ZOiD's Site for Electronic Music People

How It All Began…

Since you have joined my email list, I’m going to tell you a bit about myself if you don’t mind. If it’s boring just unsubscribe! I’ve had a few adventures so hopefully it will be interesting.

When I was 7 years old, I fell off my bike, straight over the handlebars and landed face down on the pavement. Luckily my quite large front teeth broke my fall. Unfortunately they got a bit smashed up, one was left looking like a jagged fang and the other a stump. That was just before my family moved from Dublin to Orlando Florida for a year. In the USA, I became the weird kid from Ireland with the fang and the funny accent…

Before that I was a confident kid, leader of the gang in school (not gang as in Crips and Bloods, gang as in “Julian Dick and Ann George and Timmy the Dog”). I would decide what games we would play and when, and everyone would follow my commands. I’m serious, that’s exactly what it was like. From the ages of 5 to 7, I was a total leader. After breaking my front teeth and moving to America, I fell to the lowly status of weirdo, and hung out with the other weirdos like Jamie the maths genius and Mark the space kid who wanted to be an astronaut.

Since then, I’ve been an outsider. I found my way into both jazz and electronic music when I was around 13… jazz first, then electronic music a year later… and even now after 30 years, I’m still trying to combine those two conflicting, contrasting worlds. For the jazz scene, my music is way too repetitive and ugh, people can DANCE to it ffs… and for the electronic scene, my music is too cerebral, too complex, too many ideas… TONE IT DOWN A BIT!!!

When I got back from America aged 8, I found the old gang had been taken over by Cliff Bailey. GRRRR! That rascal. I made a half-hearted attempt to renew my leadership but in the end I couldn’t be bothered. Me and a couple others split off from the main gang and started a counter-cultural revolution. Well not really; but it was the start of me not wanting anything to do with the mainstream.

Back to the music – the first albums I remember becoming aware of was at the age of 8 when my parents bought me a Walkman and gave me a couple of cassettes. “Best of Elton John” (because the song “Daniel” was on there) and “Bad” by Michael Jackson. I listened to both of those cassettes hundreds of times. I remember with Bad especially, going into a completely different world, absorbed into the music… walking to school listening to it with my headphones on, lost in a daydream. I knew the album inside and out. It was incredible, thrilling… I listened to music a lot from that age onward. And soon I thought it might be cool to try playing an instrument.

I asked my parents if I could play the drums – rhythm fascinated me so it was a natural pick. But they said no. I was the kind of kid who was into things for a week or two and then lost interest, so they weren’t keen to invest much in a musical instrument – especially one as loud as a drum kit. I borrowed a friend’s acoustic guitar and started playing around on it. Straight away I got really into it. I had good rhythm and could remember the names of the chords very easily. I played that guitar a lot, and after 6 months my parents were convinced enough to buy me a guitar. It was a white Aria Pro II electric guitar that I absolutely LOVED.

I flew past my two other friends who played guitar but didn’t practice. Unlike them I put in an hour or two a day, I found it hard to stop playing! My teacher at the time was impressed and encouraged me to keep going.

My music tastes at this time were pretty much Jimi Hendrix.

After a while I’d listened to so much Jimi, I naturally wanted to hear the NEXT greatest guitarist, and I kept hearing the name: “Django”. I bought some tapes from Golden Discs, and although I didn’t like the violin solos of Stephane Grapelli (I’d fastforward those!) I LOVED what I heard from Django Reinhardt. That lead me into more jazz, Miles, Charlie Parker, Big Band stuff, bebop… the good stuff!

Before I knew much about jazz, I bought this 4-cassette anthology of jazz that was just called JAZZ, from Golden Discs. It had all kinds of stuff from Glenn Miller to Miles and Charlie Parker. I didn’t like all the stuff on there, so I made my own collection of the best bits using my double-tape deck cassette recorder (sweeeeet). And I remember that I’d HEARD the name Charlie Parker, and that he was one of the greatest geniuses in jazz, but I didn’t know what his music sounded like. But on that tape collection, sometimes I would hear this sound and I would think “THAT must be Charlie Parker!” – and it WAS! The names weren’t always matching as often the tracklist would mistakenly list Miles Davis as the band, but Parker would be on there and would be the actual bandleader… but it’s weird I could tell straight away. I’ve no idea how I knew.

