John O’Connor is a DJs DJ. A workhorse who, since 1996, has quietly plugged away in the underground picking up some high-profile gigs for Sankeys Ibiza, Ministry of Sound, Life Festival and Bedrock. John is also signed to 2 great labels, Stripped and Mirabilis and will make his debut on 26th July at Arch 635 in Clapham, with the Queen of House herself, the wonderful Lottie. We caught up with John to talk preparation for the gig, his career and influences and where he sees the scene going.
Lovely to meet you John, thanks for sparing to time to chat. So how’s it going? What have you been up to today?
Hi nice to meet you, been real busy lately but as of now it is nice to take time out and relax!
Lets go way back for a minute. You were born in County Clare but moved to London about 3 years ago. What were your early influences back in Ireland and what made you want to be a DJ?
My early influences to be honest, happened when two brothers from Manchester opened a clothes shop in my home town in Ennis selling cool clothes of that time, such as “X-work” and “Joe Bloggs Jeans” etc, which were the raver clothes to me at the time. At the time, they had a glass cabinet selling mix tapes from the Hacienda of Graham Park ,K-Klass, Mike Pickering and of course Sasha. From that I was hooked and I became their best customer, haha! Soon after, Sasha and Digweed’s “Northern Exposure” came along and the Global Underground series was born and I knew by then what sort of music I loved the most.
Did you come from a musical household? If so, what was playing in the house when you were little?
Yes, all my family were very musical through it was pretty much all Irish traditional music. My older brother’s music tastes were the exception. We shared a room and he had a great Pioneer stack system, so I would listen to all his vinyl collection; Genesis , Thin Lizzy , AC/DC and Dire Straits. I had hair back then and can remember jumping around, moshing in my bedroom to rock’n’roll haha! I do still listen to and love those bands.
You’re known for your deep, building sets. How do you find playing the headline sets changes your selections? Is it easier or harder to play peak time?
For everyone, music is a journey. I like my sets to feel that way for people; layering sounds together, creating an intense feeling, something they can get lost in no matter what the genre is. I’m always on the look out for tracks that are different, something that has that element in it that makes you pause and go ‘wow’. It doesn’t have to be a banging track, I won’t just buy or play a track because of their name or label either. I have to love the track. I think really once you pick the right gigs and artist to play along side, you can adjust the tempo very well to suit, whether you’re opening the night, warming up for an artist or headlining. This doesn’t just happen overnight for DJ’s who are just starting out. You have to know your music, like a tradesman knowing what tools are in his van to do a job. The best advice I can give young DJ is to immerse yourself in other DJ’s mixes and get a feel for the changes in energy and also the way different sounds and genres can work so well together. There are no rules in Electronic music in my opinion- just emotion. Know your tracks for their tempo, energy and emotion, from that if you can develop a musical ear to be able to programme tracks on the fly, it becomes natural.
Your big debut for R2M is on Saturday July 26th with Lottie at Arch 635 in Clapham. Excited? Whats your usual preparation for warm up gigs?
Yeah, of course I’m excited, I always am when I get the chance to play music to people! It’s a great feeling to see them forget about their everyday lives and dance the night away. My preparation is no different to any other gig, I just look for those tracks that are different and fresh.
Having played in Europe a few times, how does the crowds differ to London? Is there anywhere you’ve played that you would dearly love to again?
Malta for me really. I have played there many times and I love it. The scene is amazing, the people are fanatics about their underground music and i’ve just been confirmed to play at “Sunscape Festival” on an Island off Malta called Gozo in Sept, I’m really looking forward to playing there as part of a huge line-up. London? It’s hard not to love it really, there is something for everybody here. I especially love the small clubs, where there’s an intimate feel. The only thing is, i’m not 21 anymore (haha) but I get out when I can.
With releases on both Stripped and Mirabilis, it’s fair to say, you’re a dab-hand in the studio. We understand it was under the guidance of Dave Lievense that you found your production voice. What was the biggest studio lesson he taught you?
I have learned a lot from Dave, not only about production but the whole scene in general. He’s a wise man but also a genius in the studio. Most of all I think, is that he insists that anything is possible when it comes to production.
