As D1 Records celebrates its 25th anniversary with a new compilation and takeover of Yamamori Tengu on St Patrick’s Day, its head honcho Eamonn Doyle reflects on his connections along with some contributors to the vinyl boxset.
The man, the label, the studio, the festival, the night, the D1 family
“We did a very early crowdfunding campaign and wrote 800 letters to anyone we could think of. We bought the stamps, did a stamped address return envelope and asked everyone for €10”
Maybe it was inevitable that Eamonn Doyle would set up a record label and recording studio. After all his late mother Kathryn worked with EMI upstairs from the hardware store his father owned before they met.
After graduating from Dun Laoghaire and doing a bit of travel, Eamonn took over the building in the nineties and started renting out artist studios for €25 a week to mates such as Alan Lambert. “I started making videos at the time,” he reflects. “We made loads on Super-8 which coincided with the start of Donal Dineen’s No Disco. We’d make an average of one every two weeks for the likes of Sack, Something Happens and The Divine Comedy.
“I started shooting videos with Eamonn Crudden and was going to make a movie with Alan. He had written a great score so we decided to record the soundtrack first and make the film after. We needed to get money. We got quote from producer working with Dead Can Dance in Cavan. The studio with an engineer was €8k for a week which was a helluva lot of money in 1991. So we did a very early crowdfunding campaign and wrote 800 letters to anyone we could think of – all family, extended family, all their friends, all our friends – we bought the stamps, did a stamped address return envelope and asked everyone for €10. There were no rewards but they were going to get credits on the film. It was insane. Within a couple of weeks, we got €10k in the door in ten pound notes.”
This smartly conceived windfall led them to Ballina after an ad in Hot Press alerted them to the fact that Brendan Grace’s manager was selling his studio for €10k. “I was like, Ding! Let’s buy that. They were upgrading. I had no idea how any of it worked but said I’ll buy it. We got an amazing desk machine, tape machine, monitors, a Tascam multitrack recorder, a whole bunch of gear. We threw down slabs on the clay and set it up in the basement.”
“The younger brother of the guy I was making videos with was Mark Carolan. He said he had a 4-track and turned out to be a whizz and is now one of the main sound engineers in the world working with the likes of Muse.”
They saw Wormhole in Fibbers across the road and invited them over to record, and this led to the decision to set up a label. “There was one independent label called Setanta but very few releasing music. There was a punk scene putting out tapes but none putting out CDs. I went up to MPO, a French company in Clondalkin, who were producing millions for Microsoft and they offered to press some for us.
“We were one of the first labels to release on CD. We’d have a launch in Whelans on a Monday night – fiver in, band playing and you get CD for free. It was a way of covering costs on the first night. And people were coming in going, do you not have it on tape. I ended up not being a photographer but running a record label.” Of course, now Doyle is lauded as a photographer and will have a major retrospective of his work in the RHA this month also.
His first label was called Dead Elvis which was established off the back of a €500 loan from DJ Tony Fenton and his brother Ciaran, both of whom have since passed away. Ironically, its name clashed with another act resulting in the latter having to change their name to Death in Vegas!
The label which was releasing the likes of Mark Broom and DJ Bone as well as local names such as Decal, David Donohoe, Decoy, Rob Rowland, Americhord and Annie Hall led, inevitably, to club nights and the creation of DEAF (Dublin Electronic Arts Festival). It ran from 2002 to 2009 hosting international techno and electronic luminaries such as Carl Craig, Aux 88, Plaid, M83, The Bug and countless more. It also served as a bigger showcase for the wealth of talent here, many of whom contribute material to the anniversary release.
“The first clubs were in the Rock Garden of Eamon Dorans, then we had our golden era in The Funnel before Switch and Traffic. We bounced about a bit, but ran a club every week for about 15 years and the idea of distribution came out of that.
Eamonn readily admits his forte was always in the idea and execution rather than the bottom line. “We lost money all the way through. The club kept things afloat every now and again. The festival was a real headache from day one in the Storehouse. The second year MCD and POD went up against us. There was a Laurent Garnier gig in the Point Depot which meant 9000 people or even a fraction of them weren’t at ours.”
“We were never going to be allowed raise our heads above a certain level. However, we were happy to stay independent and never wanted a title sponsor.” It was this spirit and insistence on independence which endeared Doyle and his D1 brethren to a somewhat loyal fanbase.
