Research celebrates half a decade of techno parties in Dublin City this weekend with a 12-hour marathon across The Grand Social and Cellar with the godfather of Irish techno, Sunil Sharpe closing out the show. We speak to the team behind one of the strongest outlets for techno music in Ireland’s capital about their history, future, ethos, and more.
Research have been a front-runner in Ireland’s techno scene since the birth of the party five years ago. The trio pair of Shaun Darcy (Aeron XTC), Gary Kavanagh (Taint) & Rory Dowling (Ellen) have been pushing the limits of what can be achieved in an often restrictive capital city. Having achieved a high level of success with Research over the course of the last five years, the team is not resting on their laurels as they strive to reinvent the party and revitalize their aims & goals at every moment possible.
Nothing in Dublin is guaranteed, our venues could be gone in the blink of an eye, your resident DJ could emigrate or you could just pick the fucking wrong date. Absolutely nothing is safe or secure in Dublin City past 11 pm. We don’t have a government that will look out for us, and there’s little to no financial backing for late-night venues if anything there are constraints, costs, and fences to climb, but our dancefloors are sacred, and only people that have covered every corner of these floors will understand just how important our fragile little microcosm of night-time escapism is.
Shaun Darcy, Gary Kavanagh, and Rory Dowling have lived through various eras and drifts of Dublin City nightlife, all three running parties and DJing across the city on their own accord. The trio were raised in warehouses, basements, and after-parties, and their hunger for bohemian techno parties in their hometown is something that runs deep in their veins.
Having achieved relative success with Research thus far, the team boasts a scroll of sold-out shows in various shapes and forms over the last five years. Having run shows through Hangar, District 8, Index, Wigwam, Farrier & Draper, and more, the team is well-versed in running lucrative dance events across Dublin. Regularly booking some of techno’s most desired acts such as FJAAK, 999999999, VTSS, Setaoc Mass, SPFDJ, Cleric & more, they’ve had their finger on the pulse when it comes to groundbreaking techno acts. These big names don’t define Research as a party, they give the collective a certain amount of validation and advocacy, but the personification of Research has always remained routed in the exponential expansion of Dublin’s party scene. Striving for more, going bigger, bolder, and as unconventional as possible.
I suppose there comes a certain time in a collectives career when you’ve fallen into booking a string of authoritative & in-demand artists that your collective becomes a promoting company and not a party. Research has always steered away from a linear approach of headliner-driven club nights, often opting to turn their backs on internationals, and find themselves looking back into the local scene. Firm believers of the talent on offer in Ireland, the team has been putting Irish talent on a pedestal for half a decade, gifting fresh talents an opportunity to express their vision through the lens of a well-oiled techno machine. Collaboration and community have always been at the core of Research’s ethos, often championing grassroots artists before other parties would take a gamble on them.
The trio have a deep understanding of Dublin’s nightlife community and they appreciate the fact that Research is only a piece of the puzzle and a fragment of Irish techno history. The team is simply carving out their own space in the tale of Dublin City techno. Nurturing the next generation and our club spaces comes first and foremost to Research. Having been immersed in the dingy world of club culture for the most part of their lives, Shaun, Gary, and Rory restlessly continue to sculpt their vision of club culture in the unforgiving yet utterly charming city of Dublin. What is a DJ if he can’t scratch and what is a promoter if they can’t dance?
We speak to the Research team ahead of their 5-year anniversary celebrations.
Shaun Darcy (Aeron XTC)
How was Research born?
I spent years running lots of different parties, all different sizes over the years leading up to Research. I reached a point where I kind of felt I had learned a lot, I knew how to run parties I was really happy with, so now it was time to add a label into the mix.
You’ve been involved with a number of club nights in Dublin City over the years, and boast a vast amount of experience as a promoter. How does Research compare against some of the other parties you’ve been involved in, Trainwreck for example?
With Research we have something quite special and it’s the team. Myself, Gary and Rory have done this many, many, many times as a labour of love. All 3 of us have wanted to be involved in throwing underground parties at any level from the moment we got the chance. We work hard and we really care about what we’re doing, the people who come to our shows, and the spaces we create. The club & the afterparty is a very special place for us, it’s like home. And it’s the same with everybody we work with closely.
I know the team is with me all the way. And when you have people like that with you, you can take big risks and make some special parties happen.
Like many techno labels and parties, Research has not remained linear in its entity or sound. From pushing loop-driven techno, ghetto-house, trance, and more, the party has remained a little allusive in terms of status as a party. Where do you think Research lives with regard to Dublin’s techno scene in 2023?
