We welcome Human Error to Four Four, as the Dublin crew kickstart their bi-weekly interview series, where Human Error resident ‘Aero’ sits down with industry heavyweights to discuss life since the beginning of the pandemic.
Every two weeks Human Error will select contrasting Irish individuals, ranging from DJ’s, producers, club promoters and festival organisers, as they ask questions related to their given field of work. First up, Aero sits down with Dublin-based DJ, radio host and label head, EMA as she discusses topics such as Irish Nightlife, Skin&Blister, Woozy 002 and more!
Emma Gilliland hailing from the seaside town of Bray has garnered the reputation of being one of Dublin’s most prolific DJs. Prior to the lockdown in March, EMA had been blazing a trail of fire across the Dublin club scene’s landscape, her weapons coming in the form of deep dubs, polyrhythmic wobblers, dancehall grooves and subs that should come with a trigger warning.
EMA quickly established herself as one of Dublin’s most in-demand selectors upon her return from Berlin. The Wicklow native, once a regular for Berlin-based party ‘Mango Discs’, had found herself gracing the booth of Griessmuehle, warming up for esteemed guests while still travelling between Ireland and Germany. EMA, a DJ as comfortable with setting the vibe in the early hours as she is dismantling the floor at peak time, is an ambidextrous selector that’s sound is as broad as her record collection but can be condensed down to the sound of modern sound system culture.
The past year has seen EMA’s focus shift from the dance floor to crafting her own label with fellow Dublin-based producer and DJ Sputnik One. The pair have both been championing the modern sound system sound and culture in Ireland’s capital, an ever-growing sub-heavy and percussive rhythm stemming from artists such as Ellll, Glimmerman, Shampain, Baliboc, Matt Finnegan and Daire Carolans ‘First Second Label’. Emma and Jim (Sputnik One) made their own stamp on the Bristol-esque sound with their imprint ‘Woozy’. The newborn label arose from the existing club night EMA had been running with Jim as a resident, the imprint seemed to be the inescapable next step for the already popular club night. The label was launched in August of 2020 with a 7 track various artist compilation. The first release displays dark and murky atmospheres, percussive dancehall, future electro/techno hybrids and funked 160bpm rollers. With a strong debut release behind the label, we can only expect some floor filling low-end heavy sounds coming from EMA and Jim.
Despite a somewhat challenging year for many DJ’s EMA has managed to stay busy and positive amongst the mayhem. Apart from her label and club night ‘Woozy’ Ema runs her own radio show ‘EMA’s Sauce’ on community-based radio station ‘Dublin Digital Radio’. Whilst only launching her DDR show in 2019 it felt like EMA had been an integral part of the community long before hosting her own program. Guesting for DJ’s like Cáit and playing at the station’s club nights, EMA has always seemed to be indispensable in the community aspect of dance music itself. This may have led her to become continuously vocal in support of the ‘Give Us The Night’ campaign, an institution who are campaigning for positive changes to nightlife in Ireland, with particular regard to music venues.
EMA is dipping her hand in various project’s whether it be her record bag or campaigning for later licensing for nightclubs, there’s a raw sense of integrity and community in everything she does. A forward-thinking DJ, promoter, label head and radio host who impresses in every aspect of her career. Flexing her immense collection and knowledge for bass-driven music on platforms such as Boiler Room, HÖR Radio, Rinse FM, NTS, Kmah Radio and more. We caught up with the Bray native to see how she’s been coping with the absence of dark dance floors
How has life been since the pandemic? You had a pretty hectic gigging schedule prior to the lockdown in March, it must have been a bit of a shock to the system.
I think none of us knew how bad this was going to be mid-march 2020 so initially, I really welcomed the break. I was living back with my family at the time, so I just chilled out in Bray for 4 months. My body and mind really needed it. I decided to take the time to look after my mental health! To be honest, I think a lot of us needed a break!
You launched your label in August of last year. Was this always on the cards or did the abundance of free time inspired this decision?
So I had a mix out with Melbourne Deepcast in Feb 20′ along with a few words and in that, I was asked about my plans for the year. My answer to that question was, ‘YES, I’m starting a label in August!’.
At this point, I had just run my first club night with Woozy but I knew I wanted to eventually run my own label. It was always on the cards, but that interview drove me to give myself a deadline of August. I definitely work better with some sort of due date in mind.
We were pretty much in a lockdown the months leading up to the release, I was out of work then which meant I had a lot of time to hone in on the release.
So many new labels have popped up over the last year and it’s been great to hear all the sick music that’s been released, especially with a lot of newcomers. Even better though there has been a surge in support, people are still buying music and supporting artists through various mediums. There has been a lot of community support to help keep local record stores going, a lot of patreons set up too to keep venues afloat. Bandcamp introduced Bandcamp Friday which really helps support labels and artists alike. Even Soundcloud introduced the ‘add support link’ function. The pandemic shutdown has brought about some great new digital initiatives. I’d like to see the support continue when things go back to normal.
With the absence of gigs, do you think you’ve approached your radio show differently as your routine has changed or is it business as usual for yourself?
SAUCE has been airing for a little over a year on Dublin Digital Radio. I decided over lockdown to reach out and focus mainly on pairing guests who I thought would compliment each other. It was really refreshing just to host guests for the full two hours. I think it’s incredibly flattering for someone to take the time and curate a mix for you. I got to connect with a lot of artists I admire, have the chats, listen to their tunes. I think it’s important to use whatever platform it is you have and share it. My best mate Mercorn recorded her first mix ever for a SAUCE show, full of trance bits I’ve never even heard. Super nice to be able to encourage and support her to share a mix. She’s sick!
Also massive shouts to Emily Peat who has been on the artwork since day one.
This period of time has quite often been referred to as ‘the great reset’, an opportunity to change economics, global relations and priorities. Do you feel this applies to the dance music community and are you seeing any positives in a break from the dance floor?
100%, time without the dance floor gave me a chance to reflect on what could make the dance scene more diverse, inclusive, safe and accessible. Skin&Blister was born to put this into action. A team of us will now be hosting workshops and project-based discussions as well as DJ and production lessons.
I am delighted to be a part of this initiative and I know working with and connecting with more artists and creatives in Dublin is only going to lead to positive changes.
If you want to find out more, please follow Skin&Blister on Instagram and reach out if you’d like to join us, we’d love to hear from you!
I attended a Q&A with you and R.Kitt in February as you both spoke excellently about the future of the dance music scene in Ireland. At this time we were already facing a massive uphill battle in terms of legislation and funding. Nearly a year on from the Q&A, what are your hopes for dance music in Ireland post coronavirus?
Wow, to think back we were looking forward to a summer full of festivals at that time! As I said before, I want to see safer and more diverse dance floors. Give us the night is a great initiative making big moves in fighting for the improvement and sustainability of Dublin’s Nightlife.
In Ireland, we will have lost a number of venues as a result of the pandemic, such as the Kino in Cork. The Government needs a strategic plan/map for the recovery of our nightlife economy.
The Dublin Development Plan 2022-2028 is closing feedback channels on the 29th of Feb. Public webinars did not mention arts and -95culture specifically but we have an opportunity here to give feedback! So I would encourage you to visit the website and share your thoughts.
What can we expect from you in the coming year?
I have a couple of exciting mixes coming up this year, including my first NTS guest mix (more on that soon). Woozy002 will be released on wax in April, which has been a pretty amazing project to be working on these past few months. I’m new to working on music production, but I would love to have a track on a compilation by the end of the year… that is my goal anyway so let’s see! Finally, there will be a lot of output from Skin&Blister so keep your eyes peeled for more on that!