by / November 25th, 2017 /

Special: The Pursuit of Experimentation – Collate, Belfast

“Good music has a psychosocial effect; it has a positive effect on the brain. It makes you think positively and it clears your monkey mind.”

The theme of positivity is something that often gets lost within stigmatised mainstream discussions about the electronic music scene, often thought to be synonymous with excessive partying, hedonistic raves and reckless drug use. But as I sit down to chat with the boys from Collate, it is clear that spreading positive vibes is what lies at the heart of this excitingly fresh record label which strives to contribute to an evolving creative soundscape.

Bathed in the glowing red light of the charismatic interior of The Bear And The Doll, I have a friendly chat over a pint with Collate’s Ryan Mcfarlane (Celestian) and Andrew Moore. This bar is one of the newest additions to Belfast’s ever-expanding cultural scene, but the guys have invited me here intentionally, so that I can get a sneaky scope of the location before their upcoming event with Djrum, which is to be held here in the intimate setting of The Art Department on November 25th.

Collate, as both a record label and an event-organising brand, seems to be very much focused on artistic passion that flows beyond the confines of genre, and on how it can inspire others. Indeed, the name itself suggests an amalgamation of energies and influences. Andrew explains the importance of originality and quality within the music they represent. “With the guys involved and the artists we book, we push for individuality as much as possible. There is too much disposable music and it’s stagnating,”
Ryan goes on to explain, “It’s important for us to promote and develop artists that have a voice of their own and be pushing a certain aesthetic across our events, instead of the usual booking purely off artist appeal. I believe in the positive effects music can have so entrancing, optimistic sounds are a focus and I hope people connect with that.”

The warmth and positivity of the people behind this group is infectious, and it’s clear that this motto is something they are passionate about. Everything about their spirit is uplifting, and they speak about their belief of bringing people along with them, and spurring others on to break through creative blocks.

What’s striking about Collate is how meticulous they are in picking the music they associate with. They are paternally passionate about the music they are shining a light on. It’s refreshing to see them have such a respect and admiration for what they are doing, working closely with the artists and locations they are involved with in order to safeguard the creative outcome. This is not just a group looking to cash-in on a techno and house scene that’s experiencing a mass influx of students who are eager to spend their loan on whatever rave is the most popular. These guys really care about what they do and the change they can invoke, both culturally and socially.

At a time when there is much debate about rebooking popular acts simply for high revenue, and rampant discussion about how difficult it is to increase the exposure of a more creatively diverse soundscape in such a climate, Andrew is honest in explaining the motives behind bookings. “There’s no agenda. Of course we’re under no illusions that there’s a very small chance of a profit to gain if you’re doing something like this in its purest form, but that’s not what it’s about at all. I understand if you have to book big names to pay bills, like I get it, but we’re just going to concentrate on ourselves, do what we want to do, and hopefully we’ll inspire some people along the way.”

“It’s good. People don’t really know what we’re going to do next,” explains Ryan. “It’s hard not to fall into the pressures of dogma, I did last year and it wasn’t rewarding, so I think it’s just good to push what you love and build a true following with trust. I don’t want 1000 likes from people who don’t really give a fuck. I’d rather pick up the appeal from the people who are looking for it and find it themselves and really care.”

Speaking of bookings, the mere mention of Djrum has the boys grinning. Despite releasing music for years, the boys have managed to book the insanely talented London-based producer at a time when he is just on the cusp of blowing up, having recently joined the legendary R&S Records ahead of the release of his new EP Broken Glass Arch.

Djrum’s music contains sounds typically synonymous to a pick ‘n’ mix of genres such as house, techno, dance, jazz and Brazilian, but he manages to combine them so flawlessly and with such intricacy that they allow his music to rise above any notion of labelling or genre. His sound is consistently morphing and mutating, while remaining purposeful and highly complex. The lads’ excitement bounces off each other, as they both explain their reasons for booking him.

“Its great to bring Djrum over because his perspective on music as a DJ and producer is really inspiring for any music lover, he just looks at it as a natural progression”

“Exactly! It’s so exciting to promote him here. It’s like a curveball,” says Andrew. “He’s such a multi-talented artist and so multi-genre that you don’t actually know what he’s going to play, so part of the fun is actually just showing up. Every time I listen to a track by him I’m blown away, and that just doesn’t happen enough with other artists.”

Listening to such intricately layered music can be an intimate and solitary act, often experienced through a laptop and headphones, so our discussion moves on to how this type of music can be explored within a social setting like The Art Department. “That’s what great music is,” says Andrew. “In its purest form, it’s something you can listen to at home, and you can go out and go nuts to it as well”.

Ryan builds on this idea, talking about the positive impact that amasses from creating such good vibes in a shared experience. “Good music has a psychosocial effect; it has a positive effect on the brain. It makes you think positively and it clears your mind. I think that’s something that I associate with my home listening so it’s a talent walking the line.”

Speaking to the animated pair, it is obvious that there is a strong European influence behind what they do and what they aspire to become. Belfast is a city that holds a firm place in their hearts, but the roots of this creative connection also lie elsewhere. The lads laugh as they tell me how they formed a close bond over ‘fegs and gegs’(the heart of many solid friendships), in both Belfast and Liverpool.

“I remember you running about being a rocket”.

“I probably met you about five times before that but I was just too blocked to remember.”

Ryan studied in Liverpool, and his degree sounds fascinating, focusing on the influence music can have on city landscapes. Developing more on the notion of the ‘ripple effect’, he educates me on the birth of Liverpool’s famous Baltic Triangle as a hub for creativity and inspiration. It started, like many of these things do, with underground events and illegal raves, as people began to reclaim the area. “It just takes one bit of activity to draw other people in and continuously inspire people.”

Drawing parallels to Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, Ryan talks about regeneration plans for Belfast’s cultural architecture, and how cities like Amsterdam could be something to look to as a prime example. “This area could be our equivalent of a hub, there’s so much empty space with cultural character which has so much value creatively. I can see the city taking steps to move forward over the next five years, I don’t know what’ll happen but I hope they let us off the lead a bit. You need to give people life and inspire them to do what they want instead of holding them back with the routine bullshit.”

“It’s weird, because I do get those moments where I want to escape and wake up somewhere where theres more freedom, might well happen haha.. But for now my intentions are here, if you can find purpose in anything you do then it grounds you.”

A quick chat with these lads and I’m already feeling inspired, and looking at Belfast and our society as a whole with a more optimistic perspective.

Head down to Collate at The Art Department, Belfast, tonight and let loose to the vibrant sonic shades of Djrum.