Finding Creative Flow with Irish DJs, Manus Malone and Jack Banks

Walking into the house with these two lads is always a treat, the kettle will be on, the teapot at the ready but the next thing is you’ll hear the bass coming from the sitting room and know they’re going to have something even better for your ears. I don’t think I’ve ever been to their house when the vinyl hasn’t been spinning. It’s crazy how music can literally set a scene and bring people so much together but for these two, it’s an undeniable presence and way of life.

Jack Banks and Manus Malone are two Irish DJs, both very well-known for their Disco Anocht nights — which was set up by Manus and Seamas Hyland — along with performances at the Hazel Wood Stage at Electric Picnic. If you’re not familiar with Disco Anocht, it was hand on heart, pure magic. Jack and Manus set it up with the intention of bringing their friends together and sharing music in Conradh na Gaeilge on Harcourt Street the last Friday of every month. The energy in the room was owned by the two lads and their vibey setlists. Over the two years, they invited really prestiged Irish DJs and producers like Nialler 9 and Kelly-Anne Byrne to play to their packed audiences — I don’t use the word sensational often but what they captured with Disco Anocht, really was just that.

I’ve known Jack since I was 16 and if someone told me back then that we’d be here chatting about gigs and how he performed with Manus at Electric Picnic last year, I honestly don’t know if I’d believe it. Manus is a really close friend of Jacks and someone that I’ve only recently crossed paths with since moving to Dublin. I’ll genuinely never forget the first night I saw them both DJing on Trinity Campus to a field of students for Culture Night last year and the energy they created… being honest, they really haven’t been able to get rid of me at their gigs since. 

Manus recently released his first ever EP in August, called Gradual Movements – which he created and produced himself. Gradual Movements is a “healthy mix of house, techno and breaks” — the track ‘Hey, it’s me‘ is also playing throughout the Creative Flow video (it’s one of my personal favourites from the album). Take a listen to the full EP, here.

The ‘chats’ were really prominent during this episode of the series. I started the conversation by asking them both to explain where their love for music began and how they’d define their Creative Flow as two up and coming Irish DJs.

Jack started, “For me, I am honestly just completely obsessed with music. Not going to lie, I am very much so in love with DJing; What gets me is how it really is all about knowing and picking the type of music to play to a crowd that will get the strongest reaction you want. It’s about creating that energy over and over again through your audience and having that control with the decks. I think that’s where I really find my Creative Flow.”

Manus continued by adding, “I’ve been DJing the past four or five years but I’ve recently gotten into music production. Production is a completely new side to creativity for me, which I suppose I’d been looking for in recent years. I’ve always been into music having played trad when I was younger but to have learned how to make the type of music that I love listening to has been so rewarding — needless to say it’s definitely been a learning curve but in terms of finding Creative Flow, it’s definitely been worthwhile and certainly what I’d define my Creative Flow as.”

The Irish music and arts industry has been so hard hit during coronavirus – it’s been devastating to even watch as a patreon of so many artists that now all of a sudden can’t perform. I wanted to get both of the lads perspectives on how they’d define the Irish music industry, despite the nature of such unprecedented events in 2020. 

Jack jumped in immediately, saying how much the industry had grown in the past four years, “when I moved to Dublin in 2014, there were honestly only a handful of club nights particularly for younger people, which were often based around house, techno and drum & bass. I think with social media over the past few years, it’s been monumental in the industry’s growth since 2014. It’s given a platform to so many Irish DJs and producers within Dublin and across Ireland. Electronic music is genuinely in a really good position right now and when you compare it to that of say the music coming out of Europe and the States, the quality of the way it’s being produced is outstanding; just look at the likes of KETTAMA and Tommy Holohan. Dublin is now a heavy weight in electronic music. It really is from the grass roots up, from teenagers learning to DJ and getting gigs in nightclubs to more well-known Irish DJs playing festival headliners, the scene is genuinely so strong.”

Manus added, “there’s a massive hip-hop scene surging throughout Ireland at the moment, particularly in Limerick, Galway, Cork and Dublin — which is really great to see. I think what’s also so unique at the minute is how we’re seeing a revival of the Irish language through music right now, which is definitely coming out through different hip-hop acts like Kneecap and TPM.”

At this point, I must tell you that DJing is not these lads’ full-time jobs. Jack is a PHD student researching epilepsy in Trinity, while Manus is a primary school teacher. I don’t think you could conflict more with a hobby in theory but I really wanted to know and understand, was where the interest to do DJing professionally began for them. 

