Shane J. Horan: “You Gotta Do It”

Over the past few years, photographer Shane J. Horan has been an important part of the Cork music community. Not only has he documented the recent development of the scene for, but he’s provided advice and support to local music industry professionals, drawing from his own experience and expertise. Mike McGrath-Bryan gets a chat in about the hard work involved.

From his time running gigs in Limerick cafés, to co-founding community metal promoters Bad Reputation and sharing his knowledge with a new generation of promoters and artists on presenting and framing music, the importance of the work of photographer Shane J. Horan in the Cork music scene cannot be understated. Most recently, he and Good Day News contributor Cailean Coffey have been working together to document gigs and artists in Cork city via Irish music site His professionalism and dedication to the ongoing health DIY music and its culture in the city is rooted in his own passion for collaboration. “It’s people creating, and pushing themselves to do more. It means so much for people to get out there, and show what they have made to others. To allow others to take part in the experience. I know people can agree that getting out there and making a human connection is more important, with social media sucking people in these days. However, it’s always been important. It’s inspiring to see individuals in corpse-paint and kilts, or making rhythms and expressing themselves. Take Post-Punk Podge: if expressing yourself means putting an envelope over your head, and banging out dance tunes on a violin, then you gotta do it.”

Not only are collaboration and working together toward a common goal a professional motivator for Horan, but the community spirit engendered by Cork’s music scene has been a big part of his (and others’) personal life, as collaborations become friendships. “I mean, I’m surprised at the amount of people that bond over watching that Post-Punk Podge. It’s the work of others that helps us express ourselves. Sometimes just to dance, sometimes to question your values. It’s the grouping and bonding of people. It might start with a chat at a gig, and then you’re sharing a house with one guy, and working in a job with another. Sometimes it’s years apart between things happening.”

Developing over the years, first as an events professional, then as a photographer and music aesthete, Horan has loaned his skills and expertise to promoters in Limerick and Cork city, most recently mucking in with Cosmonaut Music, a promotions marquee for ‘aggressive but intelligent music’, to paraphrase founder Cormac Daly. As Daly himself transitions into a managerial role for local artists, Horan discusses his experience working together with a driven and focused promoter. “I have worked loads with Cormac of Cosmonaut, in many different venues, and as part of many different teams. He is very responsive to suggestions and collaboration, which makes for a great work environment. I generally keep my mouth closed, though when given the chance though I’ll find myself relighting the stage. After that it’s a case of just being observant.”

As mentioned at the outset, Horan is presently working with, and aside from his own work and building a mighty portfolio of music photography, he’s been working with Cailean Coffey, utilising his own contacts to enable Coffey’s own work and professional development via the Irish music-media survivor. “Working with GoldenPlec is a pleasure. I couldn’t ask for better than working with Coffey. I helped him with a few introductions, and since then it’s a partnership. It’s great having a sounding board for your ideas, and with someone who has a different experience and needs something else from the same events. We come from two different points of view on many things musically, I don’t think our playlists overlap. Often, Coffey has a history and insight into how things work which I’d never get as a photographer. It’s also beneficial to see what he sees at gigs and in music media. Highlights how you need to draw influence from all different parts of society.”

GoldenPlec itself is something of a survivor, now, with 16 years of serving Irish music under its belt. Rare has been the digital long-runner among Irish outlets, to say nothing of the changing role of print in media consumption, so the question is: how does an outlet like Goldenplec stay relevant and adapt? “I think they’ll adapt well with the ever-changing landscape of media consumption. They keep their ears close to the ground, and aren’t afraid to cut their own cloth either. There’s a high level of communication within GoldenPlec. Ideas get pitched around all the time, and there’s loads of freedom to experiment. I think the pressure of the changing media will be on bands to self-promote. It’s a delicate balance between staying relevant and over-exposure, but it’s an interesting thing when your local act is fighting with the likes of CNN for your attention and time.”

Having spent a number of years in Cork building a body of work to stand by, the photographer now has his sights set on the future, but is holding his cards close to his chest regarding the specifics. “There’s a couple of projects just started, and a few areas of my personal work I want to focus on. I’m currently drafting up a list of who I want to document. It will be a case of a lot of logistics, which is something that isn’t really seen when you just see the finished work (laughs).”

