Irish Examiner - March 11 2021

Cork's Greatest Records:
Bass Odyssey, breakbeats, and the night I slept in LL Cool J's bed

The latest in our B-Side The Leeside series looks at the drum and bass outfit who made an impact in the late 1990s with such tracks as Remote Control Soul

One morning in the summer of 1999, Graham Finn woke up in the childhood bedroom of rapper LL Cool J, in Queens, New York. A question flashed through his mind: how did I get here?

“LL Cool J had kept the house he grew up in,” says Cork-born Finn from his home in Green County in Upstate New York. “There was a studio in the basement. If he was working with an artist he would put them up there for the week. I slept in his childhood bed. It was very surreal.”

As one third of electro pioneers Bass Odyssey, Finn is a central figure in one of the most fascinating chapters in Leeside music. Blending break beats, the Bristol trip hop sound and an experimental spirit that was uniquely Cork, the trio had one foot in the future. But were also an instant time-capsule for the drum and bass scene that had recently made landfall in Cork.

Drum and bass swept through the music world in the mid-Nineties, when stars such as Fabio and Grooverider were frequent headliners, and Comet Records on Washington Street heaved with “white label” 12 inches.

Bass Odyssey’s music created reverberations that travelled all the way to New York. It was there I Need Love rapper LL Cool J tapped them up to contribute to the soundtrack to 1999 guilty pleasure shark movie Deep Blue Sea (in which he was starring). You may remember it as the one where Samuel L Jackson is eaten by a CGI Jaws 20 minutes in.

Remote Control Soul had already become a headphones favourite back home. And now here it was, literally lit up in Hollywood lights and featuring both on the Deep Blue Sea soundtrack and in the film itself (playing in the background as LL Cool J’s character bonds with his parrot). This is the story of that tune – how it came to be and its impact on Irish clubbing culture.


Finn, originally from Ballyvolane in Cork, had played guitar in indie band Emperor of Ice Cream. Bass Odyssey began when Finn struck up a writing partnership with producer and DJ Alan O’Keeffe, from Pouladuff Road. Their friendship went back to their school days at Coláiste Chríost Rí (Finn’s family having made the fateful journey from the Northside to the Southside). This was the mid-Nineties, by which time Cork music was evolving.

“Corkchester”, as the UK music press dubbed it, was dead. But something new was filling the void. With Sir Henry’s on South Main Street and Greg Dowling and Shane Johnson’s Sweat night, in particular, at the epicentre of Irish electronic music, Cork was already plugged into global club culture. And now a new music was coming out of London: drum and bass. This was characterised by fast breakbeats and heavy bass and sub-bass lines. Around Cork, it quickly become an obsession for many former indie-heads.

“I was buying a lot of drum and bass, atmospheric jazz and jungle stuff,” recalls O’Keeffe, who today works in set production in New York on shows such as The Affair and Narcos. “I was DJing at a cafe on Washington Street Thursday and Fridays. And I would often be in the Bróg [a bar on Oliver Plunkett Street], where all the Emperor lads hung out.”

Finn and O’Keeffe started DJing together around town, and came to the attention of local promoter and mover/shaker Joe Kelly. “Joe said why don’t you do something in the back room in the Half Moon,” says O’Keeffe. “It was a night called Cabaret Deluxe.”

“I was only supposed to be a one off soundsystem,” recalls. Finn. “It all came out of Joe Kelly and that gig at the Half Moon Club.”


The Half Moon show in 1996 brought Bass Odyssey to the attention of Donal Scannell, Brian Spollen and Ray O’Donoghue, who had worked with U2 on their Kitchen nightclub in Dublin and were in the process of launching the Quadraphonic drum and bass label. Along the way, the promoters also struck up an unlikely association with David Bowie, who had become obsessed with drum and bass and would regularly attend Quadraphonic gigs in Dublin. But now here was something new to dazzle them: an O’Keeffe and Finn composition called Twilight.

“If the idea to start the label didn't come from hearing the Twilight track it was definitely accelerated by it,” recalls Scannell. “Having a label was just what drum and bass people did. It was the culture, so this track coming into our orbit was a 'wow this is real' moment and it led to great things for everyone. SXSW and shows in New York and beyond plus their music ending up in LL Cool J’s Deep Blue Sea.”

Drum and bass was still relatively niche. Yet for those in the thick of it, it seemed as if they were taking on the world. “It felt huge when you were in it but it was very underground,” continues Scannell. “All of the world's top DJs came and played here but the biggest gigs were for about 800 people. It never crossed over, nor did it ever try to. Bass Odyssey playing the Cork Opera House was one of the biggest Irish drum and bass gigs ever.

While Bowie was showing up at other Quadraphonic events, it was a different pioneer who impressed Bass Odyssey. "I have to mention that Alan's hero was Fabio. Meeting him was bigger than Bowie. One of the Quadraphonic catchphrases was a line Alan said to him that we repeated ad infinitum - ‘I Love You Fabio’.”


