THUMP TECHNO INTERVIEW: FROM DUBLIN TO AMSTERDAM, ROWDIBOI AND DECADANCE REFLECT ON THEIR TECHNO JOURNEYMay 18, 2023
Inteview Raphaela Pauwels
Introduction Mike Moggi Mannix Editor
In this in-depth interview with Dublin duo ‘Thump Techno’, Raphaela Pauwels sits down with Rowdiboi and Decadance to discuss their journey in the techno scene.
The interview begins with a discussion about how they first met at the Trinity DJ Society in 2019 and the instant connection they felt.
They talk about their early influences, with Rowdiboi being inspired by artists like Mall Grab and Ketamma, while Decadance drew inspiration from Dax J, Remco Beekwilder, and Tim Tama. They reflect on a pivotal night at Index in Dublin, where their tastes in techno were transformed, and how it led to the formation of their collective, Thump.
Raphaela Pauwels: Hi guys, thank you for taking the time to meet up! So I wanted to kick this off by asking you, how did you guys meet? Can you give us a little background story?
Rowdiboi: Thank you for having us! It’s quite funny, we met at the Trinity DJ Society in 2019, probably the most uncool place to meet. They would do like a demonstration, there would be a little crowd of people gathered around the decks and they were teaching people how to mix but only one person at a time so there were like 3 people that got to learn haha. But yeah, I heard some loud person in the front and I was like “he seems like a little bit of a craic, I’m sure at least he is not boring” because everyone else seemed quite boring and it was Dylan! And we got on like a house on fire.
Decadance: Yeah that was it, we were just kind of like briefly talking and he was saying he was producing his stuff. At that point, I knew how to DJ, I think it was still on this phone app but I remember I came up during this session and I got all mad choppy with the faders and they were like “Oh he doesn’t need to be taught”.
It’s funny because that day I was really scared, actually being on a proper pair of CDJs I was kind of nervous about it but what happened was then I was going to Index to see Introversion and Casual Gabbers with Erik Burka. I had met George and Mel that day and George was more into kind of Kettama sort of sound and I was like “Come to Index with me and Erik and I’ll show you like a heavy hard techno” and that was when he fell in love wasn’t it? And also Mel got into it as well and it was pivotal I think for her as well.
I took both of them under my wing and I was like “I’m gonna show you the dark side”. I had a similar experience with a friend where they kind of recognized I had an interest in the darker heavy stuff like I was really into Dax J, so they brought me to really good parties. Mostly Techno and Cans in Hangar back in the day, so yeah that’s how we met.
RP: Amazing! So what were your influences then at the time?
D: For me, it was quite interesting because I wasn’t doing anything productive with it. I didn’t have decks, so it was mainly from going out. I didn’t have the money for all the equipment, headphones, speakers and so on, so I think at that time I was inspired by Dax J and Remco Beekwilder, Tim Tama. Back in 2017 till perhaps 2019 pre lockdown, hard techno wasn’t as it is now where it’s really fast and aggressive so there was still some sort of different style into one sound.
Often you’ll hear kind of ravey stabs or kind of psytrance bassline, early hardcore kind of stuff but back then it was a lot slower.
The heaviness and hardness were coming from the atmosphere and mood of the track so it’s a completely different sound
So yeah that was my inspiration, kind of really dark, heavy.
R: When I first met Dylan I was very much into Kettama, Mall Grab. Mall Grab was one of the first artists that I properly listened to and I was completely obsessed, it use to get me through my days at work, I use to listen to this one track on repeat because it was just so good. But then when Dylan brought me to Index, I changed my whole outlook on the world because I was like “Wow what is this?” I have never been introduced to good proper techno like the underground sound influenced my early days in djing. I used to mix lots of introversion and it’s funny how that night in particular kind of was almost like a precursor for where my style would start to go. That night, downstairs was Introversion and Parallx and upstairs was Luke Xander and it might have been Shannon on support before.
R: So yeah anyways I found it crazy that the downstairs was kind of what I guess you can call peak time techno, kind of 138 bpm to 140 maximum types of buzz, and upstairs you’d have Casual Gabbers which was completely different, just insane.
