Resilience and Rhythms: Sleepless Beauty’s Odyssey Through Electronic MusicOctober 3, 2023
Interview Editing Mike Moggi Mannix
In this captivating interview, Dublin based DJ, ‘Sleepless Beauty’ takes us on a journey through the various chapters of her life that ultimately led her to become an insightful and consistent figure in the Irish underground music scene.
Her story begins with a childhood dream of becoming a singer, which eventually led her to the Rock school in Ballyfermot. However, as she shares, her path took unexpected turns, including diving into photography and overcoming the challenges of self-employment. Sleepless Beauty’s resilience shines as she recalls her early creative ventures and the valuable lessons they brought.
As fate would have it, her entry into the world of DJing was serendipitous, marked by a course designed for women and the LGBTQ+ community. With no prior experience, she embarked on this new adventure and discovered her passion for electronic music. From playing her first sets at festivals to navigating the impact of COVID-19 on her career, Sleepless Beauty’s story is one of determination, growth, and an unshakable love for the music that fuels her artistic journey!
Mike Mannix: I’ve been looking forward to this since I saw you play at the Music Machine Master 3M gig in the Sound House during the summer. Your set was outstanding and innovative. Skills! Made up I saw it in the flesh! Nice one, tell us about what shaped your initial musical influences growing up?
Sleepless Beauty: When I was very young, my only focus was to be a singer. When I was in the second year of school, I heard about the ‘Rock School’ in Ballyfermot, and that was the only place I wanted to be.
”I didn’t want to do a degree, I didn’t want to do anything except be a singer. I had grown up in stage school and I loved singing and dancing”
When I turned 18, I got lucky enough to get a spot in the Rock School. I was really excited, but I will say that there were some technical classes that, at 18 years old, I just wasn’t ready for. Probably micing and stuff like that. I heard about Hot Press magazine; we had great teachers, like P. Holiday. He was such an interesting person, in his double denim, leaning back in the chair with his boots on the desk, haha. We had really interesting teachers, but the main reason I ended up leaving the course early was because
”there were some people with big egos, and at eighteen, I just wasn’t prepared for the drama and all that came with it. I decided to step back”
but I didn’t know what I was going to do because that was my everything.
The following September, I tried my hand at photography. I had never done anything like that before, apart from what everyone else had been doing with a small camera, taking pictures during holidays or of friends. I did a course in Marino, and I found that you could be really creative with photography; it didn’t have to just be a snapshot.
So I started getting into creative portraiture. I didn’t know what I was doing; if I look back at some of my first pictures, haha. I remember trying to photograph myself in a bathtub with tears on my face wearing my Docs, haha.
I was trying to do broken doll shots in the bedroom just using a lamp on the side because I didn’t really know much about creative lighting at that point. I ended up becoming a professional photographer, and I was self-employed. I went to Kevin’s college in Crumlin, and I got a direct entry into the second year.
I did some darkroom work, and then I got a direct entry into a degree at IADT. I loved what I was doing, and I was very driven and passionate. I was in so many different business groups for creatives and entrepreneurs; I was a finalist for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition, and
”I won awards for my creative work”
Things went really well, but as a self-employed person, it can be irregular, and I definitely found that challenging. I had to provide for myself. Funding for people in creative services roles, and staff positions, were hard to come by. I worked for Hot Press Mag, and did a lot of festival work such as photographing for Life & Electric Picnic and tons of other stuff.
Around the end of 2018, I put that on pause, just before the pandemic hit. I just wanted to try something else. It’s not like it goes away; you are still a photographer. I had previously worked with medium and large format, and I loved seeing a creative project turn into something, you know? I loved making an idea or dream into a physical photograph. I love it, but I just needed something new.
Mike: And have you ever DJ-ed before? Did you have any type of experience with that at all?
Sleepless Beauty: None, not at all. My first experience was probably like a lot of people, going to festivals, getting a taste of what life was like, you know? ☺
Mike: Were you into that scene at the start?
Sleepless Beauty: I wasn’t; I was a rocker girl. I liked alternative things. I kind of walked my own path. I wasn’t really much of a follower, just figuring out what was right for me.
Mike: So when did the penny drop then? What clicked for you?
Sleepless Beauty: I was probably the same as other people, just experiencing the festival scene, to put it politely, haha.
“I’d seen these incredible women performing on some of the biggest stages in Ireland, and I was really wowed by that”
I loved the energy they were bringing, and I thought, “I’d love to do that.” I started looking for courses. I didn’t have any experience; I never played at a party or anything like that. So eventually, something just kind of popped up for me.
Sleepless Beauty: Hunt & Gather aka H n G started a course for women and LGBTQ+ people to learn how to DJ, and it was run in the Wigwam basement. It was very reasonably priced, and it had Amy from Le Boom, at the time; DJing on it, Roo Honeychild, Gary from Mix and Fairbanks, Colin Divine, Nialler9 so there were really good DJs. It was in 2018, and I remember going, and there was a girl I met there who is still DJing today, Greta.
”I remember being in the Wigwam booth and thinking it was like a spaceship”
I didn’t know what to make of it. The DJs were so comfortable on the equipment. I wondered if I would ever get there! We had a debut performance in the old Berlin Bar at the end of the course, and I remember playing some electroclash like LCD mixed with artists like George Fitzgerald.
I was trying to find my flavour at that time. I remember Niall was there, and Gary was very supportive, and I really appreciated it because I was very nervous, haha. It just kind of built up from there over the years. I played a small slot at Body and Soul, and I remember being quite into disco, nu disco, and electroclash stuff as well.
