Welcome to Ireland! Home of roaming hills, Guinness and some incredible drum & bass talent.
However, even though the tiny island is only a stone’s throw away from the UK, Ireland has never adopted drum & bass into its culture or clubs like its neighbour has. As a drum & bass DJ and Producer, it’s always an uphill battle trying to get a following in Ireland. It’s generally not being played in our clubs or on our radios. This all results in most Irish producers turning their backs on drum & bass, and moving towards making the standard popular styles in Ireland such as house or techno just to scrape by.
Ireland is a small place. And the sad truth is that many clubs and promoters aren’t in a position to take a risk on an international drum & bass act. But locally the diehards have always represented: Irish drum & bass crews throughout the years such as Crilli, Spectrum, Bassbin, Initial, Jet Li’s District 174, Springfield Crew Massive and Quadraphonic have done fantastic jobs keeping the scene alive.
Irish owned labels such as Misha Freshin’s Inhabit Records, Altex’s Boey Audio and Pawel Sho’s Absys have been supplying us with quality releases while DJs such as Quality Mark, Executive Steve and Spectrum have kept our airwaves alive with jungle and drum & bass sounds. Unfortunately though, the interest in Ireland has never been consistent and it means that collectives who host D&B nights on our tiny island are often subjected to the smaller or unpopular venues to make room for the more consistently popular house and techno acts. Regular D&B nights are often subjected to an off day like a Tuesday or Sunday, and when an act is brought over, it’s always a gamble.
“Rave culture of all kinds was massive throughout Ireland in the 90s and there was a huge amount of events happening constantly,” explains Zero T, whose recent single Hurt Inside / Sonic Bionic hit the number one spot on Beatport.
“Seeing huge names like Dave Clarke, Carl Cox or Paul Okenfold booked on Tuesday night in a 1500 person venue in Dublin was a regular occurrence. Jungle/D&B was definitely a niche thing compared to techno and house, but as the decade went on it grew in popularity,” Zero T continues.
“Promoters began popping up all over the country and there was a lovely comradeship between all the various cities. Everyone would book each other at their nights and it knitted together the disparate scenes across the island. This was exemplified in an event combining the major promoters on the island called Jungle Republic in the very early 2000’s. Hosted by Jet-Li, who has gone on to collaborate with Calibre, at his family’s hotel on Valentia Island off the Co.Kerry coast, it was a manic weekender that saw an entirely Irish lineup sell out the festival a number of years on the trot. Another important hub for Irish junglists was http://www.irishdrumandbass.com/, run by Rory 80hz and Skelator from Belfast, which was basically Irish Dogsonacid.”
While the idea of our own festival completely comprising Irish D&B talent seems like an impossible dream here now, there are some incredible artists from both Ireland and Northern Ireland who are at the very forefront of the sound. Some you will know already, others might well be new. Either way, get to know these 12 producers and DJs who have soldiered on to keep Ireland on the D&B map.
Zero T aka Cian McCann is a well known name. Not just in the Irish drum & bass scene; his consistently solid productions have elevated him to be one of the world’s leading Drum & Bass acts.
Cian’s Drum & Bass journey began in 1998; shortly after his 18th birthday, Cian was booked for his first ever gig by Bassbin to support Ed Rush. This led to him working with the legendary Bassbin label on his early releases to working with the likes of Goldie, Calibre, 4 Hero, Alix Perez, Icicle and Noisia. He has never stood still and you are as likely to find his music on labels like Metalheadz and Shogun as you are on Soul:r or Signature. To put it simply, Zero T is one of the longest standing and most consistent Irish producers in the genre. And we suspect 2021 is going to be an even busier year for this Irishman.
If you haven’t heard of Calibre, then you must have been living under a proverbial rock, or maybe even a physical one! One of electronic music’s most respected auteurs: the Belfast-born Dominick Martin AKA Calibre sports double decade stripes. His body of work spans over 20 years with a plethora of releases on labels such as The Nothing Special, Deep Medi, Soul:r and Digital Soundboy as well as his own Signature recordings. Calibre is one of the most prolific artists in the game, having produced more than 60 singles and 16 albums. As well being a Drum & Bass guru, Calibre’s music encompasses a large portion of the genre spectrum, from the downtempo and jazz influenced beats which can be heard on his 2013 album Valencia (under his real name Dominick Martin), to his Garage EP Break That which was released on Craig Richards’ imprint The Nothing Special. His 16th album Feeling Normal was released in February on his own Signature recordings. Unlike his previous releases, this release solely concentrates on 140bpm productions in the realms of dub, dubstep and garage. We doubt that’s the last we’ll hear from him this year…
Detboi, AKA Des McGouran, is another heavy hitter in the Irish Bass scene. He’s best known for his 130bpm productions that infuse breaks and bass with a jungle spirit in a way that he describes as “Music your mum and dad won’t like.”
