Fish Go Deep's Shane Johnson’s guide to Cork
For over two decades, Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson have been spinning records in their hometown of Cork. Their influential residency at Sir Henry’s during the 1990s exposed a generation of Irish clubbers to the world of house music, featuring performances by prominent figures from the underground scene. Since concluding their tenure at Sir Henry’s in 2001, the duo has embarked on a journey, taking their distinctive sound to clubs and festivals across Ireland, Europe, and beyond. They've also played host to renowned house DJs at their regular Go Deep parties in their hometown.
Greg and Shane's radio career began on local pirate stations before transitioning their Go Deep show to Cork’s Red FM. Today, the show is broadcast on stations in Ireland, the UK, and Europe, reaching a global audience as a beloved weekly podcast. Indeed, they've barely paused for breath since, and on the eve of their latest release - the excellent What I Mean by Beautiful - we caught up with Shane, who gave us the lowdown on his native Cork...
"I was born in Cork in the 1970s and grew up in a household full of music. My father loved jazz and my older brother and sisters listened to a wide range of other stuff so there were a lot of different sounds and influences in the air."
"The first time I went to a club in the city was for my brother’s 21st birthday party at Sir Henry’s. It was a fancy dress, so I was able to disguise the fact that I was 14 years old - I think I went as a punk. It was mesmerising! The sound and the lights and all the fabulous dancers blew my mind. Four or five years later I ended up DJing in Sir Henry’s with Greg and it was still mesmerising, especially as this new-fangled house music had just started to take hold. We had a great residency there throughout the 90s and it coincided with a vibrant period in the wider culture. Alongside a lively club scene, the city produced many bands, innovative theatre and visual arts, and a real community focused pirate radio station. Unfortunately, a lot of that vibrancy has dissipated in recent years and a major lack of smaller venues has squeezed out young bands and DJs. Ireland’s antiquated licensing laws have made it really difficult for small spaces to thrive and our government don’t seem to think that late night culture is really worth nurturing."
One of the many cliches about Corkonians is that we have a massively inflated opinion of both ourselves, and our city - “the real capital”. Like any cliche, there is some truth at the heart of this and the trait can get annoying. Generally, Cork is a fine place to live and, personally, it’s been a great, supportive city in which to play and make music. But banging on about how great the place is can sound like we’re trying to convince ourselves."
What is your favourite place to sit and watch the world go by
"The bus is a good spot to see both the city (out the window) and it’s inhabitants (sitting around you). Also gets you around, eventually...."
"Paradiso has been open almost as long as I’ve been eating out and it just gets better and better. Spectacular vegetarian and vegan food too."
Fave cool bar
Fave small club
"The Sunday Times boys throw a great monthly party at Aye. House, disco and much more."
Legendary underground bar
"The Hi-B doesn’t qualify as underground in any sense - it’s actually in an upstairs room on Oliver Plunkett Street - but it is a legendary, couldn’t-be-anywhere-else-but-Cork spot… fine pints, fine chat, phones discouraged."
Fave record shop
Plugd Records on Cornmarket Street is a real hub for the music community, with a fine selection of vinyl and magazines and a mighty cup of coffee. Gigs at the weekend too.
Favourite unlikely getaway
"The renovated Nano Nagle Place is an excellent spot to while away an afternoon. Beautiful grounds, museums, exhibitions, bookshop, and the lovely Good Day Cafe.e renovated Nano Nagle Place is an excellent spot to while away an afternoon. Beautiful grounds, museums, exhibitions, bookshop, and the lovely Good Day Cafe."
Fave old club open for 25 years +
"This is cheating as it’s about an hour west of the city and it’s technically a pub, but Connolly’s of Leap first opened in the 1700s and is one of my favourite venues anywhere. It has a wonderful Toby Hatchett sound system, consistently good gigs and club nights and a warm welcome for all. And pizza."
Fish Go Deep's What I Mean by Beautiful is out now. Buy/listen to the release here