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.
Shaun Darcy, better known as Aeron XTC and formerly known as Aeron, is right at the pulse of techno in Dublin. The Artane native has been an integral part of Dublin’s techno scene for what seems like forever and has been leaving his stamp on the capital for over a decade through curating some of Dublin’s most renowned parties. An adept selector with an extensive knowledge for techno makes Aeron XTC one of the islands most skilled DJs. Shaun’s reputation as a promoter has seemed to have somewhat overshadowed his skills as a DJ, but latterly he has showcased his prowess through extended mixes for District 8 and his club brand & label Research, thus showing every DJ in the country how it should be done.
If you’ve been attending any sort of techno night in Dublin in the last decade, there’s a rather sizable chance that you’ve caught Aeron XTC at the helm of the decks one night or another. Going out to techno nights as more of a newcomer to dance music I had always spotted Aeron’s name, maybe because it’s very similar to my DJ name or perhaps because Shaun is here, there and everywhere, I’m thinking a mix of both. I always found myself looking up to Shaun as a DJ and promoter, once again perhaps because of our similarities in aliases but I gravitated to his no-bullshit approach to DJing and promoting. What you see is what you get and it’s done with excellence and precision. His recent mix for Research Label is a three-hour thriller and holds a whopping fifty-four tracks. A smooth journey through the Research label boss man’s vast record collections, yet the mix is only a dent into the Dublin techno assassin’s armory of music. The mix is the equivalent to a Stephen Speilberg film; emotional, vibrant and atmospheric but I think Shaun packs a tad more of a punch.
Shaun’s versatility and adroitness as a DJ has seen him play long alongside some of the best DJ’s on the planet. Warming up for Dave Clarke, Fjaak, Karenn, Paula Temple, Regis and more, Shaun is a master at warming up a room. A well-executed and somewhat subtle style of mixing makes for a smooth expedition through the dingy walls of the club. Shaun remains cool, calm and collected as the room turns to chaos, plotting his next move and working the crowd into a frenzy. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Research Label boss on countless occasions and it’s always top drawer selections.
Outside of the club, Aeron XTC is known for rocking festivals around the country. The Research head honcho has garnered a reputation for being a master at closing sets. Whether it’s at Life Festival or Fuinneamh Festival, Shaun knows what to play to keep the weary dancer’s legs moving into the early hours, which is a craft that not many Irish DJ’s can boast about. It seems even more impressive when you come to the realisation that Shaun has curated and managed the whole stage for the weekend, the set seems secondary to this.
When Aeron XTC isn’t planning festival lineups you can probably guess that he’s planning parties in the confinement of the club. Running most of his parties in the Index / 39/40, the clubs dark and murky vibes represent exactly what Shaun is aiming to convey to the club goer. A stripped-back, dark, smoke-filled room is all the ingredients you need for a proper party. The Research Label head honcho is booking some of the most renowned techno DJs in the world week in and week out with District 8 and Research Label but keeps a very much grassroots orientated feel to the party. Frequently running after-hours raves and a stint of running day parties, it’s clear that Shaun is dedicated to providing the best party possible under the constraints of the Irish legislation with regard to closing hours.
Aeron XTC embodies Ireland in everything he does and this is no different from his approach to his label Research. Starting with an excellent release from Dublin techno mainstays Doug Cooney and Rustal, the release gained huge support from the get and go and the future is looking bright as the second release looms, this time on wax. Shaun is always pushing Irish talent and this is evident through his work on the label and how he is always willing to nurture and help younger artists from our island.
The DJ, producer and promoter is often praised for his esteemed bookings or thumping sets but his work behind the scenes to keep the Dublin techno scene alive and well is what sets him apart from the crowd.
Within the last year, you’ve experienced various changes. From cancelled gigs, cancelled festivals, producing music, the birth of a new label and your first experience of fatherhood. How has life been?
Yeah, it’s been a pretty eventful year to say the least. Life has been good. At first, it was tough to see everything we had planned for the year basically get shut down. We had built up some really strong momentum with Research, I had a lot of bookings coming in and Fuinneamh was reaching levels we hadn’t expected to come for another few years. So as things went on and show after show and then finally Fuinneamh had to be postponed it was pretty heartbreaking. But with that all being put on pause it’s actually given us time to really reflect and strengthen all of these things for when we open back up.
Fatherhood has been amazing, I love it. We found out we were going to be having a baby the week before the first lockdown, so it was nice to be together 100% throughout the whole process. And the last 4 months since Lux was born have just been incredible. I don’t think most new parents both get to have this sort of dedicated time with their newborn so I feel quite lucky in that sense.
On the production front.. I’ve been DJ’ing for a long time, I think maybe 15 years, and at different stages, I wanted to pursue production. But with running so many shows right from the beginning and fully dedicating myself to DJing I never had the time. I had tried half-heartedly once or twice and even convinced myself I didn’t actually want to do it for a few years. But I definitely did. It honestly was just really daunting to know so little about something again.
So once I heard we were going into lockdown I signed up for the Elevator Program run by Will Kinsella and I got up at 6am every day and made sure I got 6 hours of work done between 6 and 12. Doing different parts of the course and exploring Ableton. The structure of the program was amazing for me learning to navigate the program. From there I would just explore different sounds and work on tracks. And now I’m obsessed. I think from DJing for so long it’s really hard for me to stick to one kind of track.
