Carl Cox has picked him as one of the heroes of 2009, and Sven Vath and Luciano have both released his tunes on their labels. It’s only a matter of time before Gavin Herlihy is the name on everyone’s lips. ROB CHADWICK meets him ahead of the crowds…
Irish-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer Gavin Herlihy is a jack of all trades, and master of pretty much all of them too. His productions over the past few years has been second to none, with tracks cropping up on Cocoon, Cadenza and Buzzin’ Fly to name a few. He has toured the world, and is ready to take on more remixing duties for the likes of Supernature and Thirtyonetwenty soon. We caught up with Gavin to talk about his early days in journalism, his view on the popular cliché of the 'boring house' scene, and signing to new agency Forefront, run by Dave Beer’s former righthand man at BackToBasics, Charlie Legg…
You started life as a journalist, so why the change to making and playing music?
This story goes back to my schooldays. I had a guitar glued to my hand from the age of about 13 onwards and played in various bands, including a Rage Against The Machine covers band for about five minutes – until I got thrown out of our first gig for stage diving. However, it was difficult to get things off the ground in small-town Ireland, and by 19 things weren’t really going anywhere so I settled for career option number two which was journalism. I started off feature writing for broadsheets and interning at CNN in Atlanta, but luckily a random work placement at Mixmag turned me back to music and DJing.
Being tipped by Carl Cox to be one the heroes of 2009 must have been a true privilege?
Carl was one of my big heroes as a kid, especially when I first moved to England in 1997. I used to go to clubs like Slinky or the Manor in Bournemouth while at uni. I could never really stand the trance DJs, but every now and again Carl played and all sorts of doors into great house and techno music would open in my head. As a DJ, his skills were especially inspiring. DJing on three or four decks is easy these days thanks to Traktor Scratch, but back when I started, everyone was trying to DJ on three decks inspired by Carl’s legendary Sunrise three-deck mix.
Your career seems to be going from strength to strength. What have been your highlights so far?
Releasing my first record was a major moment. I’d set that goal for myself a long time ago and had given up on it every actually happening, so to finally get there and have my first track championed by a wide range of people like Luciano, Garnier and James Lavelle was a big honour.
Being released on Cadenza and Cocoon must be a massive honour too. Can you pinpoint the moment where you could say: “I’ve made it”?
I guess that depends on what your definition of making it is. My definition of making it is making music I’m satisfied with that touches people with a broad palette of emotions and styles and consistently pushes things forward. I think I have a long way to go with this as some producers work their whole careers to get to that particular zone. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’m working on it!
How would you say the house scene has changed over the past few years?
The minimal boom of 2003-2005 was a very inspiring time because there was such a broad palette of music being melted down to create something new. One minute a big record sounded almost like quality trance, the next it was more electro or house based, and then a week later you’d have everyone going mad for a super-minimal techno track. Now those people who use to say ‘techno’ this and ‘techno’ that say ‘house’ this and ‘house’ that. I think it’s very shortsighted because I’ve always liked house and techno, so for me it’s not about one or the other it’s about a combination of both.
There’s been a lot of talk that it has gone a little boring of late. Would you agree?
I think we’re on the edge of something new. The house hype has been going for a while and is largely a negative one because it’s mostly about mining mid-1990s deep house for ideas. Dance music is by nature futuristic, so instead of looking to the past for ideas we should be trying to imagine the future. The problem of things sounding boring is down to a catch 22. Labels are scared of signing innovative new music right now because illegal downloads have destroyed the vinyl business and they can’t afford to take a chance on something that’s not identikit Beatport-friendly house. Producers have to pander to the labels so few of them are willing to take a chance on creating a new sound so the whole scene is stuck in a vicious circle. Nothing lasts forever though, and it feels like this stalemate is about to break.
You have just signed to Leeds newest agency Forefront. What can you tell us about the agency and its direction within the house scene?
My bookings are still managed by Berlin's Wilde Bookings, but Forefront will be looking after my remix management. It's helmed by my old house mate from Berlin, Charlie Legg, who's a former label manager for Made To Play and Front Room. He was also Dave Beer’s righthand man at Basics, so I can’t think of anyone better to bring the various talents lying around the north of England to boil. People talk about the Dutch scene or the Berlin scene, but there’s an emerging scene of producers connected to clubs like Basics or Below just waiting to break through – Forefront is planning on making that happen.
What’s next for you in terms of production?
I’ve just released a new EP on Berlin’s Resopal Schallware called Quantum Physics that’s been getting props from people like Laurent Garnier, Julien Chaptal and Simon Baker. After that I’ve got a collaboration on Amsterdam’s Thirtyonetwenty and remixes on Supernature, Bar 25 and Magic Bag Music. I’m also working on new original music and an idea for my own label next year, so I’ve got plenty to be getting on with…