So, I got hooked on jazz, especially bebop with its incredible melodic language and harmonic sophistication. But back in the real world, my neighbourhood friend Alan Dobbyn, was playing records at a pirate radio station. Back in primary school he was the class bully and I had several run-ins with him. I did not like him one bit from 1st to 6th class. But after that we gradually became friends. He invited me along to one of his radio sets at the pirate station once and I remember him playing Aphex Twin “On” and stuff from The Orb. He was only 12 years old at the time, I was around 13. I could not get my head around it… weird music, weird format… wtf! He was WAY ahead of his time to say the least.

Around two years later me and my friend Donal got ourselves a tape of Goa Trance from somewhere and we started listening to that non-stop. We loved it! It was neon day glo colours in sound. Beat drops with cheesy “boi-oi-oi-oing” spring sound effects and 145+ bpms. It lasted a few months, but that was when we started to become friends with Dobbyn and my next-door neighbour Derek. Both those guys were very seriously into techno by now and they knew their stuff. Every day after school I’d go for my real education in Dobbyn’s room. There was a bed, a table with decks and a mixer, and records EVERYWHERE. Piles and piles of records, around 6,000 I’d say. He’d been collecting them for years. Every day he’d say something like

“have you heard of Surgeon?”

“No” I’d reply.

“what! C’mon man. Listen to this” He’d put on a Surgeon record on Downwards, like Badger Bite. WHOOOOOSH.

Next day “have you heard of Jeff Mills?”

“Eh, no”

“WHAT!! Listen” He’d put on Waveform Transmissions Volume 1. BOOOOM!!!

And this went on day after day after day, month after month… Incredible music, so many amazing productions… this was the heyday of techno, 1994, 95, the music coming out then was blowing our minds consistently.

Sometimes Dobbyn would play a record from Germany, sometimes from the US, sometimes from Japan, Nederlands, Belgium, the UK… but one time he said, this record is from a Dublin label called D1. He had a few records that were being made right here in our own city! By people like Donnacha Costello and Rob Rowland. And they were GOOD! That was inspiring. I decided I had to start making this music.

Dobbyn, ever the fatalistic pessimist, said no, it was impossible, we would never be able to afford the hardware equipment. I persevered and somehow got the money to buy a synth, a Yamaha CS1X. Together with a cracked version of Cubase and an old desktop PC I started making electronic music, while continuing to learn and practice guitar.

In the next part I’ll tell you about how I got to start playing livesets at The Funnel and recording tracks at the D1 studio…

Getting Up And Running With Techno…

So there I was, 17 years old, with a blue Yamaha synthesizer, a desktop PC and an insatiable need to make music. Shouts to Alexis, the brother of my school friend Annelli, who had a spaceship-console-looking setup in his bedroom that made me absolutely ON FIRE with wonder and jealousy! I HAD TO HAVE MY OWN SPACESHIP!! He was encouraging and helped me get my head around my synth/computer setup until I rang him up one too many times and got a bollicking for being annoying!! Haha, I think I rang him 3 times one week cause there was no sound coming out of my synth and after a lot of troubleshooting we established that it wasn’t plugged into any speakers. I thought sound went through the midi cable 🤣 that’s how we learnt in those days… slooooowly and painfully.

Anyway once I got the jist of things I was off and running. Sampling chopsticks hitting the radiator with super-early sampling software Vienna soundfont, and mixing it with 16 midi channels of sounds coming from the Yamaha CS1X – when a track was finished I’d record it all to cassette tape.

Thankfully my good friend Jenna kept some of those tapes and I recently digitized them so you can hear some of that early stuff soon!

Once I had a 60-minute tape filled with tracks I called myself “Window” and made copies and passed it around to a few people… I still hear stories sometimes of friends of friends who loved that tape and listened to it for many years, or even still have a well-worn copy!

It also got passed to Eamonn Doyle, the boss of D1 records, the Dublin label releasing techno I mentioned in the last email. One day out of the blue he rang me up at my parents’ house (this was 1996, before I had a mobile phone) and said he really liked the tape and I should come and meet him at the D1 studio, maybe record something there. 17-year old me’s mind pretty much exploded – I could not BELIEVE it – I would not have been happier if it was the head of Sony Records ringing me to say I got a 5-album record deal!

The call from Eamonn led to me hanging out with him and the D1 crew and performing my first liveset at The Funnel in 1997 – more on that later.

