Media-savvy-musical-maestro Gavin Herlihy has turned his back on a successful journalism career, shipped himself off to Berlin and hammered out a series of top notch releases. Having unleashed the producer inside and switched professions fruitfully, ‘that bloke from Mixmag’ took time out to talk writing, producing and shaking off THAT tag…
Tell us about your time at Mixmag and before, how did it come about? When did you start? What did you do?
Well, to cut a long story short. At 13 I started playing in bands; at 19 I worked out I wasn't going to be the new Curt Cobain meets Max Cavelera (thankfully!); sacked off music to concentrate on journalism. I did a degree; blagged my first features for broadsheet newspapers and interned at CNN in Atlanta. Then on my return to England I randomly filled in as an intern for Mixmag while the staff went to Glastonbury. Amongst an office full of records I thought: what the hell am I doing? So I sacked off the serious journalism path and here I am today.
Any advice for aspiring muso journo's out there?
Ideas are the currency of journalism. Study your favourite magazine, paper, website....whatever, and note the style of writing and the kind of stories they publish (there's always a formula to each one). Then hit them with some ideas that they'd like. Boil your story into a headline (if you can't boil it into a headline it's not a story, it's a conversation), sell the idea in one paragraph and email it. Hit people with enough good ideas and you'll get a commission. You'd be surprised how few people are genuinely challenging for writing jobs, so get your game right and you're in with a chance.
Can you tell us about your transition to production from journalism? Is it interesting to see the music media from a different angle? Did it help being involved in the industry already?
It helped from a point of view of being able to listen to music all day long at the office, as well as all night long at home. To become a producer you really need to study music like a scholar.
Working at Mixmag also allowed me enough money to buy my first set of decks and, in 2005, blag a copy of Logic. Aside from that it's been more of a hindrance to my career. While still at Mixmag there were quite a few promoters who refused to book me on the basis of my connection with the magazine (which was admittedly horrible for a few years until taken over by its new publishers). But that's just the way it is; if you're in one profession and you want to join another, no one will take you seriously until, that is, you deliver the goods that prove you have what it takes. Now I’ve released on labels like Cadenza, Cocoon, Get Physical, Buzzin’ Fly etc I think the journalistic stigma is beginning to dissolve...but in the beginning, I always took great pleasure in turning up to a gig faced by a promoter and crowd already thinking "what does a journalist know about DJing?" and then getting them onside. That one challenge has probably helped me most as a DJ.
You relocated to Berlin, it seems the place is a real source of inspiration for many at the moment, what was the thinking behind the move? (if you don't mind me asking!)
I needed to get out of Mixmag and get on with my music. In life, I'm a musician first, journalist second and I needed to reset the balance. So when I quit Mixmag, Berlin seemed like a gut instinct idea to action and a place to go where I wasn't known as ‘That Bloke From Mixmag.’ Since being here, I’ve progressed far in my trade and as a person. Going out on your own in a career that doesn't guarantee food on your table every week, as a recession is kicking in, definitely forces you to think on your feet! The cheap rent also allowed me to teach myself to produce properly (an ongoing process) and work on records without being strangled by my bank account at the end of the month.
What has Berlin got to offer? What should any visitor see? An insiders guide……
Summer is a great time to visit. Winter here can be very morose. If you're here to rave but want a little bit of culture to tell your mum about, take a walk down from Alexanderplatz (centre of the east) down the Unter den Linden to the Reichstag. If you're there a little longer, check out the parks. Running in Friedrichshain Park is one of my favourite experiences in the city. Treptower Park is great too. The Badeschiff is also open in the summer, it’s a heated pool set into the River Spree with an artificial beach and a barbecue. Spas are a big tradition in Berlin and the Liquidrom is well worth a visit. You can go on a sauna course, cover yourself in salt or honey and get sweaty, or float in the flotation pool; dip your ears into the water to hear the music pumped up from the speakers in the water. DJs or bands provide the music in the evening also.
You seemed to amassed a lot of releases/remixes in a short space of time, was the producer in you just been waiting to get out? Have you been producing for a while?
The producer in me has been an agitated little tyke since childhood! I learned to play basic piano at the age of 11 from an elderly nun who declared I was the devil! I soon sacked the lessons off and taught myself to play the guitar. I remember being 18 and mixing and constructing records in my head before I owned decks or a copy of Logic. I started producing in 2005. Apart from a few tips from flat mates and purchasing a hell of a lot of computer music magazines, I’m self taught and the first tune I completed, ‘Machine Ate My Homework’ came out on Moodmusic in 2006.
To add to that, your releases have all featured on major labels, Get Physical, Moodmusic, Buzzin' Fly and Kindisch, not to mention your latest, 'Collect', on Cocoon and an EP forthcoming on Cadenza. You've been thrown in at the deep end! Must be exciting?
Yeah, I don't quite believe it myself! I’m very lucky I think; but also hard work pays off and I feel like I haven't fallen into the deep end, I’ve climbed a mountain to find an even bigger mountain range still to climb.
Any more exciting stuff coming up from you?
I've got a new EP coming out on Kindisch in July (you can hear one of the tracks, 'The Random,' on my recent Ibiza Voice podcast). I’m also working on a new EP and lots of new remixes.
Any gigs coming up over here in the U.K? You're resident at Bump, right?
I usually play Bank Holiday Mondays at Bump at Public Life which is always amazing and has a great mix of people. I let DnB legend DJ Die play a record at the last one….he loves it. Commix was there too, and there's always a Dubstep producer or two raving at the front…. all of whom we're steadily converting to House and Techno! ha ha! Plus the security at Public Life are amazing! They should give seminars on how to run doors and are a brilliant laugh - and if you come with a sense of fun and the right attitude, you're in and among instant friends. I'll also be at FUSE and Ketoloco at the Light Bar in London at some point over the summer; as well as CTRL in Newcastle in September.