1. Who are you?
My name’s Darragh McGrath. I’ve been running gigs in Cork for the last year under the name GoodCop BadCop. Previous to that I was manager of the Quad from 2008 till 2010 and was also the booker/promoter for gigs in there throughout that time. After I left as manager in late ’10 I was asked to continue on as their booker for a couple of months till the summer and once that finished up I kept going with my own thing.
Under GoodCop BadCop I’ve run gigs in pretty much all the main venues in the city rather than stick to any one place.
2. Why did you set up?
GoodCop BadCop started just because I needed a name to put on gigs. I’d been gone from my previous job and needed a new identity essentially. Over the last year I focused more on bringing in bands from outside Cork, generally doing one show a month. People ask me why I chose the name and I usually like to come up with all kinds of nonsense answers but the truth is it’s because I can be a bit of a c**t sometimes.
3. What was the first gig?
First gig under GoodCop BadCop was Three Trapped Tigers in the Crane Lane which was done in conjunction with Dave ‘Mighty’ Murphy of +4/Livewire. (Or maybe it was Vessels but I can’t remember if I put my promoter name on that one.)I count that as the first GCBC gig cos’ I was the one financially responsible for it!
First gig I booked proper and ran in the Quad would have been the BATS Halloween gig in October ’08.
The first gig I ever put on was J-Fest ’08 with Ger from Ten Past Seven. We thought it would be hilarious (no idea why) to throw an elaborate surprise party for our friend Johnny in the Quad where we’d have a few bands play (Ten Past Seven and Charlie Don’t Surf), make a ridiculous poster with his face plastered all over it and try and keep it a secret from him. The best part was putting up all the posters and then keeping track of him so we could take them down before he’d see ‘em. Ger and I obviously had too much time on our hands back then. It worked pretty well anyway.
The following year we threw another J-Fest surprise party in his house (because who would suspect two surprise parties in a row!?) with Lamp tucked into a very small kitchen. We thought about doing a third one but that plan would have meant he’d probably get fired from his job so we left it off.
4. How would you describe your music policy (if there is one)?
I pretty much just promote shows for bands I like. That’s usually a good bet. I’m open to any genre really but for the most part it tended to be rockier or weird alternative type acts with a healthy dollop of fuzz pop just to keep me grounded. Fuzz pop is my musical sweet tooth.
5. Name two/three favourite/notable gigs and say why.
The worst part of running gigs is you never really get to enjoy them yourself. Ten Past Seven and Toby Kaar in August ’10 was a great night. It coincided with Plugd’s reopening in the ESB substation so there was a good buzz about town. Adebisi Shank/Super Adventure Club in the Quad in September ’09 was a great laugh. That ridiculous Elk Xmas gig, videos of which had to be destroyed afterwards for a variety of reasons relating to the reputation and good standing of certain individuals. With GCBC it was probably the Dying Seconds in the Pavilion, purely because I actually got to watch the gig (unlike most of the others!). Actually I’ll get to watch the one happening this Saturday so I’m going to be optimistic and put that one down as my favourite gig in advance.
To be honest, there were too many great, fun gigs over the years to mention here.
6. Where do you stand on the Vinyl/CD/Digital debate?
Whatever works for you. I’m all digital these days after my last CD player broke. Vinyl does sound best though.
7. What would you say is the one key thing an independent promoter needs to do to thrive/survive?
The key thing is to have a good relationship with the bands, provide them with the best deal possible and to give people value for money.
Promoters, venues, blogs and all that other stuff are really just glorified middlemen. There’s the band and there’s the people who want to hear that band (even if they don’t know it yet!). As a middleman, you either get in the way of that or you assist and support it in whatever way you can.
I’d like there to be more spaces available for gigs in Cork. Right now pubs/bars are pretty much the only path open to bands. Or those drink-sponsored events which I personally think is the death knell for live music. I don’t think either of those is very conducive to maintaining or building a healthy ‘scene’ (not a fan of that word); it limits the audience and the focus will always be geared towards making sure things are profitable for the middlemen.
With venues generally, the priority is to sell beer and live music is just an effective means to that end, so it’s (understandably) become a commodity for them to use. There’s nothing wrong with that because it can be a mutually beneficial relationship to an extent and it’s at least a working model; it’s just a shame that it’s seemingly the only option available out there for most people. Added to that, I don’t think bands get a fair cut based on how things work now. When you factor in the costs of running a band effectively (in terms of recording/touring/releases), I don’t think that it is right they also have to share in the burden of risk for a licensed premises everytime they play a gig.
With the beer companies, they’ve seen a cheap and easy way to promote their product to their target demographic (that’s you, 18-30 year olds) whilst cynically promoting themselves as supporting culture. All of the beer companies are not just sponsors now, they’re turning into big music promoters as well. The bands are used as brand ambassadors and I think it devalues and undermines live music as a whole. I find the whole thing is just a sad, sorry state of affairs and a sign that things are getting worse, not better. I can see why they do it and I can see why bands take part but it’s all just a bit ugly.
