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Why an Inverness DJ and producer had to start dance night Inertia

By Margaret Chrystall

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Inverness DJ and producer Declan Shiach has had a mission ever since he set up the idea for his Inverness dance music club night a year ago – to be as inclusive as possible – and to play great house and afro-house. He started off doing a set for Ibiza Club News Radio, an Ibiza-based radio station (ibizaclubnews.net). That’s where the concept for Inertia first began and he moved over to Data Transmilssion radio over a year ago with twice-monthly sets still happening. Declan talks about his experience of dance music and the resurgence in Inverness ...

Declan Shiach in action at Inertia.
Declan Shiach in action at Inertia.

Q Where did your idea for Inertia start?

A I believe strongly in the house music ethos when it was born in Chicago and that is what we are trying to do with Inertia. It is a place where anyone, no matter who you are, can come to a night that’s a safe place, and really, when you are there you can dance together as one. It’s a safe place once you are in at our club night. That is the message I’m trying to get across. That is the main ethos of the brand.

Q Has that approach seemed to appeal to people since you started?

A Yes, knowing the people who come along, it is definitely something that appeals.

I think it’s very important, you see it a lot, at Upstairs now, it is a mix of different people which is good to see. There is more of a freedom to dance there than there would be in a typical club or pub.

Q You have been involved in dance music for a long time?

A I haven’t done anything like Inertia before, but I have been DJing for quite a few years. And then I felt the next step was to create a brand, because of the ethos I’ve talked about – I really felt there was a place for that and that in the dance scene in Inverness it was something I really wanted to see a few years ago. Now we are lucky enough to have a place like Upstairs which allows us to put on nights in a place that comes readily available and ready to go.

Q When you decided to make your own music, how did you begin – and was it inevitable?!

A To be a DJ is such an easy access point, and it is seen as that – just playing records and learning to mix them together. Then at some point you do get intrigued about how the music is made. Then you think ‘I could try that!’ and 10 years later you are still trying to learn as much as you possibly can! I very much like the producing side. And I think I’ll still just be trying to make it for the rest of my life.

Q Is there a community of DJs and producers in Inverness at the moment?

A Yes, the community is great. Ross and Adam from Household, they run Upstairs [venue on Bridge Street Inverness] and have given us the place and a lot of the work is down to them. And with Household and the latest phase of Hypnotic Groove it feels like a community. The promoters are working with each other, not against each other.

Q Is the audience in Inverness big enough to have lots of different genre nights?

A In a city like Glasgow, you would have more people and would end up going to house music nights or techno. But you end up liking a lot of things in Inverness, because of the population size. In your friend group of dance music lovers, someone loves techno more, someone loves house more, someone loves drumnbass more. But you get your mates to come because there would be no-one to go along with. And you end up going to them all. Even though we are house music at Inertia, I’ll go to the techno nights.

Q Upstairs seems to be a hub for dance music in the city?

A I’m not old enough to remember Cake or the nightclub at the bus stop, but it is the first time I know of where we have had a place that is dedicated to dance music since then. It’s almost a resurgence. The Noughties were very rock heavy, but the Teens has seen a resurgence of dance music and there is a lot more interest in it than there was at the start of the century.

Q What was your first night you remember as someone who wanted to dance?

A As soon as we turned 18 we went to Ibiza, and Amnesia, that was my first memory of going to a proper club, dedicated to dance music. The first one in Inverness would have been one of the nights that has inspired Inertia, the likes of Hypnotic Groove. They were the ones who took it on themselves to do it at Tooth & Claw – that kind of DIY club night.

Q Were you always into dance music first?

A I was into rap music first. From 18, though, I have been into dance music, from mainstream – then as you grow older – the stuff you like moves on and it has ended up being Afro house and house music. House has always appealed to me because it is grooving but it can be emotional – and that is the kind of music we like to play at Inertia. And it has led me down that route and it’s what your peers are into as well. You end up saying ‘How did I get here?’. So I’ve ended up in the last year and a half very much listening to Afro house and that has just resonated into Inertia.