I had my first release back in September, I put ‘When we Dance Again’ out as a free DL (I really wanted to do that with my first track) and now I have maybe 6 or 7 tracks coming out this year. The next one will be coming out on a Research VA, I have a remix done for FLAEN and a few other nice releases that I’m really happy with. And they all sound pretty different, but I really enjoy working like that.
And finally releasing music on Research has been amazing, that was always the plan from the start it just took a long time to get here. It was great working with Doug Cooney and Rustal on the first release, we go back a long way and both guys are on the top of their game, so it felt good finally getting that out. Now we have our first vinyl release coming up which is pretty huge. I can’t reveal too much just yet but it’s a big one. We have our first digital VA coming up, which is all Irish and really strong. It’s just great to be in the mix with so many people creating and for them to trust us with their music. Really excited to get these out and it’s going to be amazing when we finally hear them in a club.
The lockdown has been frustrating for creatives in many ways but as a promoter, I can imagine it being particularly discouraging. Are you still planning events or have you taken a step back from this due to the unexpected nature of going in and out of lockdowns?
Yeah was disheartening at first to have to postpone all of our shows. But the lockdown did give me time to run over everything we do with our different teams and improve on everything we already had planned. Also with Fuinneamh and Research it was and still is amazing to see the support from the people who come to our nights. So it’s actually been a really encouraging time. We’ve come up with some new parties, found some amazing locations, made some new additions to Fuinneamh and are coming back refreshed and ready to go.
What we do after this will help shape a new Irish club culture and we are ready to go.
July of last year saw the birth of Research label. I know this was on your agenda for a long time but was it the break from your typical routine that inspired the launch of the label?
We had always planned on launching the label, but there is a huge learning curve involved particularly with releasing vinyl and we wanted to do it right. So yeah having the extra time that we would normally put into running more immediate club shows helped us finally get everything together and get it out there.
We also wanted to make sure we had plenty of Irish talent on board, but to bring it to the world stage with strong representation.
A couple of months following the birth of your label, you released your first production. How have you found delving into the world of production and when can we expect to hear some fresh Aeron XTC?
I’ve loved it, I’m completely obsessed. I have 6 or 7 tracks already ready to go. They all sound a little different, but they each represent different styles of Techno I might play. It’s intimidating at the beginning, but I would encourage anybody who is serious about production to just persist. Dedicate a solid block of time every week, particularly in the beginning and you’ll get there.
As the overseer of one of the countries most prominent techno institutions, how do you see nightlife developing in Ireland and how do you think we can adapt to dancing with Covid?
I think from what we’ve seen by now it’s just all going to be really dependent on vaccines. The government have already made an absolute balls of the whole situation more than once, they won’t be aiming for a zero covid plan so it’s going to hinge on how quickly they can get the vaccines out.
I think it’s important to adhere to any guidelines at this point, we don’t need anything else holding us up and there is a light slowly coming to the end of the tunnel. For me, it’s what we do culturally after this that is important. Give Us the Night have been doing amazing and tireless work to put this scene in a better place when we open back up. Also, I think now that people have been missing clubs for so long they have grown a new level of appreciation for what they offer.
So now we’re opening back up looking at longer opening hours and with a crowd that will be so hungry for the vibe, I can see the clubs starting to get full right from the get-go. That means people that might not normally experience the whole buzz of a club opening set, the build-in intensity throughout the night, the longer night in the club, we should see a full evolution of the scene here and I’m really looking forward to it.
Coming into the summer months your schedule tends to be quite hectic with Life Festival, Fuinneamh as well as various club show’s. What’s on the agenda for the next few months?
Well, there is still some hope for Fuinneamh, if those vaccines come even close to the timeframe planned we should be okay. So over the next few months, we’ll be releasing the rest of our line up, and it really is something special. We already had an amazing show planned, but over the last year the support from our crowd has been so overwhelming we’ve really been driven by love to push the boat out even further. I just can’t wait to get back onto that site. It’s such a special place.
We also have a nice little gift coming to some of the people who are holding tickets at the moment. You should see that popping up in the next two weeks.
Also in the next few weeks, you may see a new entity popping up. It’s something pretty special that’s going to be ready to kick-off as soon as events are allowed. It’s something countrywide and it’s a game-changer.. watch Instagram on March 22nd.
Also, lots of production to work on, we have 2 Research Vinyls releases and 2 VA’s coming. We have some really special guests on all of these. We have new merch coming in for the Summer. Lot’s of Research Podcast starting to stack up.
I’m also playing a live stream on March 17th St.Patricks Day for Prospekt in aid of Mental Health Ireland. It’s a pretty mega line up running 1pm to 1am. So pretty much your whole day sorted if you’re looking for a Techno soundtrack.
I’ll be playing alongside Oneyra, Jamie Behan, Sam Greenwood, Trail of Thought, Offtrack, Yasmin Gardezi, Josh Reid, NKTRKL [live], Eric Moore and Jinn. And there will be a donation link up for anybody who wants to donate to Mental Health Ireland throughout the day.
Club show-wise, we have some amazing plans for Research. Once things are open are gonna do this properly, we’re gonna nurture and grow a whole new culture and hopefully connect the whole country like never before. That last bit is hinting at another new venture, but I can’t say too much about that yet either ha ha. All will be revealed… 🙂