When I was 13 or so. I learned piano when I was younger than that, I'd gone as far as Grade 4 and I was playing some guitar. When I was 13 my friend Chris gave me "Leftism'' by Leftfield. When I listened to that tape my head just exploded, and from there I listened to "Experience'' and "Jilted Generation'' by the Prodigy. I got into Trance in my teens, Techno, Hard House, like most kids in the 90s my age were into where I grew up, and then I went to University in Dublin. I kind of drifted out of electronic music because my friends weren't that into it; I got into Classic Rock and 60 music. In 2005 I was in Australia, I'd gotten back into clubbing in 2002, mostly going to Electro/House/Techno gigs, occasionally a bit of Drum & Bass and stuff. I went to Australia and I was traveling around and clubbing a lot, I felt I knew exactly what the DJs were doing and I was like "I want to do that''. So I went back to Dublin, bought the decks- that's why I'm called Welfare, because I saved my dole for six weeks; the lads in the house called me it, DJ Welfare. I pretty much took it from there, played Techno and Electro for a year or two. Then I came across Dubstep in 2006- was playing Drum & Bass from there; the past eight or nine years has been pretty much Bass music. I mean I still love Techno, Reggae and Dub, and everything, Hip-hop- but I focused in terms of my activities on bass.
Did you always play in Galway?
I moved here five years ago; before that I was playing here quite a lot, I was playing at Recipe, which was a dope regular Drum & Bass night, and DubCulture which was foundation Dubstep night from the mid-2000s. I played those often, I was here a lot, and I was playing all over the country. I was living in Dublin; playing in Cork, Galway, Belfast...and I guess I play a bit more here now because I live here, but I see myself more nationally moving around, promoting nights- Galway's a good vibe.
Do you think there's anything specific about Galway, as in the fact that music has a sense of place, is based on roots: in Galway, is there something there?
Sure, obviously it's a city of culture, big time (a really cliché term at this point with the 2020 thing), like the Arts Festival and all the various festivals- just the population are really into cultural subgenres, scenes and music, Techno, Trad...Reggae and Dub have always been strong, the international nature of the transient population really adds to that- it's a really unifying sound, the international nature of the place and the openness of people. I'd like to say the student population but I don't particularly think that has much influence on it, not recently anyway. There are a lot of students who do go to these gigs, but in terms of a percentage of the whole student population, they're a minority; it's underground still. But there's a young population and culturally that reflects itself.
-People's tastes are changing?
For sure, when you're in your 20s, a lot of things are opening up, a lot more things are new I suppose, you're definitely more like a sponge for new things, and when you go to these kind of gigs, we're talking about Dub, Reggae, Electronic- with a big sound system, it's a physical experience, so you go there...it can change your whole life.
Are you a traveller; would you like to do more international travelling?
At the moment...I've been playing for quite a while now, eight years pretty much continuously, and every week really. I've played in a lot of places, so travelling isn't really an ambition- I mean I'd gladly take a week abroad, but I've played in a few cities across England, America, Canada, India, Europe, I've done quite a few abroad.
-What was India like?
It was really cool, I just put the recording of one of my shows there up this morning; it was fascinating, a really cool place- dominated musically by Trance, a real big Reggae scene there and different vibes popping up. Again, it's like moving forward with the population, Trance was dominant in Goa- but there's new sounds because there's a new generation there. Bass music traditionally would have been a minority scene in Ireland, and Techno, House would have been dominant completely. But it seems to me looking at Galway at the moment, the real bubble in the under 24s or 23s is stuff with heavy bass, Drums, Drum & Bass, Reggae, Dubstep- it's a reflection of the way people move on. House and Techno are still very big, as they always will be. House is dominant, it's in every club, but definitely the underground scene has gravitated towards bass music more than ever.
I've a label project coming at the end of this year, releasing records for English artists, on vinyl. I've an EP (hopefully) coming out at the end of the summer, I just have to finish it still.
-You never rush art.
Yeah, that's the way. You get the first 90% done in like super quick time, and it takes a year to finish, because you just procrastinate. I'm kind of backing off a little bit, I'm not really promoting as many gigs, because I've put on so many over the years, it's very tough to keep that intensity up without getting tired and particularly when you have a lot of other stuff going on. When you get a bit older more shit comes up, so the whole party scene becomes tough to keep up with.
-It's more like a job?
