Pawel Sho is the owner of Absys Records; a Dublin based label and record store that specialises in Drum & Bass and Jungle music. An avid record collector, label head and selector, shares his thoughts, experiences and wisdom, of nearly two decades in drum and bass.
Pawel, originally from Poland, set up shop in Richmond Road, North Dublin where punters from all over the world pop into crate dig, practice their mixing or make use of the recording studio. His bubbling personality, passion for music and his hilarious mannerisms and crassness, has made Pawel a local legend in the Irish Drum & Bass scene.
Between organising events in both Ireland and Poland, releasing international artists tracks on vinyl, and running the record shop all by himself, Pawel works 24/7. His dedication and determination has grown Absys Records into one of Ireland’s leading forces in the Drum & Bass and Jungle scenes and has received some well-deserved international recognition.
Last week, I popped into Absys Records to have a chat with the record pusher to see how things were going. Donal Sharpson spoke to the label head about how Absys began, the Irish Drum & Bass scene and his surprise visit from commercial house DJ Shane Codd.
Hi Pawel! How are you keeping?
Very good! Amazing! 2021 was a big year for my health. I started doing push ups, walking more. No drugs, eating better food. I’ve lost around 25kg altogether. My skin’s getting better, my hair is growing back, I’m happier. It’s the healthiest I’ve been in 20 years! Can you believe it? You remember what I was like before, yes? Big change!
You’re looking well, dude!
I’m feeling good!
You’re originally from Poland, yes? How long have you been in Ireland for?
Yes, from Giżycko, close to the Lithuania border. I’ve been in Ireland since around 2007, I was only meant to be here for one year (Laughs). Back then there was no perspective for young people in Poland. No jobs, no opportunities. Everyone left. In terms of the music in my hometown, there were only about 2 or 3 record shops. There was a bit of a healthy scene in house and techno. No one was producing anything, just DJing. It was very like Ireland: No Drum & Bass.
What’s Poland like now?
Poland’s changed for me now. Now there’s a growing scene. People are producing, lots of gigs and festivals popping up. I’ve even released a few of the up-and-coming artists on my label Absys Records. One notable change came in 2006, when Alegria started a project called DrumObsession in Poznan. It was a DnB night that became popular, and it is still going on. Now everyone knows DrumObsession. They get big acts playing at their gigs like Commix, Tokyo Prose, Fracture. Alegria has really pushed the scene, not just in Poznan but in Poland.
When did you start getting into Drum & Bass / Jungle?
I’ve been into it since 2003 / 2004. First tune I heard was Aphrodite’s Jungle Brothers remix.
When I finished high school I moved to Olsztyn, a big student town. I studied marketing there. I was exposed to the techno clubs there, and a lot of my friends were the DJs. That’s how I started getting into DJing, vinyl culture, club nights etc.
I remember that My techno friends never heard of Drum & Bass, I was the first to tell them about it. I was the only one DJ who played Drum & Bass and started running events. We could get in around 600-700 people because people were sick of techno. We got some big Polish DJ’s like Ros, Razor Point and also some international DJ’s from Russia in, guys like Dissident, Implex etc. We also brought over some Irish acts. We got Executive Steve, MC Brez (Brezzie Beats), Conor Code from Subtle Audio and even Zero T for one of our gigs around 2007.
Back then it was difficult to get good records or even good turntables in Eastern Europe. There was not a lot of money back then. We used to have to go abroad to get washing machines and cars and stuff. I remember I forced my father to buy me a turntable. I said I won’t go to school if he doesn’t. He just sold his apartment, and he had some spare cash, so he bought me two XL300’s and a Reloop mixer. I was so happy. Unfortunately, he took it back when he found out I bought €300 on DnB and Jungle records that I bought online. Now though, he’s proud that he bought me those turntables as it set my career to this day.
Who were your biggest influences?
I mean it when I say ‘You’ because I’m so influenced by local artists. Guys like Danny G and the Major 7ths, David Oblivion of Interruption Records, Ricky Force. Local artists who make something different and do it on their own!