We love all different kinds of music. At the heart of it for us, it’s Techno, but really we also love the way the right party can bring a massive melting pot of people together. It’s in these spaces people can find real peace, bonding, and friendship with a little bit of chaos mixed in there for fun. It breeds creativity and I think at the heart of it that’s our buzz.
It’s actually a little allusive in my head what exactly we are as a party. We don’t want to lose ourselves to exclusively pushing big headliner DJ lineups. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but I suppose thinking about this question it’s not what we are.
We could have gone down that route many times, but that’s not us. We love to throw those kinds of shows, but we love mixing with everybody and throwing parties with just local lineups, that hold these amazing atmospheres and allow a culture to really grow.
Our Farrier parties are a great example of this. 3 rooms each representing a different atmosphere & musical style, but driven by crews all holding the same ethos. Each room can feel different but we’re all there for the same thing and to have that mix of people all in one place on that buzz can be really special.
You’ve run parties in a number of venues across Dublin City, from Hangar, District 8, Index, Wigwam, The Grand Social, Farrier & Draper, and more, it’s fair to say you’ve gotten around as a party. Having been in many venues, is there anything you’re specifically looking for when running parties in Dublin?
Ha ha, we have indeed. I suppose before going through the door of somewhere for the first time we don’t have anything specific in mind, but as soon as we’re in a building we can tell what kind of show we want it for.
We then need to meet the owners or booking manager for a walk-through to make sure they understand what we do, and that we’ll able to look after the party together to the best of our ability.
The sound system is important. If it’s not up to the standard we want, we will bring it in or tune it ourselves. The same with the lighting really. Then you have to put the party on and see the place in action, from there you can start to make changes.
Dublin can be cutthroat when it comes to promoting club shows as I’m sure you’re well aware. Crowds are never guaranteed, clashes can be straining and venues are prone to disappear. Why do you think Research is still running parties at such a high level five years on from its birth?
I had already spent about 8 years previous running parties so I suppose I was well seasoned ha ha. To be honest it was actually a struggle. When you’re running something on your own it’s really tough, but it’s also hard to find the exact right kind of people to do it with you to make something happen.
I was lucky to come into contact with Gary & Rory in that way. It was really tough at the beginning, but with a team there to go through it with it makes it a bit easier to keep going.
We’re pretty open about what we’re doing too, so we talk to other promoters about what they might be planning and we try to avoid clashes where possible. I think through collaboration and openness you build a better scene. some people prefer a different approach, but it’s not our buzz.
Are there any nights that particularly stand out when you think back through the years of Research parties?
Plenty, some very good, some very bad ha ha. Let’s stick to the good ones for this maybe. Cleric at Hangar years ago was just one of those absolutely electric nights, I’ll never forget it.
In the very early days of Research, we had a rave we ran for a while off Camden Street, there was something raw and amazing about those ones. Kerri Chandler randomly turned up for a buzz at one of them too.
There was a show Fjaak were meant to play for us actually at the old District 8, they couldn’t make it so last minute Tommy Holohan replaced and I played before him. That night was insane. I think we had an afters in Robin Hood after too, a proper night of madness ha ha
There have actually been loads, I feel really really privileged to have all of those memories to look back on. At the moment the Farrier parties are really special. The Stephen’s Day one was the first one we ran in there, and it was pretty amazing. Definitely a high point of last year.
Also, we’ve had some nights in Cellar that have been really, really wild and the music has been so on point. They’ve been huge. Actually, the nights when we have a day party and then head over to Cellar are always serious. I think we’ll be hitting this year’s highlight on Saturday with Sunil in there ha ha
Our Index parties and watching that grow over the years, hosting The Temple Stage at Fuinneamh. Too many to name
You’ve been involved in hosting a number of influential techno acts in the earlier stages of their career, FJAAK, Hector Oaks, Stephanie Sykes, and more. Are there any new techno acts you’re keeping tabs on?
Yeah loads, but I’m not telling you who, you’ll have to wait and see. That’s a bit of a cop-out, isn’t it? We have a show coming up with MARRØN soon, that’s going to be pretty special. I think you’ll probably see a big year for a lot of Irish artists too.
We had some real problems with being able to manage a label properly, but we’ve got Erik in with us now and I can really see that starting to take off, I’m also seeing a massive rise in how much great Irish Techno there is out there. I think we’re moving into our biggest year yet, we have some massive parties, great collaborations, and lovely releases on the horizon. A big watch this space here from us. The biggest parties yet are on the way.
