Oisin, as the name suggests, is an Irish DJ and producer currently residing in Munich. In 2019, he founded Zeitreise Music (ZM), a creative collective and record label focused on connecting emerging musical talents across Europe and beyond.
The 24-year-old’s journey to the Bavarian capital is a unique one, as is the location of our interview, a park bench situated above the 65-ft whale skeleton proudly displayed in his home village of Kilbrittain in West Cork. From playing in clubs across Amsterdam and Melbourne to immersing himself in Shanghai’s underground scene, it’s been a dizzying few years for the young artist.
After eventually establishing exactly what kind of whale lay beneath us (it was a Fin whale), we sat down to talk techno, travel and the future.
A core theme of Oisin’s productions is the variety of ways in which he manipulates a track’s energy. An almost push-pull like exchange occurs with the listener, heavy kicks, push a driving tempo while dark, atmospheric elements enthral. Last month, he released a three-track EP ´7 am’ on Day&Night Recordings and noted how lockdown has enabled him to refine his sound to a certain extent.
“At the moment, I’m not around too many people, so I think my sound is definitively becoming very unique. Although, that’s also coming down to me producing for a while now and I find that I’m starting to have a particular sound, which is cool.
When I’m sitting in the studio now to start a track, I have particular things that I like, particularly energy elements that get pushed into it. I love the big room energy kind of sound. I love the stuff that you could imagine in a dark bunker or on a big stage, that’s the stuff that I enjoy making and generally what I like to play out, as well. Keeping it melodic but having a proper drive to it.“
Oisin spent four years studying in Amsterdam, one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, foremost cities when it comes to electronic music and culture. Aside from the infamous five-day party that is ADE, clubs like Radion and Shelter regularly attract top international DJs, in addition to the well-regarded local talent. I’m eager to know just how formative a period this was for the kid from Cork.
“Massively so. I think my time there really shaped what scene I wanted to immerse myself in and the music that was kind of related to that scene.
Before, a night out didn’t necessarily have a set genre – it was more so about the people and just getting a little bit drunk, wherever that was. Whereas in Amsterdam, you could go on the typical, preppy nights, or immerse yourself in a scene that I hadn’t experienced as an 18-year-old; the parties, the culture, the vibe. It definitely blew my mind.
And from there, it changed the course of what I wanted to do, the music I wanted to make, and how I wanted to even interact with the music from there on. So yeah, it was massive.”
Having played in numerous venues around the Dutch capital, Oisin was keen to experience what other cities could offer him. A couple of gigs in Melbourne followed while on placement there, but he recalls a stint in Shanghai as being particularly influential.
“In Shanghai, as the scene was super open, I was playing and being paid as a DJ for a summer there. I have to shout out the Elevator crew in Shanghai run by Sam Mau Mau. They were amazing. I also played with these guys Yeti Out, where instead of this fight to get a slot, there was an openness to play together and do B2B’s randomly and even learn some skills as a DJ. So Shanghai was invaluable.
It’s also where I realized that all these scenes are so different, but so similar in lots of ways. I don’t understand why we’re not trying to connect across the board, why aren’t we trying to make connections that’ll enable us to play in these different places?”
However, the trouble with relocating frequently is that you’re not around long enough to become a familiar face. With this in mind, Oisin founded ZM, a creative collective and record label focused on linking like-minded underground DJs across the globe. Soon after settling in Munich, he recognized both the opportunities and sense of legitimacy that ZM could lend.
“I move around a lot and the problem is that every time you go to a new scene, you’re starting from scratch, which means you’ve got to first build into the networking side of things and then build up a fan base. That all takes time, you know?
