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PHIL KIERAN Enjoy Yourself

Phil Kieran

“You have to keep people guessing. Keep it quirky and weird and interesting.”

 Irish electronic music mogul, Phil Kieran, heads to Geisha this Sunday, March 29. TOM CLIFT reports.

When DJ Phil Kieran discovered music, it had him lock, stock and barrel.

“I think when I turned 16, a switch just went on,” he says. “I can’t really describe it. This thing just changed in me, and then that was it. Music was what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”

For close to a decade, Kieran poured himself heart and soul into his music, gradually cutting his teeth in the Belfast house and techno scene before eventually releasing his first record in 2000. Since then he’s become one of the most respected club DJs in the world, working with the likes of Peter Hook, Green Velvet and Speedy J, as well as various ensembles acts including Alloy Mental and, more recently, Le Carrousell.

Asked if he’d ever do anything else, Kieran laughs. “I’m in so deep now that I’ve got nowhere else to go,” the DJ says. “I don’t have any qualifications, apart from being an artist. This is all I do; it’s all I’ve ever done. I think if you really want to do something, or be something strange, like be an actor or a writer or one of these weird, difficult things to get into, I think you just have to give it everything.”

It’s inspiring advice for wannabe artists, although admittedly it’s a little scary as well. “You just have to say ‘will I be able to eat?’ And if you’re able to eat, just do it,” Kieran insists. “I think people get too caught up and worry too much about the future. If you really want to do something, you have to really let go and just go for it. No half measures.”

What’s perhaps even more encouraging is that, even after all this time, Kieran still feels invigorated by what he does. “You have to keep people guessing,” he says. “Keep it quirky and weird and interesting. Because when it’s just too obvious, it’s boring. People want to be challenged. When they go out to listen to that kind of music, they like it because it feels a bit edgy. So you kind of need to get the balance right, of being edgy, but not being up your own arse.”

“I get bored quickly,” Kieran continues. “What annoys me about a lot of people who make dance music is that people not only treat it as a job, but it becomes like a branding exercise. How to sell themselves on the world stage. It’s very controlled and very focused on a certain thing; a certain sound that they really sell themselves on…I need to feel excited and challenged, and to feel passionate about something.”

Sometimes that can mean taking a step back. “Sometimes I’ll feel like I’m kind of repeating myself,” he says. “That’s when it’s time to switch everything off and get out of the studio for a week. Go and spend some time with the kids, or just go and get drunk and do something. Sometimes it’s better to switch everything off and step away from it. Go and build a fence or something. Get away from music.”

At the end of the day though, the music always calls him back. “For me DJing feels like I’m joining the party,” he says. “I used to take it too seriously… but I just enjoy it now. And I’ve noticed that when I’m enjoying myself, the crowd seems to enjoy themselves more. If I have fun, everyone else has fun. It’s a good feeling, feeling like part of the crowd. If you’re grumpy and not wanting to join in, then you’re just going to be completely out of sync.”

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