You can’t just make music anymore, you’ve got to be seen before you’re heard’
How Cork’s Generic People went from being DJs to a multimedia company
Generic People Ant O’Brien and Ronan McGrath: “Something that’s packaged well and looks the part you instinctively go to that first, it’s just human nature.”
There are a lot of nebulous roles in the music world like safety officer, mastering engineer, lighting designer and sound designer, which the How Music Works series has covered.
These positions are often filled out of requirement, with the personnel involved stumbling into the role, or suddenly finding themselves working in the area.
Ant O’Brien and Ronan McGrath are two such people who found themselves working more and more in the nebulous parts of the live music industry in particular. The pair started as DJs running club nights as Generic People in Cork.
They were producing music and making visuals to accompany their own live shows. Soon, they were being asked to do the same for others and it wasn’t long before Generic People, the multimedia production company was born, offering services in music and beyond in animation, video production, visuals, events, lighting and graphic design.
“Initially it was just a hobby outside of our day jobs and it just started growing legs and people were showing interest in what we were doing because we were doing things differently and presenting it differently,” says O’Brien.
“It wasn’t just the case of making the music. There would be online promotional videos before it, there would have been 360-degree design on stage and off, and all this quirky stuff popping up and people were seeing that these guys were doing something a bit different.”
They set up the company in March 2016 and put a five-year plan in place. All of the initial goals were hit by September that year.
“In this age, you can’t just make music anymore, you’ve got to be seen before you’re heard,” offers O’Brien of the demand for their services. “Something that’s packaged well and looks the part you instinctively go to that first, it’s just human nature.”
Key to the development of their reputation, they say is their investment into expensive visual gear. McGrath says that to rent a high-powered projector can be nearly be a grand a day. They took the plunge and bought the equipment outright so they could experiment creatively with what was possible. Key to their success is that each project is run entirely by them as opposed to having to collaborate with other companies or suppliers.
“Rather than going to one person to rent the projector and one person to get the graphics and then another person to do the music for you, we are a one-stop shop,” says O’Brien. “Someone can come to us and we will be able to sit down and design everything from scratch.”
Corporate jobs are the lifeblood of a lot of such work, Generic People estimates that about 80 per cent of their work comes from corporate events, which allows them the freedom to work on more creative projects. Their multi-faceted approach has recently brought them work at MMA events in Cork and at After Dark on the Hazelwood stage at Electric Picnic the last two years, which they programmed in full after being asked to look after visuals and lighting.
At the moment, the focus is on music once more as the pair release some remixes of Irish artists and try to finalise a live album they’ve been working on, which they deleted and are now building again as a basis for a 360-degree experience informed by their multimedia work.
In the immediate present, they’ve just opened a “micro club” that holds 150 people called Advent in Cork city, running for the month of December in a space formerly occupied by The Courtyard and Cube.
Rather than stuff the club with a dazzling array of screens and visuals, they’ve opted for the “opposite of a VIP Celtic Tiger vibe”. So the set-up in Advent is minimalistic, with a focus on a good soundsystem, lighting limited to disco balls and smaller lights for atmosphere. In other words, a good dark place for a dance.
“There’s very little there compared to what people were expecting from us,” says O’Brien. Instead, the place is dotted with old equipment procured from Cork’s second-hand shops – old tape players, vinyl and reel-to-reel players. The music policy of Advent is less banging techno, “more groovy” music.
“We’re going for something disco, house, funk slightly left of centre,” explains McGrath with DJs such as Stevie G, Fleece, Fish Go Deep, Bantum, County Vinyl and Glen Brady lined up to play.
“The DJs are playing an entire night as opposed to an hour or two each so they set the tone themselves, and have the opportunity build it and get back to that old club mentality,” adds O’Brien.
If all goes well Advent may well be a club space not just for Christmas, which would be a welcome addition to the Cork music landscape. As for Generic People, they have done more in less than two years then they conceived for five, so the next few years are a case of building upon what they’ve established.
“We have broken the seal on everything we want to do,” O’Brien suggests. “So it’s a case of making it bigger, better, developing it and pushing it out there to make something interesting, fun and genuine.”