Kelly-Anne Byrne is a mainstay in the Irish dance music scene and in recent years has become one of the finest selectors on the airwaves.
We had a chat with Kelly-Anne on our roof for the 5th Floor series to talk about her roots, the closure of TXFM and the next chapter on her musical journey.
This is one of the rare occasions when we interview someone who interviews people regularly themselves… Is that a part of your job you enjoy?
Obviously it’s great when you get someone who talks and talks. You can catch someone on a bad day and they might have had six interviews before, and if you ask them the same questions as they’ve been asked already they’re probably tired of it.
One amazing interview recently was Joey Negro. He was so interesting and I was hanging on his every word.
I do these interviews for my radio show ‘The Beat Goes On‘ and the main thing is to talk to people who have been around a long time. I’ve found they don’t really have an ego.
I’d love to interview Greg Wilson. He’s a lovely man.
Ah that from the time I was supporting him in Hangar. Yeah because I mailed him just after he brought out ‘Super Weird Substance’, not thinking he’d remember me, and he did and ended up sending it to me in the post. It was so cool.
Who would be your dream interviewee?
I’d absolutely love to interview Nile Rogers. His book shows that even outside of his music his life is so interesting.
Also, David Bowie would have been amazing. I would have given anything to interview him. Especially when he was sober.
Not that I didn’t realise how big Bowie was, but when he died it really showed how many people loved him.
Yeah I know exactly what you mean. When it happened I got up and had a missed call from my Dad, who’s a big Bowie fan, and I rang him back and he asked “did you hear the news?”
I hadn’t been checking the news or anything, because I have this thing where I don’t go on social media on a Sunday, and I was really shocked. He had literally brought out ‘Blackstar‘ on Friday and we had been talking about it on TXFM.
So for the whole day we played Bowie tracks. I just got goosebumps thinking about it, because I’ve been on air for three years and I’ve never seen a reaction like it.
People knew David Bowie but I don’t think it was until he died and they started hearing all of those records that their parents played when they were five. During my whole time with TXFM that was my favourite day on air.
I really do think he was one of the greatest artists in history.
So does that day sum up to you what TXFM is about?
Yeah it does. I feel sad that it’s going. I worry about some of the artists we play on TXFM. I know there are some artists that are selling out shows because we play them.
I push the fuck out of people I love on my show. I never knew the power of radio until I started turning up to gigs and people would come up to me and say, “I heard this on your show and that’s why I’m here.”
There’s a band called Slow Readers Club who’s track, ‘Plant the Seed’, we started playing. They then announced a Dublin show.
Nobody was playing them, and it sold out in a few days. So it’s sad, because with TXFM going, I wonder what will happen with lesser known bands.
What do you think is going happen now?
I honestly don’t know, and it’s worrying. People have Spotify and things like that, but I never released how much people love a steer from somebody.
When you’re on air and people trust you, they really trust you.
There’s a band called The Hedge Schools for example, they’re an Irish band, and last January I went into work and there was a brown envelope which was hand painted by them waiting for me. So I put on the record and it was so beautiful. So I started playing that all the time and then they played a gig in the National Concert Hall and the guy got in touch with me letting me know that people tell him all the time that they heard the band on my show.
With all the promo material you receive, do you get to listen to as much as you’d like?
I’m going to be honest, I listen to nearly everything I get sent. I spend so much time listening to music before the show. I feel like if someone has gone to the effort of putting something together, while I don’t always play it, I’ll at least listen to it.
So what’s your plan for when TXFM does go? Will you go down the podcast route?
I don’t know actually. I feel it’s a bit of an opportunity to focus on my DJing, and maybe the possibility of going abroad. I kind of feel I’ve done nearly everything I can do here. Not that I’m not appreciative, but I’ve played nearly every venue, every festival, I’ve two radio shows, I feel like I want another challenge.
You said you’d like to focus a little more on DJing again, but how did you start in the first place?
Looking back now I grew up in a very musical household. My parents weren’t in bands or anything, but they had loads of records. My dad was really into Bowie and Marvin Gaye, ‘What’s Going On’ was always playing in my house.
My mam was a big disco fan. She used to teach aerobics to disco records and I’d be waiting for her as a little kid and she’d be teaching to ‘Funky Town’ and her wind down track was ‘Human Nature’ by Michael Jackson.
Then I started collecting records and it was through having a vinyl collection that I decided to DJ. I made an actual mixtape and at the time I was really into Northern soul, Roxy Music and disco, and I dropped it into the Dice Bar.
It was only open about a year and it was really the place to be in Dublin. If you went in there you’d never hear a bad song.
The owner gave myself and a friend a gig and then we started on a Friday evening. That’s going back around 13 years I haven’t been out of work as a DJ since.
When you were making that mixtape what were your aspirations?
I just loved music, I didn’t think about being a DJ. I actually trained as an actress.
I just started to get a big name and I just went with it. It’s often the thing you don’t expect to do in life that you end up doing!
Did it feel natural going from acting to DJing?
Yeah I suppose in a way it is a performance. The same thing happened when I started radio, even though I was nervous through acting training I knew how to suppress nerves. But I never knew how much the radio thing would kick off when I started on Phantom. It’s crazy where life can take you, but I’m a firm believer in making your own luck. I never got arrogant or rested on my laurels.
So are you excited for life after TXFM?
Sometimes it’s a good thing when you have a whole clean slate, because you don’t know what’s going to come next and something really great can come next.
Obviously there’s sadness with it being over and some worry about what I’ll do next, but at the same time it gives me a chance to focus more on other projects. It will all work out in the end.
Ok so in terms of how you see Dublin right now. There seems to be a different sort of party every week at the moment. What are your thoughts, do you think it’s a good thing or do you think there could be a bit of over-saturation?
For me it’s a good thing. I remember thinking when I was in New York, where you can see so many people any night of the week, that I wished there were more promoters and more stuff going in Dublin.
When I came back and the economy had picked up the city had changed a lot and now it’s better in my opinion.
Say something like Interlude Festival. It’s only around the corner, you don’t have camp and it’s a lovely venue. It’s great that the city now has that.
Obviously in terms of closing times and regulation we’re way behind places like Berlin, but I definitely think in the past three years the country is catching up. There’s a lot more work for DJs right now which is only a good thing.
Catch Kelly-Anne’s show The Beat Goes on TodayFm every Saturday from 10pm or on TXFM Monday to Thursday from 7-10pm. She also runs the Burnin’ Up parties in The Grand Social.