Dublin has struggled over the years with tough licensing laws dampening the local club scene, but how does this otherwise thriving musical city combat these problems? We explore the current state of play in Dublin with Strictly Deep / Higher Vision Event Manager, Director and DJ Jonathan Kiely.
Ibiza Voice - Tell us about your role within the Dublin scene?
Jon Kiely - I've been a promoter in Dublin for the past 12 years organising club events and working as a booker for numerous venues in the city. I’m also a DJ and have held residencies in some of the most respected venues in Dublin and played most festivals over here. Over the past 6 years, promoting and DJing became my full-time career and I have progressed to running a festival I co own, Higher Vision which just sold out in our 2nd year a couple of weeks ago. I would be best known for my club brand Strictly Deep which is well respected all across Europe. We also run a label under the same name and have released music from the likes of Solardo, Cera Alba and many other respected names.
Where does it sit in the context of the city's scene?
If I'm honest, things changed dramatically with Strictly Deep over the past 18 months. We were one of the most popular club brands in Dublin for 2 or 3 years when house & techno / tech house was huge here, but there was a massive shift musically towards harder techno and more disco orientated house so the stuff we were doing just wasn't as relevant to the audience in Dublin. I then decided rather than change our music policy for the sake of it that I would focus more on the festival stuff and my own DJing.
Jon Kiely playing at the Hangar
Which clubs / promoters are getting it right? and wrong?
Obviously, District 8 is the big one and they also organise Life Festival, Boxed Off & Samhain festival. They set the standard – they have the biggest venue, the best acts every week and run the biggest festivals in the country. This year they had Maceo Plex, Hot Since 82 and numerous other massive acts that no other venues can get because of capacity limitations etc.
I have massive love and admiration for Ryan & John from Abstract as they have always booked some amazing shows in the city and run Wah Wah club having previously ran Opium Rooms and Pygmalion. Colin Perkins now books Pygmalion and has carried on the great work. It’s probably got the most credible music policy in the city and for such a small venue it’s probably the most forward-thinking club in the city.
I don't think anyone in particular is getting it wrong but I believe there is a lot of trend hopping and chasing what’s popular rather than building a following based on music you love and genuinely care about. In my opinion, a lot of promoters let the smaller promoters build up acts, give them debuts and once they see it's doing well they just take them even if it's an act they aren't that interested in, which is disheartening for younger promoters. On the other end of the scale you have promoters jumping from house to techno to disco depending on whatever is the current trend. Rather than setting their own trend musically, they chase what the latest thing is. It's frustrating for me and I've been very vocal about it.
What's the best thing about the scene in Dublin currently?
The support for local artists and DJs is insane right now. Boots & Kats & DJ Deece have sold out District 8 numerous times in the last 9 months and artists like KETTAMA, Tommy Holohan, Quinton Campbell & George Feely get massive support here which is great to see.
KETTAMA is a young DJ / producer from Galway who's possibly the biggest thing in Irish house music right now. He's selling out every venue in the country, done a mini tour of Japan and is getting big support from Mall Grab amongst many others. He's the next big Irish breakout artist. Tommy Holohan is a 19 year old techno producer and DJ and was a resident for Techno & Cans. He's got some huge releases on big labels coming soon and Dax J, Mall Grab and many other big names are playing his stuff, it's techno but with rave elements.
Quinton Campbell is from Cellbridge and resident in Pygmalion. He won the AVA emerging talent award 3 years ago and recently performed at the AVA Boiler room this year. George Feely is resident at South William and one the busiest DJs in the city and one of the funniest lads too. He's making some amazing disco house and has had a number 1 selling record with his debut release. Musically he's like a mix between Jackmaster & Joey Negro.
What's happening musically in the city at the moment?
Musically, disco & groovier house are ruling things in the underground. Techno was huge for a few years but it's gone back towards disco and house. Before that it was tech house and before that again deep house. I think it was a natural progression the music got faster and harder. Dublin always had a big trance and hard house scene years ago so we always liked our music harder. The big buzz around disco & disco house these days just comes from a lot of the newest generation of DJs pushing the sound at student nights like Toast the last few years and that crowd growing up and loving that sound.
What do you think sets you apart from clubs in other cities?
I think the atmosphere here is unique. Most DJs say Dublin & Glasgow are the wildest and in my opinion it’s because our opening hours are so strict. We open at 11pm and close at 3am so we've a limited amount of time which means DJs don’t take any prisoners they just go for it which leads to a wild atmosphere.
What challenges do you face and how do you think these can be overcome?
Again the opening hours and venue closures. In the last 5 years legendary venues such as Twisted Pepper, Opium Rooms & Hangar have closed, and District 8 is due to close next year. With no sign of any new venues opening I think a lot of promoters are moving towards festivals etc but clubs are where new music and artists are broken, so I worry about the lack of quality spaces for underground dance music in the coming years here.
Sam Paganini at Higher Vision
Is it a good place to be an artist? Is the famed low rate of taxation for creatives still in play in Ireland?
I'm not sure how many artists or DJs worry about their taxes here! I don't think it's something that artists here think about to be honest. If you're happy and feel inspired musically in your own city and feel you can progress in your career then why would you want to leave such a great city.
What does the city need less of?
Less strict opening hours. This is essential and Sunil Sharpe's Give Us The Night are doing a great job of raising this issue and trying to affect change. Give Us The Night is a movement started by Sunil back in the mid 00s to combat the licensing changes which came into effect, and tied the hands of promoters. Opening hours were cut to a 2.30am closing time and late bar licenses were changed to cost almost 450 euro per night, which killed things for a while. Sunil is working to try and get dialogue going with the people in power to give us better opening hours and to give us back our nightlife economy basically.
And what does it need more of?
More dialogue between rival promoters. It’s very competitive to a point where it can be unhealthy at times. If there was more dialogue and better understanding things could be even better than they are already.