Once Upon a Time on SoundCloud: The KETTAMA Fairytale

The calendar has just flipped over to April. The Claddagh’s latest set of baby ducks are hopping in for one of the first swims of their lives while their parents and the neighbouring swans watch over the night-time inlet of the River Corrib. Just overlooking them, a 1989 maroon 318i BMW is parked outside the playground. There’s a can of monster energy on the roof and a mix of Rolling Stones, Mobb Deep and Aretha Franklin (among others) emanating quietly from the drivers’ window which is rolled down enough to comfortably rest your elbow on.

Inside sits someone whose story is one that’s been slapped with labels and narratives that have never quite hit the nail on the head over the past 5 years of musical output. That could be down to lazy stereotypes, or the fact that maybe this isn’t one that follows such a linear projection; that ‘The KETTAMA story’ (If we’d be so bold as to coin such a term), is one that has had an unreliable narrator in the shape of naysayers and even diehard fans alike. That, maybe, as rigid and predictable as artist’s trajectories have become, we may just have someone that’s really shaping their own narrative by, conversely, saying little to nothing at all.

At this point, it’s been over a year since the last club show, which would lead many to believe that the well would have well and truly run dry, however KETTAMA’s list of achievements since we last spoke (Officially – for a magazine), which was September 2018, is longer than most could have imagined. Since the start of 2019 even really, he has made his Boiler Room debut, obtained a Rinse FM residency, held a residency at Manchester’s Warehouse Project, released on a litany of labels like R&S, Dance Trax, Shall Not Fade and more. Along with all of that, he has of course played all over the globe; as far as Australia and Japan and as big as Glastonbury and Melt. Lump in the fact that we’ve had the COVID interruption in the midst of all that, it’s hard to think of anyone more primed for the eagerly awaited return.

“It’s cliché to say, but if someone had told me that I’d do all that in a relatively short space of time I’d think that’s mad. Especially now, sitting at the Claddagh, it’s pretty crazy to think that’s possible for just a random feen from Galway.

Going into COVID, I had everything going, but at the same time it has been a reset. It’s mad to think that all that stuff has happened between then and now. I’ve covered a lot of ground and it feels like longer than that really. The connections that I have made; say with DJ Haus, Steel City Dance Discs, even the distribution company we have the G TOWN relationship with, it feels like we can do a lot more of the things I’d dreamed of ages ago. I hope it restarts the same way that it was going and I think it will. The connections I’ve made over that period of time have been insane.”

Maybe it’s the music playing (At this point, some Japanese Jazz we found on YouTube), but it does really seem like the restart he speaks of has taken place, even just from the time he’s taking to choose his words.

“I have a lot more control now [Since the start of the pandemic]. When you have a middle man between you and everyone else, seeing as no one had my email etc, you’d have to speak to them first. As I was coming up, I was never really the one establishing those connections. Since I’m the one 100% deciding where I’m going and what I’m doing, I’ve made relationships with lots of people that have cool labels that I want to release on. It’s like it was at the start, it’s all me, just with more groundwork put in.”

Nothing over lockdown has probably been as important, in terms of Evan’s career trajectory, as the upcoming launch of G TOWN RECORDS. Having your own label is one thing, but having the ‘G TOWN’ name emblazoned across your own music and others’ is really and truly something else on a personal level. Professionally too however, it allows for far more creative control and also it establishes a hub for everything creative that may have gotten lost along the wayside alongside a hefty touring schedule.

“They weren’t really big things, but since it’s your first time doing it, it stresses you out a lot. If that was me between gigs and touring, it would’ve been a mess. Knowing all these things, having done them know, it’s not scary talking to the people you have to talk to and doing the things that need to get done.

“You said it in the record shop, then you got the [G Town] tattoo. There used to be gurnicks that’d go around saying ‘We’re out the G Town Kid’ and that used to be so cringey, so it’s a cringey thing that stuck around long enough that it’s cool now. I’ve been so excited to have a platform and also to put what we do creatively out; to collectively have ideas and say we can do that is sick. We needed the last year to be able to do that but it was worth it.”

