We recently spoke to the crew that operate Dublin’s latest underground venue Kaizen located upstairs at Yamamori Tengu on Great Strand, a back street close to Dublin’s ‘Ha’penny Bridge’ in the City centre. It was essentially an underutilized overflow for Tengu & storage for a period of time, until some emergent new ideas began to form with Dao (David Grier) and James McCartan who both work for the Yamamori Group, began to surface.
In the past, it had been used by promoters for various events and nights but wasn’t capable of attracting more diverse interest due in part to it’s not so adequate flooring, which bounced as the crowd bounced, so not great for vinyl lovers. The system in place was tired and was really up against it in terms of providing a good sound experience because of the highly angled and reflective ceilings, which distorted and coloured the sound, with the overall output lacking clarity.
Once the idea was born that the space could actually function as a stand-alone venue for up and coming promoters and artists with different fresh ideas, the funds and resources were provided. Today Kaizen boosts a state of the art Funktion One sound system and fully modified acoustic environment with a specially adapted stage that’s suspended above the floor which can be used for bands and also for vinyl minus the vibrations.
James Mc Cartan invited us (iconic) down for the opening night to experience the new set up and the famous Tengu hospitality which didn’t disappoint. The ‘garden’ had the decks set up in the glorious sunshine and was manned by a string of DJs from Bua Dublin and Goodname who took over the ‘garden’ and also on the last Thursday of every month. They programmed a stellar party to combine with the Kaizen launch featuring sets from Sorbet (Colin Devine and Dave Taylor) NLB, Manma Saor, Stoop DJ’s and finishing off the night in style with Bua Dublin and Goodname DJ b2b.
There were guest appearance’s also from Syl Black, Alex be Tricky, and In The Gaff curating some grooving laid-back disco house mingled with the aromatic aromas getting served up with some of the delightful BBQ fare. Hungry for more the groovers n movers got loose to soak it all up the place was pumping!
The vibing atmosphere built the crowd until it was time to move upstairs into Kaizen itself and experience the electric space on its inaugural night finely delivered by the skills of ‘Lumigraph’ who was applying the essential grooves enticing the throb of the virgin Funktion One, I was captured, the sound the venue the atmosphere, bang on! The energy had built to the point where ‘Lumigraph’ passed over to the headline act of the night ‘Automatic Tasty’ who with a relaxed determined focus head down drove straight into his set.
Automatic Tasty served up some tantalizing bytes with the grooves curated from his array of hardware spread across the stage, as he deftly transitioned between the beats, melodic synths, and percussive elements, completely immersed in his craft to an enthusiastic audience, who soaked up the fine menu of superbly delivered live dance music, top class artist!
Overall, a very impressive first night, with Dublin now boasting
a new niche venue, that’s fresh, dark, hypnotic, seductive, and emerging, Kaizen is pushing the boundaries,
and this will certainly improve the Dublin underground. Looking forward to what the Kaizen, Tengu crew lay on for us next. Full marks!
We also got time to sit down with James McCartan and David Grier (Dao) the guys who are keeping it all running smoothly –
Mike Mannix: Nice one James and Dao for talking to us at iconic underground. So fill us in then about your background and how you came to be involved with Izakaya, Tengu, and Kaizen?
James McCarten: Cheers Mike, I started dancing in clubs/raves in the mid-1990s by listening to DJs like Pat Hyland, Francois and loads others. The scene was real ravey and underground it was proper buzzin. I did some one-off parties, made some connections in the scene, then I went to study in Northern Ireland. I got a job in Kelly’s of Portrush and worked in their main club called ‘Lush’and after befriending Col Hamilton got to hear DJs like Sasha and Digweed every Saturday night, it was an amazing experience.
When I moved back to Dublin I began dancing in places, like the Pod and the Redbox, became a big fan of Michael Black a DJ on Jazzfm. I was also listening to POWER FM at lot also. I became familiar with the Bodytonic crew and later the legendary Southport Weekender. Eventually, I became a resident DJ with Stereotonic for a couple years, and ran my own disco/house parties, did some festival bookings and played music in different bars across town for about 10 years.
Got made redundant in the crash, went back to college as a mature student did a BA in International Business and ended up becoming as resident DJ in Yamamori Izakaya on Georges Street. Then an opportunity came my way to work with Yamamori full time and I jumped it. I’m here 3 years this week and the place is fucking rockin’ and I feel so blessed to be where I am I’m very grateful.
With regards to Kaizen it was a room that wasn’t really used much it was basically a spillover room for Tengu if the crowd got too big, there really wasn’t much attention paid to it. Then one of my colleagues came back from Japan and is one of the managers of the company and he has a lot of clout as regards finances and we all put our heads together and decided to change the name and revamp the room. Kaizen means ‘continuously developing,’ we got a couple of the key industry people involved as regards sound and production across Ireland to design the acoustic treatments stage and Soundsystem. We are very happy with the results more than happy!
David Grier (Dao): Hi Mike, as you know I’m the Venue manager and Booker for Kaizen and I got involved because my friend Matt who was the general manager at the time asked me to join because I have a background in event management and club promotions in various projects from when I was living in London. I did a stint in Pygmalion (club in Dublin) with some friends and we ran events, then moved over to Berlin to help a couple of friends open up a club over there as well.
So when I was asked to be the event manager for Kaizen I jumped at the chance. The club needed to be open every Friday and Saturday and to get some consistency in there and that was my job to do that to fill out the roster and get the acts, artists and music in and have it ticking over every weekend.
So, as James said the word
‘Kaizen’ means constantly improving
and essentially that’s what happened to that room, it had to be improved as the sound system wasn’t that great and it had become a handyman’s dumping ground. So we started looking at ways of separating this room from the club downstairs and make it its own venue as a lot of the time sometimes the promoters wouldn’t have enough people to fill both rooms, and sometimes only have enough to fill this room, and that if we were going to do that we have to give it a serious upgrade and that’s I wanted.
It needed to be a much more versatile space so we could include bands as well and Hip Hop acts. So after having a conversation with Colly from Funktion One and the lads came in as James said and did an amazing job. Luckily for us, we had caught the owner on a good day as we were going to buy a decent second-hand system but they were like ‘no you can get the good one’ so we got the new funktion One so that’s how it came about.
Another advantage with this is Tengu downstairs have been chock-a-block with promoters every week every month without the option of any new promoters really getting the foot in the door.
This new space now allows us to bring in new promoters with new ideas so now we’ve got many more options.
The plans for the future are to really to get in the bands and hip-hop acts and to really keep the music policy versatile so we can include vinyl DJs etc. I’m also a massive techno fan and now that room really suits techno very well.