Who are you?
I’m Ciarán Ryan, originally from Co. Tipperary, spent a long time in Limerick, and the past few years in Clare, and am now returning to Limerick.
I currently work as an independent radio producer, making documentaries on items as diverse as football fans, creameries, DIY gig promoters, and hurling. I present a weekly music programme for one of RTÉ’s digital stations 2xm, which comes from the RTÉ Studio in Limerick.
I’ve recently returned to college after eight years away from it to commence a Research Masters in Media. I occasionally write for magazines/websites/newspapers, but not as much in recent years. I’ve been involved with Out On A Limb since around Christmas 2003.
When was the label set up and why? Who else involved if not just you?
The label was set up in the summer of 2003. Albert Twomey (who know works in Plugd Records in Cork) and Richard Bourke set it up – both were involved in the Aspersion Music Collective (AMC).
It feels weird having to explain what the AMC is as I always presume people know what it is but I suppose it’s 5/6 years since it existed so there is a new generation of folks who probably never heard of it. That said, there is probably a tonne of folks my own age who haven’t either. Anyway, the AMC was the amazing not-for-profit collective based in Limerick that put on a heap of shows, and very much changed how I listened to and interacted with music.
It sounds corny and silly, but I’m very thankful for what the AMC did for me; I was not a member of the collective but met many great friends through it and their gigs. Started writing about music because they were putting on kick-ass shows, and first heard giveamanakick at an AMC show.
I kind of digressed there, but gamak were the sole reason the label started up. They recorded an album, and needed an outlet to put it out. Albert and Richard came forward. Simple as. I was a big gamak fan from day one (I think I was the first person to ever interview them for a magazine down here) and suggested getting involved a few months later.
I didn’t think Albert and Richard would take me serious but I was invited round to Richard’s gaff a few weeks later, and that was that. Dave Ahern (ex Waiting Room and ex Hooray For Humans) got involved for a bit too but the nucleus up until 2009 was Albert, Richard and myself.
Albert gracefully ‘retired’ from the label then, and it’s been Richard and myself since. We’ve got other folks who really help us out like Dave and Johnny Lynch (Rest) on the design front, and Darragh Enright who has tirelessly built and maintained a number of versions of the OOAL website over the last number of years.
How would you describe the music policy of the label (if there is one)?
Initially the label focused on the mid-west and south-west of Ireland. Why? Because there were amazing bands in Limerick, Cork, etc that we just felt weren’t getting the attention of their Dublin peers.
We never set it down to geographical borders though – Owensie and Crayonsmith are both Dubs and we’ve welcomed them with open arms. As anyone who looks at our catalogue will know, we’re not a label that should be easily pigeon-holed. We’re very open, regardless of whether it is folk, metal, electronica, whatever.
We basically need to both really, really, really, like the tunes, and we gotta see that the artist has an attitude and ethos that will fit with the label. we listen to tonnes of stuff that we really like but sometimes that isn’t quite enough. Circumstances/timing can often be issue.
Name two/three of your favourite releases on the label and say why.
Go away would you. That’s like asking a person what their 2/3 favourite kids are. Impossible to say. I love them all for very different reasons.
Apart from your own, name your favourite Irish label. Favourite non-Irish. And why in both cases.
There are some great Irish labels. I think people gotta respect what Smalltown America did – set up a label, and based it outta Ireland at a time when not many were doing it. I think when we set up, we took some heart from that as they were one of the few existing independent Irish labels going.
Richter are a machine. I’ve so much respect for what those guys do. They’ve taken it up a level from where every other indie in the country is. Their prolific, but there is a real quality line. They are so on top of their game, and come from DIY backgrounds as well.
There are some other ace labels – Skinny Wolves, Rusted Rail in Galway always do really nice releases and don’t get have enough attention, and definitely one of my favourites of late is Osaka who have put out Patrick Kelleher, Threads Pulls, etc.
Apologies – you wanted one label and I gave you a heap. Also – apologies to those I didn’t mention!
What Irish music are you recommending to your friends at the moment?
Everything on OOAL of course! Other than that? Elk, So Cow, Peter Delaney, Jogging, Patrick Kelleher, Magic Pockets, Katie Kim, mynameisjOhn, Biggles Flies Again, Cubs, Shardborne, Somadrone, Squarehead, Toby Kaar.
We’ve actually gotta work with a heap of those folks by putting them on bills for shows etc, and on top of being great music makers, they’re all good people, which is an added bonus. I know I’m probably leaving out some stuff there too, but I do think Squarehead, Toby Kaar, and Katie Kim, are all gonna be superstars in one way or another in 2012. It’s a really exciting time for Irish music and all that.
Sometimes people get carried away in that kind of patriotic way about Irish independent music saying that everything’s amazing, when in truth, there is a lot of crap out there. However, as illustrated above, there is plenty of fantastic stuff too, so it truly is a good time.
What Irish artist/band would you love to release and why? Non-Irish?
There are a couple of folks in the list above that we’d love to work with, and we got close on one or two, and for one reason or another, it just didn’t happen. There are some others on that list that we’ll probably try and court at some stage. Be warned….
Outside of Ireland? I’ve been a big fan of Why? for the past 6/7 years so would love to do something with them if they every fancied it. They also are a pretty independent outfit; were self-managed, etc. The door’s open lads…….
What Irish artist/band do you love but couldn’t/wouldn’t release and why? Non-Irish?
Hmmm….again, as I said above, there are some that we wanted to work with and I just don’t think it’d be fair to mention names. In some cases, we couldn’t work with them because it was timing; other labels were available to put out stuff at times we weren’t. In other cases, it has come down to finances, or lack thereof.
Non-Irish, I’d love to do something with Daniel Dumille (MF Doom/ Dangerdoom, Madvillian, etc) but couldn’t cos we couldn’t afford to, and wouldn’t because he is supposed to be a very difficult character to put it politely. At the end of the day, when yer running a small independent label from your spare room/kitchen, you don’t want to be dealing with a load of arseholes. That’s just one example of someone that there ain’t a hope in hell of us working with but I do admire his music…
Do you consider your label part of the Irish music industry? Does it matter?
Not really. I think we are kind of outsiders, even more so than independent labels based in Dublin who are closer to the hub of everything. I don’t really give a shit to be honest if we are seen as part of an industry or not. I actually hate the word industry coming after music. “Industry” and “scene” are two words that sometimes irk me.
However, what I do consider us to be part of, and am happy to be so, is an independent music community that is burgeoning in the country.
What ambitions for the label over the next year/5 years?
Main ambition is to survive. We looked at our release budgets last year, and realised that we had to scale down somewhat in that respect to ensure the label is more sustainable. We’ve never pocketed a profit/wage or anything like that from the label. Everything has always gone back into it, and that’s the way we want it to be.
However, it shouldn’t be survival for survival’s sake. I mean, in 5 years time, the label will be 13 years old if still existing, and will have been a part of most of my adult life (I got involved running it at 21).
There may actually come a time in the next few years where we just put a line under it too; the natural progression of things and all that.
It’d be great to start getting releases out in other parts of the world, and hooking up with other independent labels too.
I’d certainly hope over the next few years that we can work with some new artists and existing artists on the labels, and get out a number of quality releases. We’ve never been the most prolific label, with the emphasis always on quality. When we feel that there is a dip on that front, and we have honest people around us who’ll let us know, then it would make logical sense to call a halt to it. We are lucky that I have no fear of doing that with the people we are currently working with.