Ryan O’Gorman is a man of many talents. A prolific DJ, a producer under his alias Soulade, label boss, promoter, journalist, pirate radio host. You name it he’s done it. Hailing from the Republic of Ireland he’s ended up a resident of Ibiza since 1999 and become an integral part of the scene on the white isle. I caught up with Vitalik Recordings boss for a chin wag ahead of the label takeover in room 3 at Fabric this Saturday.
First off how's the leg? On the mend?
Yes slowly but surely, I've just spent the weekend in Berlin though, I think I may have spent too long on the dancefloor, it's smarting a little today.
I want to start off with a bit about your background. You seem like you've been on a bit of a journey to get to where you are now. You're from the Republic of Ireland but are now based in Ibiza. Tell me a bit about how you ended up there?
I'm from the South of Ireland but I moved to Northern Ireland when I was 17 to study music at The Nerve Center in Derry. My girlfriend had been to Ibiza in '97 and hadn't stop talking about it since, so once we tired of Derry we decided to give it a go at doing a season there. Two weeks in, minus all my money, my girlfriend and most of my self-esteem I finally got a break, I got a residency in a new venue they had just built here. The rest as they say is history
I seem to remember you telling me over a beer about discovering the rave scene in Belfast. What were the parties like back then? I can imagine they were pretty intense?
It was Derry not Belfast. They were run by a group of brothers, the parties were called Celtic Visions and yeah they were pretty mad. The first one I went to was in a big squat in the Waterside of the city. There was a huge police presence outside and I assumed that it was going to be shut down but it went on all night with the police patiently waiting outside, it was a real mix of people inside the party… kind of an intense party experience for someone who is new to Northern Ireland but they were great parties, good vibes once you ran the gauntlet to get in. They inspired me to do free parties I'd later organise in Ibiza, they were a pretty ballsey act of defiance.
You've clocked up some serious experience as a DJ over the years, with residencies at We Love and also jetting around playing places like Womb in Tokyo and Fabric (for the Sunday staple Wet Yourself). Where's been some of your favorite places to play so far?
The main room systems in clubs like Space, Womb and Fabric are something quite special to play on. Music becomes a powerful physical force in those rooms and you have to adapt how and what you play as such. I feel very lucky to have had a the opportunity to play on those systems and in those iconic clubs, each of them has a very different energy and crowd but certain common denominators also.
I had a familiar feeling this weekend when I was in Berghain, an assault on the senses like the first time I walked into Room 1 in Fabric and thought, what the fuck is going on here? Followed by… imagine playing here? The first time I went to Fabric it was on a Sunday, it was DTPM back then, super gay, which kind of add's to the experience of being a little out of your comfort zone. Fabric is such a maze also, it's kind of weirds you out that the deeper underground you go the bigger the club gets. Then being in the centre of the sound on a big vibrating dancefloor in the thick of it, as a DJ there is quite a strong desire to get behind the controls.
My first experience of Space also was a big game changer, being outside on the terrace on a Sunday afternoon, it was a more beautiful version of clubbing than I had experienced, flamboyant and colourful and warm…. It's very hard to pick a favourite but these are the places that inspired me and that have coloured my experiences as a clubber as well as dj.
It seems that the art of a warm up DJ is almost as hard if not harder than the peak time act. As someone who's skills cross both of these niches, how does your philosophy change between the two?
I think it's very hard to come by good warm up dj's these days and I think it's largely due to promoters not appreciating the value of good warm up sets. People beef up their line-up's with more and more artists and sets have become shorter so DJ's feel like they need to be peaking all the time, dj are less willing to drop the energy of their music in shorter sets as they don't like to build the energy for the next dj to take it up a gear… but thats you job as a warm up artist, you need to display restraint.
What's the worst gig you've ever had? (Mine was in a village hall near Telford but the less said about that the better).
I played a bora bora tribute gig in Burnley in what looked like a working mens club, some guy shit his pants right in front of us… it was bad.
So now to talk about the label a little. You started Vitalik back in 2009. What made you take that step and how do you feel 5 years in?
I'd toyed with the idea for while as I wanted to initially get in selling compilations in Ibiza. Then I went to Fabric one night with my mate Herny and met JUG there. Mark Henning was playing the most incredible music in Room 2, like nothing I'd heard before. JUG told us he was making music with Henning and that they would make an EP for us, that sealed the deal for me, that was VIT001, The Bubble Boy EP. For me the only reason to start a label is either to find an outlet for your own music or to release music from others that you truly believe is original.
You must be really chuffed to be hosting a whole room at Fabric. Does that feel like something of a coming of age for the label?
Yeah I'm delighted, Fabric was inspiration for a lot of what we did on Vitalik as a label and for me as a dj so it's very fitting, it's only taken me 5 years to get the gig hee hee. I only just told Mark Henning the story about hearing him play there and then releasing VIT001 recently and he was really pleased to learn the history, he asked about playing for the next one so hopefully we will do good job this Saturday and get asked back and we can have Mark play for us and complete that strange cycle of fate.
Your productions and remixes as Soulade have always struck me as very different sounding, with the harmonies you use and the textures you seem to go for. Do you work hard to try to cultivate your own sound or is this just how it comes out of your head?
Thank you, that's very kind of you to say so. I have always loved music that messes with your mind a little, music that you can't fully understand how it was made, basslines that shouldn't work but do, subliminal things that play with your mind, intricate rhythms and sound-beds etc. So I like to employ those things in my own productions, I always use some real word recordings, be it vinyl hum, field recordings of traffic or background noise of a restaurant… anything that fills in those digital gaps, I think that add's certain ongoing theme to a lot of my stuff. Also i take a long time to finish things so they often end up sounding quite intricate… that can be a good or bad thing, it depends on your personal taste I guess.
I've always been impressed by Vitalik trying to strike a fine line between working with higher profile artists such as Jimmy Edgar, The Mole or Agnes whilst also picking up some lesser known people on the way (like myself for example). That must be a pretty hard balancing act and risky at times?
Yeah it's incredibly difficult so support upcoming artists but these are the people who will potentially carve out the identity of your label. It's very hard to get their music heard if you don't put their music in the same context as better known artists though. You have to just hope that those artists will remember who supported them on the way up, building a record label is like building a family, doing one off releases with unknown artists is kind of pointless, you need to go the distance with an artist or not bother at all, each release is an investment in that person or your belief in them.
You've started bringing in some vinyl releases over the last year or so. What prompted this move?
We have done vinyl since our first EP but we did a string of digital only releases because some artists just won't sell on vinyl and we wanted to release their music so we went with it digitally. The vinyl market is so fickle now and it's very specific what will do well on vinyl. We'd be bankrupt if we did every release on wax, vinyl is hard work as a label. We generally do vinyl for artists who historically sell well on wax.
What are your plans for the label over the next few years?
We will release more good music this year than we ever have done, we have some incredibly strong releases scheduled so that's very exciting, We have upcoming releases featuring Jef K and Chris Carrier, Amir Alexander, Dachshund, System Of Survival, DOS, Will Berridge (one to watch) and myself under my Soulade guise. I just want to release good music and work with people I respect.
Vitalik takeover fabric's Room 3 this Saturday 17th May. Details
Joining The Circus
What to do for British politics?
Solidarity with Ukraine
URL vs. IRL
Do DJs Today Need Social Media to Be Heard?
I Hear (Borusiade Remix)
Mother of MarsShop Now
Hologram TeenShop Now