Irish production dons Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson aka Fish Go Deep are veterans of clubland in Cork city. They have been releasing house records under this name since 1997 and in 2006 reached number 1 on both the UK dance chart and indie chart and also reached number 23 in the singles chart with their track “The Cure and the Cause”.
Both Dowling and Johnson played an integral part in the emergence of house music in Cork City between 1988 and 2001, and ran the “Sweat” night at Sir Henrys, which attracted acts such as Kerri Chandler, Arnold Jarvis, Laurent Garnier, DJ Deep, Jerome Sydenham, Roger Sanchez, Glenn Underground, Boo Williams, Cajmere, Gemini, Derrick May, Kevin Yost, Migs, Rasoul and Fred Everything.
Fish Go Deep – This Bit of Earth
Ther duo recently returned to the Go Deep label for their third album, ‘This Bit of Earth’. Beginning work in the relative normality of 2019 and finishing over the strange summer of 2020, the resulting music mirrors the thoughts that such upheaval brings up – our world and our place in it – while also functioning as a kind of travelogue of journeys past and planned, real and imaginary.
Mixing samples with modular synths, programmed drums with jazz loops, and quirky plugins with outboard gear, the album ranges far and wide while retaining a warm, natural sound.
The title track opens proceeding on an ambiguous note. A simple double bass motif weaves around a misheard vocal sample, layers of piano and vibraphone take up the call, and the whole thing gradually spins off axis to a distorted, disjointed finish.
‘Suburban Key’ follows on a groove of busy drum work and deep sub bass, the stately piano and strings setting the stage for an undulating synth solo.
Further in, ‘Alice on Jupiter’ takes a deep breath and blends field recordings, gently swelling pads, modular bursts and a recurring picked melody.
‘Back Trace Dub’ strolls the imagined streets of Irish author Kevin Barry’s ‘City of Bohane’, noting the “taint of badness” in the air and revelling in the tense, dub-noir atmosphere.
Later on, the spoken word intro of ‘I Could See’ expresses the dread of confinement and the relief and ecstasy of release, a theme the music reflects as it steadily builds to a joyful climax.
And closing the album on an optimistic note, the languid, emotional Culatra Ferry remembers better, beautiful days in the sun and looks hopefully forward to more.
Introducing Greg Dowling, one half of Fish Go Deep, how are you, Greg?
I’m good! In a rather rainy and windy Cork city I tell you, doesn’t feel like Summer!
You and Shane are veterans of the club scene in Cork, I think it’s fair to say. Are you over there at present? How’s it going?
Yeh, we both live in Cork and I guess we have been putting on nights for the last…33 years, 34 years, so because of the pandemic and all that this is the first time we haven’t had things on every Month, you know. We used to bring a lot of DJs in as well but we haven’t been doing a lot of that recently for obvious reasons but you know, we have always done club night here. The People of Cork are a really passionate audience and really into their deep, soulful stuff, you know.
Cool. How’s it been going in the last 12 Months or so?
You know what? At the start of it all it was like “Oh fuck! … Oh, feck, sorry!” *laugh* you know, like, “what are we going to do” then the government came in with a decent support, which gave you a percentage of your earnings if you were self employed, so that kind of took care of your day to day stuff, you know. You didn’t have a lot of money but you weren’t so worried about the bills and stuff. Once it kind of settled a bit we both just said that we both have studios in our house, so let’s get stuck into music, you know. It kind of made us focus right in on that. In one way it could really be seen as a blessing, as it forces you to get stuck in.
So, you have been actively promoting and Djing since the late 80’s I understand? How did you guys get into the scene back then?
I suppose it was like everyone at that time, just buying records and I liked all kinds of music. I kind of just fell into the club thing; it was like an art school thing, as we did a few nights there. Then bit-by-bit I just started running small nights, then just around 1987 the timing seemed perfect and we were playing an old rock bar but they had a fantastic soundsystem and then it became one of the biggest club nights in Ireland. It coincided with that time – we had Mike Pickering over from the Hacienda – about 1988 and he brought me back over there just to see what was going on and it was like “Uh Oh! What’s this man?!” It was just that time and as we know the rest is history. We were very tight into that Manchester sound, you know, that scene and we were very, kind of, influenced by the US house and all that, you know.
I was going to ask if you travelling to other places around the UK and did that influence what you were doing in Cork, yes is the answer to that then?
Yeh, it was. I think when you get that kind of grounding, you know, when you were getting all of those amazing 12” that were coming in every week, you know, you just knew that this thing was going to be special.
Where did Fish Go Deep come from? Were you friends with Shane before and decided to form a band?
I was friendly with his brother. I knew Shane had records. I was running a small night on a Thursday night and he used to come along and play some records with me and we just kind of hit it off from there. He had to do the warm up because he had to get the last bus home! *Laugh* That’s how it all started really, you know.
