INTERVIEW - DEF NETTLE
Updated: Dec 2, 2022
Architecture shows a clear reminiscence to your childhood - could you detail how?
The song reflects a time of heartbreak and personal loss through the lens of a pre-Celtic tiger Dublin. I think most of us go through a period of adolescence where we experience isolation, loneliness and our first loves and relationships. In a way I have a lot of memories of Dublin during that period of my journey. It was a tough time economically and socially and Dublin can be a very grey and rainy city. I found myself out in the deluge a lot, hiding from the weather with nowhere to go, taking refuge in the doorways and arches that the city provides. I wouldn’t say I had an unhappy childhood but there were definitely some extreme issues and problems there and I tended to deal with them by getting out into the city, exploring the nightlife and underworld of clubs and bars, moving from one to another, using the architecture to keep myself dry and feel protected. The city has since become a brighter and more developed affair but I’m still surprised to catch glimpses of the old me in certain walls and structures. There’s a catharsis and an acceptance of that time in the song, a coming to terms with who I was and who I am now. Much of that struggle is over and it’s quite beautiful to have an artistic space to express that journey and to reflect on how lucky I have been and to know that I’ve done the work personally and creatively to survive it.
Why do you make music? Why is music important?
These days I think I make music for a number of reasons. First and foremost is that I’ve spent years honing it as a craft and I feel a responsibility to myself to use those skills and that experience and not let it all go to waste. I can’t stop and I won’t.
I enjoy the process. I have things to say and emotions to express. I’ve lived a fairly exciting life, much of it on the edge, close to the gutter but with a certain privilege. That could be the privilege of being Irish on my travels and places I’ve lived. It could be the privilege of having the opportunity and room to create. It’s the privilege of meeting so many characters with so many stories to tell. I’ve always been a story teller, almost a loud mouth some might say. I’ve seen a lot and I feel the need to express that.
I also love collaboration. I love the atmosphere of a studio or rehearsal space or a club or venue. I suppose they are the places I’ve spent a lot of my life and feel most myself.
Which music scene inspired you the most?
They’ve all influenced me in different ways. I’ve picked up different skills in each place.
Dublin taught me the basics. I was a DJ there at the beginning of my career and that gave me the time and room to develop myself as an engineer and programmer. I didn’t get the opportunity to study music growing up so in my late teens and early 20’s I felt I had a lot of catching up to do. Dublin is a place of conversation and style and music is elemental to the city. It gave me a wonderful framework to move with and learn from. I was surrounded by wonderful bands and dj’s and it was eclectic so it probably played a factor in the range of music that has influenced me. Also it was a small scene back in the day and very competitive and people had BIG opinions. I developed a thick skin which has come in handy throughout my career.
New York is where I changed direction from a dj/programmer to focusing on learning instruments and working on my voice. The Lower East Side and Brooklyn band scene of the mid 2000’s had a huge influence on my approach to performance and writing. Artists like Peaches, Interpol, The Rapture and various other groups that may have not become as well known really pushed the DIY ethic in me that harked back to my teenage years and the ethic of the skateboard & Punk Scene.
Berlin taught me minimalism and style. It changed my approach and it actually confused me in a way, a good way. All my life as an engineer there was a focus on making things sound BIG. All of a sudden there was a more focused approach, individual elements become more studied. Interestingly I think it was necessary for me to leave Berlin to be able to focus on that and work it into the music. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to let go of Berlin for it to have meaning in the work.
San Francisco is where I learned discipline and learned to appreciate what music is to me, what it means to me. It was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t focus on myself as an artist and instead worked as an engineer for the stage hand’s union. I learned stage craft there and actually didn’t go to many shows for a couple of years unless I was working at them. I’d needed a break after years of performing. I became a father there so it worked perfectly. The universe had a different plan for me though and after a couple of years I ended up on tour with The Cranberries and mixing/engineering an album by a band called D.A.R.K. that Dolores O’Riordan did with Andy Rourke of The Smiths and that all lead me back to Ireland and back to the artistic life.
Sonically, the single has a deep infusion of post-funk/alt-punk. Which icons introduced you to the genre?
The Smiths, Talking Heads, The Cure, Joy Division, Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, The The. These were the mainstays of my youth and are bands I can listen to now and still really enjoy. On the American side of things Bad Brains, Butthole Surfers, Beastie Boys, a lot of skate Rock and hip-hop, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, Wu-Tang. I’m also heavily influenced vocally by Tom Waits, Iggy, Lou Reed. I like the imperfection of Punk and Post Punk. I don’t want to hear perfect beautiful voices so much. I want the personality, narrative and rebelliousness of all of these acts.
What do you have planned for 2023?
2023 is time for the live element of Def Nettle to come through. We came about during the Pandemic and after that a lot of musicians here in Ireland got really busy so it took a while to get the right band together. We’ve just started playing shows and it’s really working out so I”m looking forward to that.
We’re putting the finishing touches on an Ep for Spring 2023 and it’s a hard hitting, danceable and personal affair. I made a lot of our first songs alone during the pandemic so it’s nice to be back in a rehearsal space jamming with real people instead of just sending files back and forth. You can’t beat the feeling of playing with your friends or having that live audience in front of you. We recently supported fantastic Dublin band, Scattered Ashes, and have pre-recorded a performance for ‘Fanning at Whelan’s’ for Virgin Media from iconic Dublin venue Whelan’s which airs on Tv sometime in December. That’s a nice way to launch the live band.