music Take Me Up as his last track was a seriously epic moment.
Laurent Garnier, Sir Henrys, 1996. His set which segued through melodic Detroit techno, deep house, acid house, with touches of early trance, definitely goes down as the most emotional set I’ve ever heard. It very nearly moved me and a few other grown men I know to tears.
Laurent Garnier, Homelands, 1999. What a day. The first festival of its kind in Ireland. And what an epic set before an even more epic closing by Garnier. His own track ‘Sounds of the Big Baboo’ followed by Red Planet 4 ‘Martian Polar Cap’ at the end was awesome, so incredibly alien and twisted.
Jeff Mills, Sonar 2007 and Awakenings 2010. Basically Jeff Mills melted my face on both occasions. Two of the most powerful displays of intense machine music i’ve ever witnessed. He might not be to everbody’s taste and he can be inconsistent, but when he is on form Mills is just off on another level completely from everybody else.
What does the future hold?
The main focus for the future is on the label and on my own productions. You can expect regular sonic assaults from Bastardo Electrico HQ every month or two from here until next summer with eps and remixes from myself and artists like Lee Holman, Sunil Sharpe, Dan Sykes, Drokkr, Trish Van Eynde, Stephen Brown,Perc and many more.
However, we will continue hosting our monthly nights at the Audio Rooms and more irregular nights at the Pavilion with some very very exciting names lined up for the latter, and are also planning some label nights further afield on the Continent for the New Year.
Big up to Jamie Behan for the interview and make sure and check out the mighty DJ Bone in The Pavilion in Cork tomorrow night. Here’s to 10 more years!!