A little bit yeah; I'm 33, so I've been partying for sixteen years, that's quite a while. Even though I still love it to bits, putting on gigs nowadays is a lot more pressure for me, money pressure, and when you're only in a city the size of Galway it's extremely tiring and risky, particularly if you're bringing internationals over. And getting older you might not be as "in touch'' with the younger crowd who make up the bulk of people going out, so, I'm focussing on other areas for the next while.
What do you think you're going to be doing for the next 3 years?
The record label. I've got some pretty exciting artists signed to it from the UK, and I'm hoping to push some Irish stuff, so the label is a priority because it's more a step back from the late night scene, and the real exhausting nature of it. In the next three years I want to see the label successful, still releasing vinyl and continue DJing, maybe not as often. We bring the Sound System out occasionally (SubVersion)- it's a huge effort to bring that out. It's funny, myself and my friend Donncha (Destitute) run it, and he'll tell you, it's a big effort to bring it out, the logistics of carrying it, it's pretty ridiculous. It's good to have it, to bring it out for occasions; Panda Dub is a big occasion, he's a great producer. Munki is doing great things, he's as far as I'm considered the hot shit right now; he really has a buzz going. I'm glad we're bringing it to that gig; we only bring it out every few months.
Some people bring up questions of originality when it comes to electronic music; how would you defend this type of music from these views?
Firstly, I'd say even though sampling is a big part of music, and using drums from other older tunes, building up new drum breaks, using those drums in new ways...it's not exclusively a sample based genre- yeah that's what it's history may have been to an extent built on, but a lot of electronic music is original, built entirely from scratch- you can synthesize the bass and melodies from scratch, you can create the drums from scratch, you can build the drum breaks from there, so I wouldn't see any issues with it- you will come across some producers who will use a lot of loops and sampled sounds, but as long as you're not actually mimicking another track, then it's open season. For me, the beauty of electronic music is there's no boundaries, no borders, and no structural rules.
-You can't copyright sound.
Well, you can copyright a track, but you certainly can't "own'' sound. But the thing is if someone has a sound that they've made, that has a really recognisable character- there's a producer called Current Value that has a distinctive drum style, he'd made one his signature snare sound, a really harsh tinny sound. If someone sampled that sound and stuck it into their track, everyone's going to know it's kind of copying a Current Value track, unless they've built it themselves. But people mostly don't bother doing that anyway, it's a bit obvious, and most producers have a desire to make their own sound. All music is just a mish-mash of what's come before, but yeah some sounds are used to death. You can make an original piece, but it's hard for all individual elements of that piece to be in essence completely original.
Do you remember the 1st record you ever bought?
"Jilted Generation'' by the Prodigy might have been the first one, I think, I can't remember. My records are a bit of a pain in the arse- I love them to bits, I'm still buying them, like a handful of records every week. I've a serious problem with vinyl. I only buy music mostly that I'll be playing out at gigs- it takes up the bulk of my time and available cash.
-You're a vinyl junkie.
Completely, I love vinyl. I'm not into the whole vinyl versus digital debate that constantly goes on- as far as I'm concerned, as long as the music sounds good on a big sound system it's grand. If people use low resolution mp3s, it's going to sound shit, if they use a filthy record that's wrecked it's going to sound shit. Or bad needles. I just like the physicality of vinyl, personally. I like that- I've got it, it's there, the art work; it makes me very choosy about my music. It's ten quid (plus postage) anytime I want to get these two tracks or one track, so I have to think hard about what I'm buying. I know the artist, I know what label it's on, I know where they're from, everything. Digital files, they just come and go, the records stay. I just moved house recently, and my biggest possession is my record collection. It took half a van to move my other possessions, a whole van for my records. I could have twenty times my vinyl collection on USB, it's nuts. But I'll lose them on the USB; you can't lose records, well they're very difficult to lose. Records, is a real process. It's strange that the most impractical and expensive of vinyl, CDs and Cassettes has persisted- a lot of people like the sound, it has a distinctive sound. Whether it's better or not, is down to people's subjective opinion. I like the sound, for bass music on a big sound system- vinyl has more depth and bass. I'm biased, but I like big dub-style sound systems, when they use records, the bass is warmer, chunkier. People use flacs, wavs, 320mp3s; mostly all good. Any lower res mp3s than that are muck on a big rig. It's ok for a hi-fi at home, but on a sound system straight away you can tell the sound is muddy, there are bits missing.
