Our latest series of chats with the music-makers of Galway and beyond. All Hands on Decks will dive behind the decks of some of our favourite Irish electronic music producers, DJs and promoters as we learn more about their style, set-up and why they do what they do....
Hannah Hession is the freshest name on Galway's night-life scene. She has only been DJing for less than a year but has already played some incredible sets on very respectable bills. With regular slots in Pleasure’s pop-up shop on Abbeygate Street turning into regular slots in Electric, it’s been a quick rise through the ranks. An evening slot on Flirt FM talking about everything Electronic music helped Hession to develop a style and a particular love/admiration for the likes of techno and breakbeat. Beginning her career at such a young age, learning as she goes, means Hannah can give us a really interesting insight into the life of a budding DJ.
But that's enough talking from us, let's join Hannah Hession and get All Hands on Decks....
What advice would you give to fellow music-lovers who want to start on the path to becoming a regular DJ, as you did?
As someone who’s been at it for just about a year, I feel I probably can’t offer the same advice as more seasoned DJs. I’m extremely fortunate that I have gotten the opportunities I have. However, if there’s one piece of advice I have – be yourself. It sounds cringey but remembering that has done more for me than you’d believe. Even though I still get nervous before (and even sometimes during!) gigs, there’s a comfort in knowing what you want to play and what you like, and seeing the crowd dancing to your choices.
If you could eternally be stuck in one decade’s music scene, which would it be and why?
As easy as it would be to pick any iconic decade in the music scene, the only time I have really been a part of is now, and I’m having the best time of my life!I genuinely wouldn’t change it for the world – as appealing as other times sound, there’s no time like the present and I’m genuinely just grateful to be involved at all.
Name a guilty pleasure that no one would expect you to like
I think I have a few – I have a huge soft spot for the likes of Panic! At The Disco and My Chemical Romance. Also a fan of George Ezra... a proper massive fan of him if I’m honest.
Do you feel there has been a shift in popularity with regards to underground music from the Mainstream? Both nationally and internationally?
Completely! Take a look at Galway for example – a city known for its pubs and live music, it’s easy to forget about the rest. However, even since I started DJing, new nights for all kinds of electronic (or less popular genres in general) are popping up all over the place – from more obvious venues like Electric and The Cellar, to lesser visited spots like The Ol’ 55. Look anywhere and it seems we’re closer than ever to having something for everyone.
What is it that you love most about what you do?
Aside from the music being the obvious choice, another side of it is the people I have met since getting involved, and they have shown me exactly why I love everything about what I do. This isn’t just limited to being a DJ though – when you attend events you love, it’s so easy to meet like-minded people who are all there to enjoy themselves. The sense of freedom I get whether I’m behind the CDJs or in front is genuinely incomparable to anything else for me.
What is one track that never gets old for you despite having heard it hundreds of times?
Round Round by The Sugababes
What is something that irks you about the DJ scene in Ireland?
The stigma it gets – I’ve noticed so many people both young and old just immediately associate it with drug use. Even so many people my age think you need to be inebriated to even enjoy listening to it. I get that there’s seen to be a bit of a culture around it, but I think even people I know personally get the wrong idea. I totally understand if you aren’t into any music under the banner of electronic or otherwise, each to their own, but it definitely irks me that people can be so quick to assume they know everything about me from the kind of music I listen to or the venues I like to go to.
What is your opinion on Night Culture in Ireland?
Whether we like it or not, the Irish have always been known to be the life of the party. It baffles me that instead of embracing this in our society, our night-time culture in Ireland is still being suppressed. With somewhere like Galway having pubs on every corner, it is crazy to see how intricate and expensive it is to obtain a late license, and even then how little time it actually buys. Later and staggered closing could even prevent simple things like pushing and shoving to the cloakroom, overflowing chippers and everyone rushing to get a taxi at the same time. With the current pandemic, as the Give Us The Night campaign said themselves, this staggered closing could even become a necessity, and we may see some innovation in the night-time industry because our old ways simply won’t work anymore. Of course, that’s only the tip of the iceberg…
What is your opinion regarding the difference between old school vinyl DJing and modern digital DJing?
I nearly feel like I don’t even have a right to answer this question as someone so new to everything myself – I have a huge amount of respect for those who DJ with vinyl, and I hope I’ll be able to learn in future. I understand how appealing it is to own the songs you love on wax rather than a USB, and also can lead to finding pieces that could be near impossible to track down online. However, I think DJing using USBs etc is giving opportunities to so many people who have a passion for the music and don’t find vinyls accessible – whether its price or even sheer space in your gaff to fit them. It's opening so many doors for so many people to have such a collection online.
Do you think this has hurt a DJ's ability to have a "unique" style? Is having your own style separate from all the other DJs out there even important nowadays?
With the absolute abundance of music available so readily, if anything this has helped so many find a ‘unique’ style that they possibly mightn’t have before. Every single person is different, and you can only hope this shines through in the tracks you play and how you play them.
What is one track that got popular that you can't stand?
Dance Monkey, not even sure who the artist is but it’s actually unbearable! I don’t even know anyone who does like it but the amount of radio time it gets is unbelievable to me.
Favourite venue in Ireland and why. Go!
As of yet I haven’t found myself straying outside of Galway, Limerick or Dublin – but so far, my favourite venue has been Wigwam. The intimacy of the spot alone makes every event a special experience, and the crowd are all there for the same reasons as you, rather than in a big club where it’s less about the event and more about the location. I got the privilege of playing there back in September for VSN with Shampain, Cachai & Tadhg Ó Míocháin, and for days after I genuinely couldn’t believe it actually happened.
Is this your sole occupation? If so, what does it mean to you to be able to make ends meet doing something you’re passionate about?
It’s not my sole occupation, I also have another part-time job (hopefully will still have it when lockdown is lifted!!) and I’m just about to start final year of college – however the novelty of getting paid at all for something I love so much might never wear off.
How has the Coronavirus affected you? How have you adapted? What advice can you give to others about dealing with this and coming out stronger on the other side?
Between bouts of worrying about my parents, leaks in my ceiling and refreshing the news - this virus has still given me time to re-evalute. I was due to support Haai on mainfloor of Electric and the clubs had to close two or three days before - I was absolutely gutted at the time as it was the first non-Irish artist I would’ve been supporting. However, with everything going on it really showed me to prioritise what’s important, be happy with what I have, and just do what I can without panicking or putting so much pressure on myself. A time like this is so tough for those who have a sole occupation like DJing. If you’re still looking to support them and have a spare few quid, copping a few new tracks on Bandcamp etc can do the world of good (Especially when they have days where they waive their revenue share– keep an eye out for those in case they do any more!!). And of course, keep listening to livestreams, mixes and the likes. I’m more motivated than ever to improve and put out mixes now, especially with the uncertainty of the future… but of course, that starts with saving up for any kind setup of my own. Student budget + thin walls = No home setup as of yet
You can have a listen to one of Hannah Hession's mixes, which she performed on Flirt FM, by clicking HERE. If you like what you've heard and read, show Hannah Hession some love on Instagram and SoundCloud, where she will be uploading some killer mixes in the coming weeks. Keep an eye out for Hannah when the clubs and pubs re-open, you're guaranteed a night of serious dancing if she is on the decks. Check out VSN on social media to find more awesome local DJs.