Ian O’Donovan might be known for his melodic Techno records, but don’t expect him to spin purist DJ sets – O’Donovan is just as likely to play vintage Progressive or even floor friendly Tech-House strains. Then there’s the uncompromising and anti-commercial (perhaps this one stems from the slight wait for his releases bit), but in short he is a sold out performer and I mean it in a good way. If you’ve got any lazy assumptions to make about Ian O’Donovan, think again and watch his talent unfold.
And here’s where we get a chance to chat up the former Electric Guitar strumming Irishman and put him in the spot-light to discuss how his music has gone from strength to strength. With constant support and plays from some of the top djs in the world such as Laurent Garnier, Richie Hawtin, John Digweed, Dave Clarke, Adam Beyer etc. Ian’s tracks have found their way on to labels such as Bedrock, Tronic and KMS to name a few and it’s easy to see why Ian has gained such massive support and appreciation world-wide.
Hi Ian, thanks for talking to us at Decoded. First things first, we’d very much like to know, what was it that got an Irish man to go all the way to Australia years back, what made you migrate, did it have to do with music?
Hey, nice to talk to you. I went to Australia with some friends for a year out travelling. It didn’t have anything to do with music, although this is really when I began to make tracks on my mate’s laptop. I must have made at least 20 tracks that first year. They’re all gone now anyway, probably for the best as the production level wasn’t great… but there were some good ideas. I ended up staying in Australia for 4 years.
We also know you came back to Ireland, years later. Was this move that really put things in motion, to make your mark so to speak in the dance music circuit? Can you run us through that bit?
I didn’t specifically come back to concentrate on music. I missed family and friends and when I did return, I was working really nice hours and had a lot more time to make music. I made a bunch of tracks just for myself… Nobody had even heard any of them so I wasn’t sure if they were any good to be honest. I sent them to Laurent Garnier thinking nothing of it and he started playing lots of them. It was an amazing feeling.
Who were the guys you listened to back in the late 90’s. Anyone that made an impression in your mind?
DJ-wise, I listened to Laurent Garnier, Dave Clarke, Jeff Mills, Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin and Billy Nasty a lot. They all had a huge influence on what I played, particularly Laurent. The first time I heard one of his sets I was blown away.
Producer-wise, guys like Steve Rachmad, Slam, Mad Mike and Underground Resistance, Adam Beyer, Laurent Garnier, Jeff Mills, Dave Clarke, Green Velvet etc. all shaped my sound when I began producing later.
Your style is often described as Detroit Techno with melody, do you agree? To the sounds you’re playing in current times, could you give us a peek in to what you really like show casing while playing, as well as your productions.
Well for me, Detroit techno is techno with melody and a certain mood. Generally, I do tend to play a fair bit of this style of music although I always try to play a bit of everything that I’m into – from deep house to harder edged darker techno and some more electronic, synth laden sounding stuff.
Got any pieces of equipment lately you’re enjoying, and what’s taking pride of place in your studio?
The Roland TR-8 has been getting a good bashing lately. It’s good fun to use and decent enough as a studio tool. The Nord Rack is probably my favourite piece of equipment. It’s just lovely to use and I do use it on most tracks. The Korg Triton is always nice too for more organic sounds.
Could you give us a run through of the process involved, when you make a tune. Do you just tinker about, and then work yourself up from there, or do you set a feel and vibe in your head and know exactly how it’s going to go prior to making it?
It all depends on my mood. I might want to make something deeper or maybe more banging, so that always has an effect on where it goes if I’m messing about. Sometimes I start with a synth and play around on the keyboard or it could be with drums or even just a sample. Alternatively, I’ll have a melody in my head and just get that down first. Usually I’ll have an idea of what kind of sound I want and go from there.
And what’s your preferred DJ setup?
Pioneer CDJ 2000s Nexus and Allen & Heath Xone 92.
Let’s talk about your productions and remixes, what projects are you working on currently. And looking forward to anything in particular before the year is out?
Before the end of the year, I have an Ep on KMS as well as a track for Darren Emerson’s Detone label. I’ve been taking a break from remixes. The last one I did for Fabrice Lig ft Ann Saunderson on Planet E was done nearly a year ago even though it just came out. I’ve been slowly working on an album too, slightly deeper stuff with lots of melody. It’s probably about half done.
What are your opinions on the digital age of electronic music, vinyl vs MP3. Software vs Hardware etc?
In general I think the digital age is great. You can have practically as much power in your sound with just a computer and plug-ins as with a room full of hardware synths. It’s hard to tell the difference nowadays. The digital stuff sounds just as good in most cases. Some hardware machines have their own character though and are very hard to replicate. The downside is that production software is so easily available to everyone these days, there is a huge over-saturation of music. More great music than ever but also a lot of shite.
As for vinyl, it’s obviously so much more aesthetically pleasing to put a record on a turntable and drop the needle on it. Also, as an artist, it’s like a reward for the love and time that you put into making the music. It is however, a very rigid and cumbersome format. Bringing only SD cards/USBs and your headphones to a gig is great, particularly when travelling, not having to lug boxes of vinyl around.
Do you think Techno/ Tech-House should be futuristic and sound new as opposed to adding bits of the glorious strains of the past?
Until some new technology comes along that has a completely new sound, I think all electronic music is basically just modernised versions of past eras. Most of the deep house and techno tracks today sound like slower versions of 90’s tracks. I’m not saying there’s anything particularly wrong with that but the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s brought new electronic sounds and therefore revolutionised this music. We haven’t had another breakthrough like that since then so we’re forced to rehash styles from previous decades.
Happy with the way things are, considering some of the best labels in the music business are featuring your work with regularity and also the collaborations and remix work, your thoughts on this?
I’m happy with the direction things are going. It would always be nice to speed things up in this regard and make more inroads career-wise. Having said that, I’ve been lucky enough to meet and work with some legends of the scene both in the studio and behind the decks… and if you told me that five years ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.
Which labels are you currently churning out stuff for, that are upcoming?
As I said earlier, EPs coming up on Detone and KMS. I have some other stuff in the pipeline but no particular labels involved for now.
Any pursuits, other than music?
I spend most of my time on music – producing, djing or going to gigs. It’s more than a full time job… having said that, I’ll be looking at other avenues of income again very soon so that will be something new I guess.
Lastly, any vision or plans you want to achieve musically in the near future, what’s keeping you excited?
I hope to work with a label and artist I’ve followed since I got into electronic music but can’t reveal any more on that now. I’m working towards that at the moment so my album has been taking a backseat. I would like to get the album finished by mid 2015 anyway, all things going well.
Nicolas Masseyef – Len [Herzblut]
Slok – The Trip [My Favourite Robot]
Dave DK – Palmaille [Kompakt]
Nicolas Masseyef – Vero [Herzblut]
Ian O’Donovan – Lotus [Tronic]
Paperclip People – The Climax (Jonno Brien Remix)
Samuel L Session – Blazin Moody (Bootsy Mix) [KMS]
Vince Watson – Sonar [Poker Flat]
Alex Barck ft Christine Salem – Oh Africa (Frank Wiedemann Remix) [Sonar Kollektiv]
Patrice Baumel – Schizophreniac [Systematic]
Southsoniks – Just Another Chord Song (Oniris Remix) [SSK Music]
Alan Fitzpatrick – Turn Down The Lights [Drumcode]
Function & Inland – Odeon [Infrastructure New York]
Marc Romboy – Iceland (Garnier Remix) [Systematic]
Ian O’Donovan – Vortex