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The Town's Tunes

The Town’s Tunes Deputy Entertainment Editor

Credit: Shane Horan

CATHAL DONOVAN O’NEILL jams with Mike McGrath-Bryan to find out why you should check out Cork music

Mike Mcgrath-Bryan behind the mic on Red on Red

Music coming out of Cork has never been this good. There’s something for everyone, with bands running the gamut from black metal to finger-snapping pop, all within a fifteen minutes’ walk from UCC. That level of variety is exciting, but when I arrived in UCC it was difficult to find out where I stood with Cork’s music scene. That’s why I sat down with Mike McGrath-Bryan to ask the questions that I had in first year.

Mike has written about Cork’s music scene for just about every place that covers Irish music. The man knows music, Cork music in particular, and isn’t shy about it. He’s a born-again evangelist for the city’s sounds.

Irish music made a comeback this past year. Acts like Jafaris have broken the airplay barrier. Dublin produces pop and hip-hop bangers, Limerick’s a haven for weird electronica. What makes Cork’s music special? “There’s not been a sustained music industry presence here, ever. The traditional music industry was always based in Dublin and was always making the majority of signings in Dublin. Because Cork bands have had that breathing space to do what they want and develop their own ideas away from the spotlight of magazines and of much radio, you saw people coming up with their own ideas and being very fearless with how they covered everyday things. That quirkiness has stayed in the water.”

Creative freedom means weird and wonderful things, and fans of metal, hip-hop, pop and techno are spoiled for choice. “At present, in terms of metal, God Alone are my favourite. Black metal fusionists, having put so much groundwork into their compositions

and their stagemanship, it’s incredible. Also Coroza, Parthenon, there’s such a great metal scene here. In terms of hip-hop, I always say that one of the mainstays of modern Irish hip-hop is Speculative Fiction… In terms of bedroom-pop stuff, the Hausu collective guys like Ghostking Is Dead, Automatic Blue have such wild ideas.”

“For an idea of where Cork music is coming from overall, check out Kaught At The Kampus on Spotify because you will easily recognise some part of your local listening in there.”

One problem I found was gathering information. Social media diffusions made it a difficult task. It’s a topic that Mike’s given some thought to. With the death of print journalism there’s no longer one place with the town’s seal of approval. “Cheap plug, I do the Nialler9 Cork Gig Guide on Fridays. The G-Man does a more generalised gig guide at thegmanworld. com. His coverage leans somewhat more in a folk-y direction.

“GoldenPlec does more after-the-fact reviews, but it’s a pretty good place to go for physical coverage or photography… Red on Red [Mike’s podcast for RedFM] is more long-term interviews, where we talk about one particular gig that’s coming up in the coming weeks and why somebody listening

with zero knowledge would or should care.”

An easy way to find good music is through a good venue. Regular genre nights are helpful: a quality gig every month, same time, same venue. “With metal my recommendation is “The Paranoid Pit” in Fred Zeppelins on the last Saturday of every month. We’ll be running out some live gigs through the Red on Red podcast in the coming weeks and they’ll also be uploading all the video to YouTube. For hip-hop, the “Cuttin’ Heads Collective” do a regular enough aul session in the Vicarstown bar, and have started running gigs in the Roundy now as well... Dali is always a good place to go for techno and house of the Corkonian variety.”

To finish up, a simple question: Why should you seek out Cork music? “The Cork music scene is like nothing else in the world... It’s all in your backyard, all you have to do is go down the main drag from UCC into the town centre. Why should people go to Cork and check out Cork music? Because there’s something in the water!”

To follow Mike check out The Red on Red Podcast. See you in the pit! (This is an abridged version of a longer interview. To read about Limerick’s music, a gauntlet thrown down to freshers and Nirvana in Cork, go to motley.ie!)

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