Features - Interviews

Inbound: Screendeath


Screendeath, aka Ryan Thompson is a twenty-year-old Northern Irish electronic dance music producer and DJ hovering just beneath the radar, waiting for his moment.

Signed by Norman Cook AKA Fat Boy Slim at Southern Fried Records, his debut EP Packback, released in October 2010, gave him the Radio 1 label ‘one to watch in 2011’. Since then he’s played the ‘Chibuku’ Stage at Manchester’s Parklife, shared stages with Annie Mac, Julio Bashmore and Fake Blood, as well as having his track ‘Packback’ spinned by Erol Alkan.

Emily Thornhill talks to the DJ and producer.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you first got into making music?

I’m Ryan, I’m from Donaghadee and I started making music about five years ago after a friend introduced me to Justice.

So where did the name Screendeath come from?

Unfortunately it’s a dull story! I was originally planning to use my real name (Ryan Thompson) but there’s another artist from Northern Ireland who’s beaten me to it. As such, I just picked two non-specific words and stuck them together.

Can you remember what the first record was that you bought?

It was either OPM – ‘Heaven Is A Halfpipe’ or Wheatus – ‘Teenage Dirtbag. I wish one was cooler than the other so I could say that one, but…

So what gave you that initial push to start?

I’ve been playing violin since around the age of six as my parents were very keen to get me into it. As a result I’ve always been very into music. I decided to start making dance music specifically when friends started playing me music by Boys Noize and Simian Mobile Disco etc. I’d never heard anything like it before and was pretty much instantly hooked.

What’s the best event you’ve played at?

Parklife Festival was a recent highlight. I’m not sure if that was just because it was my first festival but it was definitely a massive amount of fun and the crowd seemed up for anything.

And what’s the funniest thing that has ever happened at an event?

I only seem to have laptop nightmares at gigs – never anything funny! Halloween is always a good laugh though, DJing in a giant crocodile costume makes not wearing a costume to future gigs seem like slacking off.

Outside of the UK, where else have to you played?

I’ve mainly been playing around the UK mainland over the last few years but had an awesome gig in Amsterdam. London seems to come up pretty regularly which is great as I’m a big fan!

And where’s the ultimate dream gig?

Probably one of the boat parties at Outlook Festival in Croatia. I don’t think anything sounds better than DJing on a boat with a few beers in the sun to such a small crowd.

What was the first event you ever played at?

My first gig was Orlando Boom at the Queen Of Hoxton in London and I was easily the most nervous person on the planet. One of my manager’s other acts (KiD COLA) had been booked to headline the show so it was cool to meet him in real life.

When you play is it a pre-planned set?

No. That being said, I normally have a track or two in mind that work together if everything starts to fall apart. The problem with planning at home is that you don’t have a crowd of people (hopefully) dancing in front of you and as such tend to make some not-so-dancefloor-friendly decisions…

Out of all the tracks you have, which one ‘never fails’?

I think I’ve played Kölsch – ‘Loreley’ at almost every show since picking it up ages ago and it seems to work pretty well with most crowds!

Who are your biggest musical influences?

In terms of dance music, I’d have to say it’s Untold at the moment although I’m 99% certain that it doesn’t come across in my sound. Every track he puts out is one of those tracks that makes you think ‘why didn’t/can’t I do that?’. Outside of dance music, I’m a massive Kanye West fan. I know everyone is but his production and consistency is second-to-none on almost everything (bar a few things…)

What advice would you give to up and coming DJ/Producers?

If you’re a producer, definitely get someone else to listen to your mixdowns and see if they have anything to say. 90% of the time, they’ll suggest one thing and the track will instantly sound better.

For DJs, I guess the best thing is to have fun… making money in dance music isn’t the easiest thing in the world and it’ll be even harder if you’re not just trying to enjoy yourself.

Finally, what are the top 5 tracks you’re listening to at the moment?

John Legend & Teyana Taylor – Bliss

Percussions – Bird Songs

Paul Frick – I Mean ft. Emika (Akufen Remix)

Jimmy Edgar – Black Neon Dance Floor

Monto – Homage