Don’t Believe The Hype _ Interview With Giles Armstrong
Techno stalwart. Admired Person.
Though Armstrong’s significant contribution to Irish Techno began when he was offered his own show on Power FM back in 1997, it was the outdoor rave scene that provided an entry to regular support work with pretty much every name that you could think of. Well, everyone except Vath; but that’s another story.
A subsequent chapter of infamy began in 2002 with ‘Electricity’; the long running series of events that he promoted with Simon Conway, however these days ,he’s just as comfortable playing at home with the likes of Jeff Mills, Reeko or Kriz Token, or away, at a festival or down the woods, at a party near you.
As customary, i (John) needed to have a chat with Giles to go along with the mix. What we ended up with here far, far exceeded my expectations. The conversation as you will see was very relaxed, honest and witty throughout. 100% bullshit-free real talk. If you read only one interview that we’ve ever done on subsekt, you definitely wouldn’t go far wrong in making this the one. Giles is a wonderful storyteller and he executes his tale superbly and entertainingly over the following pages..
Well Giles! Thanks a lot for doing the interview and mix for us. We’ve been threatening it for a long time now haha.. Would you mind starting off with the usual background stuff?
I’ve seen you possibly take the piss talk about the likes of The Brotherhood of Man and Showaddywaddy being early musical memories, but what sparked your interest in dance music?
Thanks for having me John. Delighted to contribute to one of the best techno websites around [got your fiver in the post btw!]. I was deadly serious about the Showaddywaddy & BOM references. I know this sounds clichéd but when I was growing up I was lucky enough to have a lot of music around me. My Grandparents used to have a studio in their basement in which my uncles who played drums and guitar used all the time. They were in various bands back in the late seventies so there was always all sorts of budding musicians hanging around the house. I even bumped into a young Phil Lynott one day and that was some vibe! A little later my dad worked as a steward for MCD so that’s where my love of gigs began. By the time I was in my early teens I had been smuggled in to see Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Spandau Ballet, Aha, INXS, Pet Shop Boys, U2, Kylie and eh Five Star.
It was much later on that I got into dance music. I went to school in Synge Street which is just down the road from the legendary Olympic Ballroom which was one of the first places to hold big weekly raves in Dublin. I used to go the Indie night in that venue most Fridays. I had such a great time [3 fosters & 10 major!] one Friday that I headed back the next night thinking the same Indie club was on. Well, did I get a shock that night or what! Music that all sounded the same being played really really loud, while people who smelt like a St. Johns Ambulance Xmas party ran around in shorts with their tops off, blowing whistles.
All I went there for was to hear some Ned’s Atomic Dustbin and hope I might get a wear off a Justine Frischmann wannabe from Walkinstown, but instead, all I got was thump, thump, thump, with the odd piano sound every so often and people coming up asking me do I “want to buy any keys?” Sure why would I want their keys!? Anyway, it all quickly became way too much for me so I scarpered sharpish.
The whole rave thing didn’t make any sense to me until a couple of years later but when it did I so wanted to go back to check out the recently closed Olympic Ballroom. It was around then that I started going to a club in Clondalkin called ‘Steers’. It was your average run of the mill ‘curry & rice’ suburban nightclub. My girlfriend [now wife!] at the time used to work there so I’d be often hanging around, waiting on the club to open. That’s when I stumbled across a DJ called Aidan Kelly, who called himself DJ Lisa at the time. He used to play most weekends, but each Friday he would be playing house and techno from early on in the night until the club filled up with people looking for the current chart hits to dance away the chicken & chips that they had just eaten from a basket.
It was early one Friday night when I had my ‘eeeeeureaka’ moment. I quickly got to know Aidan and he was a great help in finding more of this type of ‘new’ music. So basically, I got into electronic music while stalking my girlfriend [still, my wife!] in the Red Cow Hotel when listening to a man with a girls name play round black things that made strange sounds while I’m eating cocktail sausages on a stick.
Haha – Brilliant. What music were you listening to back then? Anything that you would still play now?
Aidan used to do up mix tapes that I would try and find the tracks in the city’s only dance music mega store at the time Abbey Discs [“it’s coming in on Friday, mate’]. There would be a real mixture of stuff from the big hitters of the day, like Future Sound of London, Leftfield & Orbital, to the many tracks that were to become known now as a ‘Dublin classics’. Tunes like Punchunella, IBO, THK, Warp 69 and Sound Crowd; who were like the Aslan of the scene, big in Ballbrigan but never in Britain. He also introduced me to some early house sounds by Inner City, Marshall Jefferson and Todd Terry which I still play today.