I really enjoyed downstairs and this underground sound
but the upstairs I was like “Oh this is even spicer” so I think it showed where my taste would go because it went from the downstairs kind of buzz to the upstairs one and now I’m very much up them stairs haha.
D: I think that if you were to analyze it, downstairs was very Berlin, Berghain type of techno where
it’s quite like serious, dark, eclectic
and nuanced whereas upstairs it was like high octane energy, kind of less serious but buzzy and I think it’s kind of a theme for a lot of the French techno.
Just very energetic and less moody, it kind of gallops in like a fucking horse you know. That’s interesting his saying that because I never thought about it but yeah that’s how we met and it was kind of the first inspiration at the time.
RP: When did you guys decide to become more serious about it all in terms of DJing but producing as well?
R: It was that night. Me and Dylan were very drunk and were very much like “Oh man we need to get into the scene, it’s such a good buzz. Imagine going around doing something like this, it would be so much fun”, just burning the ears of each other. Originally we were going to start a collective with me, Dylan, and Mell. Originally we were going to call it Dasein but then it didn’t really stick and then it became Thump
D: So basically, we were walking back from the club jubilant after having a great night, and especially with George it was kind of an epiphany and he was like “Let’s start a collective”. I think he made the Instagram page when we were walking already. At that time,
I had lots of friends who were kind of into DJing and techno, going out every weekend
but none of them were keen to do something productive.
I wanted to channel my passion for techno music into something productive I suppose instead of just going out and being able to ID every third song you know. Also, at that time, I was repping for different collectives and I just got sick of it. What I wanted to do was to create something entrepreneurial so I could have the liberty to curate my nights and kind of allow us to play because no one else was. It was great when I met George, obviously, I only knew him for only a couple of days and we were so decisive and active with not just talking about it.
R: I wanted to do something and I feel like I was waiting for a moment like this because when I first moved to Dublin I found it quite hard to make friends outside of my school friends because that’s all I knew.
None of my friends liked electronic music at all,
they were very much into bands and rap music and I felt like an inbetweener so when I discovered electronic music I liked it but I didn’t really know anyone who did, so when I met Dylan I was like “oh shit, we’re like-minded, this could actually work and w could actually do something together and maybe even built something” and we did, we fucking did it.
D: That’s a good point. The main thing I remember when we met you, especially when we were throwing the seeds for the first event, was it was just so exciting to have met someone who just went for it, you know, he wasn’t only shooting down ideas, he was enthusiastic and passionate about actually starting something. That was special to me and I think both of us for different reasons
kind of found something in each other that we were looking for and we didn’t find with other people.
RP: So this night was so pivotal and important to the start of everything and it went quickly. Since 2019 you’ve grown so much and gone a long way. In a bit less than 4 years you’ve managed to bring the likes of Parfait, CLTX, Nico Moreno, BLK, and so on. What would you say were the biggest challenges you had to face so far?
D: If we start kind of like logically, I remember when we announced our first event, it was only George, Mel, and me. I remember looking at that poster, I wouldn’t have gone to this. The feeling of vulnerability and excitement was just mad, who would go to a cocktail bar on a Wednesday to listen to industrial techno by a bunch of fucking nobodies who have maybe 40 Soundcloud followers combined?
I think the challenge at the start is to consider yourself legitimate because unless you are booking huge artists for the first event
it’s very hard to present yourself in a way where you have something to offer to the scene. We had little funds so we couldn’t invest in a good sound system
and have an eclectic booking, it was only the 3 of us. We went to Bow Lane because it was free to book and the Guinness was 4€ so you know we just went for it. It’s beautiful having that sense of vulnerability and excitement.
It is a challenge, I remember spamming every group chat, and every friend I had, putting on my close friend’s story “Can you just press interested in this event on Facebook?” because they weren’t going to let us go ahead with it if they’re not enough numbers, how many people did we get that day?
R: Maybe 20? haha, It was nice in a way because I didn’t feel like there was any pressure at that point for me. The only pressure was the lid up to the event, as Dylan said, I messaged everyone and added everyone I knew to the Facebook event. That’s how it was done back in the day. When we started it was Facebook that we used to promote our night really and Instagram kind of gave us the extension of that.
