Prowlster meets… Nialler9
Prowlster meets… Nialler9
For Prowlster’s Music Issue, we’ve been interviewing some up-and-comers and reviewing gigs around the capital – as well as snapping some street style during The Camden Crawl. This week, we sent our own Jennie McGinn to interview music-blogger-of-the-moment Nialler9. Below we’ve included some of his current favourite tracks – so hit play and start reading.
Nialler9: The Most Humble Man in Ireland
Now it might be grandiose to suggest that a single man has helped transform the Irish music landscape, but you wouldn’t be far off. No-one can dispute that music blogger Nialler9 has left a large electronica-shaped imprint on a nation reared on the Eurovision and Enya. His weekly podcasts and playlists have ushered in a new age, showcasing everything from Lykke Li to SBTRKT and Neon Neon, Kurt Vile and Hudson Mowhawke.
These playlists offered everything, from the far-flung and the exotic to the rising new Irish. And to spend a little time browsing through his jam-packed site, one can instantly recognise that this is a man who is in it for the simple, unadulterated love of music.
In fact, that’s possibly the most delightful thing about Niall Byrne (the Man behind the Music) – he is softly-spoken and his extreme humbleness does nothing to suggest his extreme knowledge about music.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/88299044″ params=”secret_token=s-53FBg” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
How did it all begin?
Niall started seven years ago, “kinda by accident”. His site was acting as a portfolio for his web design work, and when that served it’s purpose, he realised he had a domain to hang on to and maybe he should do something with it. Around that time, online music was still relatively unknown and Niall is ‘the person that hassles people with recommendations, I always had something to say about music’. So he put the domain to damn good use.
Nialler9 emerged at a really good time. There wasn’t much in the way of musical outlets and a small, tight-knit community of music bloggers emerged around the same time – there was lots of cross-pollination and support. “That initial surge, healthy, foothold on what it was I was doing – gave me an audience. That audience hasn’t really disappeared since and that’s great – growing and growing”.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/84409412″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Two major musical experiences shaped Niall’s passion:
“One of the first things I discovered was M.I.A.’s Piracy Funds Terrorism mixedtape – it wasn’t talked about anywhere else, no-one was talking about her as a musician, nobody knew who Diplo was… ”
The second was Kraftwerk:
“Went to see Kraftwerk at Electric Picnic… such a great experience, I was enthralled by that, wrote about it briefly… enough to make me realise I wanted to write about music more.”
The International Bit
There was never any intention for Nialler9 to be an ‘Irish’ blog: “When I started, I didn’t really like a lot of Irish music”. It was the exciting stuff that was happening globally, that people had little access to – this fuelled the blog initially. However, in those seven years, Niall feels the Irish music scene has really matured and “now I could write about Irish music all day”.
His musical outlook is still very global, making up around 45% of his readers; the remaining listenership is very Dublin-centric but a one-man operation can only produce so much stuff. And the Irish abroad? Niall has been attending SXSW in Texas for the last couple of years and is awed by the positivity towards Irish music. “It’s great, it’s heartening…people talk about your country’s music like the way you do.”
He recently met a female blogger from LA who was evangelical about this ‘great new band from Ireland’. This band turned out to be Benihana – two young musical upstarts from Naas in Kildare who only had a handful of listens on Soundcloud, but who has made their way into the L.A consciousness. “That’s the power of a blog… the sharing of that information. She has her ear to the ground in Ireland… even though loads of people in Ireland might never have heard of them.”
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/73696007″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Irish Music – what role have bloggers had?
Is it indulgent to think that bloggers can help mould their industry? In his typical deferential style, Niall demurs and rather hopes that he has helped introduce people to Irish music. It is “nice to think you’ve turned people onto Irish music they’ve never heard before”. Niall was one of the first to interview Conor from Villagers and the ascent of that band confirms that Nialler9 supported a quality act at the right time. However, there is a point at which individual passion conflicts with the public profile. “I have to be very careful about what I pick. There is so much music out there – international and Irish…you have to try and pick stuff that represents what you are…”
An interesting point on blogging is that the industry doesn’t really recognise blogging here the way it does so internationally. Bloggers are embedded at events like SXSW, but here in Ireland, there’s a different mentality. Irish bloggers stand outside of the industry, rather than working with it. And to the future of future of music blogging? “I think in a way, music blogs are dead. Certainly, in Ireland there’s not really many music blogs starting up, not many in the last two years. Why? Are kids not interested? If you’re 16, 17 19, what would you do? If you want to share music, where would you go? Tumblr? Maybe you wouldn’t bother as there’s so much music out there, it’s bewildering.”
