Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Interview: Dwayne Woods on Independent Irish Music

Dwayne Woods Irish Music Co Present
Photo: Liam Meates

Info: Dwayne Woods has been directly involved in what we sometimes cringingly refer to as 'The Irish music scene', because we're all for wont of a better turn of phrase, for almost 4 years now. Starting out as a music journalist with The Irish Daily Star in 2012, Woods went from there into radio broadcasting with The Co-Present, which he is still involved in today. During this time he interviewed many great Irish and international acts such as Ash, Kerbdog, Villagers, Gary Numan and many more. He has also been heavily involved in artist management and promotion, derived from his passion and desire to support independent Irish music. In a unique interview here on Remy's Music & Film, I had the opportunity to pose questions to someone who has experienced many different facets of the Irish music industry, and get Dwayne's take on where we were, where we are now and where we're going.

Remy: You've been working in the music business for a number of years now, starting out as a music journalist, and then on to radio with The Co-Present, as well as currently acting as manager and publicist for various Irish artists. How have you found that whole experience, has it been a mix of highs and lows or mostly positive?

Dwayne: Well I guess when I started in The Irish Daily Star in 2012 I was somewhat disconnected to what was happening musically or culturally in Ireland as I had been in Australia and New Zealand for years previous to that. I remember Mark Kavanagh telling me I could profile some Irish bands on the website, so I posted something about Nanu Nanu, who had just started to release music and it spiraled from there. 

I got a phone call from Ian the drummer from Swords a few days after the Nanu Nanu post went up and he wanted to introduce me to his band. That was the first moment I felt like a real journalist, someone had read something i’d written and actually liked it and had contacted me asking for help. Of course I obliged, Swords are a great band, and to be honest it was those guys who made me want to research deeper into the Irish music Scene. 

The Co-Present then kicked off on Radiomade in November 2013, which was the real roller-coaster, way too many good times to even start listing them. The show has been a great platform for Irish acts and has introduced me to many fantastic and phenomenally talented musicians like Naoise Roo who I currently manage. It’s all mostly positive, what a great time to be alive and actively working in the Irish music scene, I really do count myself lucky and I’m very very grateful to each person who has had a hand in keeping The Co-Present running into our third year. 

There has been some epic lows recently, this last year I just wanted to give it all up and leave Ireland. I remember walking through Dublin one day with my headphones on in tears thinking I’ve had enough of this bollox, this bullshit industry, this bullshit city (I do really love Dublin for the record). I’m pissing in the wind here. So I left Dublin, left Radiomade and decided it was all over and I was emigrating again but people (mostly musicians) have been very grateful for what Gav (sound engineer and partner in crime @ the Co-Present) and I do. Gav especially has made me see how we need to keep going with this, despite the hurdles. Honestly if it wasn’t for Gav I would have given up years ago. He can be even more stubborn than me, thankfully. 

Swords - Chasm

Remy: During your time with The Co-Present  you've interviewed many very well-known acts such as Mundy, Ash, Jape, Villagers and many more, what was the best / most interesting interview you've had that always sticks out in your mind, and the worst!?

Dwayne: Well fuck it you know, there isn’t really any bad interviews, no one has been kicked out of the studio and no one has hit me a box yet so I guess that means there’s a nice balance in what we do, hahaha. The Co-Present interviews are 'generally' very much relaxed banter and a bit of light-hearted fun. Villagers was great, it was somewhat difficult sitting on stage in an empty theater and talking into the camera about growing up as a homosexual in Ireland but it was great because Conor and I had both been working like crazy in the lead up to the referendum and that interview gave us both a chance to get things off our chest in a time of high emotion. I don’t think I’ll forget that day in a hurry.  

This is hard, oh I really enjoyed talking to Darragh Butler from Kerbdog. He told us a pretty shitty story about Brian Molko from Placebo refusing to let Kerbdog use their PA at a gig they played together which was the initial plan, it was a non event for Kerbdog anyway. I’m not 100% why, but I get the impression it was probably a cocktail of ego and jealousy hahaha. To be honest most of  the stories and craic tend to happen off air. I’m sure Gav, my sound engineer has a back catalogue of out takes just sitting somewhere gathering dust lol, be warned folks. To this day Gary Numan and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark have been my two favourite interviews, oh and Beth Orton too. Will someone let me interview PJ Harvey Please??