Some of the artists will be in a specific scene for years and years, decades even, to try and build up a following; but that’s just not how I kind of live my life. I don’t understand why it’s only once you have a huge following that you’re able to go and play your music for somebody else, somewhere else, you know? So from that, we started ZM in the Kitchen”
ZM continuously strives to differentiate itself from the slew of other techno-focused labels through innovative offerings like the aforementioned recorded series ‘ZM in the Kitchen’. With previous editions taking place in
Amsterdam, Berlin, Miami and Munich, the series encapsulate the international collaboration that’s so integral to ZM. While spawning from very humble beginnings, Oisin’s smirk suggests he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It began with a super basic idea: we’d pile into a car, go to another city, where a few friends would be based, and what do they have? Well, they’ve got an apartment. So, all we have to do is hook up some equipment and get a little gathering of people together and play.
We’d record like 3-hour sets, linking with other small, local DJs, that was the most important part.
Then, I’m hoping to link all these different artists, so that a smaller artist from Cork can play in Amsterdam, or an artist in Amsterdam can play in Munich. Maybe there won’t be a huge amount of money involved at the start, but there’s no reason that these events can’t exist; where local artists can showcase other local artists from different places. That’s really where the label stemmed from.”
DIY productions like this have long been a staple of Irish nightlife due to restrictive licensing laws. While Germany is considered infinitely more progressive in this regard, there is still an appetite for events run with a “by the people for the people” mantra indicative of the early 90s rave scene.
These events are also born, in part, out of necessity. The closures of dance clubs and venues is an all too common occurrence throughout Europe, from Dublin’s Hangar to the now under-threat institution that is Sub Club in Glasgow. Oisin points to the controversial closure of MAA (Mixed Munich Arts Club) as a pivotal moment for the city’s techno and wider creative community.
“A huge problem in Munich is that they keep closing down these amazing venues. For example, MMA. It was amazing for the scene here, it was Berlin in Munich. It was a huge open hall, similar to Printworks in London, and all the biggest artists adored it; you had Enrico Sangiuliano playing there for free because he loved the venue so much.
I guess you’ve then got to get creative and figure out how you can kind of make a little mark. For example, with our Rooftop Sessions, that was just a way of being like: well we can’t do anything anywhere, so we’ll do it ourselves. That’s probably been quite good for me to learn.”
He’s not the first and certainly won’t be the last Irish artist to make a name for themselves abroad. ELLLL, Hybrasil, and Lakker are just a few artists that make up the ever-expanding Irish electronic music diaspora plying their trade in Germany.
After a brief pause to peer up at a menacing advancement of grey clouds, our attention shifts to Ireland. The volume of new artists, labels and sell-out events aptly reflects the heightened profile that electronic music now enjoys in this country. It’s fair to say that the landscape has changed since Oisin’s departure six years ago.
“I love the scene in Ireland at the moment. It’s kind of funny because as I’ve been away for so long, I get these snippets and for years I felt like it was just the kind of funkier, housey-dancey stuff coming out. Whereas now I feel like there’s been a huge shift into the ravey, breaks and big smashing kicks and stuff. It’s like we skipped the middle bit, or maybe it happened, and I wasn’t aware of it or whatever [laughs].
But Ireland is so interesting because we really love underground culture and also we get behind the artists, which I love. The only issue that’s massively annoying is the early closing hours and as a result, people have to move into the illegality of throwing events, when that shouldn’t be the case. But, what can you do? It’s just something we gotta do. We gotta do what we gotta do [laughs].”
It is abundantly clear that Oisin’s in it for both the love and the long haul, enthused by the journey rather than any potential endpoint. Moreover, his desire to connect emerging artists with one another and enable them to play in different cities is something grassroots scenes have been crying out for.
Despite COVID curtailing the early summer calendar, there is plenty to look forward to in the coming months. Oisin´s next EP ´Demolition´ drops October 9th on Reload Records. Before that, he plays at a ‘rhizom’ (illegal
forest rave) in Hamburg next weekend. Meanwhile, on August 19th Italian artist Angelo Dore will make his ZM debut upon the release of two-track EP´Into the stars´. Also keep an eye on the ZM Collective’s social channels for upcoming kitchen, rooftop and possibly garden sets.
Words by Robert O’Sullivan.