First though, another important pair of figures in my life also heard the tape, Decal (a duo at the time, Alan and Dennis). These guys were playing livesets and releasing records on Andrew Weatherall’s label Sabrettes and Leaf among others. Dennis had a tb303 (the legendary box from Roland that generates the “acid” sound – since only 10,000 units were made before they were discontinued, prices on the 2nd market were already high in 1996) and unbeknownst to me, he decided to lend it to me based off hearing the tape! I’d never met him before. We had a mutual friend though, Djamel, one of those guys who seemed to know everyone in Dublin… one day after school Djamel was waiting at the school gates with a plastic bag containing the precious 303 from Dennis! Again my mind was blown, I could not believe it…

I rushed home with the 303… there was no power supply with it, Dennis assumed I would have a generic 9v power supply… however in my rush to hear the juicy acid, I grabbed a 15v power supply from my DJ mixer, plugged it in and… nothing. I blew the power board 😵‍💫

Feeling sick as a dog I had to explain to Dennis what I’d done… but the one saving grace was that another friend, DJ and electronics genius Stephen Hughes, saved the day. We brought the 303 to him, he downloaded the schematics from the internet (at that time that seemed like utter sorcery) and replaced a transistor – 303 fixed! My relief was immense. I borrowed Dennis’ 303 many times after that before I eventually got my own years later.

(Dennis and Stephen went on to work together on various electronics projects so maybe it all worked out for the best 😬)

Back to my first Liveset at The Funnel – this was an underground techno/electro club in Dublin that was absolutely pumping in the late 90s. Friday nights were run by Decal and were called Phunk City. Saturday nights were Model 1, run by D1. The cream of the crop of Detroit and UK DJs and producers would pass through… me and my friends would go each week without even knowing who was on the bill most of the time.. I saw acts perform such as:



DMX Krew

Mike Dred / Kosmik Kommando


And loads more I can’t remember.

So needless to say it was a huge deal when Eamonn Doyle booked me to play my first liveset there. It was around March 1997 when he booked me to play in November that year. I started working on my set straight away. By that time I had acquired more gear, a 12-channel Spirit Soundcraft mixer, a Novation drum station, a roland TR505 on loan from Rob Rowland, and my trusty Yamaha CS1X and dusty old desktop computer running Cubase. I worked on that set for 6 months straight. When the night came I loaded the car with the gear and setup at The Funnel. The sound check shook my bones!!! It was so HUGELY INSANELY LOUD, it sounded immense!

Loads of friends from school came to the gig. The club was packed. The night went off in an insane way. I remember coming offstage after my set and people congratulating me – some didn’t know I had been playing live rather than DJing, which was quite a compliment. Playing live was still a rarity in those days. My school friend Russell said something like “Nice start Danman, probably the best possible first gig!”

I played in the Funnel 3 more times before it closed down, once more for D1 and twice for Decal’s Phunk City night. But none of them were as amazing as that first set. Still probably the best experience I’ve ever had playing over my whole career. Will be heard to beat!

The next year I finished my final school exams called the Leaving Cert, (I didn’t study too hard ‘cause I already had a place in the course I wanted to do, a jazz diploma which at the time accepted students based on an interview rather than academic results).

Went off for the summer to Glasgow to live with my friends Liam and Enda who were studying there. We had a great time skateboarding, dumpster diving and going to clubs, including getting to play live at the legendary Club 69 run by Rubadub. Another insane night. We also DJed at Sub Club somehow on a midweek night, I remember we played Windowlicker and the punters sang along haha!

I got back to Dublin in September 1998 and started Jazz school. Back to guitar practice. And loooooots of ear-training as my ear was really far behind. It sucked really bad!

But I loved the course and met a lot of great musicians. Including Sean MacErlaine, a sax player who I formed a duo with called Bluesteelcloud. Which was Guitar and sax and electronics. We played jazz clubs and a techno night in Galway called Plattenspiele run by my friends. Got a recording of that set from the tapes Jenna gave me! I was impressed with the sound even at that early stage… it was different. Techno jazz was not exactly the flavour of the day in Ireland 1999… or anywhere really… and its still not. but, maybe, just maybe – one day it will be!

The next piece will bring you through the years after Jazz school, travels, and Vipassana meditation.

Jazz School and the 10-day Course…

Ok so jazz school was intense, I PRACTICED like a mofo. 8 hours a day! Well at least for 2 weeks… but probably kept up 4-5 hours a day for 3 years, plus a lot of gigs, rehearsals, and listening. Total absorbment in the sphere of music. I discovered that my ear was very weak compared to the other students (most likely due to the fact that I NEVER sang since I was around 5 or 6), and I had to do 1 hour ear training every day for 2 years to get it in shape.