Inertia at Upstairs, back in November.
Inertia at Upstairs, back in November.

Q The name Inertia – I suppose it must be a bit tongue in cheek because the word means being still! – why did that seem the right one?

A It is just out of my own head! I thought it sounded cool for a dance music club night.

Q Do you have a good pool of DJs you can call on in this area and across Scotland as guest DJs?

A There is a good pool of people, but for me the struggle is finding people who play house music – it's not readily available to us. To me, Scotland loves techno more, it appeals to us as people. We like to party and go hard!

Q Do you host a mix of DJs between new and better-known?

A Our first two nights we had people who are fairly new to the scene and then in November, we will have Cisco, a legend in the city! He is someone I have respected for a long time so it will be great to have him along.

Q Are you producing tracks yourself and how frequently?

A I produce more than I DJ! I have been working on a new sound that’s similar to Inertia which I’m hoping to eventually get confident enough to release. There’s definitely quite a lot of stuff. And that’s what’s good about Inertia, it’s a place I can play my own music and test things in front of people which has been good.

Q And do they go crazy when you play them?!

A From what I’ve seen, the reception seems pretty good, so it has given me more confidence.

Q What was the last one?

A It was a track I recently made, an Afro house track that has some soul vocals. In my productions, there are a lot of melodic elements which is different to things like techno. It seemed to get a good reception – it’s called I’m So In Love With You. It’s a very emotive vocal, and I quite like the track – which sometimes doesn’t happen! But when even I like hearing it play, it must be all right!!

Q Do you enjoy the challenge of putting the different elements of a track together and making it yours?

A I quite like making my own tracks and playing them because it feels like it is my own art. As a DJ you don’t get to be as artistic, whereas with your own productions, it’s a blank canvas.

Q When you are creating a track right at the start, how do you decide the speed you will go for – the BPM (beats per minute?

A For the production side, you usually have a certain limit for the BPMs. You might have a certain track and then speed it up slightly if it might sound better. But it's whatever sounds right to your ear. And also, when I’m making a track, I think ‘When is this going to be played in the night?’ And that is how I decide how fast or slow I’m going to go. It’s the same with DJing, as you get further on in the night, you speed it up, and there’s parts where you slow it down to give the audience a break as well.

Q So they can breathe again!?

A A good DJ knows when to ramp it up and when to slow it down again. There’s a skill in reading the dancefloor.

Q You have to be so receptive to what's happening on the dancefloor in front of you?

A Yes, I think that’s something people coming along to the night might not know – they are influencing the sound. Right now Inertia is quite a new brand, so the more people who come to it, you can see what they dance to, it forms the sound as well. It’s not just me, it’s probably everyone in there creating the sound of what Inertia will be known for.

Q You said this about Inertia – “Inertia club nights are a space to feel safe and for people not to feel judged in how they express themselves”?

A Yes I wanted it to be gender neutral. That is the main thing about the club night I feel strongly in promoting. If there’s one reason I’m doing this – and I like doing this – I would never put on something that is exclusive ­– it is putting on something that is open to absolutely everyone. They know they can go to that night and not have to worry about anything.

Q I wanted to ask about a track called Break Me that I think is one of yours?

A It is currently a track that I have been producing over the last few months that I played on our first night.

Q When you put it on, did they yell ‘More, more!’ – or march off the dancefloor?!

A They yelled ‘More, more!’ and one of my good mates asked me what the track was…

Q That’s a good sign!

Q You have a dachshund Richmond – is he a dancer or does he stay at home?

A He would need little ear defenders! He stays at home with his grandparents when me and my fiancee Beka are doing the night. But he might feature in some artwork in the future!

Q When is the next Inertia?

A This year we will have had three nights and the final one will be on November 24. It’s all gone very well, so next year we are going to do a monthly residency at Upstairs on the first Friday of every month from February through the year. Our last night did very well – it was one of the busiest Fridays they had, so the next thought was a residency.

Inertia returns is on November 24 at Upstairs: guest – Cisco Rodrigues. Tickets will be £5 on the door.


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