It’s no surprise that the commercial charts dominate Waterford’s clubs, yet the city is full of passion for music and several alternatives do exist. Paul Herincx brings us to the heart of a thriving techno scene, a family of producers and one sound system that keeps it all alive.
While international house bookings follow one another and fill the local clubs, Waterford is also home to a varied palette of techno artists. Myler, Mael and Henja attack industrial techno with their own angles. Their personal output includes dark audio forces based on frenetic kick drums, metallic textures and broken percussions.
Some of it has not gone unrecognized on the worldwide techno scene. Myler has EP’s on catalogues such as Untold’s Pennyroyal or Brooklyn’s Fifth Wall. While Mael’s first tracks have been praised by Dave Clark. Henja’s only EP received a physical release on Danish label’s Nord Records.
Even so it remains almost impossible to catch these artists playing in the area. Local people are not paying too much attention to their music, they’re not sought after by local promoters and they are not looking for local gigs. vv
It’s tempting to contextualize the cold and raging atmospheres they’re shaping in their tracks by looking at the post-industrial landscape in Waterford as Mael outlines:
“I do see how people could relate my music to the current economic climate, a lot of derelict buildings are giving the impression of doom and gloom. Funny thing is I don’t see my music as being dark and moody, quite the opposite in fact. I usually only sit down to write when I feel good about it”.
Myler was into techno way before he discovered it but admits that remnants of the local environment aren’t irrelevant in his music.
“There are some desolate spots around the county that I have spent some time in and get real inspiration from. I think a lot of my inspiration for industrial sounds have come from places like the abandoned Árd Rí hotel or the old tannery in Portlaw. I have always been extremely intrigued by abandoned buildings”.
When I ask how their drum programming and beat construction got to this stage Henja gives a natural answer. “There’s something so driving and universal about techno patterns, primal madness!”
Industrial material from other techno heads has emerged in the last few years and a niche has been formed with two local labels focused on industrial techno. Myler’s Until Morning Records and Luke Creed’s Variance.
Waterford has also produced names like Mote and Ikeaboy. There is depth to this scene if you look for it. Mote is a veteran on this scene (amongst others) and had been producing dub and Detroit influenced techno from the late 90’s until 2004.
Mote’s tracks are intimate dance spaces. He’s sparingly releasing some of it on soundcloud and has some eclectic mixes on local radio Open Tempo.fm under the name of Lace Antenna. These are well worth a listen.
Ikeaboy started by DJing in local free parties in the late 90’s and is still a frequent face. He has been developing his own sound, oscillating between techno, electro, dubstep and acid music; in a deeply electronic aesthetic, full of weird tones.
Some of them are notably released in the form of an album on Nute Records and EPs on Irish labels D1 Recordings and Invisible Agent. When I bring up Irish licensing laws and their effect the on the techno scene here, his reaction is pretty quick:
“It’s probably what killed it. People go to the pub until 00:30. Firstly, it’s hard to organize drunk people. And they don’t want to pay a fiver or a tenner to stay in a club for an hour and a half. Then, what kind of experience can anyone give in an hour and a half? For a proper club culture to build, I think you need to have the same people dancing in the same room on a regular basis, for much more than an hour. We’ve had fantastic nights in Waterford like Music Lab, where we could build this friendship, that’s what really keeps the scene going. There is a whole culture that has been really hurt by the licensing laws. When clubs were allowed to stay up until 3:30 or 5 am it was a completely different set of possibilities. Which is why the free party scene happens. The most vibrant dance nights are in the free party scene, unfortunately.”
By organizing parties outside clubs for almost a decade the Untz! soundsystem has kept a varied dance music scene alive in the area. In 2005 the concept was born as an occasional night in the back room of an old man’s pub by three friends.
Without over-thinking it, they played music that diverged from the minimal techno club nights that were prevalent in Waterford at this time. Harder techno, UK rave and dub records formed the night’s identity and it became a monthly dance gathering for three years.
After this happy period two of the three core people moved away and Muc became the main man behind Untz! He decided to build a soundsystem yet Muc still uses the term “we” when he talks about Untz!
“We just threw parties wherever we could! And so we’ve been doing that just in different ways, with different groups of people, in different scenarios and everything, with different types of music.” Without carelessly complying with trends, the sound system is animated by a desire to let the town express itself.
Muc develops the point: “We’re not looking for people, generally, to come from outside to play. We don’t feel the need to do that. We are just basically setting up speakers for local people in Waterford to have a party. These days, because of the internet, it’s harder to run a night and to have a very defined personality about that. It’s operating in a much more global open sense. The boundaries have all fallen down. Now everything is compared to Berlin, compared to this, to that…rather than have its own base. Allow it to be itself and if it falls flat and it’s shit it’s ok for that to happen. Whichever way it turns out it’s ok.”
Opentempo.fm is another praiseworthy entity playing a key role in the health of the dance music subculture that lives in Waterford today. The station has been around since 2011, keeping the rich history of local pirate radio alive here.
“I like to think that we’re trying to do something similar (to former pirates) here, by providing genres or some shows that wouldn’t be found on radio in the south east.”
As one man behind the project explains, the radio was born break the FM band stagnation. And they choose to draw from the juicy reservoir of DJs that make up the city to fulfill this aim.
“The sole intention, really, is to be a platform for people to believe in themselves. There’s a lot of people who are playing or making music at home, nobody is going to hear it. They just do it as a hobby and they completely underrate themselves”. The studio gathers music enthusiasts in an easy-going setting and collaborations continue inside and outside the radio shows.
“People of a different point of view, a different mindset, weren’t connected but Open Tempo gives them a way all to connect, and because of that you can create a community” says Lando, an alternative party organizer.