All by yourself?
Would you get an intern, assemble a team? “People click onto my site because they trust my taste and I can’t really dilute that. I’ve hampered myself in one way cause I called it Nialler9, not thinking I’d be doing it seven years later. It’s like the Bon Jovi thing. I used to give out about him. ‘What an ego’, calling his band after himself and here I am after calling my blog after myself.” The trust issue is something Niall takes very seriously. He also feels compelled to introduce people to new music, and spends a lot of time thinking about how he can move people around his site. There is so much music out there, it’s difficult to make sense of it all, and people come to Niall to de-mystify music for them.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/86054200″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
What’s a Nialler9 band?
“Somebody said to me a few years ago ‘that’s a Nialler9 band’ – I was like, what? I guess that means something to somebody. Really interesting to hear somebody say that – what does that mean?” As one man and his blog, it can be a lonely life. Niall rarely gets public validation about the work he’s doing and finds it really interesting to hear what people are saying about him. But when people do recognise his work, it’s a nice experience – “In Derry [for Other Voices], this kid came up to me and was like ‘Are you Nialler9’? In London, a girl came up, same thing. In Austin [for SXSW], another blogger was like Aare you Niall?’ It’s pretty crazy – people read this stuff!”
There’s going to be a blog re-design in the next while, and a site architecture that allows people to listen to music while moving through the site. This is all part of his charge to help people discover more music through his site. He writes for broadsheet.ie and The Irish Independent’s Day & Night supplement once a week, and after the success of the Nialler9 gig in Cork, there may a roll out of gigs nationally.
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/88292247″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
No plans to take up an instrument any time soon, though, as by his own admission he’s terrible at guitar. He’s trying to get a grip on a good work-life balance – walking his dog, taking nights off, going away. The blog can be all-consuming, but Niall is looking to the future as much as possible. “A lot of bloggers become part of the industry, start their own label. I’m trying to figure out where I’ll be in seven years. Learning as much as I can about music and the space that I exist in in case that something I want to be part of in future.”
Is there enough to stay in Ireland?
“I hope so, I do love Ireland.” Places like the Fumbally and events like Offset confirm to Niall the breath and extend of creativity and community here in Ireland.
There you have it – Nialler9…humble, conscientious, self-reflexive, extremely knowledgeable but extremely normal. And if you see him at a gig, make sure and introduce yourself, tell him how much you love Bon Jovi…
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/87282619″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Top two gigs?
- Kraftwerk, Electric Picnic
Best thing I’ve ever seen. Wasn’t expecting it to be that good; four lads with electronics on a stage, what’s that about. But it was really good showcase of what electronics could be. When I was younger I dismissed electronic, dance music 44 beats, sounded so boring, but then I grew up and realised there was so much more to it than that. Old dudes from Germany doing these amazing things. Knew them, took them for granted, everyone knows they’re pioneers of electronic music, but they’re so much more than that. Last album was pretty amazing.
- Broken Social Scene, Temple Bar Music Centre
Played for 2.5 3 hours, first ever gig. Kinda where I realised ‘oh, there’s an audience for this’ – they were one of bands I covered on the blog early on. Sold out Temple Bar Music Centre, but they were never really played on radio. Word of mouth, people who’d been to Canada, reading blogs. They were amazing. There is a legitimate place in world for bands I really like; just because they’re not represented elsewhere, doesn’t mean they can’t make a living or sell out a Dublin venue.
Best gig this year
- Deathgrips in Austen
In a warehouse. Agitated punk electronic trio. Part of the Boiler Room sessions. They were in middle of the room. Drummer was playing on Skype. All had headsets on and the whole thing kicked off in the middle of this big warehouse. Proper mosh and all that.
Bands to watch this year
- Autre Ne Veut
White boy R&B soul record, two big tunes on it. Saw him in Austen he was amazing and will probably play here soon.
- Mo from Denmark
She’s 24, really good live. Bit like watching Lykke Li early on. It’s like watching someone jump around bedroom. She’s a really good dancer, very magnetising, she could be a really big pop star.
Irish band to watch this year
- I Am The Cosmos
Best album (Monochrome), bar none, regardless of whether they’re Irish or not. It’s like Italio-disco groovy electronic music. Also really looking forward to hearing Ships album when that comes out.
Favourite places to eat
Fumbally – falafel for a fiver, can’t go wrong with that
Kimchi on Parnell street – really like Korean stuff
Chapter 1 – top notch
Image: Matthew Thompson