A wild ride from a DJ on the rise.
On this week's RA podcast, we're feeling proudly nepotistic—Saoirse Ryan has worked here for seven years, heading up RA's tickets department. Reassuringly enough, her involvement in the RA podcast is an easy case to make, something we could do through her gigs alone this year. So far in 2017: fabric, Concrete, AVA Festival, Gottwood and Love Saves The Day. Still to come: Into The Valley, Love International, Sankeys Ibiza, Houghton Festival and Freerotation. But this is about more than eye-catching bookings. We can say with a straight face that Saoirse is one of our very favourite DJs. It's all the more satisfying that she's achieved success by simply going out most weekends and playing incredibly well.
Saoirse is from Dublin. She got into this whole thing through her mother, who took her to free parties and raves as a kid. She cut her teeth in the scrappy world of early '00s hard house and trance (rather than burying this fact, she seems proud to tell people about it). After moving to London in 2009, she began the slog of establishing herself from the ground up. After a few years of hustling, popular parties like Creche, Art Of Dark, WetYourSelf! and Half Baked became regular gigs for her. Radio was also key to Saoirse's development. Back in Ireland, she had a show on RTE, the country's equivalent of the BBC, and these days you can find her on Rinse FM, where earlier this year she was given an entire week's worth of shows.
But what of her style? "Diverse" is a heavily abused word, so we'll simply say that she's a house and techno DJ who loves to fold in other genres. As we touch on below, she's also fond of fader tricks (exhibit A: her recent Boiler Room set), something she picked up back in the hard house days. Saoirse's RA podcast feels like a culmination of 15 years spent collecting records. It takes that much experience to present the bold vision of house and techno on display here.
What have you been up to recently?
Mainly been deep in the depths of festival mud and arguing with strangers online about politics. I've had a few really unforgettable gigs, most notably Boiler Room at AVA Festival in Belfast, which was one of the most fun and most energizing gigs I've ever had. There was the sunrise set at Meadows In The Mountains—I was quite literally in the clouds on the top of a mountain with some of my best mates absolutely loving life. Finally, there was playing fabric Room 1 on a Saturday for the first time. I ended up playing for about four hours, and given my feelings for this club it felt very meaningful. I'm happy.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was actually recorded right here in RA HQ on a pair of 1210s and two CDJs. The Funktion-One system here slightly outweighs my home setup, so I'm very grateful to have access to somewhere that I can test out tracks and get a good feeling as to what they will actually sound like in a club environment.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
I certainly can but firstly I'd like to say thanks to RA for making this happen. For the seven years I've worked here I've read these interviews every week and discovered some of my favourite artists through this medium. It feels quite surreal doing one myself, I really can't explain how much I appreciate it. OK, enough of the soppy sh*t, the mix...
I really thought about it for a long time. Firstly I wanted to do something totally calm and easy listening. It's the summer so something bright and pleasant, which I guess is what I like to listen to at this time of year. I started to put this together, and it was all feeling very serene and snug and then I was like, actually no, feck that, my past few podcasts have been of a similar ilk and RA have given me an opportunity to reach a huge bunch of people in many different corners of the globe. So I decided to go straight in with something you might expect to hear from me at peak dance floor hours. Basically I've done the complete opposite of what I have always believed a podcast should be.
You're pretty busy on the faders when you play, which isn't necessarily common among house and techno DJs these days. Where does this stem from?
Ha, indeed. (Disclaimer: I'm not trying to be Ricardo.) It comes from my past years of playing hard house. I've been chopping away at the mixer since I was 14, it was just what you always did with that genre and it has followed me into what I play now. I try to make it unpredictable so it's not just dropping on the 1's and 4's. I save this type of vibe for the dance floor, as I have found it can have a good impact when playing out. I go for long transitions in the warm up or when recording a podcast.
You've upended the conventional wisdom that it's necessary to have "hit productions" to get gigs. What advantages and disadvantages are there of doing it this way?
I'm glad you asked this question because I spent about five years doing it wrong. I was always told that in order to be able to play records to people you need to make records for people. For too long I stepped back from collecting records and instead I spent my time in the studio writing music that I thought would suit this label or that label, which is honestly just bullsh*t and I really regret it. Now when I write music it's for the purpose of wanting to play it myself or just as an outlet for my emotions. I share a studio with a friend and very talented producer called Alex Anderson, and when I release something it will be on his label or with him, and only when it feels right.
I've been DJing for 15 years and this is what I know best. Some say it's harder to get to the point I've reached with just DJing, so this could be considered a disadvantage, but I think it's even harder doing something that you're not as good at, i.e. releasing records in order to DJ. Time is limited, find what you do best and put all your time into that thing.
What are you up to next?
I think what I'm most excited and damn right nervous about is an All Night Tour I start in September. I'll be travelling to about six or seven cities in and around Europe to play all night long, just me on my ownios. I really want to go deep into my record collection and try to bring together everything I love, whether it's dub or jazz or electro or garage or techno etc etc. It will be a test for me to see how this transpires in a club environment, but I'll make it work... I hope.