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"It was the total underdog": The real story behind Maniac 2000

We spoke to Mark McCabe on the song’s 15th anniversary.

Source: playthatbeat/YouTube

GREETINGS, HOLD TIGHT with a new jam, hold tight with the mic in the left hand. It’s me and I’m on the groove tip. Are you ready now move to the roof!

AT THE TURN of the millennium, Mark McCabe was a 20-year-old devoted music-maker and presenter on the pirate radio station Pulse FM.

He had no idea that a “badly produced and so badly recorded” single would change the course of his career, have him dodging mobs at record store signings, and leave him forever the ‘Maniac 2000′ guy.

Today, he’s director of music and sound at RTÉ 2fm, but on the 15th anniversary of Maniac 2000 charting at number one, McCabe gave TheJournal.ie the story behind the song – and living with its legacy.

The beginnings of Maniac 2000

maniac 2000 1

On 4 March 15 years ago, Maniac 2000 landed at the top of the Irish charts. It stayed there for another 10 weeks, keeping huge names like Westlife and All Saints from the number one spot.

At the time, pirate station Pulse FM was riding the crest of a dance music wave in Dublin, and McCabe was one of the DJs along for the ride.

As part of his sets, he’d rap over a remix of the track Maniac. People were always requesting the song, which led to were suggestions of recording it.

When Pulse went off air for a while, McCabe was left contemplating his career.

Enter Billy Murray of Abbey Discs, who told him that people were coming in every day asking for the single.

Maniac 2000 as we know it was recorded in the Cricket Club in Clontarf (that’s the live crowd you can hear on the song). The attitude was very much “let’s see what happens” – and what happened was a number one single.

maniac 3

“At the end of it, it says ‘five years later now here we are’ - it was an underground thing between us and the Pulse listeners,” says Mark 15 years on. The song was a way to acknowledge the listeners’ support, and went on to be embraced by people around the country.

“But obviously it caught the imagination of a nation, without any viral support, no Twitter or Facebook.”

It was a time when the singles charts ruled, and after 10 weeks at number one, Maniac 2000 found itself a home in the record books as Ireland’s fifth biggest-selling single of all time.

A crazy, surreal time

The song’s success was “a crazy time” for McCabe, who remembers “doing signings in shops and being bundled into the back of a jeep to escape hordes of fans”.

“It was real rock n roll stuff,” he laughs, recalling raucous signings where he was asked to sign women’s breasts.

More surreal moments included winning the Meteor Award for best single in 2001, beating the likes of Ronan Keating.

“Jesus Christ – what the hell am I doing here?” Mark asked himself as he stood on the podium accepting his award.

“It’s everything a record shouldn’t be”

McCabe_-_Maniac_2000_single Source: Wikimedia

Whatever about its production values, the song was embraced by the music-buyers of Ireland, who couldn’t get enough of the high-energy track.

“It’s so badly produced and so badly recorded,” laughs McCabe today. “It’s everything a record shouldn’t be; but it just goes to show that people like to forget where they are for seven minutes on a Friday night when they are out.”

“I think it works because there is a killer hook,” says McCabe.

What it is about is having a good time, being with your mates, jumping up and down feeling stupid.

Where did the song come from?

Source: garlybhoy/YouTube

The original song was released by 4Rhythm in the early 1990s, before being remixed by the Sound Crowd.

This remix was soon embraced by DJs like Wicked Willie, Mick Lynn, and Al Gibbs, who rapped over it, and McCabe followed suit.

Source: Graham Reid/YouTube

His rapping contains memorable philosophical lines like “life, it has no meaning”, but McCabe laughs when asked what was he rapping about.

“There was no real thought into the lyrical content other than let’s just make [a song],” he says. The “oggy oggy oggy” chant came from his scouting days.

“It’s just literally made up on the night and it was just we happened to record it on the night. I have to live with that forever,” he says.

Making it rain

markmccabe2fm-390x285 Mark McCabe today Source: RTE

What’s remarkable about Maniac 2000 is how a song recorded at a disco caught the love of a nation.

“It was the total underdog, totally against the big labels, totally against the manufactured pop bands or rock bands,” says McCabe.

Did it make him much money? “It didn’t make me a millionaire. It did OK.” He made enough to buy studio gear, and went on to build his own studio.

“A lot of people don’t know I was signed with some credible labels,” he adds.

I was on Twisted Records in New York making tribal house. All these people thought I was this cheesy pop DJ, but then under different names I was putting out stuff under different labels in the States. I was producing for bands and recording for bands, all while laughing at the fact this record was doing what it was doing. It opened many doors for me.

In opening those doors, it also slammed shut the ones McCabe had assumed would always be propped open for him.

He’d been playing drums, piano and organ for years, was heavily into the theory and philosophy of music. The single “killed any credo I have”.

These days, he laughs at the contrast: the serious guy getting to number one with a cheesy dance song. But up until five years ago, he took it hard.

“I struggled with it for a long time because I couldn’t get away from it,” he acknowledges.

His legacy

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He made an album under the name Music from the Fourth Space with Universal Records, but still he couldn’t escape being ‘Maniac Mark’.

“It was just dance monkey, dance,” he says wryly.

But then, five years ago, McCabe “went and slapped myself in the face”.

He realised:

So many people took this song and took it to their heart. You did that for them and you have to appreciate that.

He realised that “there are people who wrote records and they poured their heart and soul into it and they never see the light of day”.

These days, he meets “serious” musicians who speak of their love for the song; he shows transition year students (who were infants when it was released) around 2FM and gets asked “are you THE Mark McCabe”?

He realises the impact one small single had.

“It’s so Irish - it’s almost like a rite of passage,” he says proudly.

Would he ever bring out a newer version of Maniac 2000?

McCabe thinks of the fans first when it comes to tackling the song again.

“If I was to get it wrong I think people would be really annoyed and it would ruin the song. The other side of me says why not introduce it to a new generation? It was so unique and so of its time that I think it was best left alone. I could be proved wrong.”

It sounds like, after some time wrestling with its impact, he’s now – thanks in large part to how beloved Maniac 2000 is – happy to own his success.

I did it. In terms of playing the music industry and putting a tune out there and releasing it and trying to get to number one, I did it. Regardless of what the song or genre sounded like. It worked way beyond what we could have expected.

Do you have any Maniac 2000 memories? Share them in the comments below. Side to side like you just don’t care.

Read: Maniac 2000 DJ Mark McCabe will host 2fm’s new chart show>

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