Thursday 29 September 2016

We're all still mad for Maniac

As the DJ behind the iconic dance track hits the decks at Electric Picnic, he tells our reporter why people still love it

Published 05/09/2015 | 02:30

Rock it rock it dancefloor: Mark McCabe is bringing the 90s back at Electric Picnic
Rock it rock it dancefloor: Mark McCabe is bringing the 90s back at Electric Picnic

Picture the scene: an average dance floor in a regular club, pub or function room somewhere in Ireland. There may be a good few people already tearing it up, sloshing drinks and tipsily smooching. But then a track starts, one that begins with a crowd cheering and a percussion beat counting four before dance music bursts from the speaker.

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Suddenly, there's a stampede to the dancefloor. Everyone is suddenly hopping about and shouting together about a girl who was dressed to kill, united in their very Irishness and dripping in nostalgia. That is the rare effect that Maniac 2000 has on us as a people, and one that shows no sign of going away.

So much so that Electric Ireland have teamed up with the man behind the record, Mark McCabe, at this year's Electric Picnic. Their theme for their festival stage is the 90's Power Party, capitalising on the recent renaissance of everything 1990s and Mark is headlining the stage along with fellow 90s stalwarts The Vengaboys and 2 Unlimited.

Last year's Power Ballads stage was a great success, with massive crowds spilling out of the tent to see Bonnie Tyler belt out Total Eclipse of the Heart, and the festival sponsor is no doubt hoping for an even more enthusiastic attendance this year.

McCabe for one is delighted to be involved. Maniac 2000 re-entered the Irish charts at number one in March this year, so it's a good time to bring it back to life.

"The timing is perfect, and the crowd that goes to Electric Picnic are exactly the right age to really enjoy it. I'm going to do a DJ set and play a lot of the 90s stuff that inspired me, and I think it's going to be really fun. I just hope we have room in the tent!"

"The track was recorded at an underage disco in The Cricket in Clontarf, and the video was shot in the Temple Theatre," Mark confirms. "I first got involved with the song in 1996. There were a number of DJs doing the track at the time with different raps, they'd freestyle over the track.

"I'd started to do gigs for Pulse FM in the Temple Theatre, so I did my own version. I didn't have it set out, it was always ad lib'd on the night. We recorded it one night, because people were ringing the station and asking for it and we didn't have a version to play. So that night is the one that stuck, and that's the one with the lyrics everybody knows now."

Little did Mark know, his track was going viral - or at least the 90s version of that, slowly but surely working its way on to playlists.

"Abbey Discs asked me if I'd be in to releasing it, so I said 'why not?' The first week it was number two, then it went to number one and it was there for 10 weeks."

Have the 15 subsequent years passed in the blink of an eye for Mark? "They really have. It's bizarre how it's still going. It's been a long time since I've actually been somewhere where it's been played - I have two kids now, and they keep me busy.

"But I get sent emails and tweets all the time. I got one at the weekend, it was about half three in the morning, some club in town was still rocking and everyone was giving it loads to the track.

"I don't know what the secret is really. I guess it's everything people want on a night out, when you've had a few drinks. There's chanting, shouting, rhymes, putting your hands in the air and really simple lyrics that don't really mean anything.

"But it's an honour to have been involved with something that people have taken to their hearts. People tell me it's the unofficial Irish anthem, which is very cool."

Those who listen to 2fm might be familiar with McCabe's chart show, but might not be aware that he's actually the station's director of music and sound. "The day job is deadly, I listen to music in a Louis Walsh kind of way, and help make things happen," he laughs.

"I've always been involved in music since I was kid, working in a music shop when I was 12 and putting on discos when I was 13 and 14. I've always wanted to be involved with it. I was in bands, I've been a sound engineer, and have done something in every pocket of the industry.

"Now to sort of settle in to a role like this with a station like 2fm, at a very exciting time, it's been brilliant.

"We're ready to flip the script now Tubridy has moved on, I think 2fm can get back to being the kind of station that everybody really wants it to be and focus more in one direction, I took the job two years ago and it's been really great."

However, he's well aware his name is synonymous with the cult of the one hit wonder; the term even pops up in his bio on Twitter.

"It can be a pain at times, and I kind of feel a bit guilty about it. Growing up in music as I have, I've been around real serious singer-songwriters. I know how they work, and that when they create something it comes from somewhere deep inside. This is not one of those things.

"'Life, it has no meaning' is about as deep as it gets. I'm embarrassed because those people will never get the success that this record has had, no matter how much they put in to it.

"But it obviously strikes a chord somewhere. So I've changed how I think about it. I've gone through phases. I had great fun when it was released, but then there was the inevitable backlash - the older generation were going 'this is crap, dance music is rubbish', and it was being compared negatively to Radiohead and Arcade Fire at the time.

"Now we're at a landmark moment where 90s music is cool again. It would be wrong of me to say I hate it or don't enjoy it when I see how much joy it's brought to people."

However, he's still pranked with the track on a regular basis. "I was at a wedding a year ago. It was in the Powerscourt Hotel, a black tie do and fairly high brow.

"We were all asked to stand to welcome the bride and groom, and next thing the opening bars kick in and everyone went mad. I'm just sitting there thinking 'what is this?!'

"But I've absolutely no right to deny people that enjoyment. Why would I want to?"

Mark McCabe plays Electric Picnic on Saturday night

Irish Independent

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