While many people in the music world cursed the lack of gigging opportunities in the Covid era, John Daly sees the lockdown as a mixed blessing.
After years of success as a DJ and producer, the Corkman had grown rather tired of the touring grind, and with a day job to pay the rent, was happy to spend more time in the studio.
“The touring thing becomes your job, and starts to colour your studio work, and you're thinking about living off your music,” says Daly, originally from Myrtleville. “When I'm in the flow in the studio making the tune, and the hours are just flying by... that's really as good as it gets for me.”
The result of all that time in his home studio at his current base in Salthill near Galway is a new three-track EP under his Unity Surrender moniker.
Standout of the trio of tunes is 'Freedom'. Unashamedly uplifting with its lush strings, and topped with Daly's own synthesised vocals, whenever people get back into clubs, the track has the makings of an end-of-night favourite or second-room selection.
The precise production lends itself to a headphone experience, and is the latest offering from a journey that began as a teenager.
His dad, Dominic Daly, was a folk musician and singer, and John's own guitar leanings gradually gave way to a taste for production when he was able jam in a studio that had been set up in the Pine Lodge bar near his home.
“I got the studio bug there, and I then started to borrow four-track recorders, or picking up an odd £50-drum machine. Recording became the buzz.”
I remember being in the father's car and 2 Unlimited came on, and I was like 'What the f**k is this?!'.
But one that I really got into was when I went to see Super Furry Animals in Sir Henrys around 1996 and there was a support act setting up, who turned out to be Grandaddy. They have this song called 'Everything Beautiful Is Far Away' and they opened with that.
It has a typical nice intro, and then suddenly you get hit with this wall of synthesisers. I was like 'Holy god!”
Early on it would have been in the back bar listening to Stevie G playing hip-hop and soul.
And then one night I remember being in the main room and it suddenly clicked with me.
They put on the DJ Deep remix of the Ron Trent-produced 'Holiday', by Donnie.
The place just went nuts when it kicked back in after the breakdown – the energy was phenomenal!
Always in Ireland. When I'm DJing, I like to mix styles, going from techno into James Brown, and the Irish crowds 'get' that.
The closest I've experienced to Ireland would be in New York, where they have that tradition of cross-genre DJing as well.
I played Deep Space at Cielo in New York with my hero Francois K, as I was signed to his label – that was pretty mind-blowing.
Also, Berghain in Berlin in the early days – the last few times haven't been as satisfying.
'Sweet Child Of Mine' by Guns N'Roses.
Can you imagine just being in the studio after making that tune, and you're listening back to it for the first time in the control room.
And you know that what you've got is the most special thing.
I live in a bit of a bubble and wouldn't be tuned into any 'scenes', but Fixity [experimental ensemble led by Cork drummer Dan Walsh] never disappoint.
What they do is so spontaneous and musical.
I love the way that some of the current rap acts and their producers are pushing things forward.
The recent Jay Electronica album was fantastic, I love everything that comes out of the Kanye West camp, and acts like Frank Ocean.
Even people like Travis Scott - if you take the vocals out of a lot of it, you're left with some genuinely experimental music.
There's also some great stuff coming out on the Brownswood label in the UK, where they're fusing a sort of jazz sensibility with a modern rap production.