The pairing of Sunil Sharpe and Matt Flanagan (AKA DeFeKT) is one of the most impressive duos to not only emerge from Ireland but to emerge worldwide over the past couple of years. We have seen plenty of collaborations within techno and among techno’s elite in Truss and Tessela’s Overmono, Reflec and Cleric’s Works Unit and Blawan and Pariah’s Karenn along with a handful more.
Every one of the acts above make for headline material in their own right, which challenges the traditional existence of pairings in the first place. If you’ve proven you can do it on your own, why do you do it with someone else?
One thing that’s evident from both of their careers is that neither Sunil nor DeFeKT have ever really been too concerned with anything not directly pertaining to the music they play and produce on a regular basis. The passion for their craft is most definitely second to none, with Sunil being one of the most respected DJs worldwide, and DeFeKT himself being an underatedly talented DJ on wax too, not to mention of course his live set which has garnered him attention on a huge scale; landing slots on some of the biggest lineups you’re likely to see.
A moment of magic in Matt’s studio led to the pair’s initial collaboration and since then they’ve ended up with 6 EPs to their name and now an album on the way this weekend, not to mention a plethora of shows on some of the genre’s biggest stages.
Their sound is the rarest blend of techno and electro, Sunil and DeFeKT’s specialist areas, and has most definitely pushed the boundaries in an era where marketability is attempting to strong arm actual music.
Their album, aptly titled ‘On a Roll’ isn’t the cacophonous ending to a noisy term in existence, it’s an unapologetic marker that they’re here to stay.
Could you take us back to the initial stages of Tinfoil, when did you get the idea and how did it come about?
Matt: “I would jam while Sunil did some work on his computer. One day as I was jamming he decided to jump in on the drum machine and one of synths… we recorded that jam and it became our first track. That simple.”
When you first started out the project did you see it going as far as an album?
Sunil: “I don’t think we did. It was really just about getting a record out and taking it from there.”
M: “I don’t know if we ever thought of an album when we started but we always had visions of doing something bigger.”
How important was it for all the EP releases to initially drop on vinyl? Obviously the pair of you are incredible DJs on wax and that’s an obvious one, but aside from yourselves, why only release the digital versions now?
S: “We didn’t set out as a ‘vinyl-only’ label; many labels do that by design but I guess when a format isn’t a priority for either of you, you kind of forget about digital. We were also being P&D-d by a distributor Veto Music, that had been doing labels like Blacknecks, where no-one was really doing digital. Actually, I should credit Truss for encouraging us to do our own label with Veto then, the same way they did. Personally I like the freedom of not doing digital. You just put out the record and that’s it, it’s simple. That said, we’d like to have our music available digitally for people if they want it.”
M: “I think talking for myself I always wanted the DeFeKT EPs to be on vinyl and they have been since my first EP, I’m pretty sure it’s the same with Sunil, so for me it just made sense to do vinyl. We decided to do the digital now as timing felt right.”
How has the live show developed since you first started working together?
S: “It has gradually improved, and become a bit more ruthless overall too.”
M: “Since we work so fast it seems like it didn’t develop to us, but it definitely did. I think with any touring act including my solo stuff, it just grows from gig to gig. For my DeFeKT live sets I used to have a notepad of things I think I need to fix for the next show and we are similar with things we think we need to fix.”
You’re both viewed as arguably the cream of the crop when it comes to techno in Ireland. The genre is growing exponentially at the moment within Ireland and aside from yourselves there aren’t a whole lot of techno acts leaving Ireland and playing abroad bar the likes of Myler, Casper Hastings etc, how do you see the energy within the country translating outside of it?
M: “In terms of Irish acts playing in Europe, we can hold our own for sure and we could kick a few heads in musically.”
S: “It’s tough for it to translate outside of Ireland, but I think you quite often see it in places like London or Berlin where you might have Irish acts on a lineup, and lots of Irish in tow to support.
Unfortunately clubs or promoters from here aren’t celebrated or represented as much abroad as they could be, so you don’t see club residents for instance gaining international exposure on the back of their association with a particular Irish club/night, like you see with DJs from other certain countries/club nights. It can be a long process, but if acts from here keep impressing with their releases and performances, their dates will grow more internationally for sure.”
Plenty of the most popular acts in electronic music at the moment are very light hearted and pretty self deprecating, is it hard to take yourself seriously when plenty of those around you are taking a much more comedic approach?
M: “For me personally as DeFeKT I don’t always like this self deprecating vibe, I don’t see the need to take the piss out of myself. Of course having fun is great 100%, and I do [have fun], but I don’t need to overstate that. I can take the piss in the studio if I want to, [I] don’t need to do it on Instagram.”
S: “Are they? I didn’t notice to be honest. I just see narcissism at an all-time high. But for sure, if people can have more fun and paint this music/scene in a more light-hearted or less serious way, then all the better. It definitely doesn’t influence how we feel or operate, we just do what we do.”