I actually didn’t really get too far with learning to play jazz in that time… it’s VERY difficult music. In fact… I failed my exams at the end of the 3rd year. To get the diploma, you had to get 50% or more in your practical exam. 2 examiners came over from London and you played a 45-minute gig just to them. I did that and instead of playing mostly standards and one original like most of the students, I did ALL originals, and all wacky contemporary weird stuff. Anyway, they did not dig. I got 47%… so no diploma. Bummer.

I briefly considered giving up music and going to be a monk in the forest or some such fantasy. But a wise man, an African drum teacher and tai-chi teacher I met in Galway called Neil or Niall or something, convinced me that even in the forest, all my problems would still be there. You can’t run from your problems, cause they are inside you. Fair enough I thought. I repeated my exams the following year, scoring 75% in the exam. (I still wasn’t a jazz master or anything – I could play local jazz gigs and the odd festival but I was never going to come to the attention of Herbie Hancock or some other jazz superstar and go and tour the world… I was too into writing weird non-jazzy originals that didn’t sound like jazz).

Something else life-changing happened around then… I sat my first 10-day vipassana course in 2001, along with my sister and friend Liam (the guy I lived with in Glasgow in the previous email). It was, by far, THE MOST difficult experience of my life up to then. Admittedly my life had been a bit easy up to then… that was the problem really. Everything had come easy to me… well not ear-training, that was fucking hard. But in general I had had an easy time. And so I thought it would go with Vipassana.

“I’m gonna nail this!” I thought.

“I’ll learn this easy peasy, climb up the ladder to attain higher and higher states of consciousness, and then BOOM! ENLIGHTENMENT BY DAY 10 BABY!!”

4 days in, the hammer-blow of reality struck: I was going to have to deal with a WHOLE lot of mental and physical pain before I could get enlightened. The fact was, to meditate I had to sit quite still for 12 hours a day, and sometimes the pain from just sitting on the ground would become excruciating! But that was all fine and part of the technique – we were meant to develop wisdom and see the pain as just another ephemeral sensation which was bound to pass away, remaining calm and equanimous (aka balanced). If you reacted to the pain, which I did, that was your ego reacting. The bigger the reaction, the stronger the ego. I realized I had one heck of an ego! Never saw it before. Never felt it. Never witnessed it myself… My own self, the ego-strength of my mind, screaming there before me… internally. Saying things like:

“This course is NO GOOD!! Get up and leave IMMEDIATELY!!! WHY DON’T YOU DO AS I SAY!!! LISTEN TO MEEEEEE!! I don’t like PAAIIIIINNNN boo hoo boo hoo sob sob”

And I knew right then that getting yourself enlightened meant gradually weakening your ego, melting it down till it disappears completely. And I also knew that would take a long, long, loooooong time, with incredible effort and patience and persistence.

After 10 days my ego was still there. But, it was a tiny little bit weaker. I felt light and happy. Lighter, and happier, than I had ever felt before. I continued practicing at home.

There was another course on 6 months later. I applied… but one of the organisers rang me up.

“You sat recently. Why don’t you serve this one instead?” She asked. [serving is where you volunteer to work for 10 days, cooking the food in the kitchen or washing dishes or doing whatever needs to be done so the meditators can meditate in peace for 10 days.

“Um, yes I did. But no thanks, I’m not ready to serve yet. I need to sit more! I didn’t get very far.” I replied.

“Haha. Yes, everyone thinks that. Go on, serve, you’ll get a lot out it!”

“Oh really? Well… sorry, no, I really just want to sit again.”

“Go on. You’ll love it. You’ll have an amazing time, it’s such a great experience and so beneficial for your own meditation!” She wouldn’t take no for an answer. I reluctantly agreed.

I look back on that and just think… wow. The way the universe works.

To cut a long story short… I nervously entered the kitchen on Day 0 of that 10-day course, ready for the unknown… and the first person I met was a lovely Chinese Kiwi girl called Lisa. After the course we would hang out in Kilkenny for a couple of days… And after that in Bristol… then Newcastle… then Dublin, then Birmingham, then London, Sheffield and Nottingham. She was spending a couple of years doing locum work, short term contracts in hospitals all around England. 3 years later we’d get married in Auckland.