I found Manus’ way into music so interesting. He literally started asking everyone he knew about the type of music they listened to, even the people that maybe had nothing to do with music in an everyday setting. “I’d ask a friend of my auld lads or my hurling trainer what they were listening to as a kid and it just opened up my awareness to so many different genres of music.” With such a tuned-in ear, when Manus went to college then that’s when DJing came to the forefront and he discovered he’d a natural talent for reading a crowd. “One thing just led to another and DJing in a professional capacity started for me and it really hasn’t stopped since.”

Jack started smiling at me as he started to chat about the Ipod Touch he got for his confirmation and how he used to spent hours on YouTube listening to music, “whatever way the algorithm was set up I was introduced to channels and artists Majestic Casual and Mura Masa but then came the 18th’s and I literally lived for people asking me to make the playlist for the night. Even though what I’m studying is so different, when I started college I really wanted to learn how to use CDJ’s and a mixer from the hours that I spent making playlists. College opened up the door to meet the right people and even now, it still does while I’m doing the PHD.”

Needless to say, we all know what it’s like to be in a crowd when the DJ is playing tune after tune but when you’re on the flip-side of that I was curious to know what that was like for DJs. 

Manus jumped right in when I asked about describing what it was like to DJ and watch a crowd energy be depicted by your very song selection. “It’s where the night starts and ends up that’s really interesting with DJing because there’s no two nights the same. Especially with Disco Anocht, those nights went on for five maybe even six hours, we’d often start with hip-hop down tempo tracks but the night would build and build and the energy would grow through peaks and trots — that’s what I really like about being up on the decks looking out at the crowd, watching the energy ebb and flow.”

Jack followed on naturally from Manus adding, “Disco Anocht encapsulated everything I love about DJing. I loved playing back-to-back with Manus, like you’d see the crowd in front of you and you’d be going off of their vibe. You’d then start to get into a flow and it’s then that you know every track you have on the cue is fucking going to go off — that’s what I live for and there’s genuinely no other place I’d want to be on a night like, than up on the decks.”

I mentioned at the beginning how Manus brought out his very own EP, Gradual Movements, in August. So naturally, we started talking about how where he drew inspiration to make an EP. 

Manus explained, “Gradual Movements was really inspired by trying to come up with the best possible type of music that I could produce myself. It’s been a while in the making and it definitely took me a while to get to a place where I was happy with the standard of the music I was producing. It’s very much an electronic-house type of vibe. Brame & Hamo are two Irish DJs that have been really representing Ireland around the world with their music at the moment and I definitely feel like their sound can be heard in Gradual Movements.” You can give the full EP a listen to on Spotify and SoundCloud — be sure to also keep up with Manus on Instagram, as he has begun sharing some of his favourite track on his stories every week.

As I’ve asked everyone else that I’ve interviewed, I asked Jack and Manus for the best piece of advice they’d give to any Irish DJs starting out in the Irish music industry. 

Funnily enough they both gave similar responses which mainly revolved around knowing your tracks inside out. Manus expanded on that point by saying how “it’s crucial to know where different points are, where elements are added or moments are created within a song, that way you know how to get your crowd engaged with your set. It might sound obvious but for someone who’s new to DJing, getting to know your music will help you to excel quickly.” 

Jack also reflected on how when he dealt with self-doubt and fear of judgement from his friends at home in Limerick when he would promote some of his gigs on Facebook. Jack said, “you literally just have to put yourself out there and don’t be one bit afraid of what other people think. I also think just be unique, everyone has their own individual tastes so there’s always going to be someone who likes what you’re doing — don’t copy someone else just to fit in.”

I have to say listening to Manus and Jack’s answers got me so excited about DJing and what it Irish DJs have to offer. Personally, I think people misjudge DJing — we’ve all heard of someone say it’s just a case of pressing the play button but when you start to delve into the technically of it and the inspiration behind a set, that’s when you realise it’s so much more. 

Here’s hoping Coronavirus doesn’t go on for too much longer and by next summer we’ll be all out enjoying Manus and Jack’s DJing in a club or at a festival again. In the meantime, definitely check out Gradual Movements and give both of the lads a follow on Instagram. You can follow Manus, here, and Jack, here

If you haven’t already given last weeks creative flow chat with aspiring bodybuilder, Ted Campbell a read, then click here.

Till the next one,

Sarah.

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1 Comment

  1. Joe n
    September 24, 2020 / 9:18 am

    Great interview manus and banks. Keep up the good work xx