Taking on the task of producing music in homage to peak-era euphoric UK Jungle is rarely a task that bears unique fruit, but, from his very first vinyl release, ‘Prolongez la Magie‘, to the terrific ‘Dream Portal‘ 12″ on Planet Euphorique, Ronan’s music has rightly summoned respect and love in fair measure.
Tackling the balance of warmth and driving energy that are cornerstones of the genre, Ronan’s productions capably juggle the cumbersome weight of nostalgic elements with choice ingredients from the psychedelic trance sound sweeping the dance music world, adding in his personal touch for a mix that keeps his music fresh and away from the trappings of wistfulness that many are sucked into.
After following his music closely for several years, we were excited to bring him onto the IA MIX Series in the advent of his excellent ‘Reflections on Intrinsic Value‘ LP, released in October, an excellent album that counterpoints jungle with deep electronic experiments, leaning towards ambient music.
For his contribution, Ronan steers us through a series of fluid states, encompassing unreleased jungle cuts from his hard-drive, old-school dubstep and garage flavours, and lithe euphoric cuts built for the dancefloor. Throughout the interview we discuss the accelerating pace of his label, Eternal Ocean, his musical heritage, and the significance of his latest album.
Interview by Freddie Hudson
"I was on the overnight ferry when I put this mix together using Ableton, and it was the coolest zone to work in, sitting there looking out across the ocean crafting this sonic expedition"
Hi Ronan – firstly, I wanted to thank you for contributing to our mix series. Can you start by telling us how you put this mix together, and what influences and inspirations were feeding into it?
This mix came together in a very organic way, I have been travelling for the last 5 months since leaving Mexico City in June and I was on the final leg of my trip, driving up from France to Ireland to pick up my records and studio gear from my Dad’s place up in Donegal. I was on the overnight ferry when I put this mix together using Ableton, and it was the coolest zone to work in, sitting there looking out across the ocean crafting this sonic expedition.
I think the inspiration coming into the mix was just a culmination of this long trip I was on, and it comes through in the mix, where you start in one place but then find yourself in all these different and unique spaces and by the end you’ve ended up somewhere totally new.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the tracks and artists you’ve decided to include?
Selecting for this one was really smooth, I was thinking about Eris Drew’s concept around the magical quality of the record you pull from your collection without really knowing which one it is, and embracing that chaos and synchronicity and making that record fit with what’s playing. It doesn’t always work out perfectly, but for this mix it was often the case that it was the first or second song that I tried out that just fitted really well and the mix just sort of just put itself together in that way.
The tracks that ended up being featured drew a line between the hardcore continuum, future jazz and global sound system and club sounds and I think it’s a nice example of where I’m at right now musically. There’s a lot of forthcoming material from me as well as a nice mix of older favourites alongside new stuff from friends and current inspirations all over the world. Shout out to all the music makers.
2021 hasn’t been a slow year for you: your label, Eternal Ocean, has released as much music this year as it had since its inception. Can you explain how that surge in activity came around?
It’s been time to get to work! Honestly I think the surge came from a feeling of being so pent up during quarantine and not knowing what was going to happen. I was feeling a bit disillusioned with the music world in general, and coming into 2021 with a fierce energy that I was going to just go full tilt regardless of the uncertainty of the world as music is the only thing that makes sense to me a lot of the time and I want it to be the foundation of my life.
Tell us about the curatorial aspect of your label? For example, the record you released from Graz-based producer Awo Ojiji is a rare example of his released material, so I’m curious how that came around.
Yeah the curation of the label is a really fun part of the work actually, I completely follow my ear and my heart when it comes to what music I want to release. There’s so much of an investment of time and money and energy putting things out, especially on vinyl, so I want to feel super connected to the music and the person making it. Timo (Awo Ojiji) actually just randomly reached out with some demos and I just absolutely couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
I get demos pretty regularly for stuff, but his music just immediately touched me. I remember putting it on my earbuds for my bike ride to work and having to stop halfway through to respond to Timo’s email right there saying I wanted to do a project with him.
When you know, you know. I just love putting people on who really deserve the shine, I’m so excited about Andrew’s (Plebeian) music as well, the recent record has got such amazing and well earned feedback and I can’t wait to share more of his music with the world. I’m going to keep trusting my intuition and try to facilitate the growth and diversity of this little musical ecosystem.
"I recorded all of this music on my laptop whilst living in Mexico City during a time of my life that felt particularly ambiguous, both internally and externally and much of this music just came out as an escape to my own little world where I could do whatever I want"
This year you’ve released not only an album under Ronan, ‘Reflections on Intrinsic Value’, but also the first song, Foca Loca, from your other project, A Little Seal. Before we talk about the Ronan album, I’d like you to elaborate on what A Little Seal symbolises for you and your creative output, and what you hope to achieve with the project?
Ronan actually means ‘A Little Seal’ in Gaelic, so in a way they’re one and the same, A Little Seal is simply a way for me to allow my voice to have a space in the music as well. I’ve listened to songs and vocal music my whole life and in the beginning of 2021, I had this week where I produced 3 or 4 tracks with my voice back to back and it was a really amazing experience for me.
