Walsh was turned by techno

Fiona Walsh will be performing this week at the 2015 1st

Irish Festival and during the Irish Arts Center’s fall season.


By Peter McDermott


Fiona Walsh was entranced by trance.

An odyssey was begun at the Roseland Ballroom that led the actor, writer and standup comic to a new calling – that of DJ.

Ultimately, Walsh would specialize in techno, like trance, a sub-genre of dance music. But that first moment has remained special.

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“Oh my God!” she remembered thinking upon entering in the Roseland that night. “This is what I want!”

Walsh recalled “the energy, the lasers, the booming bass.”

It began with an assignment for this newspaper: compare and contrast singer-songwriter Paul Brady and trance DJ Paul Van Dyke.

Before too long, the Roscrea, Co. Tipperary, native had formed ClubbersGuideNewYork.com. “A terrible beauty was born,” she said with a laugh.

In part, it’s a guide to techno parties in New York. “There’s a bewildering amount of parties going on. I have a daily pick,” she said. "I believe I stir people in the right direction, techno wise." Another important feature are the interviews with the best-known names in techno and reports on hits from around the world.

Walsh’s busy schedule over the next few weeks also involves her other passions. This Saturday afternoon, as part of the 2015 1st Irish Festival, she will be one of the writers participating in “Breaking Ground,” a program by Origin Theatre, which “invites you to observe the journey as the creative process begins.” And she will curate with Ann Design the latest batch of “Sundays at Seven,” the Irish Arts Center’s comedy show (Oct. 11, Nov. 15 and Dec. 13).

Walsh was at first focused on an acting career. A high point was being cast in Hugh Leonard’s “Da” at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis in 2001. At the time, she thought of it as a breakthrough. “I came back to New York the month after 9/11,” she said. “But it just didn’t happen the way I thought it would. The doors didn’t open.”

Stand-up comedy (“I guess I fancied a hot Woody Allen type for myself”), writing and eventually dance music became outlets for her creative energies.

Walsh’s interest in dance music, though, was hardly something new – she was “mad into it” as a youngster.

“Growing up in Ireland, dance music was six records at the back of the store,” she said. “Now, it greets you at the door.”

The general listener will know the classic “Blue Monday,” by New Order, the biggest-selling 12-inch single of all time. But things have moved on in the electronic world since the 1980s. There’s house, techhouse, dubstep, noise. Trance “soars,” said Walsh, and is defined by beats per minute.

Techno, for its part, was described by someone as “genetic engineering for dance music, designed to make you dance.”

One of the great DJs and producers, Jeff Mills of Detroit, said on the other hand: "Techno wasn't designed to be dance music; it was designed to be a futurist statement.”

Walls refers to the DJs as “performers” in her articles and interviews. She told the Echo: “They take you in a journey. They create a mood.”

In an interview, she asked Mills, who has collaborated with full orchestras, about two performances he gave in New York at the same venue, but months apart.

“More subdued, transmitted-like pulses were the foundations of most tracks,” he said of the earlier one. “In the summer, the foundation leaned more towards a hypnotic, spiraled sequence of events. In trying out these different formulas, I'm searching to find a logical medium.”

Walsh asked about a recent gig he’d done in Dublin. Mills, who is African American, answered: “It was very good. I've been going there for quite some time. I think Irish and Scottish audiences are still the most energetic. There is always a high sense of excitement when they hear/feel something interesting.”

He also eased into his “deeper” music with the Irish audience and he found them receptive. “I think we could have easily been there for many more hours,” Mills said.

Walsh, too, has done some traveling, notably to Berlin, considered the mecca of dance music.

“But there’s little bit more of a flavor in New York,” she said. “I’m in the right place. I don’t think I would have been given the opportunity if I was in Ireland or London.

“You can’t beat the vibe in New York. It’s friendly, open, welcoming, non-judgmental,” added Walsh, a frequent visitor home to see her mother in Tipperary.

She’s worked with Mills, has opened for Kevin Saunderson, another big-name DJ, and was invited to play the Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit over Memorial Weekend this year.

“I’ve met a whole other circle of friends,” she said.

The field, though, is becoming as crowded and competitive as others in the arts.

“Being a DJ is the new thing,” she said. “Paris Hilton is one.”

Still, Walsh’s attitude is different to what it was when it came to acting. “I’m more laid back about it. If they come, they come” she said of gigs, “If it happens, it happens.”

Fiona Walsh will participate with her writing partner Jenny Green in “Breaking Ground” on Saturday, beginning 3 p.m., at ART NY, 520 8th Ave. (between 36th and 37th Streets). Reservations: info@origintheatre.org. For information on “Sundays at Seven,” go to irishartscenter.org. Walsh’s website is: ClubbersGuideNewYork.com.