For more than a decade, Conor Jones, commonly known as Jonezy, has been at the forefront of Irish soundsystem culture. The Cork-based DJ, promoter, and soundsystem craftsman commits his life to the art of exquisitely made soundsystems via his party, RiseUP, which returns to Spalpin Fanach on April 20th.

What constitutes a good party? Your first response should always be – the sound, an often-overlooked feature at Irish club nights. Far too many times, punters have paid somewhat more than they are comfortable with to attend a club night to see a DJ they have been waiting months or years to see, only to be disappointed by the soundsystem. Few clubs in Ireland have on-site sound engineers, and even fewer have a system specifically tailored for dance music. When running club nights, the sound system should and will always come first. You can have any world-class DJ play with all the bells and the whistles but if the sound is bad, the party is bad. It’s as simple as that.

For decades, Conor Jones, aka Jonezy, has pioneered the idea that the soundsystem is the most important factor at a club night. For whatever reason, this painfully obvious idea appears to be radical. Jonezy’s commitment and devotion to soundsytem culture is central to his identity as a musician, craftsman, and human being. So much so that he built a soundsystem with his own hands. His soundsystem was designed specifically for his RiseUp parties, but people heard it and liked it. A lot. Jonezy never intended to make a living renting out his system. Carving out the RiseUp system was a labour of love, not for financial gain, although, he’s far from grumbling about the spike in popularity his system has seen in recent years.

Based in Cork Jonezy’s system has been touring the country, providing its awe-inspiring sound quality to festivals, clubs, weddings, and more. If you want a good soundsystem, Jonezy is your man. The increase in popularity in Jonzey’s system bodes well for Irish club culture. We don’t have a lot of purpose-built clubs and for the most part, promoters are doing their best with what they’ve got. The RiseUp system rapidly up-scales any party, transforming a neighbourhood pub into a loud and cavernous club-style dungeon.

Jonezy’s somewhat punk attitude of nonconformity and D.I.Y. events appears bohemian at first glance, yet this handcrafted approach to sound and parties stems from a love of club culture, sound systems, and escapism through music. The Cork-based vanguard of club culture is returning to basics. Parties don’t need big names or dazzling lights. Get a good DJ and an even better sound system, and let’s dance.

We caught up with Jonezy of RiseUp ahead of his next party On April 20th at An Spalpin Fanach.

What inspired you to start your party and soundsystem crew, RiseUp?

I started RiseUp in the late summer of 2010. I was DJing in a skate shop with local legend Stevie G who was running The Pav with Joe Kelly at the time. They’d had a cancellation for the following Friday and Stevie asked me if I’d be interested in running my own nights in there. It’s something I had on my mind for a while so I jumped at the chance and RiseUp was born. I started researching the soundsystem build in 2014, I’d been going to a lot of soundsystem parties in the UK and Ireland and wanted to build my own sound. Party with the Revelation and Rootical Soundsystems in Ireland would have been a big inspiration as well as Channel One, RC1 and Mungo’s HIFI Soundsystems in the UK.

Can you describe the process of making a sound system by hand?

It all starts with a lot of research! There are so many factors to consider when you start like design, size, power, cost, tools, and transport. It’s a complete minefield and problems are inevitable but forums like Speakerplans are a massive resource for anyone who is interested in giving it a go. Once you have decided on a design and done research on how to build it’s just a case of buying some wood and starting. My dad who was a carpenter helped me with the first lot of boxes and it would have been very challenging without him. If anyone out there ever needs any help/info on building a sound, hit me up on Instagram!

Can you tell us about the history of soundsystem culture in Ireland, who were the pioneering crews, and where the culture came together?

I don’t really know the full history of soundsystem in Ireland but I know the Revelation, Rootical and Firehouse Skank soundsystems have been around since the 90’s and they’re all still going today. I have heard of some older soundsystems going on since the 80s but I never got any real info on this. There are also plenty of younger soundsystem crews around now which is great for the future! 

DVS1 recently stated in an interview that “the soundsystem should be the headliner.” What’s your opinion on this?

I think he’s dead right, a big soundsystem brings as much if not more to the party than a DJ. 

For those unfamiliar with the culture of sound clash competitions, could you explain how they work and where they stem from? 

A soundclash is a competition between soundsystems where a number of crews get together and string up their boxes(set up their systems) then take turns to play a short set trying to impress the crowd with the quality of their tunes and system. This would go on a round-by-round with one soundsystem being knocked out of the competition every round until just one soundsystem is left being declared the champion. It all stems from 1950s Kingston Jamaica when sounds like Duke Reid, Tom Wong and Sir Coxone would set up their speakers and play R&B records against each other to a watching crowd who would determine the winner. Ska and then reggae came after this and the culture grew even more. 

Do you believe that contemporary electronic music’s roots in dub and reggae have been forgotten?

No, I don’t believe this at all. Dub and the roots of soundsystem culture are still visible in the electronic bass music scene. Jungle and dubstep producers still widely use reggae samples in their tracks and dub techno producers still use the old techniques of Jamaican Dub. 

Do you believe sound is given enough consideration at dance music events in Ireland? 

I think most promoters know that a good soundsystem is crucial to their events. 

You rent your system to other collectives, parties and venues. How did this idea come about? 

I never planned on renting out the soundsystem, I just built it for my own events but other promoters who came to my events wanted the same sound so it gradually progressed and now I travel up and down the country supplying sound to events and festivals every weekend. I’ve since bought some other smaller sound equipment and lighting which I rent for birthdays, weddings, bar gigs and every other kind of event imaginable. I never thought my soundsystem would turn into a job but it has and I’m loving every minute of it. 

On April 20th you host your next event at An Spalpin Fanach, what can we expect?

You can expect a great night of garage, dubstep, DnB, jungle, bass music with DJ EGG, Natmac, James Abjure and myself Jonezy!  I’ll be bringing in big stacks of speakers and we’ll be shaking the foundations from 8:30pm! We sold out our last event and had to close the doors so get down early if you’re coming!

You can purchase tickets here.

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