What's your most memorable moment, or any significant moment in a gig you've played?
That's hard, I've played well over 250 gigs now all of which have had their own character. One I'll never forget, in 2009 in the Warwick Hotel, I was playing at DubCulture, alongside the founder Steve (RIP). I was playing a Radikal Guru track on the Rootical Sound System, one of the biggest sound systems in Ireland. It was 2am, there was a light fitting that had four vases on it, almost like a chandelier on the roof. The bass was so heavy that at the "drop'' it shook the light fitting out of the roof, and it fell to the ground in the middle of the dance floor- miraculously missed everybody, it could have badly injured people. It landed right on this spot on the dance floor where there was nobody dancing. Just from the bass, that's pretty crazy. Festivals are always a massive buzz, and playing in other countries. They all stand out in their own way, but some are blurry; I can remember when I browse through the posters. There have been so many parties. For the first six or seven years every gig had an after party that went on all night.
That's another thing, if you want to last, you have to know how to control that kind of shit; if you're doing one or two gigs a week and you're partying all weekend, you're going to burn out because then you're not back in the game until Wednesday. If you're committed to it you want to stay active, you need to attempt to balance partying with your own health. You can get away with it for a few years, but eventually a lot of people fall off, are burnt out and not bothered with it. Or they just get a bit older and don't want the hassle. It's tricky though, you're psyched up after a show and feeling the adrenaline rush. There's no way you'll sleep, but if you are busy with gigs you need to be able to go have a few drinks, a smoke and go home, not party until four the next day. I still find it difficult, I still do roll-overs and stuff; it knocks me out for longer now. If you want to last, you have to be able to balance it. I've been told that by some of the big Jungle heads active since back in the day. They're in their mid to late 40s now and they're still holding it down- they've been going since '88/'89, since before you were born, and they're still out there kicking it.
-It's all about will power.
Pretty much, if you like the music that should be enough; but you have to watch your health.
Today, what would you say is the greatest challenge to becoming a DJ? Are there any obstacles?
The amount of DJs has changed a lot, and there's laptop DJing; you can get software and a lot of software that will beat-match the music for you, sync it for you- that element wasn't as common ten years ago. It was just turntables or CD decks, like when I started turntables were the most common things DJs used. It depends what scene you're in; in the bass music scene, Drum & Bass, Reggae, Jungle- they're still common, not as much in House maybe or Techno, but they're still common.
-People might gain confidence from the amount of DJs.
Yeah, it's kind of tricky. That's the best way to start off [at house parties] because you've got an audience that maybe aren't as critical but it's still a party, you've got to perform. You've got to get out there. You have to be able to deal with a certain amount of pressure when people are watching you; you need to be able to hold it down. Especially if you're beat matching and mixing manually. I was nervous at the first gigs and house parties I played in 2005. I mixed in my room a bit, but everyone's eyes are on you, their ears, and if you start messing up the mix or start clattering them into each other, especially at a house party with your peers, they'll pick it up. It's a tough question, about the barriers, because in some ways there are less barriers, and there is something else I can't put my finger on...maybe it's harder to define yourself, because back then when you were collecting records you had to make clear decisions with a limited income, so you could only buy so many records. Then if you were DJing and you had the set, you'd generally stick to stuff roughly in the same genre, so you could create your own base for what you get known for. But now you can download everything. So maybe you're into Hip-hop, Drum & Bass and maybe it's harder to know what scene you're into. If you're into Techno or Jungle, you'll work more towards a defined goal perhaps, you can push forward. But if you're pushing forward in different directions it's harder to get the general progress, because you're addressing a bunch of different sounds. It's not 100% a bad thing, but that's definitely changed, that's a difference between now and then.
If you could stage a rave anywhere, where would it be? Your only limitation is the weather
I've put on quite a few raves over the years on beaches, and in sand dunes and warehouses. I like the idea of natural amphitheaters, and in coastal shores a lot of sand dunes will have a bowl shape in the middle which provides really good acoustics and protects the party. To me a rave is a secretive, free event, so if I was staging a licensed event I'd probably give a different answer. Maybe the biggest cathedral in the country, have the decks on the alter and speakers in every corner of the place. It would be a challenge, but the acoustics would be crazy. It would be subversive as well, like a challenge to the order of things.