His high quality range of productions has propelled him to be one of the top charted Irish D&B acts but prior to this chapter in his musical career he had been making bassline-heavy house music for a great deal of the 2000s. In 2015, however, things changed as his release on Keysound Recordings saw a heavy rotation and presence on Rinse FM, BBC Radio 1 and Radio 1 Xtra. He followed it up with a remix of Special Request on the infamous XL Recordings, a label he holds close to his heart from all those early years of raving and collecting vinyl.
Not long after this Detboi reached a career high by collaborating with Goldie on his first Metalheadz release Joyride before scoring a top 10 UK vinyl singles chart hit with thuggish knuckle dragging Secret Venom the year after. His Ice cold EP that followed was also a big moment in the Headz output that year.
Back to the future, 2021 has seen him remix the stone cold classic Drum trip for Kaotic Chemistry as part of the 25 Years of Metalheadz series and he’s currently putting the finishing touches to his first solo album for Goldie’s label along with working on an ep for 2 Bad Mice’s new label Over/Shadow.
Beta 2 is Dom Purcell an Irish producer and DJ with a long history of production and the Irish drum & bass scene. After a few years of DJing at local parties, in 1999 he met Rohan and the Bassbin Cru and this was the start of his residency at Bassbin’s weekly label night called Refuge. In 2000 he put out his first release with Zero T on Bassbin Recordings, with their track New Dawn. In 2001 he got signed to the seminal Reinforced Records imprint before meeting Goldie in 2003 and becoming the first Irish act to sign to Metalheadz with his single Crystal Meth/Thing Is.
Over the years Beta 2 has released on some of the biggest Drum & Bass labels including Metalheadz, Dispatch Recordings, Liquid V, CIA, Renegade Hardware just to name a few. His catalogue spans 20 years and it has received support from BBC Radio 1 and various radio stations in Ireland & worldwide and has been supported by DJ`s all across the scene. A highlight for Beta 2 was in 2007 when his track Closer To You was released on Metalheadz MDZ05, a VA album that featured the likes of Goldie, Commix and the late Marcus Intalex.
Right now, he’s writing a new EP for Metalheadz and is also working on a funk/jazz/neo soul/broken beat album with Zero T under the guise Searchlight that is due for release later this year on Goldie’s Fallen Tree 1Hundred label. He’s also working on a collaboration with Ricky Force titled Hyperdream.
A tour de force (pardon the pun) in the Irish jungle scene hailing from Dublin, Ricky Force began his career by making his DJ debuts at Bassbin and Power FM in the late 90s. Ricky has truly put the ‘dub’ into Dublin with his productions. Over the years, his subby, half time jungle tracks have really made him stand out in the Irish scene. His subsequent releases have earned him a reputation of authenticity and integrity repping the original breakbeat sound of the 90s with his own productions. Alongside, producer and DJ Naphta, the two have really been pushing boundaries within the Irish jungle scene.
Ricky spent years promoting the sound in his hometown through a decade long infamous club night Reach and a weekly show on Raidió Na Life, one of Ireland’s only drum & bass radio platforms. In 2012, Ricky established Pressin Hard Records a label focused on bringing jungle sounds back into the Irish dance music scene. If you like your half-time, dub and jungle sounds, definitely check out Ricky’s recent release Ecstasy / Firehouse which came out on Pawel Sho’s imprint Absys Records. He’s currently working on an album for Doomed Planet.
Daniel Moloney aka Degreeº is another ‘trudger’ of the Irish drum & bass scene and part of the Initial club night, a saving grace for drum & bass fans in Dublin. If you’re ever in town then head down to Berlin D2 for the Initial Kru’s residency where JMC, Degree and Bruno supply the night with the freshest liquid and jungle. Want to stay in? Not a problem as Degree is also the host of Initial show on wwww.unknown.fm every Sunday night from 10PM-midnight.
The Initial Kru have hosted a plethora of international acts of the years with Degreeº warming up for acts such as Total Science, Fabio, Serum, Pessimist and Seba. As well as headlining some of his own high-profile gigs throughout Ireland, Degreeº has played across Europe, including Membrane festival in Croatia.
Apart from being a powerhouse of a DJ, Degreeº is also an exceptionally talented producer. He came to prominence in the scene when his first album Archive, a collection of previously unreleased tracks, was self released in 2014. In 2018 saw the release of the Intercity EP InHabit Recordings while last year saw his track Minor Threat featured on Boey Audio’s Emergence compilation. Currently in the studio working on new material for Dark Void Records, 2021 should see more Degreeº action, too….