In particular, he remembers the second last festival when Moritz von Oswald was flying in from Berlin to play a sold out Whelans/Village takeover. However, he was rushed to Beaumont with a stroke upon arrival in the country resulting in a capacity spillover into Garnier who was also on the bill.
The social media era of instantaneous info was a little shy from being effective and Doyle turned up to see an angry mob of clubbers baying for his blood “I refunded €15k that night,” he says with a sanguine tone of a decade of distance.
Looking back at D1’s heyday, Doyle also remembers the wasted energy of youth. “We were mouthy on forums, had beef with other promoters and had our own fanzine called Subtext to take a swipe at people. The Slate called us ‘No Fun D1’ but they totally respected what we were doing. You just realise it is so pointless and takes up so much energy. With my photography I just keep my mouth shut. I put out the work and don’t respond.”
Of course, perhaps the best known D1 release came in 2004 when D1 released Fatima Yamaha’s What’s A Girl To Do on A Girl Between Two Worlds EP. This ultimate sleeper club floor hit was reissued on Dekmantel in 2015 and has now amassed 12.4 million plays on Spotify. Perhaps there’s a bad fortune moment to be winkled out of our chats, but Doyle doesn’t dwell in the past. He’s also modest when it comes to trumpeting the impact D1 has had on the city, its connections, lasting friendships and legacy committed to cassette, flier, poster photo or vinyl. However, a few others had a word to say…
“His room was like thousands and thousands of records – two decks and a bed and records, that was all”
Daniel Jacobsen got into techno as a teenager in Deansgrange. A couple of lads on the estate introduced him to it and then he met a DJ called Alan Dobbin. “I started hanging out in his house every day after school. His room was like thousands and thousands of records – two decks and a bed and records, that was all. It was the start of this really interesting education learning about Surgeon and Jeff Mills and Robert Hood. That was the start of it.” Immediately, he felt the urge to make music and laid down some tracks on cassette tapes. They made their way to Eamonn Doyle.
“He got hold of a demo tape and rang me up around ’95/’96. I’d been listening to D1 records. He rang my house. There’s someone called Eamonn on the phone. I was like ‘Hello?’ It was a serious moment for me. It was really amazing. He asked me to come into the studio and asked me if I’d like to put something out.”
This open invite seems to be a hallmark of this generosity of spirit with which Doyle sought out new sounds and artists. It echoes across conversations with multiple D1 heads. “I remember he played me the track Icon by Derrick May and telling me his background. That was a powerful, emotional experience.”
Every week we’d go to clubs and play music. We’d be buying records every week.
I studied jazz after my Leaving. I decided to focus on it with a view to coming back to the electronic side again. I nearly got sucked into the jazz black hole but I made it back out. Then I did the Music and Media Technologies in Trinity. A lot of producers I knew did that. I was being pulled in all directions influence wise.
D1 released Zoid vs the Jazz Musicians of Ireland (DONE019) in 2007, an electronic and jazz mash-up with techno inflections featuring Jacobsen sonically duelling with jazz aficionados such as Tommy Halferty, Ronan Guilfoyle, Mike Neilsen and Sean Carpio.
Jacobsen now runs the Ultimate School of Music in Dun Laoighaire teaching the next generation of producers, but the call from D1 reignited his first passion. “I was born and reared with techno. The feeling of listening to something coming out of your own city that wasn’t part of the greater global techno scene was special. Those early records by Rob Rowland and Donnacha Costello were a different feeling for us. This is music from our city and it was very inspiring to hear that. It was different.”
And as for his most memorable show, he traces it back to The Funnel and his first live set. “I was 17 and working on the set for six months in advance. In those days it was full-sized desktop PC, synthesisers and drum machines – a whole carload of gear. I remember hearing it at the soundcheck when it came out of the PA and it felt unreal. It was really great.”
Stephen Hennelly lives in Lucan at the end of a cul-de-sac within an estate. It’s a detached home with the kitchen blinds down. When I step in to meet him, the kitchen has shrunk to 20% of the space. The rest is an accumulation of vintage synthesisers and sequences with blinking lights. worthy of a festival stage appearance by Orbital. There’s an EMS Synthi A, Yamaha FS1R, Korg Polysix, Genoqs Octopus, the obligatory Roland TR808 and loads more stacked from the floor.