Also at the end of serving that first 10-day course I remember being really tired. I’d spent 10 days washing mountains of dishes down in the washroom beside the kitchen… getting up at 5am, working hard until 6pm, meditating 3-5 hours a day as well… I was glad it would be over soon. But on that 10th day when I saw all the students smiling and laughing as they came out of the serious part of the mediation course, an amazing feeling filled my whole body and mind. I’d done something good for them… but without even knowing it. I’d done it WITHOUT EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN!! And that is the only way you can do a truly good deed. If you expect something, anything, in return for something, then it’s a transaction. There’s nothing wrong with transactions. But a pure deed, a service of real charity, expects nothing at all in return.

I saw that my whole life I’d been constantly doing things for myself; going to school, eating this or that, taking drugs, drinking, having fun, music, whatever; it was all to experience pleasing and fun sensations. For the first time ever, I’d spent 10 days working hard so others could experience some peace… and this resulted in me feeling amazing!! It was wonderful and strange and new. I never would have known about the benefit of serving others, if it wasn’t for the organizer who convinced me to serve. I also wouldn’t have met my future wife Lisa!!

Pretty amazing.

In the next bit I’ll tell you about what happened next.

How To Do Everything Wrong

So, after the vipassana course I finished off my jazz studies and then realized I needed to get back to my true passion: electronic music. I nearly got sucked into a jazz-shaped black hole. I’d sold all my equipment to concentrate on practicing guitar and getting to know the language of jazz.

I applied to do a Masters In Music and Media Technologies at Trinity College. It was a 2-year course at the time, and lots of producers in Dublin had done it, including Dennis from Decal and Donnacha Costello from D1. Even though I didn’t have a degree, only a diploma, they let me in. I started in 2003. It was great! I got introduced to a lot of really strange music like Stockhausen and Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer. I learned about the history of electronic music, or electro-acoustic music as they called it. I saw how those originators had taken two very different approaches: Stockhausen and co over at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk studios were taking the SYNTHESIS approach, generating music from sine waves and wearing lab coats and working in a lab 9-5pm like scientists. Whereas the Pierres were more into recording sounds onto tape and then playing around with the tape, cutting it and copying/pasting sounds like creaky doors and such. The former approach evolved into the synthesized electronic music like Kraftwerk and techno, and the recording/sampling approach evolved into more sample-based music like hip hop and lots of house music. This is a very broad sweeping generalization… but it’s kind of the way I see it. Almost all electronic music is at least a little bit in both camps. I slightly lean towards the Rundfunk camp, I prefer to use synthesis rather than sampling other people’s stuff. I do like to record original acoustic sound as well and mess around with it, editing, reversing etc. I also started learning some coding and Max/MSP.

At the end of the first year I decided to take a 1 year break before doing the 2nd year, which would allow me to spend a year in New Zealand where Lisa was doing her Masters (in Motor Control and neurorehabilitation).

I spent from June 2004 to September 2005 living in Auckland. Musically I kept on tinkering around with Max/MSP and making tracks, and playing jazz guitar with different groups, trying to infiltrate the scene as best as I could. It wasn’t a great scene although there were a few memorable gigs. The best thing about Auckland was Vitamin S, a free improv club. I’d be there most Wednesday nights. 3 players (randomly picked from a pool of around 150 musicians) would play free for 20-30 minutes. The schedule was made in advance so you would know which night you were playing. As there were often cancellations, I’d be able to sit in a lot to fill a gap. It took me around 6 months of doing this regularly to not feel completely awkward when improvising with musicians without reference to keys or time signatures or even a pulse. They were doing “non-idiomatic free improvisation”. My head was all full of scales and chords and jazz standards from jazz school. I did learn a lot about communication and timbre. I used to hook up my guitar to my laptop and run it through plugins like Ircam’s GRM Tools. Sometimes my old laptop would crash and digital fullscale noise would blast out of the PA! Whenever that happened the Vitamin S crowd would LOVE IT. That was their favourite. Haha.

I spent the first few months practicing, making tracks and playing the odd gig here and there until I was under serious pressure from Lisa to get a job so I could contribute to the rent when my savings ran out! She set me a deadline of mid-December – if I didn’t have at least a part time job by then, I could move out.