Bad Operator & Artois
Bad Operator (aka David Campbell), is a producer, DJ and promoter from Bangor in Co.Down, Northern Ireland. He’s best known for his club night Crilli, one of Northern Ireland’s leading D&B nights which has since been a staple in the Irish Drum & Bass scene for many years and been home to a whole range of international acts including dBridge, Fracture, Skeptical, Om Unit and Chimpo just to name a few.
Artois, meanwhile, is Seamus Barnett, who became a resident of Crili after winning one of the nights DJ competitions. Linking up with Bad Operator shortly after, the dynamic duo have been hard at work in the lab producing an array of liquid, deep drum & bass and jungle. Their latest release 130 University Street is a four track EP (two tracks from Artois, two tracks from Bad Operator) and was self-released on the Crilli Label. The EP is a homage to the Menagerie Bar where they hosted their infamous events before its closure earlier this year in February.
Currently celebrating their 15 year anniversary, Crilli recently released their own Tropical RoundHouse Kick Hot Sauce, which sold out quicker than you can say dubplate. The celebrations continue this year at the AVA Festival in their hometown Belfast.
Spree is a live liquid drum & bass act that was conceived by Simon Sheldon and Suzanne Savage all the way back in 2001. In terms of sound, Spree treads the line between liquid / deep / jazz drum & bass. When they first emerged their releases on New Identity Recordings garnered plays and praise from the likes of DJ SS, LTJ Bukem and Ray Keith and their track Watari won track of the week on the then-fledgling BBC1Xtra all the way back in 2003.
Spree’s live show consists of Sheldon and Savage joined by bassist Antoine Rivoire, DMC champion Karl F, Lewis Smith on Sax and MC Kat. Their performances are characterized by influences of nu jazz, D&B, gritty vocals, old school piano breaks, tight drum programming, improvised jazz horns and turntablist hocus pocus. Throughout the years Spree have supported the likes of London Elektricity, Roni Size, and Giles Peterson and have headlined events across Europe, Asia and the USA including the highly regarded SXSW festival and on the Jazz World Stage at Glastonbury.
With 2021 being the 20th year anniversary for the collective, Spree is making a comeback with the re-release of their classic hits, as well as a special live performance at Sunflower Festival 2021.
B-Origin is Colm Brophy, a drum & bass DJ and producer hailing from Dublin. Colm has been active on the scene since 2012 and his impressive production skills and heavy vinyl sets have led him to become a staple in the Irish D&B scene.
His style hints at the darker and deeper sounds of techstep or even neurofunk due to his use of complex growling reese basses and have been spotted on InHabit, Boey Audio and, more recently, Bristol label Sixteen Step Records with the tracks Chaos and Zero Empathy. Watch out for plenty more B-Origin material before the year is out.
PRFCT Mandem aren’t technically based in Ireland, and only one half of the duo is Irish, but their sounds have been huge lately and they definitely require a shout in this piece.
The duo comprises partners Jev and Aisling. Originally from Kilkenny, Aisling moved from Ireland to study dance in The Northern Ballet school in Manchester but also got very involved with the drum and bass scene when she met Latvian born Jev. The rest was history.
If you’re a part of any of the drum & bass groups online, then you’ll definitely have seen PRFCT Mandem rip it up on the Bloc2bloc livestreams with their jump-up and roller-infused sets. They’re also proving themselves to be pretty handy in the studio, too – check their Hyperdrive EP or any of their remixes on Korsakov Music for proof.
SteppA is Martin Darby, a Dublin based DJ and producer with a versatile background of house, garage and dubstep and a passion for making dance music of all kinds. However, in 2015 he moved into the D&B scene and his productions have been supported by both local and international talent, having seen support on both Irish and U K radio.
Currently working on a variety of tech house and breaks tunes with myself (Sharpson), he’s released on a number of labels including Inhabit and his tracks are influenced by the early Metalheadz releases and the dark techstep era. An incredible talented producer, his star is still on the rise in Ireland.
Meet WOB! a Serbian/Irish drummer, multi-instrumentalist named Djollie who makes sublime liquid D&B.
WOB! first came to prominence in the Irish seen around 2013 thanks to his amazing live show that was regularly booked on the Irish festival circuit. His performances usually see him on drums, accompanied by a full live band, and often amplified by his exceptional productions.
Flexing between the liquid and deeper D&B sounds, his interesting style and precocious talent for crafting elegant and fluid productions is clear in every release. Part electronica, part electro-pop, all D&B, he hits that spot that well and truly transcends any dancefloor or festival arena.
Wob! Is currently working on some new music that he promises will branch even further away from the typical liquid drum & bass than his music already does. It should be out by the end of 2021.