The love affair with Galway hasn’t always been so straightforward, with all that being said. As great as it is to wear on the sleeve, for those who don’t know; we’re talking about a city with a population of around 100,000 people. When we first launched VSN as a duo (four and a half years ago) there were 3 nightclubs (Two of which are now closed), along with a handful of venues. The clubs close at 2am, and electronic music nights are intensely dictated by the influx of students from all over the country to both colleges. Be that as it may, there is still a bubbling interest for electronic music like no other here, with Evan being a real embodiment of that.

“When I first got booked abroad and we’d be at the dinners, people would ask where I’m from. I’d be like ‘Galway’s kinda shit, the licensing laws are crap, there aren’t many clubs etc’. I think it was really the start of lockdown I realised that was untrue in a way. The lack of really good music and nights made you go on YouTube and search for stuff you like. It was the lack of stuff that made me go and do what I liked doing, plus the support of people like Paddy [Hogan], Dylan [Thomas], Maze.

It’s that lack of good stuff that made me search elsewhere and get really inspired by it.

“Maybe if the music was really good here, I’d have fallen into just this one sound or genre and get stuck in that. If there was a crew playing really good house or disco, they’d have their own ways of going about it I’d have learned from. When you go about learning those things yourself and find everything at once and you like it, then you make anything you like too.”

This was something I’d never really thought of myself at all and it really struck a chord. Evan takes the Monster off the roof and almost takes a triumphant drink of it after giving us that nugget of hometown psychology, before continuing on that point;

“We weren’t exposed to any one strict clique that only played one genre when we started off. When we started playing we went from house to techno, to really REALLY heavy techno, to me going to house, to you sticking to techno because there was no hard, established scene that made us play one thing or the other. The freedom of being in Galway was serious; you’d come in and play some serious techno tune and I’d be playing a house tune I’d just made. It all went together because no one was looking over telling us what to do, which was a really great thing when you were starting out in music.”

I take the philosophical hat off his head and place it on mine; If Galway never had a particular THING before, is there pressure making tracks for G TOWN then?

“Did I necessarily think I was going to release the tracks I made in 2019 for G TOWN? Kinda, but not really.

“With the Dance Trax one, that was done and then I gave it to Rupert [DJ Haus]. With my next one (after GTOWN001), that’s something I wanted to do and I made it in a couple of weeks. I could go in and try and make tunes every day and maybe something would come of it, but really it just happens sometimes. Even looking at BODY or any other big tunes I made like that, I swear it just kind of happens and I take it as it comes.”

Having been around Evan for a lot longer than just this interview, he has never seemed to enjoyed making music as much as he is now, even the way he talks about it is a lot more colourful, if I were to speak so descriptively about it. Over the past year, his SoundCloud and Bandcamp pages have been dotted with sporadic drops of tracks, each one almost a totally different vibe to the last, along with releases on the VSN WORLD and Typeless records VAs.

“I came up off of SoundCloud, just uploading random shit. Over lockdown, I’ve gone back to just uploading random stuff I’ve been making; house, garage-y, jungle, and for the most part, each track gets a good reception. People listen to it and like it, so I feel like that’s given me the reassurance and confidence to keep putting stuff out there, all under KETTAMA. Especially that As You Were tune. That’s a weird tune and people were really into it. Coming out of lockdown with tracks like the ones on VSN WORLD, Typeless and then my SoundCloud, it was a really good thing to have the freedom of making whatever tunes I like.”

The return (or should we say reset(?)) to default is definitely a welcome and refreshing one in a world where everything has become so formulaic, but does that mean that it was necessary? It’s kind of crazy to wonder if anyone with the above list of accomplishments wasn’t happy with where they were going, but maybe that was the case to a degree?

