in the studio with Phil Kieran


What’s culpably interesting about the Belfast based creator, Phil Kieran’s work is that it can take on many forms. Alongside his club focused work you can find him making atmospheric film scores in collaboration with fellow local hero David Holmes, being handpicked by Depeche Mode as a remixer or making music under his Le Carousel guise – an outlet which allows him to shape shift musical form, bringing in some of his homeland’s finest musicians to realise a whole new approach to creating. Isolating himself in the Irish countryside, Kieran used the time working on Le Carousel to hone in on his emotions, crafting melodies as the starting blocks for the resulting songs that make up the critically revered and Andrew Weatherall endorsed self-titled album.

In short, Phil Kieran is able to do things that you wouldn’t expect. But he’s able to do so whilst all the while remaining a consistent force in techno.

When it comes to the Northern Irishman’s dancefloor productions, they’re consistently brought together with the sort of compelling and solid grounding that shows he’s spent his time studying the form. And as such it comes as no surprise that Kieran’s recent cut, ‘Hells Bells’, was selected by Joseph Capriati on his newly released fabric 80 album – the very same compilation that Kieran will be helping launch with a rare live set in Room Two this coming Saturday (21st February). With the treat of a live show hanging heavy over us, from an artist for whom we hold so much esteem, it goes without saying that we physically jumped at the opportunity to gain some vital insight into Phil Kieran’s work processes for the latest instalment of our studio focused feature…

So firstly can you give us a verbal tour of your studio?

At the heart of my studio is my 36 channel Midas Venice desk. I run a Mac desktop G5 and Cubase 7 as my main DAW, I have all the usual plug-ins and soft synths but these days I get more excited about the outboard gear. I seem to get more creative when I’m jamming with outboard stuff. I have a rack of gear on my right that has all synths and sound sources, then on my left I have a rack of equipment that I use to process the sound with – various filters, EQ, compressors, tape machines and effects. I love this part of the process the best I think.

What’s your favourite and most essential item?

I love my Universal Audio LA610 compressor/limiter and mic preamp. Its so subtle but just adds a really professional sound to things.


What is it you’re performing on when you play live exactly?

I am using a new MacBook pro I just got and am running Ableton live. Then all my own plug ins and effects. I use an MPC40 to control the settings and I have just added the TR8 Roland drum machine. I will also consider some outboard effects and possibly some other bits but I’m still playing around with the finished result.

How often do you change things up in your live set?

I try to adjust what I play for each set – a bit like DJing – so I will load enough music to last for more than three hours and just select one hour to suit the night. I actually haven’t played a live set in nearly 2 or 3 years. I don’t like doing too many so they feel special when I do do them.

How much of it is new unreleased material? Do you find live sets double up as testing grounds for new tracks?

I would say it could be almost all either unreleased or else only released in the last year. I want it to feel new and feel excited about what I’m playing.

Can you run us through why you’re working in this set up and what creative freedom it allows you?

I think you can give your self too many options so its good to find the balance between being creative and not getting lost with too much gear on stage. I like to focus on just getting the best results and sound to come out the speakers. You have to be able to respond to what’s happening in the room, real time and move with the vibe in the room. If you can do that then it feels live, otherwise its just pressing play on a track.

How different is it from what you produce with in the studio?

My studio is a lot more complicated in a way, a lot of it is older gear but I like my live set up to be simple and just focus on getting a great sound that organically moves with the audience.

How would you say your production’s developed over time?

I’m not sure what the answer to that is… I just try to do my best all the time. I think I have got better at writing melody and layering musical things.

You’ve been pretty active with your band Le Carousel recently with a new release – can you tell us a bit about the new record?

It’s a track I plan to out on the second album and I thought it would be a good idea to give [people] a snippet of what’s to come. I have a name and concept planned for the next album but I just thought it was a cool idea to give people a feel of what’s coming.

What’s your role within the unit instrument and technical wise?

The Le Carousel project is really my music but I generally work with some great musicians to help me with it. Roisin was the biggest feature of the last album as she was singing on every track and also Tara and Robyn as well. You could say I’m the director and main writer of the project. I plan to do something similar with the next album but hopefully have a slight development of sound.


What’s the creating process like with the group I bet it’s a bit different writing for the project compared to your solo PK work?

I generally start with an emotion and no drums then add the drums last, sometimes with techno its the other way around. I try not to have a process to how I work, just roll with an idea or feeling and develop it into a finished song.

What’s next on your agenda in general – what’s next for PKR?

I have a really cool duo coming up on PKR. Its very techno and I’m really excited about it though I can’t say too much just yet.

And finally, if money was limitless what’s your ultimate studio object of desire?

A Prophet 5 and an EMS Synth.


courtesy of fabric london


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