Photo: Press (Kerrie)
In times when DJs and producers seemingly take the world by storm over night, it seems even more crucial to zoom in rather than out – to find out and understand what makes regional scenes tick, move and evolve. If you take a glance at Manchester, you’ll inevitably come across Kerrie. Originally from Ireland, she started working at the local institution Eastern Bloc about seven years before also making a name for herself as a DJ and even organiser and, lately, producer on labels such as I Love Acid and Don’t Be Afraid. From its atmospheric start, Kerrie’s mix for our Groove podcast is as much inspired by British techno culture as it puts its own spin on it. It’s intense and otherworldy, yet brimming with peak-time material – a representation of the underground sound that she helps shaping on a daily basis.
You grew up in Ireland before relocating to Manchester, where you started to work at the Eastern Bloc record store in 2013. How did you get in touch with electronic dance music in the first place and when did you start to DJ yourself?
Initially I would say it was through dance classes when I was around 9 or 10 years old. The music was definitely more commercial leaning or club classics style but it definitely sparked an interest. I went to my first club with my older cousin when I was about 14 and after that I immediately went on to buy my first mix tape. it was a Fantazia tape mixed by Jeremy Healy & Sonique. 14-year-old me loved that tape although some of the tunes are definitely questionable listening back now! (laughs) We also had a couple of pirate radio stations in Cork and that was my staple diet of deep house and also more progressive house and trance. I was going to clubs regularly as a teen, in Cork we had a weekly night called “Go Deep” and heading there weekly for me was a solid introduction into good quality house music and laid the foundations for the future. Even though I’m a massive techno head now I would say I’m still searching for and playing music these days that has a groove, funk or some sort of an interesting hook in it, even if its bangs at the same time. I can safely say this has most likely come from growing up in Cork and also listening to decent house music for so long. in terms of DJing, my brother has owned decks from when he was an early teen and he taught me how to mix initially, I would have been around 17 at the time. I would mess around on his decks and borrow his records. No massive commitment though – I was more interested in being on the other side of the decks through my late teens and early twenties. Even though it’s not a weekly thing anymore, I still make an effort to get out to listen to good music as much as possible. There’s no better way to enjoy yourself than letting loose on a dancefloor to a wicked DJ or live act and it can also be a huge source of inspiration for my own sets. So for me, it was not long after I made the move to the UK in 2007 that I invested in my own DJ set up. It was an exciting time for me, I was experiencing new music, club nights, meeting new people with similar interests and I guess this must have spurred me on to get started on my own journey, the time was right.
Having initially started as an intern, you are now also organising events and play regularly as a resident at EBloc. Which role did the store play in your development as a DJ?
I interned initially for about a year in 2013 and then went on to work behind the counter selling records for three years where I did a bit of the weekly buying for house and techno, which was a great way to expand my knowledge of artists, labels and, styles of these genres. I took on the role of events programmer in 2017 which I’m still doing two to three days a week at present. Eastern Bloc has been a huge part of musical journey in so many ways. The quality of music we buy in and sell truly represents the underground and is of such a high standard. I’m very fortunate to have all this music to hand and I get a lot out of representing it in my own way through DJing. I would say it also has had a huge impact on me as a producer as well as DJ through the constant listening of records in their entirety. Being a vinyl DJ myself, the advantage of having first picks and buying in for yourself is a wicked perk of the job! My colleagues and fellow residents are all killer DJs, so I have learned a lot from them technically over the years. Being a resident has taught me to be adaptable, flexible and to be able to play any slot on the night not just the peak one – that’s the easy one to play! I’ve learned to always be mindful of the rest of the bill and how you fit into what the promoter is trying to achieve and what the crowd wants. Additionally, playing the all-night sets at Eastern Bloc has been the best chance to present all the styles of electronic music I’m into, it’s also been a really crucial part of trusting my intuition showing up with a few bags of records and making it work, really trying to make the connection with the crowd and holding them for as long as possible! A lot of highly credible DJs and producers have worked at Eastern Bloc since 1985, the owner John and past staff member Mark Turner were residents in the Orbit, an infamous UK techno club, so in my opinion being into techno so much myself it’s a huge legacy and responsibility to play under the Eastern Bloc name. It really has pushed me to constantly improve technically and really dig! I’ve been given some great opportunities through Eastern Bloc that have contributed to where I am today as a DJ which I’m really grateful of! I also equally have given a lot back, I worked in events for years in past jobs and developed the record shop into the events space it is today where we support and promote local talent and it’s safe to say the events have given the shop a new lease of life… Eastern Bloc is very close to my heart!
