‘Metal is the real stuff that hap­pens in life’

Niall Byrne talks to those work­ing in the Ir­ish mu­sic busi­ness: this week, Oran O’Beirne

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

For some people, mu­sic is in their blood and it’s all they ever wanted to be close to. Oran O’Beirne’s life-long affin­ity with mu­sic started in Scar­iff, Co Clare, where his fa­ther put on folk acts in the Mer­ry­man Tav­ern in the 1960s. It con­tin­ued when he came of age in Lon­don work­ing in man­age­ment with UK in­die bands of the 1990s. When he moved to San Francisco, DJing kept the mu­sic fires burn­ing.

Find­ing him­self back in Dublin in 2001 with no job prospects in the mu­sic in­dus­try on of­fer, O’Beirne and friend Gavin Duffy started Over­drive, a brand­ing com­pany that pro­vides mu­si­cians with cus­tom drum skins, fire-cer­ti­fied back­drops, gui­tar and bass amp scrims – the kinds of things that you see on ev­ery stage but are never sure who makes them.

O’Beirne al­ways wanted to do some­thing with art and mu­sic and Over­drive ful­fils that need (they also do al­bum cov­ers, lo­gos, fly­ers, elec­tronic press kits and PR for artists as re­quired). Those are the lit­tle touches on stage or on­line that help a band look more pro­fes­sional.

‘It’sall abouti­den­tity’

“A lot of mu­si­cians kind of think they can’t af­ford this stuff,” he says.

“It looks very sort of os­ten­ta­tious when you walk into a show and you see a band on stage and they have this big back­drop and they have the cus­tom drums and scrims but it’s all about iden­tity but it’s very, very doable and very af­ford­able.”

Over­drive’s clients in­clude Gavin James whose back­drop needs have ob­vi­ously moved up from his early days.

He went from get­ting a small back­drop for him do­ing clubs to some­thing a bit big­ger. Then came the 3Arena sta­dium-sized one.

While Over­drive keeps things tick­ing over on the busi­ness side, O’Beirne has de­vel­oped an­other side to the com­pany, al­most by ac­ci­dent, that is more of a pas­sion project.


When he started over­drive.ie as a mu­sic brand­ing com­pany, it also gave him the op­por­tu­nity to start a blog to write about his favourite genre – metal. It soon took off and O’Beirne was be­ing of­fered in­ter­views with the gi­ants of the genre – Iron Maiden and Me­gadeth among them. “That sort of just took over everything else. We just kept get­ting more trac­tion and more hits on the web­site and es­tab­lish­ing our­selves.”

O’Beirne used the trac­tion to de­velop a new strand of sup­port for metal and hard rock acts in Ireland. He took over the Ir­ish fran­chise for Blood­stock, the 25,000-ca­pac­ity in­de­pen­dent UK heavy metal fes­ti­val, and helps bring Ir­ish metal bands to the UK event through show­cases lo­cally that the book­ers at­tend.

Next month, Ir­ish bands Na Cruithne and Zhora will join the likes of Me­gadeth at Cat­ton Park in Wal­ton-on-Trent.

O’Beirne got in­volved in part be­cause be­ing en­trenched in the metal scene in Ireland, he saw what lit­tle op­por­tu­nity the bands here have, be­yond play­ing Dublin venues such as Fib­ber’s, Voodoo Lounge or Gypsy Rose. Metal doesn’t get a look in in me­dia or ra­dio terms on this small is­land, and the UK has a larger ac­tive and sup­ported scene.

O’Beirne points to Daniel P Carter’s three-hour weekly metal show on Sun­days on BBC Ra­dio 1 as an ex­am­ple but sug­gests that metal’s iden­tity and lyri­cal con­tent have al­ways been too of­fen­sive or chal­leng­ing for the main­stream.

“It comes straight down to the point that in the eyes of a lot of people it’s of­fen­sive. The lyrics to the mu­sic don’t talk about love or happy days. It talks about mis­ery and death and pol­i­tics and nu­clear war and and sui­cide and the real stuff that’s hap­pen­ing in life you know as well as love. It talks about stuff you can’t talk about.”


In terms of po­ten­tial, O’Beirne points to Down­load Fes­ti­val, the 80,000-ca­pac­ity metal and hard rock fes­ti­val that has been run­ning since 2003, the amount of fes­ti­vals in Ger­many and main­land Europe, and the fact that a legacy act such as Iron Maiden can sell out their 3Arena shows with min­i­mum fuss.

“There’s a huge mar­ket for it,” says O’Beirne. “A lot of people at­tend these events and there’s a huge amount of money gen­er­ated by the people who are putting these fes­ti­vals on.”

O’Beirne is clearly pas­sion­ate about metal and mu­sic in gen­eral (he still DJs reg­u­larly in Sin É in Dublin). With Over­drive do­ing so well on its own, the phys­i­cal brand­ing as­pect of the busi­ness will move to Main­stageDe­sign.ie so there’s more sep­a­ra­tion.

O’Beirne says he wouldn’t want to be in­volved in any other busi­ness than mu­sic.

“I feel very for­tu­nate that my life is in­volved in mu­sic which is what I wanted. And even though there’s ter­ri­ble days and things don’t work out, it’s just re­ally nice to be in­volved in some­thing that I’ve just been pas­sion­ate about all my life.”

‘It comes straight down to the point that in the eyes of a lot of people metal is of­fen­sive. The lyrics to the mu­sic don’t talk about love or happy days’

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