D: We had to deploy a similar kind of tactic and I also felt this kind of vulnerability and excitement when we booked our first event in Amsterdam. We booked all the big artists and stuff, it was great and we did it but it got to a stage where we were spending, especially George, all this money to play for 90 mins.
It was great for us to be playing before and it was great to have this in our archive to present ourselves as legitimate promoters but what is quite frustrating and challenging about it is that
if you don’t break even or make a profit out of it it’s very stressful
and it also takes the fun out of running parties because you begin analyzing and experiencing the event from an economical term and not a cultural term.
Every event we had where we didn’t break even for the big bookings, the place was packed and it was amazing. If you were to be there you wouldn’t even think of the finances and you would think that it’s a great success but it would be diminishing our appreciation of the event. So I think that that is a challenge as well, to keep enjoying it as much as you are supposed to.
R: In our first couple of events there was pretty much no pressure because there was no financial pressure, they were free parties so it was fully for the culture and that’s how it started. After that, we booked BLK, it was a fiver for a ticket and it was great again only for the culture.
Then when we booked our first international show which was Parfait and we did that with Vision. It was kind of a branded night almost called Vision X Thump, and to be honest,
it was just a super special atmosphere, everyone who went had an amazing night, they were all so sound, and we never had any kind of issue with anything.
No bad feedback on any of the events we had whatsoever, in terms of how the event ran it was perfect but the one thing is that we got to a stage where the overheads cost way too much and we were losing so much money. Some DJs have booking fees of 3000€, that’s a lot of tickets to make back. It felt really good to feel that we were able to bring the sound we truly enjoyed in Dublin because there wasn’t any of that before we started.
I am super proud. I feel that we sparked something in Dublin because so many people are using us as a source of inspiration when it comes to the artists being booked but, I think that at a certain stage, we plateau. When season 2 of us booking internationals like Shlømo, CLTX, and JKS started it felt that we hit a point where we couldn’t go any further with it. The only logical next step was to do a gig in Index but that’s going to be a while away before they ask us to do something I think.
D: For me, the best way to describe it is that when
we were playing before Shlømo or Nico Moreno,
that’s respectively the biggest gigs of our lives. I was looking at Shlømo playing and he had 2 festivals in the Netherlands the next day and a gig in France on Sunday, I thought that the gig was ultimately tiny and quite meaningless to them in the grand scheme of things. It was probably the polar opposite of what that opportunity meant for us and the other artists, that put it in perspective for me.
It’s great that we kind of have an archive of the big DJs we booked. I’m so happy we did it but coming out from the other end of it, I was becoming overwhelmed. I was getting pretty fed up with Dublin, you put on events with Shlømo and you sell 320 tickets you’re like what the fuck can you do in Dublin?
There was no bigger artist you can book for hard techno and you still get shit numbers
Now that I am not living there anymore, I’m looking from the outside I’m like what the fuck is the craic with this city? Even with Index, Room 2 is offered to collectives but that to me is not even that exciting. Of course, if we are offered the opportunity we would be so grateful but if that’s the ceiling in Dublin, it’s not very high.
RP: There is a problem today when it comes to the scene shrinking down with venues constantly closing which brings a lack of opportunities for smaller labels. What would you say is the biggest problem with Dublin today?
D: For me, from living in Amsterdam where the nightlife is internationally renowned, it’s quite mature in a way. The culture surrounding techno music is genuine, a bit like football culture in Istanbul, it’s so ingrained in the actual country and city.
Amsterdam has 1 week dedicated to electronic music
it takes over the city. Bureaucratically, the council works with clubs, it’s dedicated to protecting the interest of club culture.
Someone who is literally in the fabric of the council that represents techno, you don’t have that in Ireland. I also think that the crowd is different, it’s a lot of people coming from college and they’re kind of going out to get fucked, there’s no respect for the culture.
In Amsterdam or Berlin, there’s a bigger variety of people and much less immature
I think the best way to describe it is that people in central Europe when they go to an event it’s nearly like going to an art gallery, they appreciate, want to learn the art and take it in as opposed to Ireland.
R: The crowds in Ireland, most people burn themselves out and end up retiring from going out on serious nights out at like 25. Loads of people I know are kind of almost at the end of their raver lifestyle because they go hard and young, from the age of like 16 taking your first pill or whatever, by the time you come around 25 it’s been nearly 10 years already.