It would be an understatement to say that Manchester has a very rich musical tradition and on first glance, the community seems to be thriving while scenes in other UK cities – particularly London – are having a hard time. In fact, mayor Andy Burnham promised in 2018 to work together more closely with the local scene. Does the city however live up to his promises, and how would you characterise the current status quo of the dance music community?
Manchester is a thriving city musically. Its definitely being gentrified at the moment though and a lot of clubs and creative spaces are suffering because of it. However, we’re in a much more fortunate position than the likes of London and Berlin, where clubs seem to be shutting down on a regular basis. We have a few 400-500 capacity clubs, and then a lot of smaller ones for around 100-150 people, but not many in-between, which is a shame. Then you have The Warehouse Project, which has reopened. There isn’t really a DIY scene in Manchester at the moment in comparison to the likes of Sheffield, but I’m sure if it ever came to it and the gentrification became a massive threat people would find spaces to play, it’s inevitable really. Manchester has a very close-knit supportive community when it comes to dance music and I feel very lucky to be part of it. In my opinion I feel like the current status quo of the dance music community worldwide is not in the healthiest place, the scene has exploded but not necessarily for the better. The rise of social media had definitely played a huge part. It can be useful at times for sure and I use it myself to share musical content but I do think it can be damaging especially for the younger generation, but that’s another story. Overall, I feel like the focus is on the person or persona rather than the music and this makes me sad. Luckily though in Manchester and particularly Eastern Bloc we’re part of a passionate community-focused environment, through the events we hone in on local DJs and there’s a lot of satisfaction in giving young up and coming DJs an outlet to play to a crowd that’s well educated and supportive. It really keeps you firmly grounded and reminds you of what it’s all about…. it’s authentic!
Amongst your influences, you also mention left-field producers like Matsunaga Kohei alias NHK yx Koyxen and said that the Buchla pioneer Suzanne Ciani was on “top of (your) list in terms of inspiration and determination”. What makes Ciani so special to you?
I think I said she was the top of my list after my mom, actually! But yes, she’s a huge inspiration for me. She’s a woman, she’s obsessed with synths and went against the grain and the conventional route at the time and pushed her way into becoming an intern in Don Buchla’s studio even though at the time all she had was a dream and determination. It wasn’t acceptable for a woman to be working in a studio back then and if you were an artist it was assumed that you were a singer or musician, not a sound design artist or a synth player. Musically, I also admire the soft side; the new age piano and neo-classical music she makes. But I really, really love all the weird and wonky sound design and effects she did. There’s a video of her on David Letterman’s show with a DSI prophet in the 70s and she’s demonstrating it in all her femininity. Letterman looks scared, I love that! Ciani is a true pioneer.
You’ve recently made a name for yourself as a producer as well, but have only started to release your own music after switching from digital production to a hardware-based set-up. Why was that change in approach so important to you?
I used logic for about four years and I just got bored. I wasn’t getting a lot out of the process. I also found myself sticking loads of analog saturation on stuff, so I thought why not go for the real deal. So I took out a loan in 2014 and bought some kit, I also had a vision of playing live so that definitely influenced my purchase decisions. I still use that same kit now for studio & live performance with a few more synths, a new desk and extra FX. Moving to hardware was a turning point for me, I know it’s not for everyone but personally I get so much out of making music I feel so centred and calm and can get in a state of flow really easily through working with gear! It’s very intuitive way to work, I spend time on sound designs sessions separately so I have my pallet ready, that way I can get an idea going pretty quickly. I never had that with using a computer personally. I’m also a huge fan of rich warm analog sounds, with plenty of depth and character and my set up provides what I need and enjoy so I’m happy with it.
