Over the last five years, the name of DSNT will have become familiar to fans of fierce underground techno in Northern Ireland and beyond. As a record label and promotion company, they have released music and thrown raves featuring the absolute cream of the genre – Truss, Tessela, Perc etc – as well as supporting local artists like Mark Rogan and resident DJs Nez, Ryan Dallas, G-Bo and Seb Munroe.
In the last 12 months, however, founder Oisin O'Brien's attention has turned to Guerrilla Shout, a creative collective that expands on the motion graphics, projection mapping and live visual installations which have always played a crucial role in DSNT's events by working on major commercial projects (Jaguar and Sony have been clients) while staying true to their roots in techno. Or as O'Brien likes to call it, 'the doof'.
So, electronic music fans in Northern Ireland and beyond are familiar with DSNT, and may know you as Oisin DSNT, but how would you describe the relationship between DSNT and Guerrilla Shout?
I run both companies – Guerrilla Shout with my business partner Daniel [Holmes]. The distinction is that DSNT is very much about underground techno, whereas Guerrilla Shout's focus is a bit more client-led. It needs to be a little bit safer, for want of a better word. It can't be raw, uncompromising techno because it scares people away a wee bit!
What was the impulse for setting up Guerrilla Shout?
It came off the back of me doing a lot of work under the guise of DSNT, but it came to a point where the message was a little bit muddled. We were running parties, we were doing visuals, graphic design, animation and a record label, and it wasn't 100% clear what we did. We had to strip it back. So now the strapline for DSNT is 'We throw visually intense techno parties, release records and love doof'. Its identity now is a record label and visual-heavy parties.
Guerrilla Shout is more about the experience – challenging people in a visual context, be it through film, print, installation... The intention is very different and the function is different. There's a team of seven of us plus freelancers with the Guerrilla Shout stuff, whereas DSNT is very much a labour of love, passion project that's more focused on curatorial stuff.
How would you define Guerrilla Shout in your own words?
In short, Guerrilla Shout is acting as a production company that houses a variety of different creatives that are all working with the shared focus of creating visually challenging and exciting experiences, be that through film, art installation, print or traditional mainstream media.
Guerrilla Shout created two projection-mapping shows for Jaguar's XE launch
What's been the most prestigious or the biggest project so far?
There have been a few real pillars in Guerrilla Shout's existence. One of the big ones was the Berlin Atonal festival, which essentially marked the birth of Guerrilla Shout as it was the first collaboration that Daniel and I did.
It was in Kraftwerk in Berlin and it was the debut performance of the Headless Horseman A/V show that we produced. We flew over to Berlin, worked and collaborated with Headless Horseman for a month-and-a-half and produced a real high-impact, 30 foot high, giant projection show that matched the stark soundtrack of his music.
What about on the more commercial side?
Jaguar was definitely a major coup for us, we've done a bit of work for Sony, we've done some work for the Web Summit. And being part of the inaugural AVA Festival has been massive for us. We have so much respect for what they've brought to the city and we're working them very closely at the minute with a mixture of video and design support, and also planning a large-scale projection show for the next AVA in June.
You also did a video for Akon, didn't you?
Yeah, of all people! We had done two lyric videos for this guy Michael Woods, who makes EDM-type music, and the video commissioning agency behind those two videos then headhunted us to do the Akon thing. We didn't expect it to do so well but it was sitting on, like, 15 million-plus views the last time I checked. It's been massive.
What's been the most enjoyable project, personally?
Obviously projects such as Lumen at Culture Night are a total labour of love. Also, the Body & Soul guys – they're amazing to work for. We're in talks with them at the moment so we're very hopeful that we'll return this year for another series of visual experiences.
Guerrilla Shout provided visuals for ÉRIU and more at Body & Soul in 2015
We've done four shows for them and the most enjoyable was probably the Body & Soul festival itself. It's just the best camping festival in Ireland – as far as experience and attention to detail, it's amazing. They've been very good to us – massive, massive love for Body & Soul!
So the core team is you, Daniel, Kristian Glenn and Donna Morrow, is that right? What does everyone bring to it?
Well, we also have Beth Kirkpatrick and Emma McKay, who are both interning with us, and Craig Downes who is doing a lot of our experience-led, LED light installation stuff. Donna brings her background working at Google – project management, production and business development.
Dan's experience is in film, predominantly, with the likes of Good Vibrations and Game Of Thrones. Mine is a hybrid mix of all of the mental things I do, but predominantly 3D animation, graphic design and motion graphics, and the same with Kristian.
You have a range of backgrounds and personalities – what's the office atmosphere like?
We're based in the Oh Yeah Centre on Gordon Street and it's brilliant. Most of us are in every day and usually we have a project pipeline of all the things we want to get done. We power through them and it's pretty calm and easy apart from the golden-era happy hardcore!
Ha, does that soundtrack everything?
