We Catch Up With John Gibbons Ahead Of His Sell-Out Show At The Academy In Dublin
Ascension caught up with John ahead of his sell out Academy gig and Heaven debut to talk tracks, radio and crowd surfing.
Ireland is a land blessed with beautiful rolling hills, fine whiskey and some of the best talents in electronic music. After exploring the underground trance and progressive scenes, John Gibbons has found his love for house music and has recently produced anthems including the remake of Charles & Eddie's Would I Lie To You, and his latest offering Pretty Young Thing (P.Y.T). He is a much loved name on radio, has played alongside the likes of Tiesto and achieved the holy grail of dance music, featuring on the Ministry of Sound Annual.
Ascension® co-founder Andy Fullerlove caught up with John ahead of his sell out Academy gig and Heaven debut to talk tracks, radio and crowd surfing.
Describe your music in three words
Fun, energetic, powerful.
How did you first get into music?
I’ve always experimented with music, singing playing piano, doing radio shows and immersing myself in many different styles and genres. I’ve always loved dance music too. I’ve extremely broad musical interests and while I was never a ‘raver’ or even a regular clubber in my formative years, I was always particularly attracted to dance music and the unique reactions it seems to elicit in people. There’s something raw and untamed about the heartbeat-mimicking effect of a 4/4 kick-drum and it continues to have a hypnotic effect on me, tapping into something deep and primal in the subconscious. DJ’ing just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me and once I played my first gig I was hooked.
When did you know you wanted to be a DJ?
The day of my first ever gig. I remember it well! It was in my school when I was 15 years old. The school regularly organized discos for students and on this particular occasion the DJ failed to show up so I stepped in and immediately knew that this was something that I wanted to do long-term (much to the chagrin of my teachers). The buzz of playing in front of my friends for the first time is something I’ll never forget.
Who are you musical influences?
I grew up listening to the music my parents exposed me to and accordingly have retained a huge love for acts such as Dire Straits, Queen, Fleetwood Mac and Elton John among many others. As I began to listen to music a bit more independently I started gravitating towards a lot of hip-hop and then had my eureka moment when I first heard Snap’s ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’. This single song opened me up to dance music for the first time and I began to devour everything from Prodigy and Leftfield albums to DJ sets from Carl Cox and Tony de Vit along with everything in between. More recently and in the studio I’ve been hugely influenced by producers such as Calvin Harris, Skrillex, Eric Prydz and even Max Martin for a wide variety of reasons.
Congratulations on the success of Your Love, Would I Lie To You and Pretty Young Thing (P.Y.T). They're great tracks and have done amazingly well. How does it feel to have music so well received?
Thank you. Excited is probably the most prominent feeling right now. Excited to finally be putting my music out to a receptive and ever-expanding audience, excited at how incredibly well the singles are being received and excited about what the future holds with so many opportunities presenting themselves at the moment. It’s wonderful!
Having a house legend like Robbie Rivera being commissioned to remix one of your tracks must have been an epic feeling.
Absolutely. I’ve been a huge fan of Robbie since I started DJing so to have him remix PYT is a huge honour!
You're now part of the Ministry of Sound Annual hall of fame. Nice one.
I remember buying numerous Ministry ‘Annual’ compilations down through the years and always dreamed of featuring on one, so to have achieved that is a great feeling and definitely something ticked off on my bucket list!
Your past releases Beautiful Filth and 1984 are still some of our favourites, and we love your new sounds. What spurred the new direction?
I’ve always leaned slightly towards pop music and have wanted to combine dance music and pop in my work for many years. I began to take stems in this direction as far back as 2012 and it’s been a gradual evolution since then.
What are your top five tracks of all time?
Three Drives – Greece 2000 CJ Bolland – The Prophet Hi-Gate – Caned And Unable The Conductor & The Cowboy – Feeling This Way Snap – Rhythm Is A Dancer
What was the first record your ever bought?
Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby!
If you could name your favourite club or event, what would it be?
From the clubs I’ve experienced so far I don’t think there’s a better one than Lush! In Northern Ireland. It’s an absolute behemoth in terms of European clubbing and it’s testament to the atmosphere and reputation of the club that A-List artists who generally don’t play gigs of less than 5,000 capacity make ubiquitious exception here. It should be on everyones global clubbing bucket-list! The best event I’ve ever plaed at was Technogeist in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It was one of my first ever international gigs and I had been in no way prepared for the scale of the event – a single stage, 50,000 people in attendance and a peak time slot. It was at that moment I realised that not only did I want a long-term career in dance music but that I would consider nothing else. Amazing!