Before releasing your debut EP Before Calm on Don’t Be Afraid, you contributed the appropriately titled track “Eerie Acid” to I Love Acid’s ten year anniversary compilation. You described the EP especially as a huge milestone for yourself. How did these tracks come together, and how did you approach your first single release?
The Before Calm EP is made up of tracks from a live set I created and performed for Leah Floyeurs’ Leah with Sound Show. At the time I had a few live show dates so the method of composing for the live set and then breaking everything down into tracks afterwards; recording seperate parts, structuring and mixing, etc. worked well for me. I’d also have a good idea of how the structure should flow because of jamming them repeatedly. The single release “Eerie Acid” came about when Josh (Doherty, alias Posthuman) from I Love Acid was doing an Instore at Eastern Bloc and I took the opportunity to send him some demo’s. This was the first batch of demo’s I ever sent out and was pretty lucky to have a track signed from them. The batch of demo’s were raw acid tracks, all recorded in one take through a stereo output (the only output) on my old soundcraft mixer. I didn’t have the option to multi-track then; it was 100% from the machines so it forced you to really get things as well balanced as possible. Post-production wasn’t an option. It was great practice for playing live though as you were constantly jamming and trying to get the best take.
What was the idea behind your contribution to the Groove podcast?
I played at Tresor for the first time two weeks ago and this mix is a selection of records from that bag. It was a very special night and I didn’t manage to get a recording so this is a nice way to to cement the memory. So you could say this is the best bits of that set, a condensed version!
Last but not least: Where can we see you live or behind the decks in the near future and what are your plans as a producer?
I have a few upcoming I Love Acid shows where I’ll be performing a brand new acid-focused live set which will be a lot of fun! A few local DJ gigs in the coming months and a new project I’m working on with Means&3rd will be coming to light in May. Release-wise I have a few EPs coming out this year, a track on Don’t Be Afraid’s ten-year anniversary compilation, which is coming very soon, and various other things in the pipeline. I’ll be focusing on production a lot this year I’ve had some time off since before Christmas so I can’t wait to get back in the studio now! Thanks for the support and I hope you enjoy the mix!
Stream: Kerrie – Groove Podcast 244
Polar Inertia – Indirect Light (DM3D002)
01. ø Phase – Dirtro II (Token 037)
02. DYAD – Interface ( Takaaki Itoh Remix) (DYAD001)
03. DJ HMC – 6am ( R001)
04. Gunnar Haslam – Seasick Acid (BK-038)
05. Surgeon – Klonk 2 (DTR007)
06. SDX – 007 (D&H002)
07. TV.OUT – USER3328 (VEYL006)
08. Exterminador – Bleeding From Inside (BM2)
09. Shinra – Propellor (AF006)
10. Benjamin Damage – Swarm (50WEAPONS023)
11. Rhyw – Capeskin Blood (FAM02)
12. Thomas P. Heckmann – The Hand That Rocks (MONNOM013)
13. TNTUS – Jupiter 968 (ICR003)
14. L.B.K – Lauf Ins Leere (Bewusste Handlung 001)
15. James Ruskin – Work (Steve Rachmad remix) (BPLTD 03)
16. PVS – 23032017 (HMVVRK 006)
17. Pfirter & Grindvik – Road To Boyacá (Leyla 014)
18. Shlømo – Golem (47005)
19. Technasia – Acid Storm (SINO005)
20. No Spiritual Surrender – Yo Prefiero (LIES146)
21. Oscar Mulero – Transparent Ray (WUBC1)
22. Leiras – Ways Of Communcation (OWN015)
23. Max_M – Egg (Charlton Ravenberg Remix) (MRLTD02)
24. Ed Chamberlain – Synthia (Surgeon Remix) (BASE 005)