Everyone in the NYC clubbing scene is probably familiar with Dominique Keegan’s name. One of the coolest dudes, owner and founder of Plant Music, excellent DJ and curator, Creative Director at Kobalt Music and also co-founder (with Marcus “Shit Robot” Lambkin) of the Plant Bar, one of the loudest clubs from New York’s past nightlife. Dom travelled back to the golden era of this infamous club and mixed up a selection of his favourite tracks dominating the dancefloor.
You moved to New York from Dublin, Ireland in the 90s. How did you get interested in music as a kid? Do you remember a moment, event or artist that later shaped your music taste?
I started listening to music at the age of 4 and 5. I had a small transistor radio and I used to find AM rock n’ roll stations and dance on my bed. Some of my first loves were The Police, The Beatles and David Bowie. By age 8 or 9 all I would listen to was Bowie.
How was the music scene in Dublin back in the days?
It was always pretty good. A lot of people played instruments and played in bands and there was a good used vinyl scene, especially this one store called Macs (owned by an old queen called Mac). I discovered a lot of music there. Everything was very acoustic and guitar driven in Dublin in the eighties. When I was very young The Boomtown Rats were the hot Dublin band then U2, who I never liked, and later bands like The Hothouse Flowers and The Waterboys (even though they were Scottish). Van Morrison and Thin Lizzy were always seen as the great Irish artist by most of the people I knew. I got heavily into The Velvet Underground while most people’s lives around me were ruled by The Smiths and The Cure. I also liked synth pop stuff and was a very big New Order fan. When dance music started to hit in the late eighties and the rave scene started it totally revolutionized Dublin nightlife and youth society.
How did you find the NY scene after moving there from Dublin? What would you recall as the biggest difference between them?
When I first moved there in 1994 I actually found the NY music scene a bit behind what was going on in Europe, especially for DJ music and everyone was still stuck in this New York / CBGBs nostalgia and still listening to grunge. It was a bit lame. The hip hop scene was very alive, obviously, but those clubs were not always the most inviting. For me it was an era for learning about music and that is when I started DJing.
In 1998, you’ve founded Plant Music, a 12” label and later you’ve teamed up with club and radio DJ Stretch Armstrong. You’ve been releasing the music of Kasper Bjørke, Ian Pooley and Eli Escobar just to mention a few… The label has slowed down a bit in recent years, what are you currently focusing on when it comes to the curation?
I originally started the label with Marcus Lambkin and then later Stretch became my partner. The label started slowing down when I started working full time as an A&R at Kobalt Music Publishing and Stretch also started to work on his documentary. I still release music on Plant but a lot less often.
Your first Pacemaker mixtape is dedicated to the Plant Bar era that was a vital and defining period in your life. Could you tell us a bit about “the coolest and loudest club in NYC”?
I made the mix after reading ‘Meet Me In The Bathroom’ by Lizzy Goodman. It is an oral history of NYC music scene in the 2000s. It made me nostalgic about that era and all those good times at Plant Bar. It’s was tiny bar in Alphabet City that was open from 1999 to 2004 which was a very fun time in NYC. We used to DJ there and it became an important music hub for people into dance music and other indie leaning music.
Marcus Lambkin (Shit Robot), your fellow Irishman has also been living in New York at the time. He was the one who’s introduced James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem, DFA) to dance music. It sounds like these crazy parties at Plant were quite determining nights.
Yes we had some great parties there. When James started DJing he would come and play with Marcus and I on Fridays at Plant and we called those nights Shit Robot, that’s where Marcus got his artist name (coined by James, of course). They were fun because we would not just play dance music, we would mix it up, classic rock, disco, a little bit of everything. The soundsystem was great too, James designed it for us.
Plant Bar was forced to close in 2003. What was the reason behind this decision?
We were shut down for cabaret law violations (dancing). It’s illegal to dance in a bar in NYC without a cabaret license. The law has existed since 1926 and may soon be repealed.
Currently you’re Senior Creative Director at Kobalt Music in New York. You’ve signed and been working together with an impressive roster of talent including Zhu, Todd Terje, Toro Y Moi, Chromatics, Glass Candy… what do you find the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with great music and great artists and being part of such a future leaning company. And not having to stay up until 5am every night.
How about the most challenging part?
Not having the time to focus on DJing and creating music but I do feel it’s important to let the next generation make their mark. It’s their time now.
What would your advice be to young producers and DJs who want to make it in nowadays music industry?
Make the best music you possibly can, be original, be influenced by older artists, not your contemporaries.
How do you discover new music nowadays? Do you buy records or you prefer digital formats and streaming? What are your most trusted sources?
Spotify mostly. I only listen to vinyl at home though, but that is mostly older music. For new music it’s mostly Spotify, and recommendations from friends.
Name 3 artists whose sound you really like at the moment.
– Monika (Greek disco / indie artist)
– Eden (Irish pop / r&b artist)
– The Lemon Twigs (NY glam rock band)
How did you discover the Pacemaker app?
A friend introduced me to it.
Please tell us a bit about your experiences with Pacemaker for iPhone and Pacemaker+. How do you like the app, what are your favourite features and what would you like to improve?
I like that you can pull songs from Spotify and make your mix over time, a little bit one day, a little bit on another. I would love to be able to place the next song more easily right on the beat, sometimes that is difficult. I would also love to be able to host the mixes on Spotify, where everyone I know listens. Maybe soon?