Ahead of a big night on Paddys’ Eve at Cyprus Avenue, Mike McGrath-Bryan speaks with producer Sunil Sharpe, of duo Tinfoil, and Ellen King, playing support under her ELLLL pseudonym.
Great collaborations can come from the unlikeliest of places, and oftentimes, such stories can make for excellent copy. The story of Tinfoil, a collaborative project between producers Sunil Sharpe and DeFekt, is suitably less glamourous, beginning with a chance bit of jamming and developing from there. Sharpe discusses the project’s kickoff in 2014. “One day I started randomly messing on one of Matt’s synths, over a track that he had just started. We jammed for about ten minutes, edited it down slightly, and that was our first track. It seemed like we had achieved a good sound but with not much thought; it was just on instinct. Continuing this as a collaboration made sense.”
In the time since, the duo has brought out a number of EPs, but the collaborative and creative processes have remained consistent in that time between the two of them, according to Sharpe. “It has mostly stayed the same, our tracks come together from jamming on the machines, and keeping the bits we like. Initially we did shorter jams, like ten minutes or something, and cut a track out of it maybe. Now we do much longer jams, as if we’re playing a full live set, and cut multiple tracks out of it. For playing live we discuss some of the ways we could build the set, and certain things we want to make happen, but it only really gives us a rough outline, it always changes in the heat of the moment.”
Tinfoil featured in Vice’s electronic-music sister site Thump last year, portrayed as flying the flag for Irish house and techno in an interview before the release of their third E.P. Sharpe is reluctant to be cast as a spokesperson for the scene, yet is keenly proud of its development. “I think the story focused mostly on the Dublin techno scene, past and present, and our impression of it. I really liked how that piece read. We’re by no means the only spokespeople for this scene in Ireland, we’re just a part of it, but I don’t think we feel strange being highlighted in some way for what we do. It was just written to help promote our sets at Bloc festival I think! Personally I still feel that the wider electronic music media pushes Irish acts down, and holds acts from ‘cooler’ cities or on certain agencies aloft as the ones of note. If you’re from London or Berlin and you’re good, you’re world class, but if you’re from Dublin or Cork or somewhere and good, you’re decent for being from Ireland. I’d like to think that we and the next generations of Irish coming behind us are gonna cut through that bullshit. We’re not here to be “nice little Paddies” or the token Irish. We’re here to make a mark in the techno scene as a whole, and I believe that our sets and our records do that.”
Tinfoil are performing as a duo for the first time in Cork on Paddy’s eve, ahead of a big Paddy’s Day show at Dublin’s District 8. What should people as yet unfamiliar with Tinfoil expect from the live show? “It’s an entirely improvised, live set. Everything is in the moment, which I think makes it interesting for the crowd and us. We’ve released 20 tracks so far I think, so will let people judge from those – Foil 1 and Foil 23 are probably our most well-received tracks so far.”
Cork, like Dublin, seems to be in a bit of a boom-time at present for electronic music, and Tinfoil’s constituents have both appeared frequently independently, sharing a grá for the city’s famed electronic music community. “I love Cork. The spirit and energy of the crowd is always wild and raw. Even when the club scene dropped in the ’00s, Cork still stayed quite strong. I feel very at home in Cork, and am happy to be still playing events with Jamie Behan. He has become a really good friend over the years, and is one of the people in Cork who has always been in it for the right reasons. Obviously if we had more flexible opening hours in Ireland, you could see more depth and creativity in terms of lineups and the make-up of individual nights. The main thing right now though, is that the interest is there, and that electronic music is being enjoyed by a young crowd again, something that took a while to happen. Ireland’s underground club scene is now represented in the way it should always be – Tír na nÓg.”
The duo faces into a busy year between solo projects, new collaborations and more touring for the project. “We’re gigging a lot, both together and individually, with Tinfoil being from now until the beginning of June, when we’ll probably park it until 2018. Lots of records are in the works for us both. Also, Matt has started a collaboration with Maelstrom, and I’ve also been doing stuff with Faetch. It’s a busy enough year ahead.”
Supporting on the night alongside Jamie Behan is Ellen King, better known as producer/composer ELLL. Debut extended-player Romance is finally out, via Cork label Art for Blind, and King discusses the process of assembling and producing it, as well as the feeling of having a collection of work “proper” in one’s hands. “It feels really good to finally have a physical release out there. The tracks were written over the Winter period 2015/16. I had them in mind for EP format at the time. I started working on video and artwork with Dámhín McKeown not long after that, which was really enjoyable as it began to from a more cohesive whole.”
In the months since its release, King has been busy, as the co-founder of GASH Collective, an all-female collective addressing on a national and local level gender inequality in leftfield electronic music. The conversation in general came from various statistics outlining said inequality globally, and the inspiration came from seeing co-ops emerge around the world to counteract the issue. “I took a lot of inspiration from similar collectives: Female Pressure, Discwoman, Siren, Apeiron Crew etc.. The biggest catalyst was the general sense disillusionment felt by myself and my peers at the lack of women on event lineups, involved in music production, technology, DJing etc..”
After a strong start with several club nights around the country, GASH partook in Quarter Block Party in February, as both festival DJs and tutors in a workshop for beginner female-identifying DJs and producers. “The workshops were a new initiative, so we weren’t sure what the response would be like, but it was overwhelmingly positive.”
On the topic of supporting Tinfoil on the 16th, the question emerges of Cyprus Avenue – what is it about that room and techno that has captured a lot of peoples’ imagination? “I think it’s less about the room and more about the quality of gigs. It’s hard not to get excited about them.”
Tinfoil play Cyprus Avenue on March 16th. Tickets available now via Eventbrite and cyprusavenue.ie.