With that being said, the survival blankets are a touch of class, how did that idea come about?
M: “I’m not really sure, that was Sunil’s idea. We toyed with adding something to the package and that seemed to work, we also wanted to save some lives.”
S: “Well, you never know when you might need one of these. Imagine being out mountain climbing and the temperature plummets? Meanwhile you fall and badly hurt your leg. You’ve no phone battery left. Basically you’re fucked. You’re likely to freeze to death or be eaten by wolves and polished off by birds. Wear this blanket though and you’ll stay warm, you’ll camouflage yourself from nature and you’ll be quickly spotted by the local mountain rescue service. We want to save people from dying basically. More techno acts should be like us.”
How much has changed surrounding the release process now versus when you both started out? It doesn’t seem to be as much about the music and more so about who you are and what you say leading up to it?
M: “When I did the first DeFeKT EP, not many around me were making music like this and definitely not that many in Dublin that were doing electro, so I was always in the underground in some ways. No real social media pictures, just Myspace for music. For me, it was all about the music, not fashion not pictures, nothing just music and I loved that.
Of course many people still keep it real but so many producers focus on other things that are not music. Like on Instagram, DJs are posting their dinner, why? Get in the studio have fun, make big snare drums!”
S: “I think the main thing that has changed is the volume of records coming out. It’s enormous now, and that’s great for the vinyl industry, but harder for smaller labels to be heard or noticed. Yes it’s often about who you are at the promotion stage, and that’s why honest and passionate music journalism is more important than ever now. In fairness, most people who have very big profiles have done good things to get there.
I think we shouldn’t forget also, that although the scene is very big now, a lot of fans who engage on social media or even who go to gigs, aren’t all necessarily buying a new release too. So even if a producer is getting 3 billion likes for a post about a new record that is featured everywhere, the reality of actual sales can be quite different.”
Tinfoil has become a really established name at home and abroad, is it conflicting at all with your shows as DeFeKT and Sunil Sharpe or are they working hand in hand?
M: “Not always hand in hand, it can be tricky. Sunil gave up a lot of shows to do Tinfoil gigs and for me, organising separate setups for solo and Tinfoil gigs can be hard when they’re so close together.”
S: “It has interrupted the flow of some of our own gigs in the past, but generally this isn’t a project we want to be bringing on the road all the time, so once we can get the organisation right, it slots in handily enough.”
RA and Mixmag coined this year as the year Electro makes a comeback with the likes of DJ Stingray and Helena Hauff re-popularising the genre on a wider scale to some degree, as quite a heavily electro influenced duo, do you see that trend yourselves?
S: “I really didn’t know what people were on about with that. It wasn’t like 2017 was a vintage year for electro either. But the beauty of the hype is that it has put a huge focus on this music and producers/labels that are deserving of more coverage. There are lots more good electro records coming out now, and from a DJ’s perspective that has been very welcome.”
M: “Electro never went away for me, I’ve released so many Electro EPs that it’s always in my head. [It’s the] same with Sunil, he’s been DJing electro for years. So for both of us, it’s just always been there.”
Have you grown to prefer playing under Tinfoil or on your own?
M: “I don’t think it’s a thing where you pick a favourite, they are both so different.”
S: “It might be different for Matt as he plays live on his own, but yes, I think the feel of playing live is one that I have been getting more from than DJing. I still love DJing, but playing live creates a different type of freedom. It’s a way to be more expressive I think.”
Without getting into it too much, how is the Give Us The Night movement coming along? It got decent international coverage, has there been any further developments regarding the possible change of licensing laws?
S: “There are some developments taking place, but still early days in terms of how and when exactly changes will take place. One thing I can say though is that nightclub owners on a whole (not all obviously) have been completely useless. If you meet one anytime soon, give them a good punch in the arm.”
With that in mind, what changes do both of you think Ireland needs to make in order for the electronic music scene to development even further?
M: “Musically I don’t know. I think more people just being really serious about it and making a lot of records seems to be the way.”
S: “I think there is a lot of ambition here, a lot of talent, and a lot of support from music fans. There are many core things that need to change though – and a lot is determined by our legislation and society’s attitude towards electronic music (and their exposure to it). I gotta say, I do worry about the global march towards gentrification that is slowly suffocating music scenes and club culture.
I also think that people in music need to think long and hard about accepting money from brands or big companies in return for creative control. Money is great, but it comes and goes. Achievements always stand.”
Lastly, how much do you value an album when it comes to looking back at what both of you have done over the course of your careers? Is this the icing on the cake to some degree?
M: “I never see anything music wise as icing on cake, as I have much much more music to make. It was just a really interesting process and I’m proud of it.”
S: “It’s certainly nice to do an album, but I see it more as a step in a new direction than it being icing on the cake. For sure it’s a milestone for us though, I’m happy we’ve done it.”
Photo Credits: Paul O’Connell