Remy: Working in and dealing with almost all aspects of the Irish music industry over the last few years, what's your overall view of its current state? To be more specific, what's healthy and what's not working right now?

Dwayne: The Co-Present not currently having a website is very unhealthy ;-) We are working on it though. There is a lot of people out there with great ideas aimed at helping make the Irish music scene a lot more fruitful and vibrant and helping musicians get the visibility they deserve.  There isn’t much funding there for independent projects unless of course you are one of the beneficiaries of said funding. I take my hat off to those who struggle with alternative music projects and come up trumps, it’s not easy.

It is awe-inspiring to see how musicians, journalists, promoters, bloggers, photographers, producers, filmographers and so on struggle to break the golden circle of the 'Industry' (there is innumerable amounts) and still manage flourish via their self-sufficiency  Everyone helps each other out in many areas such as promotion or events, or just helping you get a step up the ladder or a festival slot or whatever it maybe.

That’s the Irish music scene as I see it and that is a wholesome community of talent helping talent. The Industry here on the the other hand is a different ball game.  Sometimes they get it right and they really get it right and other times it feels like you are battling a human centipede. I really wish there wasn’t such a divide between scene and industry in Ireland you know between what gets airplay, gigs and and trips abroad and other promotional tools and what’s deemed 'Underground' but it exists and it’s raging and illuminated and if it was a physical thing you’d see it from the far reaches of the galaxy. But hey, that’s how shit works right?

Hazing - Nervous Signals

Remy: Running a music site myself I'd like an outsider's view of how the whole blog / music website community is perceived, what have been your experiences dealing with sites in general, but also more specifically,in trying to promote the acts you work with, do you find them all very accessible or do they vary?

Dwayne: National media is a hard one, sometimes you get in sometimes you don’t.  At this stage of the game lets say I know who to send a press release too and I know who to avoid. Blogs on the other hand are a necessity for alternative music fans, it’s where you can go to escape the shitfest that is modern popular music, a safe haven. Remy's Music & Film (Remy: cheque is in the post Dwayne), Nialler9, The Last Mixed Tape, and The Thin Air all deserve a special mention for doing a fantastic job. Kudos. I’m actually surprised there are not more successful music blogs in Ireland than there is to be honest, there is certainly scope for more.

Hot Cops - Decay

Remy: To get down to the nitty gritty, can you share some of the best acts you've heard or seen live since you started working in this area, and who would be your favourite act right now / what are you listening to?!

Dwayne: Ok, I hate these questions and I usually try and talk my way out of answering them but I love you Remy. 

DRUM ROLL…… So I am currently listening to Hot Cops (Belfast), The Great Balloon Race (Cork), Rusangano Family (Limerick), Contour (Dublin) and this amazing producer called Hazing (Dublin /London) who I came across on Soundlcoud over a year ago. He had a demo online and I gave it a lash and have been been playing his track ‘Nervous Signals’ on the show since and he only released it a couple of weeks back, I love that. I’m mega hyped about a series of pending releases in 2016. 

Obviously Laura Sheeran will be releasing more music this year after her first solo release in ages 'Light A Fire' on Saturday last. Katie Kim should be getting her album out soon too oh and Swords second LP should be on the way also, this is going to be another great year for the girlos I think. Overhead The Albatross are a band I’m watching closely at the moment, they have been consistently impressive. Gig wise I haven’t been to a gig for ages believe it or not. Someone take me dancing. It’s nice watching bands grow too, Sleep Thieves are a band I gravitated toward instantly. Their live shows are fantastic and I really can’t wait for album number two.

Laura Sheeran - Light A Fire

Remy: From the promotional end of things, how do you feel about the festival scene, do you think it's over-crowded at present? We've gone from having about 2 major festivals a year (Oxegen & Electric Picnic) to numerous monthly ones, with the summer months particularly busy. Do you think this is a help or a hindrance?

Dwayne: Festivals are seriously hard work, If you can pull it off without exploiting artists or paying them with the ‘Exposure’ illusion then you are doing something right. Is there too many Festivals? No I don’t think so. There is a wide range of independent music festivals supporting Irish music from Knockanstockan, Vantastival, Townlands Carnival and so on and I think this is really important. A lot of acts who would not necessarily make it onto the line ups of the larger festivals need to have these festivals, it boosts morale, It gets your music heard to a large audience and most importantly it showcases the best of what Ireland has to offer musically. 

