Japanese Popstars: Gareth and Gary

DERRY’s Japanese Popstars — Gary Curran and Gareth Donoghue — have come a long way from the dancehalls of their hometown where they first met after Gary pushed out a message requesting new DJs to make contact to play club nights he was setting up, and Gareth sent in a speculative CD of his mixes.

To say their progress has been meteoric from that first encounter would be something of an understatement. The JPs were quickly snapped up by Limerick promoter Joe Clarke, who has worked with Le Galaxie and The Strypes, asked them to put a show together based on the strength of the first track they produced as a band, Rodney Trotter.

Since then, they have gone on to grace stages all over the world with their entrancing live show, in their own right and as support to some of the largest acts in the business, as well as working with the likes of Robert Smith, Lisa Hannigan and Editors’ Tom Smith as just a few of the guest vocalists on their sophomore release, Controlling Your Allegiance.

Gary and Gareth are back in the fray after an intense three years of touring that record with their third album, Disconnect/Reconnect, which has been released on dance music god John Digweed’s Bedrock label.

I caught up with the band after they had played at the Everleigh Gardens as part of last week’s Desperados Halloween night, and asked how their irresistible rise started.

“The majority of our early shows were in Dublin and the south. Joe Clarke started putting the word out and we started getting gigs. Then we got an offer to do a remix for Groove Armada. That was the first big one,” said Gary.

Gareth: “I was living in Belfast, and we did [the remix] on a laptop and a stereo on a Thursday, and it was on Radio 1 by Friday night. And then it all kicked off.”

And kick off it did, with remix offers from Beyonce, Depeche Mode, Daft Punk and Gorillaz, as well as establishing a reputation as masters on the decks and on stage, with live and DJ sets building their profile.

The JPs were also making their own music, and the success of Allegiance opened up a world of opportunity that saw Gary and Gareth tour with Vitalic, Justice, Underworld, Chemical Brothers and Orbital.

“They were amazing opportunities. To do three weeks constant touring with Orbital was amazing, seeing the professionalism and the production side of things was a big learning experience,” said Gareth.

The evolution of Disconnect/Reconnect directly grew from their experiences from that time, as Gary explained.

“All the DJs we grew up listening to were playing the track we had made for the International Music Summit with Green Velvet [Matter Of Time], and we realised that was the direction we wanted to go, to make music for clubs and DJs.

“We just went ahead and wrote the album, and we had heard John Digweed had been playing some of our tunes, and contacted him to say thanks. We’ve since done a collaboration with him, as well as releasing the album on Bedrock.”

The album is a late-night dance club album, a denser set of tracks with a clear and direct connection to their club roots, an approach that the lads are more than comfortable with pursuing.

“We are making music we like with no pressure,” said Gary. “This is what we are feeling, and we are really happy going out and performing it.”