Ok, so you always took the main Dj spot then, hogging the limelight?*Laugh*
That’s right! After that though it became a total partnership.
How did you get into production? Were you playing instruments before, or was it something you just started experimenting with?
Yeh, I suppose it was the logical step, you know. Djs working of a night time with a lot of time on their hands, so let’s see if we can make some of this music. So, we just kind of fell into it bit by bit. We had an old Atari, a computer, a sampler and a keyboard. Most of the early tracks were made that way, you know.
You released a couple tracks during the 90s and then were pretty prolific during the Noughties, what changed for you guys, which saw you become more productive in the studio?
I think we started working…we got a load of tracks signed to i! Records in New Jersey and the took about four or five 12” off us but they signed all the tracks, there was slow tracks and fast tracks and that kind of kicked us off into producing then, you know, when your music came back on a kind of shrink wrapped record from the States, it’s like “Oh my god!” like “this is it!” and I think that was when we said “Ok, we can give it a go” and we can try this, you know. I suppose Djing always helps to pay for the production if you aren’t making a lot of money out of it, you know.
Did it become a full time job for you both at that point then?
Yeh, we kind of just switched, that was our life. Both of use had kind of gone full time with the DJing and production, we didn’t have jobs, you know. I never had a real job!
Music is a real job isn’t it mate, surely? *Laugh*
It is! The only job, when you realise you are doing something you love. I go up to the studio at the top of the house and the rest of the family go “There he goes, up to work, huh?” *laugh*
Work, with a raised eyebrow…
Yes, “what is he doing up there?!” *laugh*
So, a lovely album just been released by you guys, you’re 3rd studio album and I’ve been fortunate enough to listen to that over the last week or so. Was there a definitive idea of how you wanted this to sound, or this a culmination of work?
You know what happened? Around kind of 2019 we had these five or six tracks that were knocking around but they didn’t fit into any particular thing we were doing and a lot of them were slower grooves, or different grooves. Then when the pandemic kicked in we kind of stopped for a while and then we said “Ok, we’ve got this music, let’s see if we can get something going with it” We then started toing and froing between ourselves and then by the summer of 2020 we a lot of it was kind of done and then we just started mixing it. Then we realised – maybe because there was no other distractions – we had something different and we kind of went with it, you know. It was kind of a freer feeling, kind or organic, you weren’t concerned with dancefloors or anything like that, you were just concerned with making great music.
So do you feel that lockdown and having that introspective space has influenced the sound of the album?
Without a doubt, without a doubt. You know, I think it kind of gave us the room to go into those kind of spaces because there was nothing else to do! So let’s really go with the music you know and let’s explore the music and see where it brings us. It kind of brings all the bits and pieces together that we have been making over the years, samples, the outboard gear and all sorts of different things, so it all seemed to come together for us basically.
It’s a very emotive and thoughtful album. It’s got a lovely contemporary downtempo jazz feeling about it in parts, the title track really reminded me of early Cinematic Orchestra. How are you hoping that this is received by the audience and how are you hoping this makes the listener feel when they hear it?
I feel it’s going to be received quite well; I think it may have been coming at the right time. I feel at this particular time people are going to spend more time with the music, I think we all are, you know, you’re sitting listening to things, you’re not as distracted with all of life, you know. So I’ve a feeling it might just hit at the right time for people. You know when you’ve expressed something that’s “This is us and this is a snap shot of us in 2020” and I think this is our sound for that year, you know.
Yeh, it’s a cracker. I find that I’ve been listening to a lot of albums in their entirety for the first time in years I the last 12 Months or so, actually just sitting listening to the album in full. In an age where people are so busy and pick a track here and there albums don’t get heard as much as they should, your album is one of those albums and it’s a lovely listening experience
Yeh, we really wanted to make sure that it was an album, you know, you put it on and it starts somewhere and it finishes somewhere. You flip it over and put the B side on and you go “Oh, here we go” It happens so often in our world that you put an album on and there’s a couple singles on it and then some fillers, it’s not great, you know.
Any plans for getting out on the road now things are starting to open up a bit? Yes, well I really hope that the plans for easing go ahead and it works out for you and there’s not another spanner thrown in the works! Greg, I just want to say a big thank you for giving me some of your time. Good luck with the album. Could you give people a heads up on the release dates
Digitally it was out on the 28th May and the vinyl may be shipping in a few weeks, there’s a slight delay on that I think but hopefully won’t be too long now.
You can hear the full interview with Fish Go Deep, along with an exclusive guest mix on both the 1BTN Mixcloud and Soundcloud pages –
Fish Go Deep ‘This Bit Of Earth’ is out now digitally, with the vinyl coming soon.
Support the artist, support the label, buy your music! Listen and buy here – https://fishgodeep.bandcamp.com/album/this-bit-of-earth