I did several interviews and trials in cafes, kitchens and shops. But I could not get a job. Eventually the night before the deadline came. Dejected, I went to the Vipassana group sitting which was on that night, expecting that I would have to move out very soon. After the group sit I got chatting to one of the other meditators. She was a manager at a whole food store and they were looking to hire someone, I could start the next day! Dhamma works 😆

At the same time I started finding more guitar students. So between the guitar teaching and the whole foods work, I was able to contribute to the rent and save up for my return flight to Ireland. I got to spend some time at the New Zealand Vipassana Centre too, sitting and serving a couple of 10-day courses and some shorter ones too.

I also kept producing electronic music at home on my laptop, and around this time thought up the name ZOiD (can’t remember the thinking process now, just liked the sound of it).

Just before I flew home to complete the second year of my Masters which was starting in October, me and Lisa got married at the Auckland Registry Office by a huge Polynesian guy, with two of our friends as witnesses.

Then I flew home to Ireland. Lisa stayed to finish her degree and would follow me back a year later. It was kind of rough being apart so soon after getting married but we both thought it made sense to get the degrees done.

Second Year of Music And Media Technologies

In my second year, from 2005 to 2006, I had to work on a large-scale Thesis piece. I decided to do a composition for 10 jazz musicians plus electronics. It was called The Ten Paramis. You should hear it sometime! We recorded a bigger version for an album called Projections by the Kai Big Band, a 14-piece big band I formed with Nick Roth, Colm O’Hara and others. You can hear The Ten Paramis on Youtube here.

In 2006 after I finished studies, I was busy playing in 8 different jazz projects, doing pickup gigs, restaurant gigs, teaching here and there… basically busy having fun being a musician and not earning much money (but not caring). In the summer I found out I got into the Red Bull Music Academy that year.

That was an incredible 2-week experience. I was flown to Melbourne along with 29 other participants (who included Andreya Triana, Oddisee and Flying Lotus (Nina Kravitz was in the 2nd term that year) – all of them unknown at the time). We spent the days in lectures with industry people like Mike Paradinas, Derrick May, Peter Hook, Mark Pritchard, Soundmurderer, Kode 9… and the nights in the custom-built studios making tracks or going out doing local gigs. I had a gig supporting Mike Paradinas!! Mind was well and truly blown.

The next year I launched my debut album “ZOiD Versus The Jazz Musicians of Ireland Vol 1” under the name Zoidan Jankalovich, which you can hear wherever you want (youtube link). It was released jointly on me and John Cosgrove’s newly formed label Diatribe, and D1 Recordings run by Eamonn Doyle. We had an album launch in Crawdaddy, a really cool now-defunct small club in Dublin. Around 80 people came. I remember being disappointed with the turnout but these days I’d be delighted if 80 people came to a gig haha.

Diatribe kept rolling with several other album releases from jazz musicians I knew who were looking to release their arts-council funded recordings. It’s now probably the biggest contemporary music label in Ireland. I’m no longer involved.

It even has a wiki page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diatribe_Records

My music career was actually gaining some momentum. And around then my wife and I decided, fuck it, let’s quit everything and go travelling around the world meditating.

Read about that adventure in the next and final piece:

The Trip

I passed the Diatribe reigns to my brother Matthew and my friend Nick Roth from Kai Big Band.

I quit all my music and guitar teaching jobs and Lisa quit her physio job. We thought we’d go travelling for maybe a year, but it turned into 2 years and 8 months, going from Vipassana Centre to Vipassana Centre, sitting and serving on meditation courses. We went to centres in California, Massachusetts, Toronto, Igatpuri near Mumbai (the biggest one in the world, Dhamma Giri, serving 600 students on a course), Gujurat, Hariyana, Bodh Gaya, Leh Ladakh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Burma, New Zealand and Australia. Usually we stayed anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months at each place we went, but in New Zealand we lived for 6 months at the centre, sleeping in a converted bus. It was amazing. We finished the trip by sitting a 45-day silent meditation course in Dhamma Bhumi in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. And then we flew home.

Ireland 2010 was a very different place to the one we left in February 2008. The global financial crisis had hit hard. Lisa managed to find a physio job and I got substitute teaching work on the jazz program at my old college, Newpark Music Centre. We moved into a place in Dun Laoghaire, thinking we’d stay for a while and then move to Australia.

Dun Laoghaire was depressed, like most places at that time, with boarded up building sites on the main street. Every second business on the main street had shut down. I got by with my substitute teaching work and the odd jazz gig here and there. In 2012 Newpark changed their work policy so only employees could do substitute work. I was a contractor, not an employee, so I lost my main source of income. I went to every single business in Dun Laoghaire town looking for work and couldn’t get a job. Not in a supermarket or shop or café. It was a serious low point for me – I came dangerously close to not being able to pay my rent. I got depressed for around a week.

