A densely packed stage full of both ELLLL and DeFeKT’s live set up led to a staggered soundcheck and a plethora of beeps and bangs as each individual device needed to flex its muscles on Hangar’s soundsystem. This was all in the lead up to Techno & Cans’ second birthday celebration with the aforementioned two, along with high speed northern star Myler. Once all of the sonic creases were ironed out, ELLLL had time to step down from the stage to discuss the ongoing issue that is gender equality within dance music, but also, and maybe more importantly, still maintain the focus of the conversation on the music.
The Cork native is a year or so out from an impressive Boiler Room debut and has founded the successful GASH Collective, a female-led collective pushing new sounds and inclusivity within electronic music, all while championing her own sound and developing her live show.
There’s a certain danger of getting caught within the Irish circuit, how do you manage to maintain relevancy within the Irish scene, but also internationally and online?
‘That’s really tricky, there’s definitely an Irish buzz. You can be a thing in Ireland and it can never translate anywhere else. While it’s really fun to play gigs here and the crowds are really great, you want your music to translate elsewhere. It’s about not getting carried away within the scene if you’re doing well. I’m tipping away and it’s grand but I definitely don’t want all my gigs for the rest of my life to be in Ireland, I want to play anywhere that’ll have me, abroad and elsewhere. You have to keep your wits about you and not get sucked into the buzz. People in Ireland might hype you up, but it doesn’t automatically translate elsewhere.”
Plenty of the most internationally recognised Irish DJs actually aren’t from Dublin (DeFeKT, Mano Le Tough, John Daly, Myler and more), is that due to a Dublin bubble similar to the wider Irish one?
“I never thought about that too much before, but every respective county has their own buzz going on. Cork’s very much a House/Disco scene, and I’m definitely not that, so that almost pushes me to go harder. I think there is a Dublin bubble, there is a thing that you could just stay DJing here and that it doesn’t translate anywhere else. I can totally understand how someone could get sucked into their weekly residency that pays the bills, but I’d question how much that lets them grow as an artist.”
Do you think your Boiler Room appearance could have been timed better? Rather than it act as a launchpad for your career, would it have been better coming off a string of shows and releases?
“For some reason there’s this drop off between Ireland and everywhere else, especially the UK. Someone could be a really gifted DJ or producer, or both, and on top of the game and it doesn’t translate because people don’t look at Ireland enough. At the moment, there are so many skilled DJs and producers, better than ever before, people need to start noticing. It slowly is happening, and then people’s Boiler Rooms and whatever else they’re up to will start gaining headway but I think overall, people aren’t recognising the talent that’s here.”
Since you’ve done your Boiler Room and pushed on in your career in terms of releases, was it difficult initially to follow up such a big milestone?
“I think it comes back to that Dublin bubble, I’ve been making tracks for almost 7 years and I’ve played shows outside of Ireland and it never translated here. The Boiler Room happened and it got my name out there more, but that didn’t happen instantaneously, it’s been a slow and steady thing. It did help though there’s no two ways about it. I just want to keep releasing music and playing live then with that. I really enjoy DJing but I like to do both and let the live set develop then as I learn more about production.
I’m finding it tricky to release tracks, I have another record to release next year, but it’s a balancing act at the moment between playing live, DJing and trying to write during the week. I teach piano three days a week and then if you’re gigging on the weekend, you only have Monday and Friday to write something. I’m a big believer of writing something and sleeping on it but if you only have two days you don’t have the luxury to do that either.”
Does the fact that Ireland’s so small mean it’s more difficult to turn down shows and remain exclusive?
“It’s really tricky. It depends on the place you are in your career, what income you have. Someone could really need that as a catalyst to try and get them out there, whereas other people that aren’t relying on that money can say they’ll sit a few out and wait. Some people need to pay their bills so those gigs may be necessary, whereas others have the option to wait and see. I really respect anyone that can turn down gigs.
I had no idea I was going to get an email about the Boiler Room and it’s really funny because I was watching Boiler Rooms that week in bed. I was watching Regis’ one and I said ‘If I ever got asked to do a Boiler Room I’d say no, there’s no way I’d ever do a Boiler Room, it’d be too awkward’. Got an email the next week and within a half an hour I said I’d do it.”
GASH seems like more of a community rather than solely a DJ collective, which pushes it past being unique in being all female but rather a unique music community.
“The thing with GASH is we’ve never explicitly said ‘No boys allowed’ because I don’t agree with that. Anyone can come to our workshops, of course the emphasis is on getting more women, people of colour, LGBTQ and minorities involved but if some dude turns up, it’s totally grand. Across the board with music, music technology and DJing people think it’s really complicated. All the equipment is really expensive, it’s hard to get into if you don’t know someone with decks so it’s just to cross that bridge, let people know it’s not that complicated. Can you count to 4? You can count a bar!
With the workshops, no one’s saying ‘This is the only way’, it’s just people talking about their own experiences and sharing knowledge. People think it’s totally niche, but when you open it up like that, people you never would have thought of get involved and it becomes more accessible.
Within electronic music across the board, there has never appeared to be a unwelcoming atmosphere towards women, but more so a pre-existing predominantly male landscape which makes it unrelatable towards women looking to get involved.
No one’s saying you can’t have a go, no one’s saying it’s not for you. For me, the ultimate thing it comes back to is visibility and if more people saw women doing it, it would normalise it. You’d see more people on event lineups and stuff. I don’t think promoters are doing it intentionally, it’s just not on their radar, the more women you see on lineups the more normal it’ll become. I think that’s the case for girls that’re up and coming, they’d see them and think they could do it themselves whereas when it’s just all lads, you feel like you’re interrupting someone’s club or something. Even if all your buddies are lads, you do feel like you’re intruding. A lot of the time it’s difficult to break into.
I could totally see how lads would feel unwelcome if there was an all-female lineup. Sometimes I think all-girl lineups are necessary in the Irish case, that’s why we do them from time to time with GASH to show that there are girls out there. If someone was to do an all-girl festival, I wouldn’t agree with that, it’s just about equality.
I’m not saying it should be 50/50 because there aren’t the numbers to do that yet. I’m against quotas, I’m against 50/50s because it’s just not there, it should be all based on merit and skills and that’s the thing with GASH, if someone’s booking a festival, a promoter can come to us and say ‘Look we’re doing this sort of festival, it’s whatever genre and we want to include women within the lineup, could you recommend someone appropriate?’, I’d love to be in that position, then a promoter could decide whether they fit that bill or not, I understand that it is harder for promoters to find women out there and that’s why collectives like GASH, discwoman and more are important because they can get in touch with us.”
We’ve entered a strange middle ground where more and more females are getting recognised for their talent but the conversations around them focus on them being female rather than their music. On top of that, despite that conversation seeming worn out it’s still one that needs to be had, given the hostility from both sides when it initially emerged.
“People can be really defensive about it. Music is for everyone. People get on the defensive because they don’t know how to handle the problem, rather than saying OK, recommend someone to me. It’s a juvenile response to say that there are no female DJs in Ireland and it’s unfortunate that female DJs have somewhat become a genre in itself.”
Photo credits: Jack Farrell