Sonar Bliss Records & Belfast Producer Just Doc. EP ExclusiveJuly 13, 2021
Check out whats happening in Northern Ireland with Sonar Bliss Records & their latest release from rising Belfast producer ‘Just Doc.’ who is red hot right now!
Mike Mannix: Nice one Suggzy & Tony thank you for talking to us at iconic underground.
So right into then, before we touch on the label give us some background on your early musical influences and why you wanted to part of the scene?
Suggzy: I had all sorts of influences from all sorts of genres. Kraftwerk, Carl Cox, Dave Stewart, Pablo Gargano, Oliver Lieb, Madness, DJ Hell, Pink Floyd, The Prodigy, Datura, the list goes on and on. Later on, I would have listened to lots of stuff by Chris Liebing, Dave Clarke, Modeselektor, Marco Bailey, Umek, and loads more.
I fell in love with the scene from an early age
because of family members and as time went on I have always been involved in one way or another.
Tony: Early on it would have been my mum and dad’s vinyl collection, mainly blues and rock. But then like Suggzy with the emergence of the dance music scene in Ireland specifically Hellraiser events. Big names like Carl Cox and Pablo were my inspirations back then. Since then it would be the likes of Mark Knight, Kevin McKay, SLAM, Christian Smith… for what they have achieved with their labels.
MM: In 2012 you both created a respected underground dance music label ‘Sonar Bliss Records’ in Northern Ireland, which has been making itself known with its consistent quality releases. How did that manifest?
Tony: Sonar Bliss Records had a different crew and direction back then. There were 4 of us involved initially, me, Liam Doherty, John Manning & Ciaran Duffy (Brisboys). The label had massive success from the word go, mainly down to John and Ciaran’s knowledge of the industry and contacts. Other factors were a solid line-up of incredible talents such as Richie Blacker, Thomas Gandey, Ronan Portela and Pablo Say to name just a few.
Because of our success, we found ourselves with great opportunities which lead us down different paths in our music careers
but back in 2019 Ciaran very sadly passed away and we found ourselves wanting to carry on his legacy.
Ciaran had always wanted to start a sister label called Brisbeats Records and John brought this to life back in 2020 along with his brother Kevin, Richie Blacker, and Ciaran McGreevy, they have been smashing it!
In this time both Suggzy and myself had been building up a steady stream of releases under our ‘Haindo‘ alias and this saw Suggzy also come on board at Sonar Bliss.
From that point, we moved more towards the techno side of things when we relaunched Sonar Bliss and we have been completely overwhelmed by the success since then.
Suggzy: Yeah Tony and myself were releasing techno fairly successfully under the name ‘Haindo’ at the time and started to think Sonar Bliss was the best place to release our music as well as get music from unsigned artists.
This meant we could always have full control of what we released and since then the results have been amazing
Not only have we released some fantastic music from up-and-coming artists but we have also been approached by some top names with demos. The reason why both of these scenarios work for us is that we get to help out artists like ourselves who are just trying to get their music out there but the bigger names also help us to get it there. It’s a win-win for everyone.
MM: What DJs / Artists / Producers are behind your ever-driving passion for the scene, and who are you currently working with?
Suggzy: We think anyone that gives it a go and tries to put themselves out there is an inspiration. Artists like ourselves put our heart and soul into our music whether it’s a set, a track, or an event and lots of times get nothing in return but we do it because we love it and that’s what it’s all about. That’s why we love celebrating success when it does happen because we’re all in this together.
Tony: Like Suggzy said, for us, it’s all about sharing our successes. We get lots of demos, listen to them all, and also if possible give feedback. Through that process, we have come across some of the best talent around in our opinion and we plan to continue to grow the label, showcase our artists, and become recognised for our sound.
Artists we have already worked work with are Stayin Low, Feed Me Groove, Just Doc., Honey + Nelson (Gat Décor), Scott Mac, and Glenn Molloy among others, and are currently in the process of releasing an absolute monster of a tune by Derek Farnan.
MM: Since the blight of C19 how do you see the Northern scene, what’s been its impact, and what do you see happening over the next years or so?
Tony: I am self-employed in the entertainment industry and with government restrictions strangling the life out of the scene I personally have found it tough and came close to losing my business. However, I think like many others, it has allowed us to focus on other passions. For me, it was my studio, sound engineering, and of course Sonar Bliss Records.
I think a lot of producers have gone into their musical caves and as dance floors reopen we will see a flood of new incredible music and albums galore
Suggzy: I have family members who are also in the industry and have seen their incomes taken away at the drop of a hat and despite what the government would have you believe they haven’t been given any support whatsoever. There seems to be a complete disregard for people’s livelihoods if they work in the industry from entertainers to bar staff and its impact has been devasting but I feel the impact has been due to the government’s actions, not C19 itself.
I feel that given time the scene will re-emerge stronger but if it’s with the same people that were involved before all of this remains to be seen.
MM: What up-and-coming artists should we be paying attention to?
Suggzy: From Sonar Bliss Records’ point of view we have Glenn Molloy who has released on some massive labels before coming to us as well as Just Doc. who topped the Beatport techno charts with our best-selling release ‘One Step Closer.