The core duo of Finn and O’Keeffe expanded to a trio as they brought in Chris O’Driscoll, aka MC Strict, as frontman. “We knew it was going to be a hit and planned it that way,” says Scannell of Remote Control Soul. “You have to remember that drum and bass is speeded up hip-hop so there was such strong links between them. I think we all realised that for Bass Odyssey to be bigger they needed songs so they brought in Chris/Mc Strict and he added a whole new dimension.

"He would have already been MCing at their live gigs so having him on record was going to happen anyway. But we knew that radio wouldn't happen with instrumentals. We didn't really see it a hip-hop track, though – we just saw it as Bass Odyssey.”

“Remote Control Soul was originally recorded in 1998 at Spector Studios - which no longer exists – in Cork,” says Finn. “We basically lived in that place. The song happened by accident when I loaded the wrong sampler patch on a song and it played back the samples at the wrong speed. It sounded really cool, so I refined it and it became the song we now know as Remote Control Soul. MC Strict did an incredible job with the lyrics, this was his first real chance to shine on a Bass Odyssey record and he nailed it! Malvina McCarthy sang a stunning vocal for the chorus.”


Remote Control Soul generated huge airplay and is a fitting legacy for the group, who drifted apart in the early 2000s owing to “creative differences” after a farewell gig in the Lobby, Cork (“Not everyone was comfortable with the direction it was going in,” says Finn). The song had by then come to the attention of LL Cool J, via Cork-born, New York-based producer and engineer John O’Mahony.

“I was on vacation in Spain and I got a call,” recalls Finn. “They said, ‘what are you doing?’. I was like, ‘I’m in Spain’. And they said, ‘well you’re in New York next week’. Alan was supposed to come but he had broken his leg.”

And with that he was off to meet LL Cool J (and stay in his childhood home). “Bass Odyssey's energy, enthusiasm and wit was what set them apart,” says Donal Scannell. “They were infectious and unforgettable. They were the most fun people you'll ever meet. Being around them was sheer joy. No one who ever met them in full flight will ever forget that experience so we never thought about genres or anything like that with them. They were Bass Odyssey and that was that. I hope this article kicks off a comeback. Who wouldn't want to go to a Bass Odyssey gig?”

Ed Power


Irish Times - February 2 1999

Life in the music business in February. Nu-soul diva Beverly Knight cancels her world tour of Dominic Street, Cork-based trio Bass Odyssey get drafted in to fill her spot in the Roisin Dubh, only to find ex-Stone Rose Mani and his mate, Phil, warming up the decks for them.

The "Bass", however, seem able to understand the quirky accidents of fate. Take Twilight, for instance, their second track on the night and a song which name-checks Wordsworth, Michael Carruth and the Cork City D.S. in its first verse. Or Poncherello - "dedicated to all the chip-heads" - a fond eulogy to Seventies children's TV.


Hot Press - Bass Odyssey - September 13 2001

Bass Odyssey are Cork’s finest guitar band, and they’ve kept too low a profile for too long.

Their brief set tonight augurs well for the future; with a new deal, a new single about to hit the shops, and an album well in hand, their upcoming tour is one to look forward to.

Apart from Jam Master Jay’s decks, Run DMC don’t really play instruments, as such, but they have many other claims to fame. They practically invented hip hop, they were the first rap act to appear on MTV, the first to be nominated for a Grammy, and the first to sign to a product endorsement deal.

In all the years I have spent supporting live music, I have never witnessed a band promote a product as shamelessly as RunDMC do tonight. Each – even the roadie who spends nearly as much time on stage as the band do – wears a t-shirt bearing the name and logo of their sartorial corporate master. At the end of the gig, they set up a stall by the exit stairs. There they autograph t-shirts, each festooned with the same corporate name and logo, which they flog for twenty quid a go. To my surprise, there are at least a hundred takers.

But what of the music? The songs, of course, are great. ‘It’s Like That’, ‘King of Rock’ and ‘Walk This Way’ are just some of the highlights of their set, and even the absence of Aerosmith from the proceedings does little to dampen spirits. The audience is not just the largest I have seen at any gig at the Savoy; it is also the most enthusiastic, and the band have little trouble whipping their devotees into a frenzy.

It is many years since Run DMC first came to prominence, and they have weathered some personal storms in the meantime. Both Run and DMC are born-again Christians, which probably explains why their use of street patois never extends beyond the occasional ‘Goddamn!’. At a time when every epithet imaginable has lost all power to shock, it comes as a jolt to realise that hip hop’s pioneers still exercise such constraint over their language. And I really like their hats; which are logoless, of course.

Mark O'Sullivan


Hot Press - Living It Up! - June 24 1998

Quadraphonic beats activist Donal Scannell reports from the frontline at the Heineken Cork Weekender…

Soccer and beats mixed with wicked Cork humour, kept our Quadraphonic crew sustained for the four days of full on madness that was the Cork Weekender.

Cork's own local beats crew were the principle players in a live-action sitcom that kept us laughing between gigs. Stevie G and Jimmy in Comet Records, Graham and Alan from Bass Odyssey, Uaneen and Rory from No Disco, The Donkey's Ears posse, Frontline promotions - you never had to wander for long before someone somewhere flung a wise-crack your direction. You haven't lived until you've sat inebriated in Cork Opera House's Half Moon Club very late at night as a fella by the name of Rosie entertains a packed room with just his falsetto rendition of opera's greatest moments whilst in the next room Bass Odyssey are busy rocking their home-town with their first Cork gig in months.

