Rian Treanor: the producer hacking a smarter, kinder future for music
The Rotherham electronic musician is using his skills to tackle dementia, teach children and collaborate across the globe – and dreams of a club where the dancers play the drum machines
Living in lockdown while caring for someone with dementia “isn’t just like Groundhog Day”, chuckles Rian Treanor, “it’s like Groundhog Second.” The soft-spoken electronic music producer has spent a year indoors with three generations of his family – including his producer and sound-artist dad, Mark Fell, and his grandmother, Doreen, who is has late-stage Alzheimer’s. It’s certainly a change of scene for the producer of one of 2020’s most audacious and frenzied dance albums, File Under UK Metaplasm.
Instead of the pointillist rave and singeli – a high-speed Tanzanian style – that influenced that record, the Treanor-Fell household playlist is geared towards Doreen’s favourites, particularly dub reggae and Hawaiian-style steel guitar. “When she listens to that she’s completely in the zone, she astrally projects into it,” marvels Treanor. Music has a powerful effect on brains damaged by dementia, unlocking memories and opening up non-verbal channels of communication, so they tried Doreen on a piano next, knowing that she’d grown up with one. When the keys proved too complicated, Fell designed a set of blocks for her to use, described by Treanor as “squares with little notches cut out that create different chord shapes”.