Named after a maths formula – the Split-Radix being a Fast Fourier Transform algorithm
which time stretches sound in music, Hennelly is rightfully unapologetic about his deep dive into technology. He works for Google on the hardware operation side of things in their data centre looking after “fibre optics and servers.”
“Eamonn’s a good nexus for so many people because he does so much and he does it all very well also,” says Hennelly who also first made sweaty acquaintance with D1 during their time in the Funnel, even though he moved away to Berlin from 2008 to 2014 and this is where he began making music and playing.
“I was lucky because I was paying rent in Berlin and working for Google so had this spare cash.
I started buying all these synthesisers and DJing in Kleine Reise, Loftus Hall and Griessmuehle.” Splitradix has self-released a couple of tracks on bandcamp so far and had a track or two on some compilations including Dutch label called 030303.
He reserves a special shout out for Dunc (Sunken Foals) Press Charges release with its Smokey Robinson acapellas and electrobeats. The “best Irish electronic release” for a long time.
Regarding the anniversary night, he believes it’s “a great way of starting a dialogue among artists. No really uses forums anymore.” The 17th will be his first live set. “I’ve been working on it for the last month and a half. I’ll bring four machines,” is as much as he’ll reveal at the moment.
And as for electricity bills when everything is plugged in, he’s unfazed. “It’s almost cheaper than boiling a kettle. They are all low wattage.”
“My mind was blown. I remember being extremely inspired”
Jonny Dillon is one of the relative newbies to the D1 scene. He recollects the 2008 DEAF festival, then “green and black one” in deference to Niall Sweeney (Pony’s) distinctive and visually arresting designs for D1 and DEAF. “I got in touch with him about submitting a track to the compilation and sent them along. I told him I made tunes, some simple bleepy-bloopy music with synths. He said the comp was full but having never met me said to come into the D1 studio, set up camp in there and make some tracks and do a record for D1.”
Dillon remembers making his way from Greystones and walking down the steps of the studio under the Underground Resistance logo and seeing this huge Drexciya poster. “My mind was blown. I remember being extremely inspired. I was at the tail end and remember seeing Eamonn support Juan Atkins in Crawdaddy.”
“I’ve always kept music as a hobby I’m passionate about. I’ve had great opportunities to go to great places and play great parties but it’s not something I want to do every weekend” says Dillon who works as a folklorist in UCD. “There’s a lot to balance between life and school and work and relationships.”
As for his live performance on the 17th, he says he’ll bring “a couple of little acidy boxes, a 606 and a drum machine and just fire it out – the smoke machine and strobe light approach.” He’s also looking forward to seeing Daniel (Zoid) who lent him a Roland TB-303 back in the day.
“Early inspiration for me include the Railway Raver – Jordan Muscott from Chelmsford who made fantastic music. Drexciya, UR and all things associated. As for now, I’m listening to lots of Hank Williams, Vincent Wagner and Dolores Keane.
“There isn’t the same excitement about attaining a new record or finding information about it now,” he says. “It’s difficult to parse the noise. There was more mystique and innocence.
A special edition triple gatefold 6 vinyl release featuring 55 new tracks to mark D1’s 25th anniversary will be launched in Hen’s Teeth on Friday March 15 at 6pm. It can be purchased in advance on d1.ie for €50
Acts include Mark Broom [aka Visitor], Donnacha Costello, Keith Tucker [aka DJ-K1], Rob Rowland, Shawn Rudiman, Decoy [aka Decal], Americhord, Annie Hall Zvuku, David Donohoe, Eamonn Doyle, Oberman Knocks, Who’s The Technician, Educution, Active Service Unit, Derek Carr, Bombjack, Automatic Tasty, Lerosa, Glenn Davis, TR One, Irene Buckley, Naphta, Alan Smith, Linda Buckely, Joni and Kaboogie, Ikeaboy, Baiyon, Five Green Circle, Lenoid, Roger Doyle, Foot Note, Scott Logan, Index, H Williams, LDR-21, Seventh Earth Project.
Eamonn Doyle’s photography show will run in the RHA from March 15 until April 22. Further details here. You can also read an interview we did with Eamonn about his photography in our November edition (170) and here.
Words: Michael McDermott
Photos: Malcolm McGettigan
Fliers/Posters: Niall Sweeney