Gary Kavanagh (Taint)
You’ve been a regular on the Dublin techno scene for the best part of the last decade, through regular slots at Hangar with Techno & Cans and Operator alongside featuring on a healthy amount of festivals across the country. But when and where did your story begin with Research?
It all started after I had been to a few of the nights that Shaun had been running at the time and I saw that he was doing it all by himself. So I made it my business to get in touch with him to meet up for a chat about possibilities going forward. We met in a small burrito spot in Dublin and from there started working together, not long after that did Rory join the team and we became a working trio. I had always wanted to be a part of something as big as what I knew Research would grow to be so from there on we worked hard and fast. We started by bringing over the acts that Shaun had already got a good relationship with but also started aiming at doing day parties prior to the main events and also after parties in known rave spots around Dublin which garnered a good name for ourselves for us to take it to the next level each time.
Research has been pretty adamant about doing parties their own way, whether it’s new venue spaces, all-day parties, debut acts, or unexpected collaborations. What keeps you hungry to keep reinventing Research?
Anytime we all discuss our next night that’s happening or any event for that matter one of the main focus points is how do we push the envelope. We’re big on collaboration, getting to know and work with other collectives can be a lot of and really beneficial for everybody. It’s a competitive industry, so sometimes that mist can blind you a bit and I think that goes for everybody. It can breed a kind of toxicity sometimes, when you work with other people you realise for the most part we’re doing this for the same reason, it breaks down barriers and that’s exciting for us.
We’re true to ourselves the whole time, Research is a part of us. As people, we’re hungry for growth and change and I suppose that bleeds through to the parties.
You’ve taken an active role in ensuring top-tier sound and lights at Research events. Why is this a priority at your parties, when it is taken for granted for the most part in Dublin?
Theres been too many times I have been to events and everything is perfect but there is nothing worse than being at a brilliant event and the sound isn’t up to standard for what the event is. We have always made sound and lighting one of our main priorities and that only gets bigger and better each time. It really comes down to the old saying bigger is better and if anyone has been to our Farrier & Draper takeovers or rooftop parties you will see just that. Sound and light are something that is very close to all of our hearts and we try to aim to please in that manner in everything we do
A lot has changed in Dublin’s techno scene within the last five years, how have you adapted the party without diluting the party’s ethos?
A lot has changed yes but our outlook on our main priorities has stayed the same and they are to bring the best in techno to this city, put on the best parties and events we are capable of doing, be aware of changes or shifts that are happening within Ireland & Europe’s electronic music scene so we can adapt if need be and as we are all getting that bit older sometimes we miss the new younger talent coming through so we have always taken note of what our friends or the younger crowd have to say about certain artists that are up and coming.
Research has been responsible for introducing Dublin audiences to a host of new international talent, but this also trickles down to homegrown DJs. Do you feel a responsibility in introducing crowds to the best new and often unheard Irish DJs?
Homegrown DJs are just as much important to us as the internationals are as we take a very close look at who we put on our opening & support slots. This usually consists of what kind of music they play and what kind of buzz they can create for the next artist playing after them. For two of our biggest parties, we do our 100% local talent and they are genuinely the best ones we do. Farrier & Draper takeovers are completely done for local artists and collectives to showcase themselves and what they are capable of on a larger scale to a very wide audience. Our day parties have taken on a reputation of their own and also all are 100% local artists.
Do you have any memories of some difficult or tricky situations you’ve had to deal with during your time at Research?
Of course, the hardest situation was when Covid hit but that of course was the same for everyone. Like most promoters and collectives the main worry is bringing over the right act or are we doing the correct date etc. There is always a tricky situation that pops up for every event we do but with the experience, we have between the 3 of us (especially Shaun) we can always work to figure out a solution to the problem at hand
You celebrate half a decade of techno shows in Dublin with an all-day party followed by Sunil Sharpe’s debut at Cellar this weekend. What is the significance of these parties in relation to the celebrations?
They’ve all led us to where we are now. We’re quite proud of what we’ve built over the years. We can always get better and are always learning and evolving. But this party is where we’re at now, and it’s going to be one for the history books.
A day party, Katie Taylor fights in the 3 Arena, Sunil Sharpe at Cellar. We couldn’t really celebrate it any better way, could we?
Rory Dowling (Ellen)
You’ve knocking around the Dublin techno scene for quite some time. How does running parties with Research feel in 2023 when you think about Dublin’s party scene over the years?
I think it’s gotten to the stage where the Dublin scene is knocking me around.