Some of the large festivals are great and even have specific areas for irish artists and that’s all well and good, I hear stories of acts not getting paid etc but I try not to tap into it much, because I have enough to complain about as it is. I’m really glad Indiependence and Castlepalooza are no longer on the same weekend, in previous years that was the only real clash for me on the festival Calendar.  I think I’ll make my first trip to Tullamore this summer. Irish people love festivals and I found running gigs during the year in venues in Dublin that it was difficult to attract people to come check out the bands however many people that did come, did so because they had caught one of the acts at a festival the previous summer. At least with these festivals in existence people can get to see these bands, so the more the merrier.

Remy: Along the same line of thought, there's the number of bands and solo acts, it's really exploded in the last 3-4 years with hundreds of artists vying for an ever decreasing amount of available attention. Would you be of the opinion that some very good bands are falling by the way-side due to poor promotion / management, or is it just the survival of the fittest and the cream will always rise to the top?

Dwayne: The Irish music scene is completely overwhelming and consistently fruitful. It can feel over saturated at times but as a radio broadcaster and promoter I’m not complaining. Some acts really do misrepresent themselves in terms of presentation to the media. Building a decent EPK is vital. Lack of management can be an issue but so can many factors.  No I don’t believe the cream will always rise to the top either. There are Deal ready acts out there that have been doing the Irish music circuit for years and  I really don’t have answers as to why they have not gone on to do better.  It’s certainly not lack of capability. 

Remy: Tell us a bit about your own acts and how you got involved with them?

Dwaye: Well myself and Paul O’Connor and Fionntain McCaba have a band. We got together on a windy afternoon on Valentia Island last summer (if you can call it that). We are called Session Motts From Outer Space and we will be coming to a very,very small venue near you soon. In the meantime though I am managing the fabulous Naoise Roo. I do help acts out with publicity and promotion on occasion but yes Naoise is my only client I guess. Naoise Roo came on The Co-Present as I had heard her song ‘For You’ on soundcloud. I was expecting nice chill, minimal thought provoking tunes and what arrived at the studio was something entirely different hahaha. Naoise and her full band came in and played three tracks from her album Lilith, if you know the album you will know the tracks 'Uh Oh' and 'Oh Son', quite visceral and very loud for such a small studio. My mind was blown (and the windows too almost) it was one of the most memorable days in that studio.  I then seen her live on Valentia island (Yes that time the Radiomade stage literally blew away) and that was confirmation for me, I had to be her manager and thankfully Naoise obliged. Naoise also got a publishing deal with Tremelo Songs from that performance on the show so it was a pretty good gig for her I guess. 

Tremelo Songs also look after Katie Kim, The Cassanova Wave and Aoife Underwater amongst others. It’s really nice to have a different creative outlet and I love working with Naoise. She’s is an incredibly talented Lady, it’s quite easy managing someone like her because, well, she’s bloody brilliant, her band are brilliant and people really enjoy her gigs. I’m happy for her that people are picking up on her music, she deserves the attention and I’m only glad to help.

Naoise Roo - Sheets (Live @ Abner Brown's Barbershop)

Remy: Finally, what are Dwayne Woods' plans for the near and long-term future??!!

Dwayne: Near future, Right now I’m sitting at my computer waxing lyrical and listening to the new Lisa O’Neill album which I’m really loving an awful lot.  I’m trying to arrange a Co-Present with her before she goes on a promotional tour. Then Tomorrow I travel  to Dublin for some catch ups with friends.  Thursday we kickstart our new series 'Spotlight On' In The Spirit Store in Dundalk which is a new series aimed at focusing on particular areas and music venues around the country. We will have music from Elephant and We, The Oceanographers.  

We are then in Kilkenny at Set Theatre on the 23rd and the show will be presented by myself and Jeremy Hickey (R.S.A.G) with acts to be confirmed. Then Limerick and Cavan in June.  We are working with our film wizard Paradoxical Recordings once more so there will be short films of each show as well as podcasts. I will be putting a tour together for Naoise Roo very soon as well. Long term, I have no idea.  I’m still debating emigration but I’m enjoying my time in Leitrim, It’s a much needed chill zone after a fantastic but crazy five years. The Co-Present will continue as an independent entity and as long as i’m in Ireland I will keep doing it.  I am however going to pitch a completely different kind of radio show than The Co-Present to a few stations this year. I’ve decided to try something different and with an international edge. It’s time. 

The Co-Present Irish Music Radio Dwayne Woods

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