Thanks to the decade of hard work put in by the Sweat team, Cork has always been a massive house and techno base which made the Weekender even more special for us beat-freaks - you don't normally get to choose between beats nights in Cork. Thursday kicked off with a stirring show by Portishead in The Opera House, when they were far more direct than their televised Glastonbury show the next night. The hall was crammed, the touts were out in force and everyone wished they could have stayed for longer.

Later on in The Half Moon Club, after much lager swilling, Portishead DJ Andy Smith showed us why his 'Document' compilation is no one-off as he shared the decks with Cork's own smoothie Jimmy 'Eyebrows' O'Mahony for a back to back selection of the rarest and the funkiest gems from Jimmy's vast collection. There was much oohing and aahing from Andy as Jimmy showed off his rarities.

Meanwhile, over the corridor at the Half Moon Club, The Plague Monkeys, who you wouldn't expect to be at home playing a dance festival, earned their inclusion on the weekender bill with a laidback groovy set that really worked and opened their music to a crowd would never normally have seen them.

Friday night's visitors of honour were Audioweb who, despite going on stage up against Bass Odyssey, still pulled a great crowd for a set that was audible as far away from The Metropole as the South Mall. As mentioned earlier, Bass Odyssey like nearly everyone from Cork, always keep the gags flowing. Despite their wild stage show in The Half Moon they continued performing off-stage for many a hour, with Alan's hairdresser impersonations scoring highest on the clapometer.

Saturday night's headliners were the Good Looking Records crew - Danny 'LTJ' Bukem, Blame, MC Conrad and MC Drs. They arrived in early to allow Danny Bukem valuable record shopping time. Full Marks to Jimmy 'Eyebrows Alfonso' O'Mahony who not only showed Danny around his own Comet Records on Washington Street but brought us to a great soul & jazz shop called Vibes & Scribes where the only complaint was the staff's dubious taste in speed metal and their insistence on inflicting it upon us. DJ Razor picked up some more soul gems for his Mr. Ray alter ego and Danny walked away smiling with some old records by The Police and Fun Boy Three as well as digging out a few bargains by Boz Scaggs and The Crusaders for me to feast on.


The Good Looking Crew's soundcheck was a race against time as it had to be finished in time to do a No Disco interview, a photoshoot and be back at the hotel in time to see the Brazil vs. Chile game. Uaneen Fitzsimons presented the lads with a miniature Book Of Kells which they were so taken by that a celtic influenced album cover may become a reality.

After Brazil's masterful dispatch of Chile, Blame was in flying form as he took the decks from Alan Bass Odyssey and played one of the sets of his life. The Metropole's grand ballroom was hopping by eleven as Blame's staccato style kept everyone fired up. All Danny Bukem had to do was enter the room to raise a massive cheer and his jazzed up set had everyone living it up on the floor until well after the lights went up. Sean from Partisan Record's Deep Blue arrived down at The Metropole raving about the reception he received in The Brog for his funky melodic drum & bass set. Meanwhile The Beta Band were playing a much talked about set over the Half Moon Club, involving lots of instrument swopping and infectious stomping tunes.

Sunday afternoon was filled with the sweet sounds of DJs kicking the crap out of each other (virtually) as they all lined up for the Quadraphonic Playstation Playoff upstairs in Joe Kelly's well luxurious Bodega Bar, slugging their guts out on a beat 'em up called 'Cardinal Syn'. Alan Bass Odyssey was an early casualty when he was well hockeyed by Lindy Layton from Skint Record's Hardknox. Uaneen Fitzsimons, playing video-games for the first time in her life squared up admirably against MC Strict from The Bass Odyssey crew as local TV honcho and former Hot Presser Rachel 'RaRa' Prendergast stormed ahead as an early favourite by swiftly and viciously beating a path to the finals. Both Dominick and Stuart from Calibre dominated the winner's podium by finishing first and third as RaRa was left fuming at second whilst Rory 'No Disco' Cobb had to settle for fourth.

That left just enough time to down our beers before the Weekend's last big blow-out, a three-room affair at the Half Moon Club with Hardknox and Spaceraiders from Skint, Calibre and Razor flying the Quadraphonic flag and good ol' Jimmy 'Eyebrows Alfonso Alexis' O'Mahony appearing. Hardknox were amazing, a real revelation, spinning a mixture that spanned the gaps between house, hip-hop and big-beat wonderfully. Spaceraiders need a bit more time - they feel like Bentley Rhythm Ace Jr. at the moment - so let's wait and see. It's impossible to give an unbiased impression of Calibre, but this show, their Cork debut, rocked.

After four nights of such intense action, sleep in a familiar bed was all we needed. After three different cars broke down on Monday (hi Biggie, Ray & Graham) we finally said goodbye to Bass Odysseyville and made it back home, already looking forward to the next weekender - Dublin in October.

Donal Scannell