Not everything, we've got a few Guerrilla Shout Spotify playlists that we're planning on unleashing into the world! One of them is our 'hardcore, you know the score' playlist, and then we have a few others that are more reggae and electronica of some sort. And obviously techno plays a big part in it as well.
So what's the big sore point in the office as far as music is concerned?
The music is pretty much a mix of reggae, techno and happy hardcore. [laughs] They would be the main pillars! And the likes of Little Dragon and the one song we like by… [to Kristian: 'what do you call that song we've been listening to?'] Nightmares On Wax, that's it.
We'll play the same collection of songs on repeat until we completely sicken ourselves with them, and then we'll move on to a new collection of maybe 100 songs – and then sicken ourselves with them.
On one hand, you have big commercial projects with partners like Jaguar and Sony, and on the other hand you still do underground dance music projects like your Lumen events and the promo video you did for the Belfast DJ Timmy Stewart. How do the two things coexist?
One pays for the other. That's the basis of it. The commercial stuff maybe has a stricter brief, and you spend a couple of weeks working on it until stupid o'clock in the morning with hyper deadlines, and sometimes the projects can be quite challenging. But the balance is that you're then able to focus your energy and time into these really creative projects.
One of the things we're quite lucky with, with the commercial projects, is that they often flag technical issues that you have to use your problem-solving skills to overcome, and that forces you to learn, given the tight deadlines. You get a variety of things from both types of projects, but both are equally rewarding in their own way.
How would you describe your Lumen events, and what can people expect from the next two coming up?
The line that we're running with is 'Electronic music with a visual twist'. Our focus is on creating audiovisual light installations using projection-mapping and all of the tricks that we've gathered over the past five years. To really challenge people's perception of what a live music experience is and to try to do something a little bit different.
For Lumen 002, without giving too much away, we have a really great AV show that we're working on behind the scenes, we have a few installations that we're planning for a variety of different spaces within the building, and that will see us through to Lumen 003 which we're still figuring out in terms of the art installations.
The intention is always to look at how we can collaborate with other artists, how we can challenge ourselves to react to the space, to create an experience that immerses the viewer and isn't just based on audio – for all of the senses to be stimulated at once.
And it's all in a nightclub situation.
Yeah, one of the things we're conscious of is that it's all about context for people experiencing music. One of the things we loved so much about the first Lumen at Culture Night was that it wasn't just techno-heads who were exposed to a Headless Horseman track playing during the day in an old bank building! The same follows through to Lumen 002.
AnD is pretty challenging music but hopefully, by presenting it in this context, with proper sound, proper visuals and proper lighting, it'll allow people to lose themselves in that music and almost see it as a release and a meditation.
So you're reaching out beyond techno fans?
That's the intention, and that's why for Lumen 003 we've got that crossover between Mungo's Hi-Fi and [old-school rave act] Altern-8, and [techno DJs] Jerome Hill and Myler. People like good music, that's the fundamental basis of it, but they just haven't been exposed to it in the right context. Even if it exposes 30 new people to the music that we're passionate about, it's been a major success.
A lot of the projects you've done have been outside Belfast, but do you feel the city is a good place for Guerrilla Shout to be based?
We love it. We love working out of the Oh Yeah Centre – they're really good to us and really support us. The first club-based Lumen is in the Oh Yeah Centre. We've got a really great team around us. Obviously we love other cities and there are things that could stand to change in Belfast – the licensing laws being the major one. That's one of the main constraints with trying to champion underground music.
For instance, when we did the DSNT London party, we did a real, considered, diverse line-up but you don't have space for more than three people on your line-up [in Belfast]. We're pushing it with four for Lumen 002, with the closing time, but if we had decent licensing laws, people could be exposed to a whole spectrum of music in the right context and have the time to absorb it properly. It's a bit unfortunate for Belfast and I think it's one of the things that is culturally lacking at the moment.
Audiovisual installation Hynotique debuted at Shine on New Year's Eve 2015
On the other hand, do you feel like you're part of a good creative community?
Brilliant community. The Ulster University course that's teaching animation at the minute is brilliant. Two of our interns are from there and Kristian was one of the first students to come through that course. He's vital to our team now. There are a lot of positives and a lot of infrastructure in place to support a growing creative studio.
Finally, how ambitious are you for Guerrilla Shout, and how far do you think you can go?
[laughs] It's my intention to do mental things. We're very ambitious. That's not just myself, but also the rest of the team. We're in a really good position. For instance, our favourite studio of all time, Aixsponza, followed us on Instagram the other day – they're a German studio and their work is ridiculous.
On a creative and a technical level, they are where we want to go with things. I was taking screen shots and sending them to the rest of the team because we were that delighted by it!
Big plans for the future, then?
Big plans to challenge people and create a variety of different experiences based on film – or whatever other mental thing we decide to do.
Guerrilla Shout's Lumen 002 and 003 events take place on February 25 and March 28. For more details and tickets visit www.lumen.glistrr.com. To see more of the collective's work go to www.guerrillashout.com/portfolio. For more creatively stimulating events taking place through March check out the programme for Creativity Month.