But if you want to know my musical influences from my youth, my first vinyl ever was Delight – The Groove Is On The Heart. When I started DJing, the first 3 months I only played house music, Freddie Fresh, that kind of stuff. Then on New Year’s Eve in 2003, I went to a Drum & Bass gig, a city in Łódź. Burning Lion Collective were throwing a party and MC Maniac was playing. After that gig, I came home and threw out all my house records. I started only buying DnB and Jungle records then. At the time, I didn’t know any Drum & Bass artists or labels, so I just bought the first one’s I saw online or in stores. The first DnB records I owned were Roni Size – Playtime, Badmarsh & Shri – The Bollywood EP, and lots of early Hospital Records. At the time I loved the Russian Drum & Bass artists, they really influenced me when I first started collecting. Mainly a Russian act called Dissident, who I mentioned previously.
You also set up your own label ‘Absys Records’. When did you set that up?
P: I came to Ireland in 2007, I was invited by my friend Domel, who I used to DJ with. Around 2008 I was producing a bit with another friend. We were called Toxycologia. We couldn’t release anywhere, there was no one in Ireland that we knew. I wanted to be creative, I was already doing tracks, doing events so I just said, ‘I need to set up a label now!’. So Domel and I decided to set up a label. Originally, we called it Abysysyndrome. The name came to us when we were drinking Absinthe. It works well because on a Vinyl record you’ve got the A and B side too. Eventually we just shortened it to Absys.
When I started the label, I had no idea what to do, so I started networking. I started running parties back home in Poland and they started going well. It wasn’t until 2010 that we released our first 12” vinyl EP which had Mr. Sisef, Dissident and LM1. It was so great for me as I was such a fan of LM1 at the time. However, it wasn’t until the 2nd release that Absys started getting some attention: Mystical Deep Vol.2.It’s still one of my favourite releases of ours.
You had the label, which started doing the rounds…. So, what made you decide to set up a record shop?
I didn’t intend to start a record shop, it just kind of happened. In 2016, I met up with Jula from the Springfield Crew Massive, a Drum & Bass crew who run events here in Dublin. We did parties together all the time, and we wanted to set up our own headquarters to run them. Then things started to slow down for us, so in 2018, I converted the space into a record shop and recording studio. Now it’s the label headquarters, so I run both the shop and the label here.
I’m always curious what people originally from Ireland think of our Drum & Bass scene. What was the scene like when you moved here?
When I was in Poland, I loved Irish guys like Subtle Audio and Bassbin. And let’s not forget, there were some great legendary artists like Calibre, Zero T, Beta 2 etc. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the UK and Russian artists, but I felt that Ireland was weird because it had such a small scene, but extremely talented artists! Now you’ve got guys like Ricky Force, one of my Irish favourites. I released his tune ‘Ecstasy’, a love that tune so much man!
The space here is great, and it’s become a bit of a rite of passage for anyone involved in the scene to come here and pick up a record. Tell me, what big names have come into Absys Records to check out your collection?
Just the freaks (Laughs).
Lots of people come in to check out the records, record mixes or vocals etc. Last year we had Tolu Mkai, Zero T, Steo and Beta 2 in to record vocals for their new project ‘Searchlight’. They’re doing some acoustic, jazzy stuff for Goldie’s new sister label ‘Fallen Tree 1Hundred’. When I ran parties with the Springfield Crew Massive, we would always bring in the artists who were playing to come into the shop. We’ve had visits from Aphrodite, B-Complex, Etherwood, Hybridminds etc. Anyone who played at our parties really. Over the lockdown, we even had superstar DJ Shane Codd come in. He came down to practice his mixing in the studio and look at the records. We get all sorts.
What’s your favourite release on Absys?
All of them! I know them like my own pocket!
What’s next for Pawel / Absys Records?
We are re-releasing a track we put out on CD back in 2011, Loxy & Resound – Leagues Deep. For years everyone was asking me to release it on vinyl. I found a bootleg remix of it on SoundCloud from AM94, so I approached him and now we’re going to release the original and remix on vinyl. I can’t wait!
We also do Absys Digital where we release digital Eps, so we have a RAM record’s act called HeadRead coming out in December. Lots of dark vibes on that one. We also have a digital release for Indeed, a Polish Liquid Drum & Bass artist coming out early next year.
Then we’re doing Kosmos Music VS Absys. Kosmos are one of the biggest Russian Drum & Bass labels at the minute. We’re doing a shared album that’s coming out on vinyl and digital. It’s been in the works for three years and it’s finally coming out in 2022. Breaking the borders between Russia and Poland (Laughs)!
Besides that, who knows!? I’d love to start pressing some actual live music! But that will be a long way away.
Pawel, you’re a legend! Thanks for your time.
P: Thank you! Now, enough with this interview sh*t, let’s find you some new records!
Words: Donal Sharpson