On top of that, I got into art installations for festivals. I brought an art piece I had made to KnockanStockan. I was walking through the field pre-festival, and I saw this kind of disco cool-looking tent, so I popped my head in, being like, “Hey, any chance you are looking for a DJ?” and they were like, “Well, we’re gonna have a guest slot on Saturday and Sunday night if you wanna pop over a bit before 7 we would be happy for you to play.”
I did turn up for the Saturday slot, and they were really happy, so they had me back on Sunday night for 2 hours, so I did both nights! And yeah, I just fell in love, a bit the same way I fell in love with photography, I just knew it was something I wanted to do.
Mike: It was a gut thing! So obviously, it gave you a bit of a platform and the taste and all. Where did you go from there? How did that start and then, obviously, with the impact of COVID and so on?
Sleepless Beauty: With COVID, I just felt really lost, you know. Before COVID, I got a bit of a residency in Lost Lane, things had been going well.
”My biggest gig in 2019 was in Electric Picnic”
and I got a few slots there. A friend of mine had a van in the trailer park, it was called, ‘The Boogie Woogie’. Playing there was a lot of fun.
Another friend had built part of Providencia, the new area in Freetown, and I played a little bit there, but the biggest one I didn’t know was going to happen. Mary, who ran the Dark and Stormy bar in the Body and Soul area (now called Croi), had asked me to do a set at EP.
I came up at 10 on Friday night ready to begin, and was told, “You need to come back at 12.” I wasn’t expecting to close! It was the Pagoda bandstand stage, it was kind of in the center of the Body & Soul Area at EP.
Anyways, I came back at 12 for a 2-hour set there, and I remember when I got to the decks, people were just passing by, people had artists to see, and within an hour, it was just packed.
There were people as far as I could see; I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t dressed up, a big part of my name, my performance also goes through what I wear, and I didn’t have time. I was in a black t-shirt and no time for fanciness, but it was amazing.
”I just couldn’t believe that so many people were responding to what I was putting out, you know? It really was one of the best moments of my life”
I just wish I had more footage of it, but it is what it is.
Mike: That cemented your path going forward, what’s the plan now? Obviously, we are post-COVID, where are you focusing your energy now?
Sleepless Beauty: It’s been a busy year so far. I put out mixes with queer club Honeypot and Four Four Magazine. I played the main stage in Opium twice. Had my debut gig in Cork with Instinct. Started Fluid Club – Ireland’s first club for Bisexual, Pansexual, the Fluid and Flexible. We’re still in the early days, but we’ve had a number of sold-out parties so far & held our first Bi Pride club night over that busy weekend. I played with the Hot House label.
I performed at All Together Now and was highlighted as one of Four Four’s ‘Rising Irish Acts to see at ATN’. I had two slots at EP this year – I played Friday night 11-2.30am in the Birdcage Club in Brutopolis
“a secret rave you have to find”
playing a heavy and fast set, and closed the Realign Stage on Sunday night in Croi, with some bouncy house.
Also, just thinking back to during COVID, I really wanted to learn how to play turntables, and I went to the course in BIFE;
‘I just wanted to try to become the best DJ I could become”
Besides turntables, I wanted to learn 3 and 4 decks, but that was maybe too ahead of me, haha. But yeah, I kind of taught myself (at a later date). I paid to use a venue because Pirate Studio doesn’t have a 4 deck set-up, and I went in, and was like, “Let’s just see how it goes.” It took a couple of hours, but I was getting there.
It was like learning to skateboard all over again, haha. It was cool. Also, during that time, I learned a lot about the history of electronic music and the history of techno, and I gained an appreciation that I didn’t have yet.
”I became very passionate about the history of it all”
I have such an interest in electro, techno, hip-hop, acid and breakbeat, as well as bringing other influences to the decks. I love all the flavors and variety. I also completed a couple of courses during COVID time in radio as well; I doing some interviews with people in our industry. Basically I kept learning new things.
Mike: You have a multifaceted approach to the scene which I found healthy. You’re not a one-trick pony; it’s good to have diverse interests and obviously understanding the history and narrative of the scene of the last 20/30 years as well. It’s fundamental.
Sleepless Beauty: It feels really important to me. Learning it inside out just felt part of me, and I felt part of it.
Mike: It’s like any culture understanding its own narrative, understanding its own history; you feel more aligned with it. The highs and the lows, you have emotionalized yourself with the whole scene and concept. It’s really important, to push the narrative from the past as well. For example, I’ve interviewed the incredible and outrageous New York innovator Nicky Siano.
He owned/ran one the of the longest running underground disco clubs in New York called ‘The Gallery’ in the 1970s, and gave Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles their start on the decks before they became famous. He was also one of the first DJs in the world to use 3 decks.
Sleepless Beauty: Yeah and he decided to continue on with Larry in the Gallery
Mike: He [Nicky Siano] gave them the start, which a lot of people don’t even realize, one of the sparks that ignited the house scene was inspired in the gay clubs in New York before Frankie went to Chicago.
Sleepless Beauty: Yeah, and then house continued to develop in the underground scene; it’s all part of it; it’s incredible.
Mike: It is; I love going back to them. Nicky Siano was one of the first, I think the second DJ in the world to use 3 decks, and his third deck he used it as a mixer just to put noises and so on. So yeah, it’s something that we encourage with the mag, to give the platform to document that side of things and not just go with fads and bullshit. It’s good to see that you have this interest as well. To wrap this up, what have you got planned for the year?
Sleepless Beauty: Myself and Greta are cooking something up at the moment. I’m working on a new mix that’ll be out soon. I’m in talks about a new project, and we’ve got our next Fluid Club party about to be announced with some great talent on the line-up.
Mike: Looking forward to hearing your mix! Look, keep in touch!
Sleepless Beauty: Thank you!