Then I was searching online and found a program that taught guitar teachers to start their own school. I thought I’d give it a go. I also found 2 other part time guitar teaching jobs in other parts of the city – one in Bray and one in Rathfarnham. For around a year, I’d travel around an hour on the bus to get to my teaching jobs, and during the busride I’d listen to audio lessons from the guitar teaching business course. Learning how to make a website, do marketing, get better at teaching – all that stuff. In mid 2013 I had gotten enough private students who would come to our house in Dun Laoghaire, so that I could stop going around on the bus to teach. Our house was tiny, and it was not ideal. I was teaching in a small bedroom that had my desk and a few bits of music equipment and barely enough room for 2 chairs! In January 2014 I took out a commercial lease on a 1st floor office space near our house on Dun Laoghaire’s main street. That’s where I am right now as I write this on 3rd of January 2024, exactly 10 years later and 2 days later.

The school came to be called “Ultimate School of Music”, or USOM for short. In 2015 my wife who was sick of physiotherapy at that point and wanted a change, quit her job and came to work with me as an administrator at USOM. Over the past 10 years we grew to over 100 students. At one point we had 6 teachers including drums, piano, voice and guitar;  but we soon realized we were losing money with the huge payroll, decided to cut back to only guitar, gradually reducing back to only 3 teachers, then 2, and now I’m the only teacher again, just like at the beginning except Lisa does the admin. We have a great community of students, mostly teenagers and adults and a few kids. I have loved building this school and I poured my heart and soul into it.

Around 2015 I also started a short lived electronic music arm of the school called Tronix Academy. I organized Music Theory For Electronic Music Producer courses, and had masterclasses with local producers and visiting DJs, including:


Automatic Tasty



DJ Skirt


After around a year I decided to put the project on hold so I could concentrate on building USOM. But I always planned to get back to it…

Around 2020, I realized I had once again put my electronic music on hold for too long, and  needed to start regularly releasing music again as ZOiD. I started getting mentoring from Funk d’Void, which was great. Audience-wise I pretty much had to start from scratch. I had built up quite a nice small project studio with a few bits of equipment in a room at the school. I had managed to release an album in 2018 called Nebulous Concrete, on a credit card sized USB drive. It was pretty cool! But apart from that, I was only sporadically working on music.

The pandemic, from March 2020, was a difficult time as although we quickly shifted to Zoom lessons and didn’t lose many students, we also didn’t gain any new students for many months. We started many new types of classes with free introductory zoom sessions, and for around a year we worked 7 days a week to keep things going. It was exhausting. After all restrictions had ended, like many businesses we found things did not jump straight back to how they were before; people were used to going out less, spending less… people were and still are more cautious.

I joined Red Rack’em’s Patreon group How I Program in December 2020 and got a lot out of the feedback sessions and masterclasses. There’s a lot of great and diverse producers in the group and I’ve been collaborating and learning from lots of them.

It all feels like it’s gradually getting there. I released another ZOiD album in 2022 called ZONGS with 8 tracks each featuring a different vocalist. I started getting more radio play. In 2023 my next album Internal Space Element featured 4 vocalists and a String Quartet. I lined up some high profile remixes for the album, including Kaidi Tatham and Jordan GCZ. This year 2024, I have loaaaaads of music coming out, remixes, EPs, and another album, ZOiD Versus Musicians Volume Two, which will have around 12 tracks, each featuring a different musician.

I also had mentoring sessions with Jordan GCZ this year 2023 – which was great! I’ve learned a huge amount about music production and mixing in the last few years. He helped me out a lot with the ZVMV2 album.

Things are good! When I look back, it makes total sense that I am where I am right now. Going on a nearly 3-year break from everything to meditate, and then spending 10 years building a guitar school were character-building, brilliant fun, insightful and enrichening (spiritually, not financially!). But essentially my music career got reset back to the very beginning, except now I’m in my mid 40s and I’m not part of a scene like I was in my 20s. I rarely play gigs and like having an early night. Every night! So getting the music out there is tough, but I do believe that consistently releasing high enough quality work WILL pay off.

Let’s see if I’m right!

On the other hand, I’m ready to get back to my goal of helping others with their music production, music theory, composition and creativity challenges.

Onwards and upwards and outwards and inwards.