Fran Hartnett and Giles Armstrong are two names synonymous with Irish Techno. In late 2014 they joined together, for a limited run of gigs around the country, as FraGile. Kinetika’s Jasper Mathews caught up with them to hear about their long romance that started down the back of the 49 bus.
FraGile, where did the idea for collaboration come from?
Giles: It’s all about the name!
Fran: Haha, he admits it! I actually suspected that Gile had the name worked out long before suggesting that we work together. Shortly after we had had a little practice session when we decided that yeah we work well together, so lets do this, he says to me, casually – “I figured out a name for us…” But I reckon he had the name decided all along. Well I’ve always buzzed off Giles sense of humour so I’m happy to go along with it. I couldn’t have come up with that myself – he’s much punnier than me!
I was listening to your set from your debut gig; Truss-Brockweir’s quite the opening tune, it fairly sets the tone for the rest of the set, and it very much seems like face-melting is the order of the day! What does a FraGile set consist of? What equipment do you use to put it together?
Giles: Cheers! Brockweir is a beast always was and always will be. I use a Mac running Traktor with two Faderfox controllers and play a DJ set as I normally would do with Fran layering samples and loops on top with his Octatrack. He also can play tracks into mine which is great as the limits are endless. Plus, if I make a mistake I can blame him and vica versa.
Fran: Yeah I have to give GileS credit for that selection, but I was more than happy for that to be an opener for us. She certainly is a beast that one! Actually for our next set I’m adding a drum machine to my side of the setup – it’s a Machinedrum but I’m loading it up with sample kits, kind of emulating some classic drum machines, just to be able to jam some improvised drums over the top of things. I came away from playing our debut set at Network thinking that I needed something else, so that’s the plan for this next one.
Are there any tracks, labels or artists which you just can’t help playing in your sets, both together as FraGile and in your solo gigs?
Giles: Lately I’ve been playing something by Stephen Lopkin in nearly all my sets whether I’m lashing it out or chilling it out, he is my new man for all occasions.
Fran: Well, I’m really not being biased about a local act (and friends at that), but in the past year I can’t get enough of Sunil Sharpe and DeFeKT’s ‘Tinfoil’ project. Their two 4 track EPs under that name have been so far ahead of what’s out there internationally that I don’t think the guys realise it. For FraGile, I’m just having fun ripping lead sounds from well known classic techno and remixing those samples to layer over the full tracks that Gile is playing (sorry, I’m having a hard time right now calling him Gile all the time here, like I’m telling the same joke over and over.. I can imagine him laughing every single time though!)
Have to agree with you on that one Fran, I’ve been listening to the second Tinfoil release a lot. Does much planning go into your sets, or do you start playing and see where it goes?
Giles: I plan all my sets and have been doing so since I started DJing over 15 years ago (yikes!) so FraGile is no different for me.
Fran: I’m preparing the loops and stuff that I’m going to play, but so far when it comes to deciding at what points in the set to use them I’ve just been jamming and improvising. For our next gig we’ll be rehearsing the interplay a little more tightly I think.
A solid mix of planning and improvisation, I like it. What’s in store for FraGile in the foreseeable future?
Giles: We have a 2015 world tour of Ireland in mind with a gig in each Provence and one festival. We are on our way to fulfilling that idea but after that who knows?!
After your World tour of Ireland would you ever consider taking FraGile to an international stage?
Giles: Of course we would love to do some shows outside of Eire but to get there I think we would have to be releasing music and we have no plans to go into the studio. If we ever did, I’m 100% sure it would consist of Fra doing all the work as I try to make the tea and find funny Youtube videos for us to look at when he is finished!
Fran: Yeah I reckon we’ll just have to keep it country, like.
Both of you are long-standing veterans in regards to the electronic music scene in Dublin, how have things changed since you first got involved?
Giles: It’s come a long way since we first meet down the back of the 49 bus. Fra used to do a pirate radio show near where I lived every Monday night. I would be on my way home from town on the last bus after spending my dole on records and he would be sitting upstairs down the back with a bigger bag of records, naturally we got chatting. I can’t imagine many people meeting like that in the digital facefook era that we now live in. Back then you could become friends with someone simply because you both had a plastic bag with Comet Records written on the side of it.
Fran: Man that’s going back a bit! Of course things have changed dramatically. Used to be a lot more record shops that’s for sure! I mean don’t get me started on how things have changed in the past 20 years. It’s unbelievable what’s going on… the technology, apocalypse and all that!! But some things thankfully remain the same; A love of music passed from one generation to the next – in particular, our love for the challenging combination of physical energy and creative sonic invention that is Techno! And along with that, an enthusiasm for coming together to dance and party hard. Those are things that I don’t think will ever change.
Irish Techno is on the rise, with top quality records being released by independent labels such as Earwiggle and Vision Collector, and a plethora of hard-hitting Irish and international acts being given a stage by the likes of Bastardo Electrico in Cork and Network in Dublin. What excites you most about the current state of Techno in Ireland?
Giles: The freshness of it all. I did a gig in Dublin last year where I was old enough to be the whole dancefloor’s dad (which can only be good for the scene – the crowd being young – not me being their father!)
Fran: I just think it’s great that we have such strong local talent, as we have had for quite a while now. There’s so many great Irish acts that if I start listing names it’ll seem like I have to keep going cause I don’t want to leave anyone out. But you know who they are! And as Gile says, there’s so many fresh faces on the dancefloor. Well it’s nice to know they’re in safe hands!
Not to liken Ireland to Berlin or Detroit in the late Eighties/early Nineties, but the progression of Techno in other places has had ties to political and social instability. Do you feel that the rise of Irish Techno is a matter of trending/changes in taste, or are there underlying socio-economic factors which are leading to more and more people wanting to punch their fist in the air 128 times a minute?
Fran: You could be onto something there. Of course you’ll only be able to tell in retrospect. Maybe we can discuss this in 2035 and I’ll be telling you that you were right!
It seems to me like the authorities have an aversion to anyone having fun in this country, if it doesn’t net enough revenue. What, if anything, do you think is holding Ireland’s electronic music scene back from reaching it’s full potential?
Giles: That aul licencing laws chestnut. Until we have later opening hours we will never be looked upon as equal with the rest of Europe. I know there has been campaigns in the past that have got the issue into the spotlight but that was a long time ago now. I’d be very surprised if the laws are changed within my lifetime. The upside of the early closing is the after hour scene but even that has tailed off in the last year. There was a time for a while that every promoter worth their salt had to run an afterparty or the night was deemed unsuccessful and the promoter labelled a numpty.
Fran: The law. It actually gets me mad every time I think about it. The absurdity of it. So can anybody tell me again, why it is that some other person can tell me – a fully grown adult – what time I have to go to bed at? 3am, it’s time to go home to bed folks. Who says that? Where would you get it?! We need to sort this out…
Catch FraGile in Factory, in Galway on the 27th of February for the western leg of their tour or on the 6th of March at the Pint, Dublin alongside DeFeKt. rabble has a pair of passes for the Galway gig. Just fill out our survey and we’ll pull an name from the hat.