The first thing that greets visitors to the Bang On The Lights studio is a light fixture comprising a cymbal with a lightbulb through the centre of it, tilting its head curiously at the open door like a Pixar animation.
This is hardly the most unusual item in the room; there is a bass drum in the corner which has been made into a swivelling armchair, a selection of snare drum bar stools, and what looks like some kind of genie’s lamp on the worktop. Sawdust covers everything in sight.
This tiny room, tucked away in the cellars beneath the Chocolate Factory on King’s Inn Street, is a workshop dedicated to making bespoke furniture and electrical equipment out of musical instruments, amongst other things, and is the sort of place you’d never find unless you knew it was there.
Instead of a revolving bookshelf, however, a wooden, hand-shaped doorknob in a bare brick corridor is the entrance to this Room of Requirement.
“They say a door handle is a building’s handshake,” says Keith, the bright spark behind the whole concept, and it’s clear from the off that this guy loves what he does.
Having spent over a decade working security, both on the doors of Dublin’s pubs as well as private security for big name musicians, Keith found his passion making his unusual fixtures, not through a love of music, so much, but through his knowledge and enjoyment of tinkering with electrical items.
“I’m not a musician, and I think that’s a good thing. If you gave a guitar to a guitarist and told him to make a coffee table out of it, he’d be like ‘but that’s €500 worth of musical instrument!’”
He shakes his head, and makes a noise like an electrical saw, grinning like a maniac.
Despite this, the time he spent working for rock and pop stars left him with plenty of connections in the music scene, meaning that many of the pieces he creates have that added value, somewhere in between sentimental and religious, which is so often attached to rock music memorabilia.
“I had a drum kit in here not long ago that Paul had had a go on.”
“Bono,” he clarifies, before chastising himself for name-dropping.
But it’s not just musical stuff he makes; his unique talents have led to him branching out into all sorts of weird and wonderful household applications. While Keith will make something bizarrely practical out of anything he gets his hands on, most of his work is commissioned, and since he moved into the studio he has made everything from a Countdown table to a suspended kettle light fixture, pouring out different coloured light as if it was water.
Many of his pieces are permanent features of the Blas Cafe upstairs, which serves as the hub of the Chocolate Factory, and all of its different creative spaces.
The building itself, which was an actual chocolate factory once upon a time, was abandoned back in the 80’s, but in the last couple of years has experienced a massive renovation, turning it into the creative workspace it is today.
The place is a rabbit warren of studios and serendipitous finds. Behind every door something unique is being created by the room’s occupants; photographers, dancers, musicians, artists, and if Keith’s studio is anything to go by, somebody making squares that look round.
One of the larger rooms played host to two of the stages for the Hard Working Class Heroes festival earlier this month; Keith even dusted off his bouncer’s hat for the occasion.
“I’m out of that game though,” says Keith. He talks about his days bodyguarding rockstars with the kind of wistful grin that accompanies all the best tales of scrapes and shenanigans, but doesn’t regret leaving.
He has managed to accomplish what everybody dreams of; providing for his family by doing something that he loves.
Keith’s studio is open throughout the week, from 8am until 4pm, although it might be an idea not to park your bike in front of the door…
Here’s a link to the website as well-