In recent years, Ireland has been a frequent source of talented young producers, and Pagan is no exception to that rule. We catch up with him to discuss all things music, mental health and workflow.
The Dublin based musician’s career is only just beginning, but a productive year in the studio has helped him catch the ear of some of dance music’s biggest names, with the likes of DJ Boring, Asquith, and X-Coast playing his music in livestreams and radio shows.
In 2019 the artist was nominated as the AVA emerging producer of the year, with his trance inspired breakbeat track ‘Rise’. This was a massive turning point for Pagan, garnering attention within the Irish dance scene. Bookings came quickly from the point, with an array of headline gigs in quintessential Dublin & Galway nightclubs, like 39/40, Wigwam, Button Factory, Wah Wah Club, The Loft, and more. In 2019 he made the leap onto the Festival circuit, playing Life Festival, Mass Festival, Higher Vision, and Yurt City all within the space of a year.
Although global lockdowns put a hold on future festival bookings, he spent the free time writing an abundance of new music, much of which has caught the ears of both DJ’s and online publications. He has already announced his debut EP on Lobster Theremin’s 1Ø Pills Mate, which has gained support from Alan Fitzpatrick, Jenson Interceptor, Boston 168 and more.
How’s it going? How have you found life in lockdown? From what we can see you seem to be fairly productive lashing out the tunes!
Yeah I’ve had a very productive lockdown and I feel so lucky in that sense. From speaking to a lot of producer mates, I didn’t realise how many people took inspiration for making music from being at gigs, where’s I’ve always taken my inspiration and motivation from outside sources, which meant that rather that slowing down when the clubs closed, I was actually just able to ramp up and really just improve all aspects of my productions.
Well done! It seems to have paid off!
Now that I think of it though, I did put a lot of pressure on myself to be productive, especially during that first lockdown period, which when I was going good, it was great and I was really happy with what I was doing but I definitely experienced really tough periods of writer’s block, and I found because I put all this pressure on myself, that mentally those periods were really tough. You know, with any sort of music creation (I think), you’re living through two extremes – one where you’re so confident that your stuff is really good, and then one where you feel like completely giving up and you’re super negative about everything you’re writing – and it’s a just a constant fluctuation between those two states.
That’s a tricky one alright. How did you deal with that?
Yeah, I think this is a huge factor in why mental health is such a big issue with musicians. A lot of people tie how good their day or week was or even how happy they are at that time, based on how productive they’d been with writing music, which is something that I’ve had to try to learn to separate. It’s really tough cus when you write something that you feel really happy with and passionate about, it’s one of the best feelings ever so it’s very hard to not chase that constantly. But if you are chasing that.. I feel like you’re inviting the lows to come in as well. You need to be ok with having days where you make zero progress because they just are going to be inevitable.
From a genre/sound perspective, you seem to have hit a sweet spot. What are some of the main influences behind your music?
My sound really kind of differs and the types of songs I’ve put out so far span a wide range of different sub-genres of dance music. I think that’s just down to the fact that I listened to such widely different styles of music, and I’m inspired by lots of different elements of different music. I’m a HUGE hip hop fan, and I would imagine that a lot of that, even subconsciously, enters into the approach I have to making music the way I make it. But certainly some of the stuff that Hadone, Julien Muller and Narciss release has influenced the more trancey directions.
Did these influences change how you approach making music?
The interesting thing about taking inspiration from other artists, especially in dance music, is that I found when I started out learning how to produce, all I was really trying to do was replicate sounds that I really liked, but now as I have developed more as a producer and artist, my real focus is trying to build my own sound that people can recognise. So as much as I draw huge inspiration from specific artists and even specific songs that come up in my radar I’m also very wary that I want to craft something that’s distinctively my own.
If you look at some of the producers that have really broken out over the last 2-3 years, all of them have a distinctive sound and even in some cases, their sounds end up being so distinctive and well received that it births a load of copy cat sounds after it. As a producer, I think that should always be the aim – be inspired by other people, for sure, and you know, maybe sometimes you’re gonna make tracks that sound like x.. But the main goal should be to build your own distinctive, recognisable sound, but inspire others along the way.
Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind your new Butterfly EP (out May 21st btw!)
The Butterfly EP was pretty much all produced during lockdown, and was majorly inspired by past experiences. A lot of those experiences would have been different events, festivals and club nights that really stuck out in my memory, for example the track ‘The Depot’ is like basically a homage to one of my favourite stages in the world which is the Loading Bay stage at AVA and the energy and sound that place had.
Aside from that I took inspiration, even if at the time it was slightly subconsciously, from different events and experiences over the last 4 years and I think that’s helped me to create a lot of the sounds of the new EP and the one on 1Ø Pills Mate.
How does it feel to get support from some of the biggest artists in the scene?
With all the music that has been in the pipeline for the last 6 months or so, the support has really been incredible, I’ve had some of my favourite artists play out the music, either on radio or on live streams. I’ve seen videos of it being played around the world, and I just feel really lucky to get support from the likes of Asquith, DJ Boring, Jensen Interceptor, Nastia, Alan Fitzpatrick, Justin J .. there’s loads of new producers coming through who I admire and are supporting the music too, so it’s great to get the support from the community.
Lobster Thermin was a big win. Do you have a good relationship with them?
Asquith’s been so helpful over the last year, obviously there is just the fact that he signed the tracks to Lobster Thermin and the various sub-labels, but then just working with him and the team has all been such a great experience. He’s been such a support recently, offering me guidance in terms of where I should be aiming to get to, and the things I should be doing to help that process .. yeah I feel so lucky to have someone with so much experience in the industry on my side.
Tough question these days, but what’s next?
In terms of what’s next, the main focus over the next while is just finishing and releasing the big bank of music that I’ve accumulated over the last year. The third EP is nearly ready to go so just putting the finishing touches to that! After that, the next thing I could be doing to make progress is to just write as much music as I possibly can.
A lot of the artists that I like are really prolific in the way they work, they’re constantly writing new music, and if they’re not, they’re working on other creative aspects, like graphic design or art, like Cromby and Mella Dee have been painting during lockdown which I find really inspiring... I just want to spend as much time as possible doing creative things.
I think a lot of producers will agree, the more music you write, the better you get, for example, with mixing techniques and cleaner mixes in general – so I’ll be keeping the head down as much as possible to be ready for when things do come back and have as much music as possible ready to be released.
Last but not least, who are you listening to at the moment? And what labels should our readers watch out for?
Artists: Laurence Guy, Pepe, Viper Diva, X23, Narciss
Labels: Unknown To The Unknown, Lobster Thermin, Shall Not Fade, Barbecue, Church
Thanks to Pagan for joining us for a chat. Make sure to check out his SoundCloud page here. His newest release, Butterfly EP is out tomorrow on Cheeky Music Group sub-label RRRAAAVVVEEE. Purchase it here. Don’t sleep on this!