Making the weight in Irish electronica: Bandon-born Bantum on ten years of music

Cork DJ and producer Ruairí Lynch, AKA Bantum, is in contemplative mood: he’s just released a track to celebrate 10 years of creating and releasing electronic music, writes Ellie O'Byrne

“I’m at that turning point: I’m looking back at the last ten years, and I’m looking forward to the future,” Lynch, 36, says.

The last ten years have included two albums, four EPs, a Choice Music Prize nomination for his second album, Move, and a fertile collaboration with Sierra Leonean-Irish neo-soul songstress Loah. All while holding down a day job.

GodKnows, Denise Chaila and Bantum. Picture: Tara Thomas
GodKnows, Denise Chaila and Bantum. Picture: Tara Thomas

At the moment, he’s working a nine to five job in tech, living in Cork city in a house-share of musicians that includes singer-songwriter Jack O’Rourke. But his latest solo release, Gully, is inspired by where he grew up: Bandon.

“Gully is the name of the street where my parents’ house is,” Lynch explains. “My grandad was a carpentry teacher and he made this little table that’s in the house. It’s still stuffed full of his drawings and notes. Whenever I put my gear on that table, I come up with ideas; it’s mad. That’s where I wrote that track.”

Lynch was suffering from burnout, and a minor musical existential crisis, and it was performing Gully at a recent winter festival that relit his fire.

The last couple of months have been tough and I kind of lost interest in music for a bit,” he says. “I was balancing too much stuff and it was definitely a low point. But Gully has revitalised me and made me look at elements of where I came from.

Having played guitar in metal and rock bands in his teens, Lynch studied business in UCC, went travelling, and on his return, started "messing around” with music software Garageband.

“I thought I was the Chemical Brothers,” he says with a grin. “Then a friend told me Daft Punk used a programme called Ableton, and I didn’t look back from there.”

How did he end up calling himself Bantum? He laughs.

“I only knew it as a boxing term — you know, like heavyweight, middleweight, bantum-weight? I thought, yeah, that’s really cool.

I told my dad I’d chosen it as a name and he started laughing and said, ‘You do know that’s a breed of chicken?’

“I don’t mind; I think it’s really funny and I like it even more. But my sister did a Google image search and she found some pictures of me, and then loads of pictures of chickens.”

The collaborations of recent years have seen Lynch put his own instrumental compositions on the backburner he says. But now he’s bringing them to the boil; Gully will be the first of several planned instrumental solo releases.

It doesn’t mean his collaborative work will cease. In fact, he’s extremely excited about his recent recordings with God Knows, formerly one third of Rusangano Family, and rising Zambian-Limerick star Denise Chaila.

Chaila, Loah, and recent performances with Susan O’Neill (SON): does he ever feel that he’s destined to collaborate with singers who wil inevitably move on?

“What, like I release them into the wild?” he says with a laugh. “Yeah, kind of. Loah is moving to the States to focus on her acting career, but we still have half an hour of music to release before she goes. Denise is going to be absolutely massive. Farah Elle is also going to do well.

“Maybe that’s why I’m thinking of releasing my own stuff again. All of last year was about Loah and I didn’t really do my own gigs. I supported Jon Hopkins and one of the guys from Kiasmos recently and that’s given me a boot up the arse again. I love the hip hop thing and I always want to jump in and do some gigs.”

When he does another interview in another ten years, what will he be talking about? “Hopefully we’ll look back on more albums and another body of work,” he says. “Music will always be a part of my life. But it’s been a tightrope walk so far, and I’m only now realising how much I’ve taken on my shoulders. I want to balance things better in future.”

Gully is out now.

Bantum, God Knows and Denise Chaila will appear as part of MO’OV’US, a night celebrating Irish Hip Hop, which has been rescheduled to May 15 in Lost Lane, Dublin.

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