Search “Shane J. Horan Photographer” across all your social media, and check regularly for his visual coverage of Cork city’s music scene.

Bunker Vinyl: “Everything’s Been Done on a Shoestring”

From social work in inner-city London to providing a space for music lovers in the city, Bunker Vinyl’s John Dwyer brings strong community spirit to his lifelong dream.

It’s one thing to harbour a dream, then tell yourself that maybe it’s a little bit wild for your circumstances, your headspace etc. It’s quite another, though, to drop everything after two decades in one place to finally pursue that ambition. Located on Cork’s Camden Quay, the unassuming surrounds of Bunker Vinyl & Studio are, for co-proprietor John Dwyer, the embodiment of such a decision. “I left London after twenty-one years of being a social worker. I’d always wanted my own record shop, since I was eight, so I started at Mother Jones’ Flea Market, selling out of there for nine months, then opened the shop. Here we are two years later.”

Selling music almost entirely on vinyl, Bunker is one of a clutch of shops that has grown in recent years off the back of the format’s mainstream comeback as an alternative to streaming. Even so, it must have been a challenge taking on something new after being in such a substantative role for twenty-one years. “It was, but I was kind of in and around record shops throughout the nineties in Brighton, I’d be obsessed. Even though I was a social worker, I’d spend my weekend at record shops, clubs, venues, etc. So… I’d the transferrable skills.”

With a strong interest in the UK’s musical underground and sociopolitical ethics fine-honed by his time in the UK’s social-work system, it didn’t take long for those interests to cross over, and for Dwyer to find his niche as a social worker. “Oh yeah, I used to run a music programme for kids with disabilities, and it was basically giving kids the chance to go into studios, learn how to record people, then we had DJ competitions for people. Work with disadvantaged kids, we had a music project in West London, which turned into gigs, and eventually a label, which was funded for a while, until that was taken away by the Tory government. So, it’s interesting to come back and see what’s changed since the boom and bust. Things seem to be improving – seem to be improving.”

After moving back to Ireland to pursue his dream, Dwyer got his start selling records at Mother Jones’ Flea Market, a hub for vintage culture, antiques, and specialist retail. The importance of community made itself apparent from the get-go. “It’s a good place to start. You’re there for three days a week, and you get to meet loads of heads there. There’s a good buzz around the place, you get to figure out who’s who in the city. The overheads are small, so it’s a good opportunity to start a business and see does it have legs, I suppose. Really good place.”

Once the business began outgrowing its capacity at the market thanks to a bottom-line of support and custom, Dwyer was faced with the decision to move, no mean feat two years ago, at the outset of the current property crisis. But doing so has allowed Bunker Vinyl to grow steadily. “Just finding the property in the city was quite difficult, but I luckily found this place, it was the third or fourth shop I looked at. Just a matter of stock, buying in records from all over the place, and doing so on a limited budget. Everything’s been done on a shoestring, only expanding as far as I can afford to, really, and that’s the way the business is growing.”

Alongside the record shop downstairs in Bunker, a studio space has been set up for Dwyer and co-conspirator Aileen Wallace, as a base for lessons, workshops and creativity. “I met Aileen when she was busking one day, she and a few friends were looking for a place to teach music. When I got into this space, I realised we could actually have two spaces within the shop, and Aileen was the first person I thought of that would be good for it. It’s a slow builder, but Aileen’s away doing different things as well, so it’s kind-of become our little musical nirvana.”

The importance of spaces like Bunker Vinyl + Studio to Cork’s music scene cannot be overstated, being as they are, as the song says, the ears of the town. Dwyer will be the first to outline that importance, and pride of place of record shops in the community. “A record shop has always been the place where the person running it is a complete music addict, wants to share music with other people. There is a lot of people that just come in to chat, tell you about their records. You get guys coming in doing posters, telling you about their gigs. You get to know everyone that comes through.”

Bunker Vinyl + Studio is open Tues-Sun at 1 Camden Quay, Cork City, selling music on vinyl and CD, new and secondhand.