The first time I had the honour of experiencing Waterford’s Cailín behind the decks was during her support slot for the cryptic duo 999999999 in Smithfield’s 39/40 early last summer. We had gone for the headliner, but as soon as we got there, I needed to know what the name of the DJ on warm up duties was.
This year, before the postponement of the show, Cailín was due to support the Italian duo 999999999 again, but a rescheduled date led her to play with 747 instead. Having gone on to share festival and club stages with artists as diverse as FJAAK, Honey Dijon and Sunil Sharpe, I wanted to ask if connections were something of value when it comes to keeping the culture thriving but not entirely mainstream.
“Yeah, techno still is a little bit more underground than what house is now. House has become, I won’t say commercialised, but it’s definitely become very, very popular amongst people who would never have gone to house nights before. I can see techno slowly going that way at the moment.”
Cailín, a long time resident for stalwart techno collective Subject, who have been running gigs for over a decade, immediately professed her love for the venue and national cultural haven that is District 8 during our conversation. The Francis Street spot has been a place of significance and importance to electronic music enthusiasts since its inception, and when it was announced that it would soon close its doors to make way for yet another city centre hotel, there was an outpouring of disappointment. The date of closure is yet to be confirmed, but the area is being developed with seemingly very little consideration towards the cultural significance of electronic music in the city. Cailín weighed in.
“Hangar and District 8, in my opinion, are our only two clubs that we have in the whole country that can stand internationally and match somewhere that you’d go to in Europe or the UK. It’s an awful, awful tragedy and it’s such a shame. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. You’re trying to step all over a small culture that’s trying to thrive, and it can’t. It’s just not fair. I really don’t see what alternative there is.
“Dublin’s stand alone gig scene was so strong. It’s going downhill for sure. I just hope that somebody steps in and saves it or somebody objects. I know with District 8 they couldn’t get planning or something initially, and the buyer agreed to preserve the graffitti work there but not even ‘preserve’ it, photograph it. That’s not good enough!”
Cailín exuded a humbling energy of confidence during our time together. She’s all about “the art form of DJing”. She was a notable participant of Smirnoff’s Equalising Music campaign, featuring as one of the many tenacious women of Ireland in the ‘Move the Needle’ documentary released last year.
“To be honest, I’m DJing almost 10 years now. At the start in Waterford, it was just a hobby for me. There was little to no female presence in the DJ scene and I didn’t know of any other female DJs.
Cailín continued, telling me what it felt like to be the minority.
“I was never really treated differently. I was treated exactly as any other new or young DJ was in Waterford…The only thing I’ve found is when you go to a gig initially you turn up with your bag of records and it’s just the sound engineers, people can get standoffish. I never use CDJs. After you’ve played, the attitude changes, they’re super nice to you. It’s kind of like, ‘Where does your one think she’s going?’ I don’t mean to generalise, but I’ve only recently experienced it. I was kind of surprised because I hadn’t experienced anything like that in so long.”
In what ended up being a motivational lesson rather than an interview, we discussed the importance of being relatable and having role models to lead by example in creative industries. Cailín, since my first encounter with her at the then newly reopened Smithfield venue, has been a stand out DJ for me. She sparked my interest again a few months back discussing her DJing roots in the ‘Move the Needle’ documentary.
She started off in a college society, something I attempted to achieve. However, I failed miserably due a combination of intimidation, feeling isolated as the only female and a deep-rooted issue with confidence, an issue many Irish women experience.
“I didn’t know any other girls that DJ’d in the country. Not one. But now, even in the last three years, the amount of girls that are on the scene, especially in Dublin! They’re finally saying, ‘Fuck this, we can do this too’ and we’re all giving each other inspiration and the push we need and it’s great. In the future there will be a lot of girls who won’t have regrets that they decided to give it a go. That’s the great thing about this movement, because it really helps those who want to do it. It might take longer and be a bit harder, but it will happen eventually.
“If you see someone who you can relate to doing what you want to do, it gives you drive and motivation. Irish women, it’s in our blood and it’s in our DNA to feel inferior. From shit that went down in recent history and the way we have been treated by the church and the government, I’m not surprised.”
It was interesting to put into perspective and share our personal insights about the history and progression of a culture that Ireland now holds so dearly in its heart. In the last few years, the house and techno scene has exploded like a mixer that just had a pint spilled on it.
“We’ve put ourselves in a great place in the last few years. But, you know what? The Irish techno scene has always been strong since the early 90s. In the last few years, since the scene has started to grow, it’s also going downhill with club closures and all that. As social media has become more prevalent people are just so concerned with appearances and they’re just there to be seen so they can have their Snapchat story or whatever. They’re not there for the right reasons at all. People aren’t there to dance. They’re too busy on their phones.
“I saw a video the other day from ‘89 or ‘90. The DJ was able to mix records properly. Nobody was talking, everyone had their heads down dancing and smiling! It was a sick video. It was just a reminder of where we have come from and where we are today, and how we probably need to go back to our roots a bit. I think smartphones need to be banned before it goes anywhere or especially back to where it was… And CDJs. I’ll get shot for saying this, but people need to go out and learn to mix properly. They need to go back to the craft and appreciate it and then go back and play their CDJs if they want. That’s the thing though, nobody uses turntables anywhere.
“You develop a love for your records. It’s something you become close to. You pick up a record and it’s like, ‘It’s you! I haven’t seen you in so long, I can’t wait to play you again!’ You’ll have something there forever in front of you that sounds better and that will make you a better DJ.”
Social media has given rise to a constant battle about what a ‘true’ DJ really is. All you have to do is take a look at the Boiler Room channel’s comment section to experience the tiring debates. Viewers get into petty judgement calls over a DJ’s ‘skill’ level, which often descend into comments about appearance and gender.
The versatile nature of contemporary DJing has given rise to several dominant DJing styles and processes, but the majority of the time when the question is raised, vinyl DJing is ultimately the right answer.
“I’m constantly seeing people diss-ing vinyl and I even see memes about it. They’re all threatened. There’s that side of it too, though. Let people use what they want to use at the end of the day. I just feel like the art behind DJing is slowly getting lost. That’s what I got into it for. Not just the music, but because I used to be so drawn into watching how people play records. It fascinates me. I love being technical about how I mix. You can’t get the same satisfaction from CDJs…It’s just all kind of getting lost, the pure side of it. It’s the truth and people need to start facing up to it. You can’t hide behind your BPM counter forever.”
Cailín has a busy summer ahead with gigs at home and abroad. Slots at Longitude and District 8’s Circles are on the agenda alongside a set at Berlin’s Somewhere In The Distance but what about releases? As someone who has been selective about her output I wanted to find out more about what Cailín had in store, and found myself commending her dedication to her music and artistic vision.
“I don’t want to do any digital-only releases. I want it to be pressed vinyl because what’s the point in releasing my music on digital if I don’t play digital? I want to and I’m trying to keep my integrity and wait for a label that’s willing to press my music on vinyl, and that’s how I want to go about it.”
Cailín plays Circles at District 8 on July 28.