Outside the label, I have always liked The Dirtbirdz, 2 Dublin lads who have made some weapons in the past and I would often throw the odd track of theirs into a set when I can.
Tony: As well as the artists Suggzy has mentioned, Stayin Low is one to watch. He runs Amps Studio and Giving Hands Music, one of Northern Ireland’s most successful music production academies. He is a fountain of knowledge and this skill comes across in his tracks. Outside of Sonar Bliss, keep your eyes firmly fixed on Bemannte & Bruder!
MM: Tell us about the labels latest epic release ‘One Step Closer EP with artist ‘Just. Doc’.
Tony: What can we say about Just Doc.,
5 straight days at number one in the Techno Release charts. What a buzz!
Watching this EP outperform massive labels and the biggest names in our industry was incredible. It certainly raised our profile to the next level and gave us confidence that our choices have been solid.
Suggzy: This was definitely a quality release. Normally we release one or two tracks max from an artist when we get their demos but this was so good we took all three.
I love this sort of stuff and obviously, everyone else did too as it just kept going up the charts and the feedback was amazing.
Credit also has to go to Just Doc. himself
himself for not only making such a good EP but for the effort he put in working alongside us to promote and create a buzz around it.
All of the success of the release was down to hard work coupled with fantastic production
and we just want to thank everyone who was involved whether they helped with the release or just bought a copy.
MM: What’s next for the label?
Suggzy: More quality music. Glenn Molloy has just released ‘Typhoon’ and this hit the top 20 on Beatport which we were delighted with. Then Derek Farnan’s ‘Star Dust’ is up next and it’s going to be huge with a Haindo remix from ourselves which we hope will do it justice.
The next few months are already filling up with loads of weapons due to be released.
Tony: I am excited about our follow-up release with Just Doc., this next one is super special! I used to organise events back in the day and have really started to get that buzz again… Don’t be surprised if you see Sonar Bliss events very shortly 😉
Just Doc. Interview
Belfast born n bred Conor Doherty aka ‘Just Doc.’ sound has a serious edge!
Mike Mannix: Nice one man for talking to us at iconic underground magazine Just. Doc tell us about your musical beginnings and how you got the itch to produce dance music?
Just Doc. From as young as I can remember I was always obsessed with dance music. Early inspirations for me would have come from the likes of Angerfist, Eddie Halliwell, Sander van Doorn, Carl Cox, and Deadmau5, who motivated and inspired me to produce music of my own. I started producing on fruity loops… hardstyle believe it or not. In 2008, I partnered up with my best mate under the alias “Public Malfunxion” and we released various tracks worldwide and DJ’d across Europe and Australia.
In 2017, I started another duo on the side known as “Orenda”. The debut release on Bonzai hit the top 10 in the Beatport charts. After the success in both partnerships, I decided
I wanted to venture out on my own, explore my sound, get more experimental and give myself more freedom with my productions
MM: How did you get inspired to produce your epic One Step Closer EP and are you happy with the result and feedback?
Just Doc. The inspiration stemmed from my deep passion for the darker and melodic sounds of techno and electronic music. I always strive to create something I feel would bring memorable moments to the people listening. I was happy with the tracks and the name came from that, as
I had a feeling deep down it would get me one step closer to the goal I’ve been chasing since I started
MM: Can you describe your workflow in the studio and how you set the tracks up, to what daw and plugins, outboard, and effects were essential.
Just Doc. My workflow is extremely fast-paced as I am results-driven. I set goals at the start of my studio session and ultimately I like to have a track-ready to go after a full day in the studio.
The program I use is Ableton, which is extremely versatile and convenient to lay out an idea from your head and transform it into sound. I usually start a track based on my mood. However,
my go-to would be laying out some heavy drum kicks and loops
setting a tempo, and then diving into a range of Arturia plugins to start creating those hooks and melodies to compliment the drums.
MM: What was the biggest challenge in this project for you?
Just Doc. Probably finishing it. This project was started 2 years prior to its release. I knew there was something there, but I couldn’t quite get it over the line as a selection of finished tracks that I was satisfied with. When the tracks were completed the next step was finding a home…a platform for the music.
Luckily enough I found Sonar Bliss Records and the guy’s ears picked up the vibe and they showed me the belief and support from that moment on
MM: What’s your takeaway emotion with this release?
Just. Doc. Releasing the tracks I felt a sense of accomplishment and euphoria as I knew they were something special. The support shown has been overwhelming, to say the least, and I am overjoyed to share my music with the world. I have to thank Tony and Suggzy at Sonar Bliss Records for their belief and support from the beginning.
MM: What drives and motivates you?
Just. Doc. My motivation from the beginning was to produce top-class tracks to bring joy to as many people as possible. That has not faded over the years the motivation has only grown stronger. Especially when achieving recent success with this last EP. Also, all these years on, I have a very special family of my own and
I want to make them proud of me and what I achieve through my music career
MM: What you working on now?
Just. Doc. I have several new projects ready to go and a few exciting releases already lined up over the summer months. I am excited to say that the record label I’ve been chasing for a few years now will be releasing my EP… so stay tuned for that. Another release with Sonar Bliss Records is on the cards, sticking with those darker sounds. The future is looking good!