ELLLL: on Gash Collective, inclusiveness & weird rhythms

Sitting somewhere between left-of-centre techno, glacial ambient and Blade Runner symphonies; ELLLL has been making some of the most inspired and alluring music to come out of Ireland and Berlin over the last number of years.

As a co-founder of Gash Collective the artist has spearheaded a movement with its roots in inclusiveness; seeking to give a voice to the non-traditional male community through shows, workshops and production. Now, as the collective readies its debut compilation release, we sit down with with ELLLL to chat weird rhythms, providing a platform and why we shouldn’t put electronic music into boxes.

Firstly, how have you been? Are you still in Berlin, or back in Ireland?

I’m still in Berlin; I’ve been here three years next July. I was fortunate that I’ve been working part time since I’ve been here. I’ve always had some sort of side job, so when everything hit the fan here I was lucky enough to be able to maintain that. It wasn’t worth my while quitting to go back to Ireland.

Your music takes many different forms; be it left-field techno, blissful ambient or even emotional wave stuff in the vain of producers like Mssingno and Plata. Where do you find your inspiration? Who or what informs you as an artist?

I don’t think I have a straightforward answer. I think my musical background is all over the place. I didn’t approach electronic music from growing up and going to clubs or anything like that, I was always into bands and a lot of my friends were musicians. When I got to electronic music it was probably a bit later than people who had spent their teenage years going to raves.

It’s great to have very serious music, but that can get very boring as well.

My references are all over the shop. I’d spend too much time on the internet listening to anything I could get my hands on from all sorts of different genres and listening to a lot of radio. It’s all over the place, and I think that influences the music I write because I have different ideas, I jump around in genres. The last couple of years I’m definitely more interested in the experimental side of electronic music; things that are more playful and have humour in them.

I’m a big fan of anything with weird rhythms and weird sample manipulation. Things that really capture your mood. I think that’s why I’m drawn to artists like Mssingno, because it’s very moody. It’s very emotional. I think I can appreciate when people go over a theme like that.

Has your background in classical piano informed the music you make at all? When I listen to artists like Mssingno, I’m struck by how related to classical music some of the instrumentals are.

I studied music in college and when I went in piano was my interest. Then I realised that I didn’t want to do that at all. I took a lot of music tech classes. By the time I started writing electronic music I don’t think I was that influenced by piano, it was the opposite. I was sick of the rigid approach to classical composition and I liked electronic music because it was a blank slate and I wasn’t informed by anything. I was just doing my own thing.

In the first couple of years it wasn’t informed by piano, but recently it’s hard for me to say that there’s no influence at all because I studied it for so long. It’s going to find some way in, even unconsciously.

How do you feel Gash Collective has grown since its inception?

The thing that’s been most inspiring about it is that it was never centred in one city. As Ireland is small, it was always connecting places from different places or bringing people to play shows all over the country. I always thought that was pretty cool. That element has gotten a lot stronger over the last number of years. It’s nice being able to put people in touch with each other that maybe wouldn’t have happened otherwise.

That’s certainly the case with the first compilation. It’s such a diverse pool of people from different musical backgrounds. It’s just to showcase all the brilliant talent that’s there that maybe doesn’t have a voice.

Prior to the pandemic, where you seeing changes in line ups and production across Ireland that reflect more inclusiveness?

Yeah, definitely. We started Gash around five years ago. The landscape is very different in Ireland now; in particular there were very few non-traditional male artists on line ups. With producers it’s always a bit more of a struggle to get them to showcase their work because it can be quite a private thing. In terms of production, I’d love to see more people doing it, I think the numbers are still a little low, but for DJs and visibility I see a huge difference in line ups and inclusiveness and people actively trying to make more of an effort, which is really encouraging.

You have your debut compilation coming out, tell me a little about the artists involved? I’m familiar with Syn, Gadget & The Cloud and yourself, but I don’ think I’ve come across some of the others.

People tend to put electronic music in boxes of a composer, a producer and an arranger, but really in essence these are all of the same things, but because people put them into these boxes you’re not aware of music being created in these areas.

I think that’s a good example for Anna [Murray]. I don’t think I’ve ever met Anna in person. I think we put out a callout a few years ago when we started throwing around the idea of the compilation and Anna got in touch.

There was this cut-off where we were doing more club stuff and Anna was doing more academic type music working with instrumentalists and that kind of thing. That’s how our paths crossed. That’s why the compilation can be good for showcasing other types of music that maybe people still have an interest in but maybe don’t know exists because they’re just in their own lane.

Irene [Buckley] is from an electronic composition background, too. We’re both from Cork so we’ve played music together before. We both came through UCC music together and we would have had mutual friends and known about each other. We had a project where we did improvised electronics together.

There’s experimental club music and experimental electronic music, and then there’s this whole other realm of more academic or traditional stuff that is still electronic music, and for some reason they don’t very often cross over or overlap. I find it really interesting because these types of music appeal to both audiences, but it isn’t showcased to both that often which is a massive shame, and it’s even more unfortunate when it’s a minority artist putting it out there because it’s narrowing their pool of reach even more.

Syn is involved, one of the co-founders of hard club label Flood, also based in Cork. What is the scene like there?

I do try my best to stay informed with things that are happening, I always want to support artists all over Ireland but especially from my hometown, naturally. Pre-pandemic times, if you look at something like Plugd Records. They’d always support upcoming artists by putting them on gigs that they threw, I’d always keep an eye and see what’s happening there because I know if they’re promoting something then they’ve got a good reason behind it. They’re great for providing a platform for local artists.

The hard drum thing that started coming out of Cork really piqued my interest. It was around the time I was leaving that it really started kicking off. It was something that came up through the antithesis of everything that was happening in the city. I mean, in most cities throughout Ireland and the UK the predominant music is house and techno, so when something else pops up that’s so not that it’s pretty cool.

As the future of clubs and rave is uncertain right now, we’re forced to look back and reminisce. Looking back pre-pandemic, any gig highlights? I know you played the Local Action x Glacial party at Sonar which looked amazing.

This gonna make me sad! I haven’t played a show in so long, like everybody, and now I’m like did all those things really happen? Was it all some weird dream?

The Sonar party was so fun because I love Local Action and there were so many cool artists on the line up. I’d attended Sonar for so many years so when I got asked to play I was like of course! That’s definitely one of my top ones. I got to do MUTEK in Japan a few years ago and that was amazing. I never thought I’d get to travel somewhere like Japan through my music, let alone to get to perform there. I still pinch myself about that.

Without sounding like a big cheese ball, the gigs in Ireland are always some of the best shows, whether that’s in Belfast or Dublin or Cork. I did one of the Breezeblock parties in Belfast and it was so fun! The crowds are always really enthusiastic, there’s such good energy. Notions in Dublin, and Wriggle as well, all have a fond place in my heart. I hope I can do them again soon.

You have a release coming out on FSL soon, with Parris on the remix. What can we expect from that?

Hopefully that’s coming out in January, but it’s so hard to tell these days with the delays going to press. It’s two tracks with a remix from Parris. There’s a lot of orchestral samples and dubby things and a lot of breaks. It’s kind of drum and bassy. I always find it hard to put genres on my music.

Parris is one of my favourite artists and the flip he did on the track is so creative as well, so it just gives a really nice contrast to the other two on there. Hopefully by the summer I’ll have another record out.

Gash Trax Vol. 1 will be released on December 4th. Artwork by Emma Conway. Pre-order it here.

2nd December 2020