What's the club scene like in Dublin?
Following a very sharp decline at the turn of the decade as the aftershocks of Ireland’s recent economic freefall were felt, the electronic music scene is in a very healthy place again with many progressive and forward-thinking promoters successfully occupying new clubs and spaces and a heretofore unseen level of diversity emerging in a musical sense. It’s almost as if there was a necessary cleansing of the scence which has allowed a new breed of creative people in music to emerge from the shadows of what had become a stagnant scene. I’m very excited about what the future holds for dance music in Ireland. Some of the best young artists currently emerging from Ireland include Eden, Dale Nolan, Junior J, Robbie G, Garreth Maher and Jay Pryor – most certainly names who have a real chance of becoming huge global stars.
Even with the radio in Ireland dance music seems to be a real part of the culture there. Is it as true today as it was before?
Due to the instant availability of music online I don’t think dance-music radio shows are universally as important as they have been in the past. Whilst I do believe there will always be a place for iconic, taste-making shows on the larger radio platforms in various regions, such as Pete Tong on BBC Radio 1 in the UK, I feel that smaller dance shows are already being pushed to the margins of mainstream radio, a trend that with the burgeoning popularity of podcasting is set to continue.
We love your Power show on Spin 1038. How did that come about?
I’ve always had a huge passion for radio and I began working in pirate radio at the age of 15, eventually graduating to commercial radio with Spin 1038 in Dublin. When I began dance-music broadcasting I was acutely aware of a gap in the market for a show combining the production and presentation values of commercial radio with the underground-tinged sensibilities of the music I play. Every DJ claims to have a ‘radio show’ these days but I do not equate a monthly Ableton-mixed podcast containing a few generic brand liners and no presentation or DJ input with a living, breathing interactive radio show. The latter has a place of course and while perfectly acceptable and in the case of many A-List DJ’s wildly popular, in my opinion is a poor substitute for real radio, which is something organic, with the presenter acting as the live link between content and listener. I think my radio audience appreciates this, albeit most likely on a subconscious level and I have been very careful not to pigeonhole myself musically also, with a wide spectrum of styles catered for on my shows. I believe that in commercial radio it’s important to cater for as wide an audience as possible while remaining true to what attracts that audience in the first place, in this case the music. While podcasting has also massively increased my global reach over the past number of years, in short I credit an awareness of the audience and musical adaptability as being the driving force behind the success of my shows to date.
Imagine with the show and the tracks you're asked for selfies now wherever you go?
Sometimes! I’m always happy to meet and chat with my fans – it’s them who make this wonderful job possible!
Good to see you're coming over to London in October. The city has a fantastic club scene. Is it your first time at Heaven?
Yes. I have heard really great things about the club and am very exited to make my debut there. It’s also my first time to play with Martin Jensen and as a big admirer of his work am looking forward to that too.
What's your favourite part of the world to play?
Everywhere is different and special for different reasons but in terms of sheer energy it’s very hard to match Irish and Scottish crowds – they’re certainly in a league of their own!
Any most memorable moments?
Probably one particular stage-dive at a festival in Ireland that resulted in me being carried so far back in the crowd that I wasn’t back to the decks in time to mix in my next track! Luckily the crowd loved it!
Any embarrassing moments on the road?
Another stage-dive in Poland resulted in me arriving back on the stage without my pants. I had to finish my set in just boxer shorts!
What is your essential studio tool?
Is there any news of tracks, tours or collaborations coming up?
My new single drops in October which I can’t wait for. I’ve upcoming tours of the UK, Europe and Australia on the way soon also and a number of juicy collabs too although I can’t say much about them yet! Watch this space!
What advice would you give to budding DJ producer who want to further their love for music?
I think the most important thing for any aspiring DJ and producer is to find what makes them happy musically and base their dedication to learning their craft around that. I firmly believe that if someone is happy and passionate about what they’re doing then they stand a far better chance of being successful, as that positivity will translate to the listener as well as making the long hours of improvement a pleasure rather than a chore. Also, don’t become discouraged by knock-backs and always seek to learn from them. This will make you better and stronger, both personally and professionally.
To find out more about John Gibbons check out djjohngibbons.com