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Reuben Keeney

Club Beat #32: Reuben Keeney

Facts you need to know about Reuben Keeney:

  1. He had his first DJ gig at 14
  2. His first release on Steve Mac’s label was supported by top artists like Sasha, David Guetta, Laidback Luke and Luciano
  3. He won ‘Best New Artist’ in the Irish Dance Awards at 16
  4. He’s released tracks on labels including Toolroom, Audio Therapy and Bosphorus Underground and remixed artists ranging from Funkagenda to Mauro Picotto to Seb Fontaine

All this… And he’s about to drop this year’s summer anthem on Toolroom Records.

Planet Notion talked to Reuben Keeney about his new single, ‘Give It Some Time’ feat. Glenn Rosborough, achieving success at a young age and his residency at Ink, Ireland. He also gave us a few production tips along the way…

This is a different sound for Toolroom. How did the release of Give It Some Time come about?

I had a relationship with Toolroom before; I released a track called Estatue. When I sent them Give It Some Time, I just wanted to get an opinion off them; I didn’t expect them to pick it up. But when they listened to it, they really liked it. It’s a really big step for me because Toolroom are spending a lot of time and effort on it.

I’m interested in how you put the track together. You begin with chords suspended over a moving bass; what where your thoughts behind doing this?

It’s just a kinda feeling. I went into the studio in the morning, I think it was after playing a gig, and I just came up with the track. I always love doing melodic stuff; I thought I’d give it a go and it worked out really well. I sent the track to Glenn and he came back with amazing lyrics.

So you knew Glenn Rosborough before?

We were really close friends. It was quite funny, I hadn’t actually met Glenn in person until the day we met up to record the song properly. It was one of them get-togethers where it was just great because I spoke to him so much online. It was great because the backing track I was writing was really emotional and his lyrics followed it up well. Even the video displays what the track is trying to show.

The vocals sound natural and clear. Did you do much processing on them?

Because Glenn’s such a great vocalist, we didn’t need to do much with them. The good thing as well is Glenn isn’t coming from a dance background; he’s always been working on band stuff. He’s got a band called Intermission. We’re coming from different backgrounds so we met halfway down the line. The vocals just didn’t need much work to be honest. It’s a pleasure to work with him.

What do you think of the use of auto-tuning?

For me, the tracks that stand out have good vocals on them; but some tracks kind of sound good with auto-tuning on. Myself and Glenn are working on a few other records at the minute and one of the tracks has got a bit of auto-tuning on it. But it’s not to hide that Glenn doesn’t sing properly; it’s to get a good effect. So it depends on how you use it.

Were the snare and the piano sampled live?

They’re not actually. The funny thing about that track is everything is done in the computer. I’m no crazy musician when it comes to playing the keyboard and strings and stuff, but I did all this myself. I did it through Logic. It’s impressive what Logic can be capable of; we didn’t use any live guitars or samples or anything.

What do you think of the remixes?

You couldn’t get a better team of people to remix the track: Kim Fai, Morgan Page and NDKj. I like the remixes because they’re all thought out differently. The remixes came out on Monday 21st May so I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes. The original hits iTunes on 10th June.

How did you get into DJing and producing?

I got into DJing first; I think I was about twelve or thirteen. My dad was a DJ a long time ago; he gave up maybe ten or fifteen years ago. There was a set of Technics 1210 turntables at home. It wasn’t dance music that I was interested in; it was more what you could do with the turntables. One day I went into a record shop and I was telling the guy that worked there what I liked to do. He played me some music and I think the first track was a Kraftwerk song. At the time I was like, “That’s crazy music. I don’t like this at all”. Then a few days after that, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. After a while, I found myself coming into the same record store time and time again.

From then onwards it was just a rollercoaster. I think I had my first gig when I was fourteen. Then production came up when I was fourteen, maybe fifteen. I loved the music I was playing but I thought it would be even more interesting to play my own music. When I started making my own stuff, there wasn’t even youtube back then I don’t think; so I was just kind of figuring it out myself. But I had a lot of help. I was quite lucky to be signed at an early age with ClubClass Management and I’ve had a lot of help from guys like Steve Mac and Paulo Mojo.

How did you get yourself noticed?

Locally, I was DJing for a while. There’s a good thing and a bad thing about DJing young: the good thing about it is a lot of people want to share in it; the negative is they think, ‘he’s only doing well because he’s young’. But I think I proved myself OK and I just kept working and working. My first release on Steve Mac’s label, sMACk, was a track called Coming Up. It was a crazy track for me because I didn’t expect people like Laidback Luke, David Guetta, Sasha and Luciano to play it. That was when things started to change.

Coming Up sounds like it has influences you’d expect from someone much older, with a bit of New Order and classic house in there. What are your influences?

I know; it’s crazy! Steve Mac also asked because it was a track that ended up getting played at festivals and clubs all over the world. But the track was made before I even started DJing much. The guys were wondering, “How did you do that? You don’t even know what it’s like in a club!” I think it’s more just listening to music and because I like making it. I just make the track and I don’t worry too much about what style it’s going to be, who’s going to play it or what label’s going to sign it. I’m interested in all types of music, from contemporary pop music to underground music like Luciano; there’s really no limits.

It goes back to my DJ sets as well. I’m a weekly resident at a nightclub in Ireland called Ink. It’s great because I can play around with different genres. Also, because it’s local, I can be in the studio and then go straight to the club and test the music I’ve been making the same day. We’ve had some really good acts at Ink, like Laidback Luke, DJ Sneak and Annie Mac. We’ve actually got Toolroom over next month for an Eddie Halliwell gig because he did the compilation for them. I always enjoy my gigs; I’m just really excited that people want to come and see me.

What qualities are necessary to be successful?

For me, it’s all about talent. In other industries, like pop and rock music, you have the styling and the image behind you; it’s not always about the talent. You have to be skilled and do something a little differently. I think people are begging out for a new sound because everything sounds pretty similar at the minute. And that goes for all types, not just with dance music. For example, Deadmau5 back two or three years ago, he came out with a brand new sound that nobody had heard of before and look where he is now.

It’s all about having patience. I teach a lot of young producers; I take them into the studio and try to teach them a few tips. I need to do it because a lot of people have helped me out. I tell them the exact same thing: if you try to rush things out and get signed to labels before you’re prepared, it’s not gonna work in your favour. Keep working on your style and, when you’ve really perfected it, then show it to the world.

All your tracks, even your older ones, have high production values; the drums are crisp and the compression is really good. Do you have any production tips?

I always tell people not to go too crazy on reverb. Reverb can flood a track and make it sound messy. If you have your drums and kicks really punchy, reverb free, it can really stand out. Saying that, reverb isn’t a bad thing if it’s used properly; just use it at a minimum.

I keep things simple too; everything in the track is there for a reason. If parts of the track aren’t great, you need to ditch them. So then it’s quite hard to let go, if you’ve tried to master the track for a few days and it doesn’t seem to be working. Just make sure the quality’s there; it’ll pay off in the end.

Do you have any plans for the summer?

We’re planning an Irish tour next month to promote the single and we’re working on another Australia tour this year. It’s hard to tell at the minute with the release of Give It Some Time and the stuff with Toolroom. I’m just taking it as it comes.

 ‘Give It Some Time’ is released on iTunes on 10th June.

Get the remixes now on beatport.

Check out Reuben Keeney and Toolroom Records on Twitter.

Ann Bartholomew

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