A Rave Affair: An Interview With Eomac

Both solo and as one half of Lakker, Dublin's Eomac is responsible for some of the most wiry, intricate and freakily banging club music around right now. Playing Corsica Studios this weekend, he tells Theo Darton-Moore about capturing the elusive energy of rave and his stellar new LP Spectre

Few producers manage to cover such wide ground as Irish-born Ian McDonnell, better known as Eomac. His music over the last couple of years has shown impressive diversity: scrambled rave musings released through Unknown To The Unknown, analogue house on Trilogy Tapes, through to the freaky art-techno of his recently-released album Spectre on Killekill and his upcoming EP for Stroboscopic Artefacts’ long-running Monad series. Alongside his solo work as Eomac, McDonnell is also half of Lakker alongside Dara Smith. The duo recently signed to R&S for the release of the excellent Containing A Thousand EP, and have gathered significant acclaim in recent years – not least from forefather Aphex Twin, who has been including Lakker tracks in his sets. Following a recent relocation to Berlin and the release of Spectre, it seemed a fitting time for the Quietus to catch up with McDonnell and discuss these developments, as well as the influences underlying his work and his upcoming Corsica Studios gig.

So you’ve recently moved to Berlin from Dublin. Was there anything particularly hard to leave behind in Dublin? I know you’ve got the !Kaboogie night/label that you’ve been involved in.

IM: Yeah, I think the general vibe and sense of community in Dublin is pretty great; because it’s so small, everyone kind of knows each other, so it has a warm, really friendly vibe amongst all the different crews that are putting on nights and running labels and stuff. I think I’ll miss that, and just the people I know there. There’s loads of really great artists and DJs there that are also good friends, so just that kind of stuff for sure. In terms of my own personal life it was time for a change, I’m just really excited to be in a different city and to do some new stuff.

The Spectre LP is out now, but how long was the record in the works for?

IM: The tracks are a mixture – it wasn’t like an album where I sat down to write it in that period of time. Some of them were maybe four years old, others are maybe six months old, so it’s a real collection of all the stuff I’ve been working on for the last few years. It’s really nice for me to have that mix of old and new stuff. Like the first track on the album, ‘SU Riddim’, was only written a few weeks before I sent the final mixes into the Killekill guys. I’d say most of the tracks were written in the last year or so, but there are a few that are older.

You’ve talked previously about being influenced by the rave scene in the early ’90s, do you think it’s fair to say that’s pretty audible on the new LP?

IM: Absolutely, I’m not trying to hide that influence, it’s massive. It still really fills my heart, that energy. I was too young to actually go to raves, which is the funny thing, I would listen to the tunes non-stop, and was out with my mates, and we’d kind of talk about going to raves all the time and imagine what it would be like when we were still in school. I had this romanticised idea of what a rave must be like, so I tried to put that into the music.

Maybe it was better not being able to go to them in that sense, as you have more of an idealised image of what they must be like.

IM: Yeah, Zomby said the same thing in an interview I was reading with him when the Where Were U In ’92 album came out. He said the same, an idealised notion of what a rave was, and that was what he was trying to put into that album. That really resonated with me – that idea to think ‘yeah that’s what it is!’ I just thought that rave idea, that unity of people coming together to listen to music – I love that.

Grime as well; would you say that’s been an influence?

IM: Totally, it’s a funny one because grime is such a London scene, but you can’t help but hear it these days – with the internet you can access everything. I think grime has kind of slowly spread its wings internationally. In Dublin everything comes across and we’ve had a few bookings with the !Kaboogie crew; we’ve had Terror Danjah play, we’ve had Elijah & Skilliam over as well and people like that, so there’s definitely a scene for it in Dublin. I love the sound – more so the beats than the MCing, although I love some of the really good MCs as well. I just love the energy and the beats and the gritty nature of it.

It was interesting for me, knowing you for making techno but hearing how much grime seems to have rubbed off on the new album, especially in the melodies – it reminded me of someone like Zomby’s take on it.

