From Sheffield to the world.
Liam O'Shea has been quietly killing it for a long time. He's inseperably linked to Sheffield, his hometown, where his work as a DJ, producer, promoter and all round solid guy has made him a local hero. O'Shea plays and produces forward-facing strains of house and techno, but over the last 20 years he's been involved with many different sounds and scenes. He has roots in the Sheffield bleep scene, and built his reputation as a DJ at NY Sushi, a party that was known for pushing drum & bass, hip-hop and bass music. He then flipped the script for a few years, playing in a string of rock and folk bands and working at a local music-gear store. At the time, Sheffield nightlife had fallen into a fallow period, but O'Shea's next venture, Downlow, a party he co-ran, helped reboot the city's club scene.
"We really think knife and fork-ville has turned a corner and is finally getting its name well and truly back on the electronic music map," reads one of the party's flyers from early 2011, a reference to Sheffield's history as a "steel city." They brought acts like Ben UFO, Petre Inspirescu and DJ Deep to the Dan Sane warehouse, and this approach, both in terms of bookings and venue, paved the way for Hope Works, O'Shea's latest endeavour. Situated a short distance from the city centre, the venue nods to the Sheffield's gritty industrial past. Hope Works is low on thrills and high on vibes, and has a heavy Void soundsystem that's been put through its paces by the likes of Jeff Mills, Ben Klock and Theo Parrish.
The backdrop to this has been O'Shea's productions. Seaghdha, his label, released a low-key run of ten Lo Shea 12-inches between 2012 and 2014, and the quality throughout was sky-high. This lead to him signing records to, among others, Phonica White and the secretsundaze offshoot SZE. Last year he set up a Hope Works record label with the aim of bringing the feel of the club to wax. O'Shea's tracks have a few hallmarks, which you'll also notice in his RA podcast. His rhythms have a strong sense of funk, and his bass and lead sounds often draw from the ruder end of drum & bass and bass music. The healthy volume of his own unreleased music on RA.487 only confirms that O'Shea deserves global attention.
What have you been up to recently?
I've been really busy writing a lot of music all summer and working on the lineups for the Hope Works Autumn season. The response to the releases on DEXT and Transit has been great, so it's spurred me on to write and get back to work on the Hope Works label, where I'm working with an artist called JDavies, who has contributed heavily to the club. The label should have a similar sonic/visual aesthetics to the venue.
How and where was the mix recorded?
It was recorded in my studio in Sheffield on two Technics, a mixer, three CDJs—two for mixing and an extra one for playing some abstract sounds I wrote for the mix.
Can you tell us about the idea behind the mix?
It represents me left to my own devices playing things that really buzz me. There's a lot of my own unreleased material in there too, but mainly just great tracks that I like. I try to be rhythmically adventurous and dynamic when I'm playing, and hopefully the mix gets that across. For me, it represents the free-spirited nature of Hope Works, and it also reflects my UK history. I'm borne out of a UK dance music environment, but also think, listen, and am informed globally.
How are things going at Hope Works? Do you have a favourite recent party?
I couldn't be happier with the progress over the last three years. It's really gathering momentum and reaching further and further outside Sheffield. DJs who play here have consistently said how much they enjoy playing here. I put a lot of emphasis on making all of the elements right, developing a warehouse aesthetic born out of UK rave culture, but taking in my experiences of traveling to other European cities and seeing how they do it.
The most recent party that sticks in my mind was the two-day event we did as part of Tramlines festival with Surgeon and Pev & Kowton on the Friday, and Kris Wadsworth, Bodyjack, Luca Lozano and myself on the Saturday. But the Jeff Mills night we did for our second birthday was the most momentous moment for me to date, it has to be said. Actually, Robert Hood and The Zenker brothers was insanely good, too—haha, hard to pick a favourite here.
How does partying in Sheffield differ from the rest of the UK?
There's something about Sheffield that I really love. It's intangible, but if I had to try to describe it I'd say it's a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere. We have a strong community spirit in Sheffield in the arts and music scenes, and we tend to just get on with things here. I find people really friendly on the whole, and they really have a good time and party hard without it being too moody. A big plus point, currently, is the city's ability to provide great warehouse spaces like Hope Works because of its industrial heritage. It's provided the spaces for people like me to take chances and put on parties where we can make a lot of noise all night long. I suppose it comes down to the geographic layout of the city also. Hope Works is in an industrial area but it's only a £5 taxi ride outside the city centre and the train station. I can have a massive Void Incubus soundsystem shaking the building to its foundations all night long and not bother anyone.
What are you up to next?
Next for me is more music. I'm writing more tracks for 2016 now, but have the new Hope Works EP dropping late 2015 as well as kicking off the 2015 Autumn season. I'm so excited to be bringing Nina Kraviz here for our third birthday on 30th October, as well as people like Ilian Tape, 3024, Evian Christ, Ron Morelli and James Ruskin.