Your top selling record on Beatport is a remix of a Ewan Rill track: “Lightness”. When you are approached for remix duties, what goes through your mind first?
I have to like the original, something has to move me and the melody in that track was perfect for me to take it on.
And with the remix itself, do you instantly know how you want to make it sound or is there a period of trial and error before inspiration hits?
Sometimes like a lot of producers, the idea and direction with work flow can happen quickly and sometimes it can be frustrating but with Ewan’s track, the melody was really nice and it soothed away any frustrations.
Where do you start your tracks generally? Drums or Melodies?
Drums, especially on originals. I like to create a rhythm but since doing projects with Mark Reitano, I have been trying out some other ideas on how to approach my writing.
Lets talk about the scene a little more. You’ve been in London for a while now and I guess you have some idea on how it works. Whats been the biggest changes you’ve seen and how have they impacted on the London nightlife?
I think the scene is good in general but the one disappointing thing I’m seeing is where promoters give DJ’s gigs based on how many tickets they can sell to their friends, it’s been dubbed “pay to play” on forums. I think it’s real lazy on promoters’ parts. I myself have been approached by some well known event promoters (not naming any) and when I asked if they had listened to my music, they instead just asked how many tickets could I sell. They squeeze as many DJ’s into one room maybe giving them a 45min set. It’s pretty insulting to be honest and total madness. I know some DJ friends who have worked hard from an early age, saved up for their turntables, collected vinyl for years and worked at their art and when they go looking for gigs they’re asked to sell tickets without even listening to their music! I hear so many stories from many a DJ about this and many have now given up hope on the scene altogether!! I really hope eventually this kind of thing is weeded out of the scene as there is talent out there, working hard but not been given the chance to be play based purely on their merit of talent.
How do you think the scene will develop over the next 10 years? Will there still be a Ministry of Sound for example?
Well we have all ready gone through the transition of the superclub a few years back and I love the way the scene have gone back underground again with intimate nights popping up everywhere. There are some great hidden gems to be found. The Ministry will always be there, it’s Iconic both in the UK and across the world, its a great club and I was real happy they got through their difficult patch with the proposed development near by. I hope Fabric carries on for a long time as well. They have always provided a great template for up and coming artists and it’s a special club for me.
John, Its been great to chat to you. We hope it all goes great on Saturday July 26th for R2M with Lottie, but if people can’t wait to hear you play live, what’s coming up over the summer?
No problem, it was my pleasure. I’m playing in Derry City on June 28th for “House-Tech” at The Basement which I’m really looking forward to because there is a really good scene there that’s buzzing right now; the vibe should be great there. Then its R2M with Lottie, another Room2Move plus “Sunscape Festival” in Sept in Gozo, which is going to be big! There’ll some more exciting gigs, which I’ll announce soon. I’ve taken on 3 remixes ,1 for “Asymmetric Recordings”, “Mirabilis Records” and also a new label “We are Here Music”: I’m loving what there are doing and are growing very fast with quality releases, I’m predicting good things for them. I’m also working on lots of originals too, so I’ll be kept busy.
01// Gabriel Ananda – Field (Original Mix) [Click Records]
02// Mano Le Tough – Return to Yoz (Original Mix) [Maeve]
03// Namito & Rainer Weichhold – A Little Bit Exotique (Original Mix) [Kling Klong]
04// Alex Niggemann – Bee (Original Mix) [Poker Flat Recordings]
05// Walker & Royce – Doctor Saarloos (Original Mix) [Pets Recordings]
06// Noah Pred Feat. Rosina – Circles and Circles (Joel Mull Hypno Mix) [Thoughtless Music]
07// Ramiro Lopez & Coyu -Donga (Original Mix) [Bedrock Recs]
08// Hot Since 82 -Don’t Touch the Alarm (Original Mix) [Knee Deep In Sound]
09// Jagwar Ma – Four (Original Mix) [Marathon Artists]
10// Neil Browne – The Girl in the Flower Dress (Original Mix) [Detone]
11// Coldplay – Midnight (Henrik Schwarz Remix) [FFRR]