“I felt like I was getting to a place I didn’t really want to get to, towards the end of 2019. I wasn’t being as productive as I should’ve been. My Rinse shows were really good and I was happy with them, but production wise – no. I put Temperature Rising out in the summer that year and that was great. I was working on the G TOWN EP, but overall I felt like I was going in circles generally. It feels like a different lifetime because it feels like so long ago.”

Did the break from clubs, both the touring schedule and also just gigging itself allow for a clearer approach when it came to sitting down and making tracks, rather than making stuff with the dancefloors in mind?

“I didn’t think it was affecting me, I’m still making music for clubs, but it’s the fact that there’s no pressure. I’m putting more time into things, I have a lot more patience in production. Before, if I’d made a good loop, I’d be like ‘OK put a bassline and rides on this and finish it so I can play it on the weekend’. Now, I can listen to it and go through it and make everything a lot smoother and I think you can hear that too in the stuff I’m releasing. I’ve gotten a lot more patient with my tunes. I mean, I still have my days where I’m impatient, but I’m doing things I wouldn’t do before and making stuff a lot smoother where I’m a lot happier with them when I look back at them.

“I’ve been making music for five years. I’m still experimenting with everything. BODY was an experiment with what I could do with house. The Dance Trax one was experimenting with more electro-y sounds, there’s kind of a garage tune there too. I’m still practicing all the time and I’m still nowhere close to being where I want to be knowledge-wise. All my stuff is dance-y and electronic for sure, but say it’s only now that I’ve started experimenting with more techno and hardgroove style things.”

I’m five years into this and I’m still getting to grips with getting what’s in my head out into people’s ears. 

Did somebody say album?

“An album would be really cool because if you listen to everything I’ve put out over lockdown, that’s the sort of album I’d like to listen to.”

With the luxury of insider’s knowledge, I know that G TOWN RECORDS is going very quickly in the right direction; with Evan’s upcoming release, along with the following two EPs (From different artists), this label is very much more than a quick throwaway hub for whatever KETTAMA sounds like any given day, and more so the beginnings of a crew to be reckoned with.

“I know from Jordon [Mall Grab] supporting my tunes at the beginning that that put a fire in my belly, the fact that we can do that now from G TOWN for the people we have lined up is cool. If Jordon hadn’t played my tracks I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now, and the fact that we can sort of be in a similar position now is really cool. The support of Irish people is a crazy thing. They latch on to something and go with it. I’m not saying G TOWN’s the biggest thing in the world because it’s not, but we’re really committed to getting it there.

“Coming up, you see there are certain really cool crews; say Dance Discs, Hessle Audio, Kiwi Records. You see all them and think it’d be class to have something like that and it’s only really now that we can. It’s sick to have a crew like that. Moving forward, we’re all bringing new things to the table and I can’t wait to buzz about and do G TOWN shows in the future.”

Last year, when VSN spoke with X CLUB., I said 2020 was the year of the underdog city, and since it ended up being a write off, we’re extending that statement to 2021, 2022 and every year after that.

As long as KETTAMA is a G TOWN rep, the underdog has a formidable representative on the world stage, with the label itself now primed to build a home for those who’ve lacked inspiration in the place they call theirs.

GTOWN001 – KETTAMA drops tomorrow on G TOWN RECORDS – you can grab a record or pre-order digital via the Bandcamp here.

3 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time on SoundCloud: The KETTAMA Fairytale

  1. Vous êtes deux fous, but ça marche.
    Je fais parti des gens qui soutiendront l’art musique electronique Irlandais.
    Les beaux jours sont devant vous !


  2. You are two crazy people, but it works.
    I am one of the people who will support Irish electronic music art.
    The beautiful days are in front of you!


  3. Been a huge fan for multiple years now, big inspiration for my music, even met you in Manchester Airport after WHP in 2019, can’t waittttt for the releases of the tunes you have cooked up


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