Producer, Dj and Live Artist ‘Kerrie’ chats about her home town, Dark Machine Funk and Manchester’s underground techno sounds
Born and raised in Southern Ireland, Producer, Dj and Live Artist ‘Kerrie‘ moved to the UK back in 2010, deciding to make Manchester her home.
After joining Eastern Bloc Records as an intern and becoming a full time member of staff behind the counter selling records, Kerrie found herself at the epicentre of Manchester’s underground community. The time spent in store proved invaluable, furthering her knowledge, developing her taste and perfecting her skills as a DJ. It also provided her with a benchmark in terms of quality for making and releasing music.
Having honed her skills through her DJ residency for Eastern Bloc, pre-pandemic she was already making her mark at underground club nights across the UK & Ireland, making her Tresor Berlin debut early 2020. Her style has been described as “bolshy and unforgiving”, taking in everything from alien acid and hypnotic techno to dulcet meditative drone. Her collection expands far and wide: taking in Ambient, Dub, EBM to shades of tough edged House. Kerrie also took to the radio last year and now hosts a quarterly radio show on Rinse FM hosting guests such as Volvox, Leah Floyeurs & Sync24.
Initially spending a few years of producing ‘in the box’ and feeling a little uninspired, she shook up her production approach and adopted a hardware only setup. Over the last few years, this has firmly defined the music she now makes, performs live and releases: balancing her sound between raw, angular techno whilst blending dark and menacing undertones with a distinct analogue hue. She also got to take her hardware set up on the road in 2017, jamming the boxes at Freerotation festival, The Warehouse Project, No Bounds, On Rotation to name a few.
Dropping her debut EP on Don’t Be Afraid Recordings in 2019 and a follow up on ‘I Love Acid’ last year, it should come as no surprise that Kerrie has been keeping herself exceptionally busy and planning the launch of her own imprint: Dark Machine Funk. Ahead of the label’s first release, we caught up to chew the fat and talk more about her projects and music in Manchester.
Where does your story with Electronic Music begin?
“Dance classes and local raves back home in Ireland… buying my first mixtape when I was 13 and heading to clubs under age, which led to me learning how to mix on my brother’s decks.”
Which artists first caught your ears back then and how would you describe your taste now?
“When I was really young, I was into the likes of The Prodigy or Jam and Spoon, more commercial stuff along those lines; that got the taste going for me! I went through a phase of Trance in my early teens, I was buying mixtapes from the likes of the Fantazia UK series. Then in my late teens, it was deep house as that was the dominant sound of the city I grew up in, Cork (Ireland). So from my late teens on it would have been artists like Jerome Sydenham, Kerri Chandler, Mood II Swing, MAW and I would religiously go to ‘Go Deep’, a local club night every week with my brother, we never missed a week. I moved to the UK in 2007, I was going through a bit of a minimal phase listening to the likes of Marc Houle and Magda, which led me to the more minimal side of Detroit; Daniel Bell, Robert Hood etc. I really got sucked into techno after that, especially second wave Detroit techno artists Carl Craig, UR, Terrence Dixon, Drexciya etc. Soon after, I then got into UK and Berlin techno. I’m a huge acid fan too, I’ve always loved the sound of the 303 but not so much classic acid house. I’m definitely more into the banging / jacking or even hypnotic styles of acid, the darker and gnarlier the better for me! Plastikman – Sheet One will always be one of my favourite and inspirational albums, it’s absolutely timeless. I also buzz off old 90s/early 00s techno records a lot. John Berry the owner of Eastern Bloc gave me a pile of white labels from those eras when I first started working at Eastern Bloc and I still play them to this day: lots of Primate, early Drumcode, Downwards, Missile etc; a techno DJ’s dream. As you can probably tell my taste has been varied over the years, I have always loved lots of styles and still do and I’m happy that I’ve also got more than one gear for Djing. I can play what suits my mood and that way I don’t get bored. These days my taste currently sits in the techno, electro, acid world and I think Detroit is still probably my biggest influence.”
What were your first experiences of going out raving like?
“My first ever night out was to a local club when I was about 13! My cousin Louise snuck me in, although I did look older than my actual age (obviously!). I remember being like ‘holy shit, what is this?’ haha! I was lucky enough to catch the last few years of ’Sweat’ at ’Sir Henrys’ in Cork when I was in my later teens, an infamous club that sadly shut down. They were some of the best nights of my life. The DJ booth was on top of the bar, the system was pumping, the BPM was usually like 120ish, which is crazy when I think of what I’m used to now. It really gave the term ‘deep house’ a whole new level of meaning for me. You would dance for hours lost in the groove, music was always killer and no one cared what they looked like, it was an absolute sweat box!”
Was there much of an electronic music community where you grew up?
“Yes. There was a really healthy scene back then, there were a few pirate radio shows we were glued to and plenty of local nights flying international acts to Cork on a weekly basis. There were plenty of record shops too. Although I wasn’t Djing properly, it was more messing around every now and then in my earlier years so I wasn’t involved in the scene from that point but I was definitely out raving every weekend.”
What made you choose to move to Manchester as opposed to Glasgow, London or Leeds?
“I moved to the UK in 2007 and I lived in Liverpool for about 3 years initially. Then, I moved to Manchester in 2010 as I was taking a diploma in Music production at the Manchester Midi School. I wanted to make the most of the allocated studio time at weekends and evenings, it made more sense to be in the city.”
