Rebūke Fires Up a Menacing Mix Ahead of his Next Drumcode EP
Reuben Keeney (AKA Rebūke) started his journey into the neverending sonic wormhole that is clubland at the tender age of 13. With a DJ for a father and a natural affinity for creating music of his own, Keeney made it his mission to bring cutting-edge music to his humble hometown.
In just three years, Keeney has released EPs and singles on labels like Soup NYC, DFTD, Dirtybird, Truesoul, Big Beat Records, Hot Creations, and Drumcode among others, with much more on the way. He’s performed at festivals such as Terminal V, Electric Picnic, Day Of The Dead, and has shared numerous lineups with the best in the business. And his weekly club residency Outhouse has hosted internationally recognized talent like Solardo, CamelPhat, Darius Syrossian, Mella Dee, Ejeca, Huxley and many more — all of whom took an immediate liking to the young upstart, blown away by his technical skills behind the decks, deep knowledge of rave culture, and substantial production prowess.
Ahead of his second release on Adam Beyer’s Drumcode imprint — a follow-up to last year’s wildly successful Rattle EP on the label — we chat with Keeney about his first gigs, breakthrough tracks, and plans for dancefloor domination in the future. In addition, he’s provided a mix that gives us an exclusive look into his forthcoming summer tracks, and pays homage to both his Drumcode colleagues and the late house music pioneer, Mike Huckaby.
Tell us about growing up in Donegal/Letterkenny, Ireland
I guess growing up in Letterkenny in Ireland, when I was around 13-14, not many of my school friends knew much about dance music. Tiesto was really the only household DJ back then, and there wasn’t much knowledge beyond that. When I was younger, I was mostly finding music through YouTube and the internet in general. When I was 15, I discovered this record store in Letterkenny called Universal Records, and that experience introduced me to a whole world of music I’d never heard of before. I became close friends with a bunch of the regulars there, including a guy called Gary Collins who’d end up traveling with me a bit, tour managing. Looking back, many of them were in their 20’s and 30’s, so I think it was a bit of a novelty for them to have this 15-year-old young guy in there, as there weren’t any other people my age visiting the record store. At the time, this experience really helped me define my sound and explore more genres.
You first started DJing when you were quite young, and you’ve been making music for over ten years. Can you tell us about some of your first gigs, your OG equipment that still cherish today, and what kind of music you were creating before your Rebuke project came into full view?
I started making music around 13 – 14 on a 300EUR laptop that would crash every 30 minutes, so I would need to set a timer on when to save my projects. Come to think of it, that’s probably why I work so fast in the studio now!
I remember my very first CD player – I can’t even remember the name of it. John 00 Fleming had this CD line out, and it was his range. They were budget CD players and had no shock absorbers back then. When I did my first gig at 14 at a school disco, I didn’t realise that if anyone moved, the music would stop. I remember I was set up on a plywood table, and every time my friends came up to say hello, the CD players would skip, and eventually stop playing altogether. I very quickly worked out that I had to have gear with shock absorbers.
Music-wise, I was making a bit of everything. When I first started producing, it was more on the progressive house tip — Sasha and Digweed began to support my music in the early days. When I got a bit older, I dipped into techno and tech house, so all the different genre explorations led up to the sound you hear today.
Tell us a little bit about your ‘Rebūke/Rave’ series and some of the most significant ’90 dance music records in your arsenal right now (original or remixed).
The Rebūke Rave series was created out of my love of old ’90s rave sounds. I felt like there wasn’t a lot of people doing it back then. Trance music had a revival, and it was getting remixed by all sorts of people. In terms of the ’90s rave scene, there wasn’t so much going on. So I thought it would be a nice idea to start flipping the old 90s rave tracks like 2 Bad Mice “Bombscare” and DJs Unite’s “DJ’s Unite.”
Some old school tracks that I’ve been playing a lot include CJ Bolland’s “Carmargue” and Capricorn’s “20 Hz.” A key track in my sets over the last few months is a remix I did of the 1991 classic “Dominator” from Human Resource. I’ve included it in this mix as well.
You first came up hosting your Outhouse night at the club Fifth Avenue in Letterkenny, booking some significant underground acts for a town of just 20,000. How did you manage that and who are some of the DJs/artists that you really connected with on a personal level during that time?
Outhouse was formed because there was no other club culture in Letterkenny at the time, and that’s something I wanted to fix as the town had a history of great dance nights from back in the day (my old mentor Fergie used to visit regularly throughout the early-mid 2000s). Some of the DJ’s that I really connected with were guys like Ejeca, CamelPhat, and especially Alan Fitzpatrick. He’s since put me on some We Are the Brave showcases, and we’ve also collaborated on a new track called “Ultimate Distortion,” which features in this mix.