It really seemed like there was something there trying to express itself and I wanted to give the space for that to come through so A Little Seal was born. Long term, I’d like the project to bridge the gap between the club and the concert hall and be able to connect with a wider audience, and I think electronic music with a strong vocal element has always historically been able to do that really well, excited to see where it goes.
Your productions as Ronan have always seemed indebted to certain branches of UK-origin dance music — which this mix seems to confirm, with lots of jungle, grime and dubstep influences — but, can you tell us your journey as a music producer began? How much do you agree with that perspective on your music?
I started playing the piano and violin when I was around 5 years old. I took classical lessons and was learning traditional Irish music, as both my parents played the fiddle, so early on there was this love for counterpoint and composition but also for the session and driving rhythms that are meant to dance to.
Later on in high school I discovered electronic music through Daft Punk and Chemical Brothers CD’s my brother gave to me and I started messing around in the music studio we had at my high school. But it wasn’t really until I was about half way through music conservatory that I discovered the electronic music studio that was this tiny little room hidden in the basement of one of the buildings literally behind a stairwell.
I had been splitting my time between jazz studies and classical music and hadn’t really found my place yet at school so I just fell in love with the practice of being in the studio and devoted myself to learning synthesis and production techniques. After I graduated I got an MPC and a few synths and from there the journey has wound its way to the present.
I think in terms of the UK influence, that really took hold when I moved to New York a year after I was done with school in Boston. I had never really raved before and I remember hearing people like Bruce and Asusu at the Groovy Groovy parties I was helping out with and it just really just clicked, to hear this syncretic blend of techno, bass music and broken rhythms, it just felt so exciting.
From there I began a love affair with Jungle and the whole hardcore continuum, eventually expanding to soundsystem music all over the world. Especially after living in Colombia and Mexico, I had the wonderful experience of learning that every place in the world has their own unique way of facilitating the dance but the intention and end result is always the same, to bring people together, to find deeper communion with their community and with their own body, mind and spirit.
The title of your album, ‘Reflections on Intrinsic Value’, has a lot of space for interpretation — is the album a compilation of these reflections, through music, or is it a more philosophical or abstract title?
I think the interpretation of the record as a compilation of reflections is beautiful. The title just kind of came to me as I was putting in the final touches, and it has to do with the process of getting to know myself through the act of making music. To also be aware of my own place in the context of the history of this music, understanding that I’m just offering my own reflection on the canon of the sounds and styles that I work with.
What is the most significant thing about the album for you, personally?
I am still actively finding my voice as I mature as a person, as a result I think the album could be interpreted as a bit of an outline or sketch in some ways, as I bounce between styles and reference points throughout, never really settling in on one for more than a tune or two.
I recorded all of this music on my laptop whilst living in Mexico City during a time of my life that felt particularly ambiguous, both internally and externally and much of this music just came out as an escape to my own little world where I could do whatever I want and have full control.
I didn’t really know what to do with the music after I made it, whether it would make sense if I put it altogether or to split it up into separate, maybe more cohesive EP’s, but in the end I realised that I wanted people to hear my process and that’s always been my feeling actually from the onset.
I have viewed my output as part of the process not as the end result, I will always be pushing myself to go deeper and give more to the music and uncover those really special gems that I haven’t even found yet and so I can share them with the world. Meanwhile I want to invite everyone along for the ride.
Can you give us any insight into what you have coming up over the next year or so? Any releases you can share details on, or any performances?
Next year is going to be really exciting! I have a few Ronan releases that I’m super happy with and can’t wait for people to hear and I’ll be releasing my debut mixtape for A Little Seal as well as another album from a different alias that I have been working on for the past few years.
I’ve just finished moving to a small town in the south of France for the winter and am just focused on getting back to my studio practice but I can’t wait to start performing my music again as things hopefully continue to open up. After 2020, I don’t take anything for granted so I’m doing my best and taking life one day at a time.
‘Reflections on Intrinsic Value’ LP is out now via Eternal Ocean. Order a copy from Bandcamp.
1. Mucho Sueño – Relacional
2. Ronan – Life Web
3. Ronan – Never Truly Alone
4. Ronan – Cure For Toxicity
5. Jonny Oso – Jus Let Me Know (Baby J’s Sweet Steppa Mix)
6. Jaheim – Just In Case (Dub-A-Holics Roller’s Revival Mix)
7. El-B – Amazon
8. Quimico Ultra Mega X Yofrangel 911- Envidioso (Siu Mata Edit)
9. INVT – Horchata Cold Brew
10. Slikback X Oba Who? – Atmos
11. Haruka Salt & Tonji – Scrabble (Drummy Remix)
12. MC 2D, MC RD, MC Morena – Acompanha
13. Florentino – Music Sounds Better With You (Florentino Refix)
14. Ayesha – Apsara Dub
15. Cousin – 1 Tun
16. Ronan – Rain Spiral
17. Julee Cruise – I Remember