D: I think all of this is a representation of the hostile legislation and the decaying club infrastructures happening. Also, all this Tik Tok and so on kind of fucks up the way, people go out to techno parties now. People have less patience and they are kind of seeking 15 seconds capturable. I think pre-lockdown was much more tasteful if I can say and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to get Thump going here.
It took a while because I didn’t want to force it, I wanted to wait for the right moment
It happened organically, we were asked to go in on the event in January. We were creatively and artistically in charge of it and it was just amazing, I still can’t believe that we packed out a 400-cap warehouse in Amsterdam. I think it was one of the proudest moments I ever felt.
RP: So you’ve recently gone international there and have released your first VA on the label, can you tell us a little bit about that?
D: I wanted to get on the label side of things for a while because I am a music purist if you could say. I have always connected with labels romantically like Monnom Black, Dax J’s label, or Molekül. It was always something I wanted to do.
I’m passionate about how music comes together as one body of work and how style starts to kind of blend, I’m a bit of a music geek when it comes to that shit
We brought it out at the end of October. We decided that the Bandcamp releases would be curated by me and George will do the free download series. In terms of styles, I want to fit kind of a Thump night so the tracks have to be like they would be played at our events but I also wanted the sound of the label to be very percussive, groovy but quite dark, subtly industrial, very Dax J inspired actually.
I think the first release really kind of glued it together because different presentations embodied the same spirit. Also, all the money we make from band camp releases goes to charity, the Dublin Simons Community. We are looking to get to a threshold of 150 and then we are going to donate the rest. I’ve always been quite interested in charity and giving back but also because as an artist you rarely ever really see the money, you might receive a track to premiere or to master but you’re rarely going to have 50€ in Bandcamp sales realistically.
So most artists are like fuck it, can I get this or that and then you keep the Bandcamp sales. Obviously, for more serious releases you get a contract. Also, there fuck all money in running a label, it’s not a thing that you would start to make money, it’s more based on passion.
So yeah I think it’s great that the money is going to something that matters. Also, for
the artists we chose, we weren’t arsed about clout
we just wanted to invite artists we are close to and that we were inspired by on an artistic level but also a friendly level. The next EP is going to be a guy called Aron SC, he probably has for me the standout track of the release because that song is kind of made for my techno fascination, it got a lot of good dis downloads so we gave him an EP slot and I just curated it today.
R: So yeah Dylan will be in charge of the EP and VA releases and I’m looking to start a free downloads series just to build the SoundCloud page because in the past I have run a record label and it was a big fat-free download series.
I always wanted to just do and make something, contribute to the scene and that was a very big thing for me at the beginning, it still is to this day
In the space of 2 or 3 years, I have maybe uploaded 50 to 100 tracks, all free downloads. It did so fucking well that I’m still shocked about it to this day. I think it passed the million plays a couple of months ago, unfortunately I lost the passion for that project because my music taste has evolved so much beyond what I was releasing on the label so it kind of felt weird to release my current taste into this label, it felt like it didn’t fit.
I still leave it there though because I don’t want to take it away from people, I think there’s some chap that listened to the tracks 2000 times, you never know what a track might mean to someone and I don’t want to take it away from anyone.
RP: So what’s next for Thump? I know there were talks about maybe going over to London.
R: So at the moment we are going to be focusing on the Netherlands for the next month, so Amsterdam on the 21st of April, so it’s a great excuse for everyone to come up for 4/20! And after that, we are going to Rotterdam in May.
D: I think that’s where we want to go with the label, it’s more exciting for me to invest our efforts in a different market. As I said there’s nothing really exciting happening back home so our strategy at the moment is to organize a nice intimate event, maybe 100 to 400 people, really focus on the vibe and the crowd instead of focusing on booking headliners.
What I observe by living here, back in Ireland every event would have a headliner, and their residents play and it’s a bit boring but also
here in Amsterdam, people go to events for the collective
whoever is playing it’s kind of an accessory to it, of course, they create the vibe and provide the music but you go to Vault session for example because you know what the energy will be like, it’s beautiful and I want to do the same for the label.
