Mano Le Tough might be one of house and techno’s biggest success stories today, but his pathway to reaching this point paints a sincerely modest picture: he vacated Ireland for Berlin with dreams of making it as an artist, grafting between bar work and playing the city’s club circuit to cover his rent.
His night Passion Beat became something of a go-to spot among the city’s locals, and after his first releases on Permanent Vacation he started to break out beyond the German capital. Nowadays Niall Mannion is one of electronic music’s busiest touring artists, with a distinctive melodic sound originally popularized by the label Innervisions.
Mannion’s career has certainly accelerated at a fast pace, but moving from Berlin to the leafy Switzerland town Meilen has added a sense of balance to his week. When we contacted him for an interview ahead of his appearance in Room One this Saturday, he discussed life in the countryside, his record digging habits, and the reasons for starting his label Maeve.
Your gig schedule has increased significantly over the last few years. Does your career ever feel more challenging now than when you were just starting out?
I’m not sure if it feels more challenging, it’s more that the challenges have changed a bit – I have less free time now but on the other hand I have less financial stress. It is a constant challenge to keep developing, to stay motivated musically and to keep things fresh but that’s always been the case.
Do you feel being in Berlin helped prepare you for the position you’re in now in any way?
Absolutely. Moving to Berlin in 2007 was one of the best life decisions i ever made. I became completely immersed in house and techno culture there. While in Dublin it all felt quite distant in a way, in Berlin I was in the middle of it.
How has your day-to-day life in between long weekends changed since moving to Switzerland?
It hasn't changed so much in that I still try to work in the studio as much as possible. Maybe there is less distraction here, less people to have coffee with, less chance to go to Berghain for one drink and one dance on a Sunday evening… the biggest change recently is that my partner and I just had a baby!
The seasons in Berlin are always quite polarizing. Is there a noticeable change between summer and winter where you are now? Does this have any impact on your music?
Yes, it’s very similar to where I am now, although being closer to the Alps and further south means it’s a bit warmer overall. The seasons probably affect my music mostly in terms of scheduling: in summer the touring is really hectic with limited time for the studio, whereas in winter I usually take an extended break and work in the studio a lot.
You described it as a dream to be able to write music in the countryside. Is this something that’s become easier since you left Berlin?
Definitely, in Berlin we lived right in the thick of it and now we live closer to the countryside. It’s a lot more peaceful here, providing a good balance to life on the road.
How much time do you spend digging for new music?
I’m constantly searching for new music – mostly online these days. I’m not sure how much time I spend on it, it’s kind of a constant process.
Presumably you have to travel a bit further for your nearest record shop nowadays?
There are definitely a few decent stores in Zurich which is really close by, but it’s definitely not like Berlin where there were probably 5 stores within 200 metres of my apartment…
How often does the contents of your record bag change?
It changes practically every week, tunes are constantly filtering in and out, new stuff, old stuff… I mainly try to keep it fresh for myself, that’s what keeps me motivated.
Journalists often draw comparisons between you and the Innervisions crew. How much of an influence have the label had on your writing?
The Innervisions crew are great friends and I have huge respect for what they have done and continue to do. In terms of my writing I’m not sure what the direct influence has been, when I make music I never really think of other music, it’s more about expressing myself and my own personal experiences.
Do you see yourself as a songwriter or a producer? Many of your influences seem to come from music away from the club.
I usually write and produce simultaneously, they are part of the same process. I can be writing lyrics at the same time as I’m EQing the drums.
Why did you start Maeve?
In 2012 our friend Baikal, who had previously released as Mark August, had started to finish tunes again after a hiatus of a few years and was wondering where to put them out. Mark Flynn (The Drifter) and I had been toying with the idea of doing a label for a while, so the three of us started Maeve together.
Was the label started as a way to compile new music from your peers or is there a long term plan to release more of your own?
It was definitely started as a way to release music of our peers, next up is Adam Marshall who played at our Passion Beat party in Berlin back in the day and then Kev Sheridan, an Irish friend who we were studied at university with. I will also do another 12” soon!