You would think that, after releasing arguably the most popular record of last year and definitely the biggest record of your career, that there may be a slight element of fear when putting out your next. It doesn’t seem to faze Krystal Klear as we sit down to chat on his return to Dublin. Moments before we connected over mobile I had watched an Instagram story of him and local disc jockey DJ Deece jumping around madly in a studio apartment. If there is any anxiety, it isn’t visible.
“There’s obviously a little bit of, not pressure, but anticipation to see what the reaction is going to be from people”, he tells me as we discuss his latest release, Euphoric Dreams, on Gerd Janson’s Running Back label, “but I’m doing the same thing now as I was three years ago. I’m just releasing music that I like. It’s a bonus if people like it.”
“The success of 'Neutron Dance' is an anomaly. Obviously I’m forever grateful for the support it’s received, but I always knew it was going to do well. I didn’t, however, think it would evolve into this thing. There’s no point me changing how I go about making music because I was never like that when making the record in the first instance. I don’t tend to dwell on the past too much. I’m one of those guys that are always thinking of the next thing. That chapter is closed for me now. I’m looking forward.”
Krystal Klear, real name Declan Lennon, was brought up with music very much a part of his life. His father, and renowned radio DJ partner Gerry Ryan, were part of the aficionado of Irish pirate radio during the late seventies.
“When they were young, playing music was their thing”, he recalls. “My dad’s musical taste played its role when I was growing up in terms of listening to anything from new wave to disco, to rock and even house music. I guess, in terms of choosing what you’re into, and I don’t mean to sound cliché, but being able to express yourself instead of going into that 9-5 culture, which is still such a huge part of Ireland to this day - knowing that he did something like that at his age was quite inspiring for me as I got older.”
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Having such an eclectic range of tastes within the household from such a young age, and being an avid collector himself, you could forgive Lennon for possessing a hint of snobbery when it comes to music, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Music snobbery - especially in dance music - hit its peak in 2018, with everyone from techno purists to the ‘outsiders’ that immediately turn their nose up at anything with over ten thousand SoundCloud plays having their say on contemporary electronic music. I’m keen to learn of Lennon’s thoughts on the matter, especially being the creator of a track that divided opinion from the underground to the mainstream.
“Listen, good taste is good taste”, he says. “I think with the internet, music became like football. Everyone has an opinion on it, which is fine. The snobbery end of it is comes into play when I see, and meet, DJs at gigs who think their shit doesn’t stink because they have a record bag with six hundred dollar records or they’re playing extremely ‘cool’ music. We’re here to make people dance, not so you can sit around and think you’re great because you’ve got a Larry Heard test pressing.”
“If you can play a really rare Basic Channel record and then play Robyn, that’s when you’re a great DJ. You understand that this is dance music. It’s music to make people dance. We’re not sitting in libraries every day comparing our twelve inches. It’s just all too serious. You’ve got to remember the fundamental purpose of the record you’re playing. Introducing people to something new comes later. It’s like ‘listen, this is some cool shit you may not have heard of, I’m going to humbly play it for you and hopefully you’ll enjoy it’. That’s all good. It’s just the ego that makes me go ‘get the boat, you’re boring’.”
Moving on, and after promising this is the last time I’ll mention 'Neutron Dance', we come to the discussion of track popularity. There have been a few DJs of late, namely Alan Fitzpatrick and Mella Dee, who have taken to Twitter to ask fans to stop asking them for their most popular tracks. This in itself has divided opinion amongst fans, with some suggesting that the artist should have more appreciation for what the track has done for their career and gladly play it to the willing audience. Or, perhaps, the artist is scared of being pushed into the shadowy corner of genre restriction and expectation.
“It’s nice that people want to hear something I’ve done – that’s the bottom line”, he states appreciatively. “You’ve got to remember, you make tunes to be heard. We knew early doors we’d get sick of it. It’s the 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' theory, y’know? You play something enough times you naturally get a bit tired of it.”