Some of the most invaluable advice I received was from Ejeca, who told me to stick to my sound and not sell out. I remember speaking to him around the time “Along Came Polly” was released. At the time, all these labels wanted to put a cheesy vocal on it and push for the top 40, but he reinforced my resolve to not to fall into these commercial traps. He was also super loyal to my former-Outhouse nights and played for me about six times overall.
How did your life change for you when Jamie Jones first dropped “Along Came Poly” and the track worked its way up to Essential New Tune on BBC Radio 1? What was going through your head when it first happened?
When Jamie started dropping “Along Came Polly,” I basically went from no one knowing who I was, to everyone on social media posting about my music and discovering my sound within a couple of weeks. When it first happened, I didn’t take it too seriously, to be honest. I just thought it was cool that he was supporting my tracks. Initially, Jamie wanted to sign it to Hottrax, but as it got bigger and bigger, he asked if we could make it a full-blown Hot Creations release. It was weird for me as I had never experienced a situation where I was booked 2-3 months in advance off the back off a track that hadn’t been released yet. “Along Came Polly” changed everything for me. I remember the first time I played it to a huge crowd was at Houseworks in Cork. I was originally set to play the side room, but one of the headliners — I think it was Felix Da Housecat or Sam Divine — dropped out, so I filled in playing the main room to 15,000 people. When I played “Along Came Polly,” everyone went wild, and this was still a month before it was released!
How and when did you connect with Adam Beyer and the Drumcode crew for your 2019 EP, Rattle? What has your experience working with the label been like?
I first started to speak to Adam because he was playing “Along Came Polly” at Elrow. I was obviously a big fan of his already and decided to send him some new music when I heard he was into my stuff. He was very responsive and said he loved my tracks and decided to put together a Truesoul EP titled 50 First Raves. After this, I keep sending him more stuff, and because my musical taste had naturally evolved in a harder direction, he asked if I wanted to release a Drumcode EP.
My experience with the Drumcode family — both Adam and everyone involved with the label — has been great. Everyone has been really nice to me. I especially love the other artists on the label like Enrico Sangiuliano, Joel Mull and Pig&Dan. What I really love about Adam is that he doesn’t mold you into an artist that fits his vision of what he wants you to be. He wants each artist to have their own individual sound and not to be replicas of anyone else on the label, which is essential to me. When we first met at Tomorrowland last year, we clicked, so I’m excited to continue releasing music with them.
What can you share with us regarding your next release on Drumcode?
It’s a three-tracker called Obscurity and will be released on September 4. It’s a bit more synth-based than Rattle, but it still has my trademark percussion and the usual driving sound. I think it’s a bit different from the rest of the stuff I’ve put out. With my sound, I always try to evolve with each release, while retaining that definite Rebūke style. I love it when people hear a track of mine, and they can tell it’s by me before knowing for sure. All my records have a specific theme while pushing things forward a bit with each release.
It must be tough that after building up so much momentum for your career and touring all over the world, you’ve suddenly found yourself in a place where you can’t play gigs. How have you been keeping yourself motivated during this period of isolation and what plans are you making for the future?
Sure it’s has been tough, but I’ve also given myself a break to get back into the studio again. And I’ve made more music in the past two months than I probably have in the past two years, which has been good. It’s also given me time to re-group in terms of the Rebūke project in general. When I was on the road last year, it was quite hectic, so now I feel like I’m in an excellent position to take things to another level with my career. After a little break from releasing music after my Rattle EP last October, I’m in the midst of a busy few months and have a new Dirtybird EP coming this month along with forthcoming Drumcode EP, my remix of “Dominator” and my collaboration with Alan Fitzpatrick. Plus, there will be a remix and collaboration with two of my biggest musical heroes; I can’t reveal yet, but I’m buzzing for these.
Tell us a little bit about the mix you made for us.
The mix I made for Beatportal comprises a lot of music I’ve been working on in the studio, including my Drumcode EP, as well as a few of my favourite Drumcode tracks and also some cuts from my friends Pig&Dan and a great Layton Giordani remix. I also wanted to include a tribute to the late great Mike Huckaby.
Rebūke’s Obscurity EP is out on September 4 via Drumcode.
01. Jeff Mills – 4
02. M.I.T.A. – Someone Told Me To Jungle And I Did [Kneaded Pains]
03. Lilly Palmer – Slaves to Technology (Original Mix) [Octopus Records] 04. Rebūke & Alan Fitzpatrick – Ultimate Distortion
05. Rebūke – Instatik [Drumcode]
06. Raxon – Connection [Drumcode]
07. Rebūke – Obscurity [Drumcode]
08. Pig & Dan – Acronym
09. Human Resource – Dominator (Rebuke Remix)
10. Tiger Stripes – Back In Black [Drumcode]
11. Camelphat x Artbat – For A Feeling (Layton Giordani Remix)
12. Rebūke – Livewire [Drumcode]
13. Mike Huckaby – The Tresor Track
Cameron Holbrook is a staff writer for Beatportal. Find him on Twitter.