How did you end up getting an internship with Eastern Bloc?
“I walked up to the counter and asked if they were looking for anyone to help out, to which I was told to come in for a few hours the following week. I came in weekly then and volunteered a few hours a week initially, uploading stock to Discogs or the website and then I was offered a paid position about 6 months after.”
What was it like getting behind the counter back then?
“Exciting and also a bit nerve wracking at the same time. I think I am the only girl to ever work in the Manchester shop in the 35 years it has been open, so it was intimidating being surrounded by lots of men initially but I was there to learn and I quickly became part of the team. In those earlier days it was magic when you handpicked tunes for someone and they ended up taking them, a lovely feeling. Naturally you then became more confident and you had your regulars who would trust you to put a stash of tunes to one side for them as the deliveries came in.”
As a city that’s commonly associated with House, tell us more about Manchester’s Techno and Electro scene?
“There’s a thriving scene for Techno and Electro. Plenty of decent nights covering these bases: Eastern Bloc, Project 13, Lost Control, Death Of Rave, Pagoda, Meat Free, to name a few. Most weekends you’re likely to hear headline acts like Stingray or Helena Hauff at the White Hotel, which is a killer spot and you also have smaller venues like Eastern Bloc that focus more on local talent.”
Who are the city’s unsung heroes in your eyes?
“Too many to mention! Here are a few that are more my taste music wise: Means&3rd, Bane, Mark Turner, Gary Sloan, Conor Thomas, Everett, Rick Nicholls, Black Eyes, Ross Alexander, Raw Data.”
Which local labels would you recommend checking out?
“Unveiled Nuance, 2097, Bakk-Heia, Our Time, Sferic, W.E.R.D are all worth checking.”
When did you decide to really focus on making and playing Techno?
And what’s been your saving grace through all the craziness right now?
“Making music, working on my label project, meditation, exercise, bike rides, red wine and of course video calls with family and friends.”
Have you made any interesting creative breakthroughs / discoveries?
“I’ve been really trying to improve my mix downs and just improve my production skills generally, so I’ve purposely invested a little money into better tools and committed to learning at least one new thing a day. Myself and a few friends are deciphering a ‘low end’ book at the moment via zoom most weekday mornings, that’s been super informative and also fun. I think it’s been great the amount of artists sharing knowledge on platforms such as Patreon or Youtube during the past year, this is one big positive out of clubs being closed for sure. I’ve been hooked on Speedy J’s “Knob Twiddlers” and also 343 Labs especially, John Selway’s streams. Both have had some of my favourite artists such as Blawan, James Ruskin, Sync24 and Radioactiveman sharing their production processes and workflow, before Covid that was pretty rare!”
As we face yet another year of uncertainty, how do you see things progressing?
“I’m still a bit sceptical at the UK government’s plan of everything reopening in June fully, particularly for smaller venues. I have gigs pencilled in from the opening but we will have to see how things unfold. I think after the past year it’s safer to take things as they come.”
Tell us about your label project …
“My new label is called ‘Dark Machine Funk’. It’s basically an imprint for my own productions, initially. Although I will probably open the door to other artists a bit down the road. I think with everything that’s happened in the past year and things being so out of your control, it made me think about starting my own label, something I can control to an extent. It’s been a beacon of light though all the uncertainty. I always wanted to have my own label from the moment I started making music, so it’s nice to finally see that come to fruition. It’s 100% the right time for it too, I feel like I’m finding my sound now. The ideas have always been there and the actual sound sources have not changed much but the production is getting better, although it’s always a work in progress, naturally. The name ’Dark Machine Funk’ is a reference to the sound I love, that I hopefully translate in my music and is also definitely a nod to the sounds of Detroit, of course. Initially I brainstormed ideas about the title and aesthetic and then gathered images I liked and sent it to my cousin Kevin aka Hankohooligan, an artist. The images I sent him were of machines, power stations (especially the control rooms they fascinate me), space, retro-futurism and powerful females. He drew the design by hand and delivered exactly what I wanted if not better, I absolutely love the image!
The first release ‘Inner Space PT1’ should be coming out in May on both vinyl and digital distributed by rubadub and also available over at https://darkmachinefunk.bandcamp.com/
This is a 2 part release with the second part coming later this year. There are massive delays at the moment with pressing vinyl as everything is starting to move again after, so am waiting patiently to get my hands on the first record. Part 2 has been mastered and cut, and is being sent off for production. I have 2 releases dropping on Cultivated Electronics in June and July so ‘Inner Space PT2’ will follow those, likely to be released in August or September.”
What other things are you working on right now?
I’m currently recording tracks from a live set I performed for the UTTA Medellin Style platform which went really well, you can check it out here:
I’m also working on other forthcoming releases, as well as a project with Means&3rd, where we have sampled the sounds of a workshop in Sheffield and recorded tracks, solely using these sounds. We have an EPs worth of material which we will release at some future stage.
I’m also participating in Sebastian Mullaerts ‘In Bloom’ online mentorship programme (I was super lucky to have received a scholarship). We’re currently on week 3 and it’s been really good so far. The course is based on the Circle of Live ethos: focusing on improvisation and collaboration. There are people from all parts of the globe on the course, it’s lovely to connect with new people even if it’s online, during the pandemic. I’m also prepping for my quarterly Rinse FM show where I have the legend Sync24 as my next guest, as well as various other streams / mixes lined up.”