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....
This time, we're getting to know the one-and-only, Burlie Mac. Known to his family and friends as Evan McSweeney, Burlie Mac is a Galway-based producer/DJ and one half of po-lar-i-ty with legendary producer, and founder of Yoruba Records, Osunlade. A very busy 2019 on the road saw the pair touch down in major cities like Paris, London, Tisno, Luasanne, San Francisco, San Diego, New York & more. Burlie Mac is also a resident DJ at the annual Burning Man festival and a regular fixture in the Galway scene. A purveyor of deep hypnotic grooves and a true tribesman at heart, over 10 years of experience behind the decks has given this DJ plenty to discuss
So it's time to let Burlie Mac do the talking 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?
I don’t see many people making mistakes really. I guess some learnings I have had on my own journey is to try your best to stay true to yourself. Do what is exciting for you. The style of music your into etc. In today’s world, especially the music industry, there is so much hype. My advice would be try not to get sucked into that, as the saying goes, comparison is the thief of happiness right? Who cares what equipment your using, if your spinning records or playing mp3s, just do it for the love of the music, and the passion itself. The rest is just noise anyway. Also, I think its important to know your music library. I’ve often bought loads of new music to later on at a gig not having a clue what song is which. So yeah, spend time listening to and mixing your collection.
If you could eternally be stuck in one decade’s music scene, which would it be and why?
Hmmmm great question. I grew up listening to alternative rock. Big Queens of The Stone Age and Muse fan. Still big into it really. House and electronic music came much later for me. But I spend most of my time listening to indie, alternative rock etc. The Summer of Love period would have been groovy maaaan. For reals though, I’m sure that was a loose time. I lived in San Francisco for nearly four years after college. It’s not like it used to be obviously, but still a great city. So yeah, throw me back to 1967, down Haight-Ashbury district with all the boys. Far out.
Name a guilty pleasure that no one would expect you to like
Gwen Stefani – What You Waiting For. Banger to be fair, so maybe it’s no surprise?
Do you feel there has been a shift in popularity with regards to underground music from the Mainstream? Both nationally and internationally?
Absolutely, underground music does not seem so underground anymore really? It’s so popular now that it often seems that a lot of the punters at gigs are there because it’s the cool place to be.
What is one subgenre you think doesn't get the attention it deserves?
I’m not too sure, depends what you mean by attention. There’s so much music coming out these days I feel like If it’s well produced and has some soul, it’s going to get attention from somewhere. I’m not a big subgenre guy anyway. I either like the music or I don’t and I’m not caught up on what specific subgenre it is. Shout out to the intergalactic space funk micro-tech enthusiasts!
What is it that you love most about what you do?
These days I’m primarily making music, thanks to the whole COVID buzz. I find making music to be therapeutic. If you hit that sweet spot and get into a nice flow it’s great, you can be totally engaged for hours and time melts away and it’s a fantastically rewarding and wholesome experience. Mind you, that’s certainly not always the case. I’ve often sat there and not been able to produce anything interesting, and end up questioning everything! But sure that’s all part of it. You just have to show up and trust in the process. As Picasso said, Inspiration exists, but it must find you working. So get in there and get it done! And with regards to DJing, its just an unreal buzz when you’re in control, you have the crowd, and its all just happening naturally; song selection, mixing, all that jazz. Flow state baby. You can’t beat it.
What is one track that never gets old for you despite having heard it hundreds of times?
Four Tet – Pinnacles
What is something that irks you about the DJ scene in Ireland?
Well the Irish DJ scene for me, since I came home from San Francisco, is basically just Galway. I haven’t gone to many gigs in Dublin. However, I went to college in Dublin so I certainly did do a lot of partying back then as a student, and it was great! Tripod was class. Saw Sven Vath there one night, and I think Matador was on support and he hadn’t really blown up at that stage. I remember people saying ‘this guy is going to be huge’. Look at him now.
The one thing that irks me is the lack of smaller venues in Galway. It seems that to succeed as a promoter your depending on the students. Places like The Blue Note are class, they really have a nice vibe there. Would be great to have a few more spots like that knocking around. Would love to see more weekend gigs and smaller intimate parties happening. But I know it’s hard for promoters to draw a crowd outside of the students. In saying that the DJ scene seems to be thriving for the student population. There were so many gigs on this year for RAG week, it was mental. Both Electric and Monroes' have been booking in some huge names during the college year too. I was actually going to start throwing parties from my studio here before the virus broke. Day timers, small crowd. Just an outlet for all the great DJs and creative people we have here in Galway. Start a bit of a community and just see what happens. As soon as the restrictions lift I'll get one in the calendar. Stay locked!
What is your opinion on Night Culture in Ireland?
It has its challenges for sure. There are great promoters putting on class parties and booking massive names but with such a focus on drink, a lot of the time its hard to get anyone in the door before midnight, it's carnage for 2 or 3 hours and then everybody is kicked out. The licensing laws are a joke. Big love to the Give Us The Night crew for all the work they are doing. I think it would be a game changer for Irish nightlife if we could go till whatever time we wanted.
What is your opinion regarding the difference between old school vinyl DJing and modern digital DJing?
With regards to DJing, if the DJ is rocking the party on a pair of spoons then power to them, who cares if it's vinyl or digital. However, in saying that, and having dedicated so much time to my craft, it does makes sense to have a physical piece of music if possible. The widespread availability and ease of releasing digitally has really eliminated the barriers to entry. We could all set up a label in the morning and release whatever we want, and that’s great! But if someone is going to go to the expense and effort to sign your music and have it pressed to wax then that’s something to be proud of. And it means more for the artist when people actually buy physical copies of your music. Plus, it’s something to physically hold and have as memory forever, and will hopefully be around long after you're gone too. I heard somewhere that like 80% of the music on iTunes is never downloaded? That’s mental, but not surprising.
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?
I don’t think it has. I think it could actually elevate the level of creativity we see. You don’t need a big expensive studio or loads of analog equipment to make the Feel Good Hit of the Summer anymore. Anybody can have a go at it and express themselves, it’s great. I don’t think having a unique style is essential for anyone to be a DJ to be honest. But to stand out, I do think it’s important to have a sound or style that’s your own thing. There’s so much music coming out these days, that if you can produce something unique to you so that when people hear it, they say “Oh that’s definitely a xyz track" or whatever, I think you’re onto something then.
What is one track that got popular that you can't stand?
I’m not a big fan of Bicep – Glue. Shock! In saying that, I wouldn’t say I can’t stand it, but I’m not into it.
Favourite venue in Ireland and why. Go!
The ONLA crew in Galway always do it right! They know how to create a vibe and always deliver a cracking night. Shout out to P.Disco, Lolz and John.
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, but it was heading that way before the ole Rona came in. Will be interesting to see how everything unfolds after this all blows over. The dream is to make a living doing music, that’s where the heart is anyway.
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?
Definitely has affected me musically, I had some really nice international gigs in the pipeline, a few bucket list venues I was so excited to play in, but they were all cancelled unfortunately. Iv been busy with a few work projects since this has happened so I’ve definitely been kept busy. And it’s allowed me more time to work on music which has been nice. My advice, wash those dirty paws! Ah no, for those doing music, it’s a great time to upskill in the studio, learn new production techniques, finish older projects, maybe learn some basic video editing skills for that bomb music video idea you have been dreaming about!? Plenty of opportunity to do something positive with the extra time I think.