Premiere + Interview: Brian Ring – Emperors Dance [Clutching At Straws]
Elusive Disco House producer Bangkok Impact comes back from the ashes with a remix of Drops Of Bitter Sweetness. Worked like a late night Cowleyesque affair. The Finn playfully injects dark room tension and release throughout.
Funky jazzy groove heavy number Mystery World nods back to the 1980’s Disco with hypnotic chords and bass.
Originally from Cork, Ireland which the Guardian recently ear-marked due to a new surge in emerging talent from the small but historically music-obsessed provincial Irish city, Berlin resident Brian Ring has been quietly releasing early morning disco-tinged delights on labels Running Back, Needwant and Freerange. On the cusp of his latest release “Journey EP” via his own imprint Clutching Straws, Rick Heffernan sat down to discuss rent-caps, studio gear and going out.
How did Cork influence you musically growing up? and what aspects of your adopted home, Berlin have kept you in the city?
My first memory of music was 1987 playing records on a turntable. I was so young then but my memory is very clear of that time. There was a three in one hifi unit in the dining room which back then was kept only for priest visits or formal occasions so I would sit there for hours playing Michael Jackson, Johnny Mathis and Wham records.
MTV was on television all day with music from Whitesnake, Johnny Hates Jazz, Inxs, Spandau Ballet on rotation.
Like some 80s buffet Madonna could be heard from one bedroom. Another bedroom – Iron Maiden/Eric Clapton and another room stuff Bros.
At the same time I started music theory classes at the Cork School of Music.
My friend’s older brother gave us tapes of a live recording at Sir Henry’s.
It’s no surprise that Berlin is quite a livable city. I’ve always resonated to the relaxed atmosphere here. People have a great attitude towards socialising. I think the important things , Berlin gets right.
With Berlin introducing rent caps for the next 5 years on property leasing, how do you see this serving the cities long-term night-time economy and cultural agenda? and is it a case of genuine care for creatives/artists from the government or an investment to protect part of the foundation of a circa 1.5 billion a year industry or both?
Interesting you linked the rent cap to the electronic music industry. You are right, the art communities are directly affected by gentrification. I think it is a case of genuine care and protection from the government and seeing the overall picture of the continuing effect of rent hikes.
Berlin seems to be going through a rapid state of flux at the moment. Much quicker now than in recent years. Long established clubs are closing frequently and more are seriously under threat. I think these issues still need to be addressed.
Where and when was your last club experience and how was it? Is there one or two hidden spots in Berlin that you’d recommend?
Sisyphos Wintergarten in December. The crowd there is usually unconditioned to expectations so it’s all about their personal experience in that moment, it’s joyful to see the dancers’ faces hearing something for the first time. Paloma is another spot, in its various forms over the past years.
For the adventurous, the basement of Kitkat is something of a hidden spot. On Saturday the floor takes on a Cabaret Disco vibe with everyone dressing up or dressing down with frequent casual encounters.
In what could be deemed a talent saturated industry in 2020, how does one stand out? and does it all really boil down to a non-stop chatter of content/video and uploads across social media platforms or is there room still for bare-bones talent to be recognized/picked up beyond the hashtags?
I think it’s very difficult to stand out in a “talent saturated” industry in 2020 without at least trying to be visible online and posting content regularly.
However there’s a common misconception that posting content regularly via twitter/instagram/facebook is directly connected to ability of art/talent.
As humans the more we see something consistently , the more we believe it to be true. So the product of the hyperbolic celebrated extrovert insta culture creates lots of “artists” who can successfully navigate the music industry, not necessarily being directly connected with art themselves. A sterilisation of the scene so to speak.
There are exceptions to the rule of course but the cases are rare.
Given that the general public can switch off from social media at any time without fear of losing their regular audience reach, what do you think can be the short and long-term mental health effects of being plugged in and on brand 24/7 combined with the pressure to create content?
For some people it can be very addictive. Constantly comparing 24/7. The more one is plugged in, the more moment to moment everyday life happiness drops off. Craving validation can lead to dependence. I think everyone has a different relationship with social media so it’s about finding healthy boundaries that work for you.
What’s your opinion on music blogs asking for payment to premiere tracks to their audience, as on one hand the artist spends considerable time and money getting their release ready but on the other hand the blogs have running costs to host the actual content.
Music blogs asking for payment is justified when an artist can directly benefit from the listenership support of the blog. When a fee is introduced there’s a possibility the quality of the musical output can be compromised which inturn could affect the blog long term.
Your latest EP is awash with afterparty, downtown disco, 80’s synth-pop, and lost dancefloor vibes. What images did you have in your mind when producing the EP and with the tracks, particularly “Emperor’s Dance” already causing a stir, what are you hoping dancers will be able to take away from the tracks?
I’ve always been interested in music towards the end of a long deejay set. The mask crumbles away ,there can be magic and pure connection on the dancefloor. It’s a reward for staying the course of the set.
I wanted to make a track more for Micro Dancing (yes, it’s a thing), focusing more on small subtle movements of the body. Macro Dancing is something we are much more familiar with – expressive big room dancing.
I had an image of a wooden dance floor atop a hill surrounded by pine trees at the bottom somewhere in the Swiss countryside.
I hope dancers will take away some therapeutic benefit from the EP. This isn’t music for the masses. You won’t hear it on Boiler Room. More so for the select few on the journey. Music of Lost Dancefloors.
The EP also features a stellar remix of “Drops of Bitter Sweetness” from Finnish house and disco aficionado Bangkok Impact. Remix results often result in mixed feelings, but how do you feel about this one?
I’m very pleased with the remix. Sami captures the vibe perfectly and adds his own Bangkok Impact signature sound.
You’ve recently started your own label, Clutching Straws, what are the label’s main ethos, what can we expect this year and what are some of the challenges of running your own label these days?
It’s tricky to come up with a label ethos without sounding corny. Release music that feels right perhaps…I don’t have a release schedule. There’s no real agenda so if I make something half decent I’ll put it out then. I prefer to try to focus on the present moment.
The main challenge running a new label is convincing myself I’m not mad for releasing vinyl in 2020 haha!
Walk us through your current studio set-up and are there a few favorites pieces and plug-ins you tend to favor over others?
Korg Ms-20 mini, DeepMind 12, Push – running through Ableton powered by a Macbook pro. Plug-in wise I use the Tal-U-No-LX alot. My friend gave me a Nexus rommler thing recently which is very useful.
Lastly, what are some of your latest record purchases but both the floor and home listening?
For home, I’m listening to a Japanese 80’s synth pop compilation on Jazzy Couscous from last year. It’s great..perfect for meditating.
With the recent exposure of David Mancuso’s Love Saves The Day party I pulled out a few dancefloor 12inchs from that era.
280 West – Love’s Masquerade was one such 12inch that never ceases to blow me away. A timeless masterpiece.
Interview by Rick Heffernan
Brian Ring – Journey EP (incl. Bangkok Impact Remix) [Clutching At Straws]
1. Brian Ring – Emperors Dance
2. Brian Ring – Drops of Bitter Sweetness (Bangkok Impact Remix)
3. Brian Ring – Mystery World
Release Date: 16-03-2020 // Pre-order Here
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