R: I think what’s important is what we bring to the table. I feel like that we will bring some variation to the table, I feel like that a lot of nights in Amsterdam are focused on one particular sound. So for example Verknip is going to focus on this 160 bpm from start to finish, really hard-hitting for like 8 hours, or Earth Community they are focused on a very specific type of hard groove. I’m super excited to bring our sound to Amsterdam. Dylan is kind of a purist techno, Tiarnola is very emotional techno and I’m very much the ravey bouncy closer haha.
D: I feel like between the 3 of us we can create a narrative instead of having the same sound all night. There’s real opposition here in the scene, it’s divided between hard groove and hard techno and often a party would go for one sound only so it can be frustrating and monotonous especially when it lasts for 10 hours. So what we want to do is showcase a compelling narrative that makes sense energetically.
RP: That makes sense, I feel like when you try to get into a new market it’s important to bring something unique for it to work. Now that we talked about Thump, is there anything on the way for you guys individually as artists?
R: We forgot to mention one thing. So we have Amsterdam in April, Rotterdam in May and then at the end of May we’ve been asked to play at Life Festival and that’s something huge. I feel so grateful, it doesn’t even feel real yet.
D: Yeah what’s so amazing and beautiful about it is that it kind of embodies a full circle moment as to where you began with your techno fascination. You can just see the work and achievement behind it all. Same for when Dax J played my track, from this conversation it’s pretty clear that I’m such a Dax J ultra he is the one that got me into techno, so to have him play my track was just incredible.
Coming back to Life, we’re playing B2B so the fact we can enjoy and share this moment is amazing. Also, our B2B is completely different from a set played individually, our tracks are complementary and create something new.
R: But yeah to answer your question, in terms of releases I want to focus on building my SoundCloud page. Last year I had a couple of really nice releases, some of my favorite labels so for now there’s no label that I want to release on.
This year is all about my soundcloud page and it’s doing well so far. One of the tracks got so big it got taken down by Mall Grab haha. In terms of gigs, I’m playing at Index again in 2 weeks. It’s going to be kind of different because the first time I played before Charlie Sparks and he told me to go nuts and play whatever I want but this time I’m playing before T78. I texted him asking what bpm he wants me to leave him off at and he said 140 so yeah haha. I feel like it’s a good opportunity to kind of explore my roots if that makes sense.
I already foresee the reaction to it all, especially
when I drop down a certain track by Tommy Holohan Subaru Impreza
People have heard it a million times but at the same time, I never play it so I feel like it’s going to be a moment haha. So yeah many things coming up but I’m not going to lie I have a writer’s block for the past month but I’m going through a lot of things so I’m not too worried about it.
D: For me, I have the biggest release of my life planned. It was meant to be for next month but it got pushed back to September.
It’s a vinyl release with Molekül and again it’s kind of a full-circle moment for me
It’s a track I co-produced with a guy here and it is one of the best I ever produced, it’s kind of a clash between my hard techno sound and his hard groove, it’s a very unique track so I’m excited about it.
Other than that, my strategy is that I want to keep pumping out tracks every month. I realized that many people that blow up constantly release music. I have always struggled to produce frequently and have high output with production because of my master’s degree and trying to find my professional job. It’s hard to be in a creative place but now that I’ve got the job sorted I’m kind of flying with the music now.
I also want to get a track release on Monnom Black, that’s the goal. Other than that, gig-wise I’m playing in Warehouse Elemenstraat at the end of the year, the lineup is fucking mental. Moving here
I didn’t get a gig for fucking ages but it’s starting to fall into place now. I’m playing with Mython in a couple of weeks in Amsterdam
a couple of shows in France, and all night long in Normandie.
I played there 3 weeks ago and it was savage, my kind of club; decent size and pumping sound system. I am grateful now because it was challenging and kind of alienating to be in a city out of your comfort zone, not getting any opportunities but yeah it’s finally started to fall into place. I also got asked to play in Estonia but I have a gig that day so hopefully we can reschedule. I was just eager to enjoy every step of the way.
RP: Amazing! You should both be pretty proud of what you have accomplished in such a short amount of time individually and together. Thank you guys, it was great!