“Gerd [Janson] and I always say that’s when you get the remix record. For us, getting Mano Le Tough and Woolford and everyone to do all these remixes, has meant now that we have four other options to play 'Neutron Dance'. My only concern, and it’s probably the same concern shared by Alan and Mella, is that you don’t want to be pigeonholed. You just want to make sure that you’re not known as a one trick pony. I think that’s why it’s business as usual for me releasing records. In theory, I probably didn’t have to for another year. 'Neutron Dance', I’m sure, will be able to get me gigs for another little while, but that’s not what I’m in this for.”
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Lennon no longer lives in Dublin. He now resides in New York City, where he feeds off the energy, buzz and reality of the special moments that inhabit its buildings and street corners. From “recognised streets from films” to “the fact that a mafia boss probably had a bullet put through their head in that building”, the city possesses an ability to make you feel a part of something.
In a city that has such rich house music and clubbing heritage, I’m keen to learn of Lennon’s thoughts on the dwindling club culture of his home. District 8 (one of Dublin’s biggest and most internationally renowned venues) officially closed its doors on the weekend of January 25th to make way for an Aparthotel, and licensing restrictions and extortionate fees have made it impossible for a dance music culture, that is so passionately lived, to thrive.
There are projects in place to try and counter act this. Sunil Sharpe’s ‘Give Back The Night’ concept recently updated their mandate with events and discussions happening all over Ireland, from Galway to Waterford, yet decision makers still lack the awareness, and still possess the ignorance, to see that there is such a huge market within the night time economy.
“The reality of it is, yeah it would be great if someone in Dublin created a concrete shell, sub-club style six hundred capacity venue that has the city screaming every weekend, but the powers that be make it so difficult for any club owner or promoter to set something like that up that, before you know it, they have to raise the ticket prices and raise the drink prices until the club is completely bastardised.”
Lennon becomes visibly annoyed; his tone becoming quite serious, as if looking back on some form of hurt from his past.
“The problem is there’s no Night Czar, or someone that’s in the government area, who is looking after nightlife in Ireland”, he says, “It’s outrageous. I have friends of mine that come into town all the time and they view Ireland as this place of fun. We’re a good time nation. It’s tough for me when they come over and are all like ‘where do we go?’ I just go to the pub and have a pint. Outside of that I don’t know what to tell you. There’s nowhere to go raving. Our culture has been diluted on a daily basis because governments are more concerned about the same thing they’ve always been concerned about – their pockets.”
It’s led to a situation where good clubs can’t afford good acts because they want good money. On the flip side it’s led to a really inspiring DIY culture within Ireland, with labels such as Dublin’s Pear and parties such as Belfast’s DSNT building their own platforms, but the bigger picture remains bleak.
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Ideally people need to forget about the overheads. Never has doing something for the love of it been so important. One topic that is always mentioned, in terms of Irish nightlife, is extending the curfew – but what’s the point of giving people longer to dance when there’s nowhere to actually dance in the first place?
“Irish culture is dwindling down to an evening pint”, he says. “All these guys - I was one of them - we jumped ship. When we were twenty we were like ‘fuck this’. There’s no interesting studios or creative hubs. There are small pockets of people that are breaking their back, almost on a charitable front, to do things for people who want to be able to paint, photograph and make music.
“And you know what the fucking irony is? The government, when Irish people win their awards, win their Oscars and all these things, they stand behind them and state how proud they are of the Irish talent. It wasn’t you that helped them, so fuck off! They had to move to Berlin or Lisbon or fuck off to Amsterdam, or somewhere else, and they had to, almost ironically, have to find other Irish people over there to link up with in hubs and communities.”
“I’m a product of it. I learnt about music in Ireland, but I learnt about clubbing in the UK and beyond.”
“Repeal the 8th was a serious political situation”, Lennon continues. “Comparing the two is like comparing a monster truck to a mini, but there is something to be said for rebellion. It works.”
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'Euphoric Dreams / Miyoki' is out now.
Words: Andrew Moore
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