It’d be nice if there was a second option as this current system tends to push certain kinds of music to the periphery in favour of more bands that subscribe to a particular demographic that the company is targeting or venue is courting. Music is more like a habitat; it needs all these different functioning areas to prosper in order to inform and sustain the whole.
In Cork, I think one of the ways to really push and promote competition (which is good for everybody) is to have some non-licensed premises open itself up and start having daytime all-ages gigs and night-time byob gigs (I made a short-lived attempt at this last year. Think maybe things need to get more desperate before it can happen.) Of course, government rules and the guards essentially consider live music as part of the drinks/pub industry so you tend to fall into some restrictive legislation there. Not that I think going down the handouts/funding Arts road is a particularly bright idea but there should be a middle ground, particularly if you can provide a working, self-sustaining model. It might be difficult as I imagine some places and publicans wouldn’t appreciate that kind of competition but it can be done.
I quite liked the gigs I ran in the Triskel/Plugd as the focus was primarily on the music in there. That’s the closest Cork has right now to a non-traditional (or whatever) venue.
8. What is your favourite Irish label? Favourite non-Irish? And why in both cases?
Out On a Limb. They would have been the first Irish label I became aware of when I was younger, releasing Waiting Room, Giveamanakick, Rest and Ten Past Seven. They have a nice musical diversity too which isn’t always the case with labels. They were one of the first Irish labels I was aware of and they remain one of the best.
I like Richter Collective’s sheer force of will in building something substantial and that’s managed to stretch itself internationally. I’m sure Ray from Wingnut Records will be (more of) a force to be reckoned with one of these days!
I don’t really ‘follow’ record labels though. If I like the music, I’ll buy it. I like Dischord’s business model but I have to cos’ I’m a big fat Fugazi nerd.
9. Do you think of yourself as operating on the spectrum of pop music? Underground? What? Or does it matter?
It doesn’t matter. People have a refreshingly diverse taste in music these days compared to when I was growing up. You can like rock, pop, hip-hop, metal, jazz. Well maybe not jazz. I don’t think there’s as much emphasis on genre as there once was. Most good bands can’t even be classified into one genre anymore. Maybe we’ve all just become really, really indecisive. I know I probably have.
10. What Irish music are you recommending to your friends at the moment?
I mostly listen to Irish stuff now that I think of it. Off the top of my head I really liked Ginnels ‘Mountbatten Class’ and things like Bouts and Squarehead fulfil my pop needs. Laura Sheeran is releasing some amazing music over the last two years and whatever credit she’s gotten for it so far isn’t enough.
Stuff in the last year: Elk, Bridges of Madison County, Hope Is Noise, Former Monarchs, Ten Past Seven, Lamp. The Dying Seconds, Katie Kim, Deaf Joe. Terror Pop are going interesting places. Plinth were a really good Cork band, wish they’d stuck around. Cork rock music appears to have lost that sort of crazy ‘anything goes’ vibe it used to have.
Stuff to watch out for: No Spill Blood, HUNK, Terriers, Private Underground Residence, Girl Band, Carried by Waves, Dott, Vann, Hooker No.1, Turning Down Sex, Jennifer Evans, Rhino Magic.
I’ve more than likely forgotten loads of stuff.
11. What Irish artist/band would you love to put on and why? Non-Irish?
In my first few months of doing gigs, I very naively tried to book Lightning Bolt at one point. Sometimes being completely ignorant of how things work can get you surprisingly far actually. I should try politics.
12. What Irish artist/band do you love but couldn’t/wouldn’t put on and why? Non-Irish?
I think Ireland is very lucky in that there’s a healthy amount of great stuff consistently coming out from all over Ireland. You don’t get that in most countries. Personally I don’t feel there’s a strong enough framework in place right now to really allow those bands to spread further afield beyond Ireland. It’d help if bands got paid better and more often. If the venue gets a cut of the door then the band should get a cut of your beer sales. Gigs are always a shared risk venture for both parties but one side seems be taking on more of the risk these days than the other. Bands themselves also need to concentrate more on the big picture and not get too caught up in the pattern of just touring the same places around the country. Touring the UK is probably harder going than touring parts of Europe, funnily enough.
I didn’t answer your question at all. Sorry. (That’s quite alright, your answer was much more interesting – Ed.)
13. Do you consider yourself part of the Irish music industry? Does it matter?
As I see it, the music industry as it is now set up is more concerned with propping up a bunch of middlemen at the expense of helping bands and musicians. I’d like not to be a part of that.
14. What ambitions over the next year/5 years? Or just upcoming plans…
I never had a plan. Couldn’t you tell!?
The final GoodCop BadCop show takes place next Saturday in Cyprus Avenue and features:
No Spill Blood, Elk, Terriers & The Maori John Wayne
Admission is a paltry €8