IM: It’s funny because people like Zomby and Burial and a lot of the UK stuff had much more of an influence on me really, but I’ve kind of become known for a techno sound. In the last few years I’ve been making more techno and that’s when people have started to take notice of my music, but a lot of what I’ve written in the last few years… I love garage music as well, I love swung rhythms. I think that’s why I wanted the album to be a bit more representative of all the things that have influenced me rather than a straight up techno album, or a straight up anything album, I just wanted to show the different parts of what I do.

Do you feel more freedom in terms of what styles you can explore as Eomac compared to in Lakker? I’ve read you mentioning Lakker is quite focused in terms of the style you want to produce.

IM: I think so. I think when we both get into the studio to do Lakker stuff we both have a more specific sound in mind, an actual sound or an atmosphere we want to create. We don’t even know exactly what it is, but when we hear something we both know when it’s the sound we’re going for. It’s a real mix between a lot of really electronic beats and sound design over it. That’s a rough kind of script to what we’re trying to achieve, but with the Eomac stuff, because it’s just me, I just do whatever I feel. When you’re working in a collaboration it’s kind of restrictive, because you both have certain ideas and you have to compromise it sometimes, and that’s kind of why it works when two ideas come together that you wouldn’t do on your own. Whereas when it’s just me I kind of try whatever, and when it works I go with it. I’ve got a bunch of hip-hop tunes as well, that no-one’s ever wanted to release yet.

How did you and Dara first meet? I read you played in a band before the Lakker project.

IM: We played in a band for a few years, when we were still in school, I think we would have been like final year in school – so around 17 or 18. We were in a four piece band for a few years. But then as it went on, as our tastes changed, we started getting into Warp Records and Rephlex and Autechre and all this kind of stuff, then it kind of changed. The band thing wasn’t working out anymore. Myself and Dara were still on the same wavelength musically, we still were really into the same sort of tunes, so we just decided, let’s keep going with this, and it’s been going ever since. That was maybe 2003. It’s only been in the last few years or so that we’ve started getting bigger releases and gigs and stuff, but we’ve been doing it for a long time before that – just kind of going to each other’s houses every week to get together in the bedroom studio and just make some tunes.

Any interesting projects you can tell us about with regards to Lakker?

IM: At the moment we’re working on an album. It’ll be our second album – we put one out in 2007.

Ruido it’s called, right?

IM: Yeah that’s the one, most people probably have never heard of it or listened to it though. You can get it on our Bandcamp, but yeah, we’re working on the second album now and hopefully it’ll be on R&S Records – I don’t know when, we’re still working on the tracks. We’re kind of getting there, we’re nearly finished with the tracks, but we’re at the stage where we need to choose the tracklist and make some final tweaks, but hopefully it won’t take too long.

Do you feel comfortable now with R&S as the home for Lakker material?

IM: I think it’s a really nice fit. Obviously it’s historically a really prestigious label but I think it’s relevant – the stuff it’s putting out now is still really good. I really enjoyed the Alex Smoke stuff they’re putting out, and Tessela and Lone – there’s a lot of artists that we are fans of and still really relate to on the label. They’re open to various different styles as well.

I don’t know how you keep up with all this stuff, to be honest. Most producers have a bit of a rest after putting a full-length out, but the Monad release on Stroboscopic got announced just yesterday.

IM: I don’t know, I have a lot of music that I’ve written and I’m constantly writing new stuff. I’m in a bit of a fallow patch at the moment just because of the move, but I guess I finished that Monad EP just before I left for Berlin, so that was only a few weeks ago. I just write a lot of music, I love writing music and I have a lot on my hard drive that I want to release. I usually want to get the music out there rather than have it just sitting around. Sometimes I think I put out too much music [laughs], but then when the music’s there and I’m happy with it and the label wants to release it, then I don’t really see why not.

Eomac plays at Corsica Studios this Saturday, June 7, alongside Headless Horseman, Abdulla Rashim, Tengui, Mike Parker, Billy Allen and more. For more information and tickets click here. Lakker play the Third Rail Festival in Reading on July 5, also on the bill are Grumbling Fur, Teeth Of The Sea, Polar Bear and many other Quietus favourites. For tickets and more info go here

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today