It’s a hard one really. We’ve lost so many venues over the last decade, but I think it’s made people get more creative. The need to make the most out of what limited resources are available has turned in some pretty impressive results. I think our day parties in Grand Social & Farrier & Draper Takeovers are things that would never have happened if we’d had better availability of regular clubs, and being forced to come up with alternatives has birthed some really great parties for us.
How did you get introduced to Gary and Shaun, and how did you three start working together?
Gary and I have known each other for years, there’s an entire book in that backstory. We used to work together in a shop in the early days of Research which was pretty comical. Gary introduced me to Darcy and the rest is history. We all gelled really well from the beginning. I feel like we each have areas that we do very well that make up for each other’s downfalls. We all bring something different to the table and lean on each other where needs be.
Are you looking at any other parties across Europe for inspiration?
Absolutely. I’m always really attracted to places that you’d want to go to for a party as opposed to a lineup – the type of place that regardless of who’s playing you know you’ll have a good time. Temporary pleasure are one of the best examples of this, and a real inspiration in terms of club design and making the most out of a space that might not be designed as a club space originally – which is something we’ve had to do more and more in Dublin recently.
You’ve been making the final call with regard to Research’s aesthetic and look since the party started. Do you think the overall appearance of Research is vital in portraying your story?
I do. I’m sure I can be a bit of a nightmare with this, the lads will definitely agree. But I think it’s important to have an identity; something that you look at and just know it’s Research. Something you look at and you know it’s a guaranteed good time. I think with the caliber and consistency of events we put out there should be that same consistency in the designs. You might not know this lineup, but you recognise the artwork and you know this is the brand that gave you a great night out last week. I think continuity is really important when you’re promoting a brand you’re really proud of.
You solely work with Research as a graphic designer, why make this call to go exclusive as a designer?
Honestly, time is a major factor in this. Unfortunately with Dublin the way it is, Research isn’t my full-time income. But as well as that it can be pretty frustrating to do what you perceive as a great design, and then have it requested to be changed and changed until the original idea is barely recognisable. I understand it’s a paid gig but it also has your stamp on it, and I don’t like the idea of putting work out that I’m not proud of.
I like that, within reason, I have the freedom and trust I have at Research to do my own, original ideas, even if most people don’t catch the references. I think the artwork on the Free VA we did in aid of Palestine was an example of this, the fact that the same bans on pressing jazz records in America that made records be bootlegged on discarded X-rays tie back to the same zealous anti-jazz campaigners mobilised to regulate dancefloors – that ultimately caused the Irish late licenses to be as ridiculous as they are. I don’t think another collective I didn’t work as closely with would give me the creative independency to do something like that.
A lot of passion and thought has gone into getting research to where it is today, and I feel like that needs to be progressed through our artwork. Through our brand. It’s quite exciting to see our ideas being replicated and I really enjoy the challenges of staying ahead of the curve, both through bookings and through the artwork that represents them. I’m not a graphic designer; I’m a piece of a brand that I truly believe in who’s values I care about and want to reflect that through the artwork.
As you approach your 5th birthday as a party, is there any particular moment or achievement you’re most proud of?
It’d be simple to name the big acts we’ve brought over – the bucket list acts that I’d dreamed of seeing play but could never imagine booking them myself (or supporting them), but honestly, the proudest moments I’ve had aren’t about the big names. They’re the times we’ve sold out local clubs, with local DJs, who used to be local clubbers. For me, that’s when it all comes full circle. It’s one thing selling out a big club show with an even bigger club name, but there’ll always be something special about selling out the likes of Cellar, or Wigwam, with no one but us on the lineup, and the best crowd in the world in attendance, that can’t be topped.
If I had to single out one moment I think it would be our playing at our stage at Fuinneamh last year, playing a track by For Those I Love, that’s meant so much to me over the years, and gotten me through some pretty intense times, and coming around after the festival to messages of how much that track meant to other people and how touched they were to hear it played out. That’s what music is all about. The day DJs stop having that ability to control emotions within a crowd is the day we need to hang up our battered 25’s and call it a day.
5 years is a landmark achievement in Dublin as a promoter. What can we expect in the next 5 years?
I fear of sounding like the cliché promoter, but in this case, we really do have big things coming. Collaboration in a pretty competitive scene is something we do very well, and we’re extending that collaboration to some collectives that are yet to play in Ireland that I can’t get into just yet. It’s hard to say exactly where we’ll be in the next 5, but we’ll keep on being creative, keep on pushing the envelope on techno in Dublin, and keep on bringing the music we love to the crowd.
You can purchase tickets to both Researchs day-party at Grand Social and the after-party with Sunil Sharpe at Cellar here.