Plucked from almost complete obscurity by winning his first ever DJ competition, Shaq aka Gary O’Sullivan’s career began with quite a bang. A mere six months after picking up his first set of decks in London, he won a nationwide mix competition to support John Digweed. This lead on to further DJ work as a resident for well respected London club night The Gallery, tours with Manumission and more.
After travelling the world, Gary returned to his hometown and built on the success he had with his own nights supporting the very best international DJs, putting Southern Ireland firmly on the clubbing map. UK Editor Simon Huxtable sat down with Gary to find out a little more.
Hi Gary, so glad you could find the time to chat with us at Decoded Magazine. How’s your day been?
No problem at all. It’s my pleasure. Yeah, we’re experiencing somewhat of a heatwave over here in sunny Ireland so I’ve spent the day lounging around catching some rays. I could think of worse things I could be doing…
Let’s get right into it. Can you talk us through playing alongside your hero John Digweed 6 months after you started DJing?
I was living with my parents here in Limerick, Ireland. I saved as much money as I could to travel over to London to purchase my first set of decks. Soundlab belt drive turntables with a 2 channel KAM mixer. I remember literally lugging them around London for most of the day as I visited record shop after record shop.
These things weighed a tonne but worth the struggle. I finally had my own set of decks to learn the art of DJing. I was over the moon. Once I returned home I locked myself away in my bedroom and practiced every day until I finally thought myself how to mix. 6 months later there was a DJ mix competition in the biggest club in the city at that time – The Gallery.
The winner was to support John Digweed who was coming to Limerick to headline at The Gallery a month or so later. I got to work on a mix and sent it in. Lucky for me the promoters liked it and announced me as the winner! Both Sasha & John Digweed have been (and still are) a massive influence on me, so to support John was a huge dream come true for me.
Then you played for Manumission and spent a year in Australia as a touring DJ. How did you find the life of the touring DJ? Any regrets?
Yeah, once I began to play at clubs more regularly I was getting noticed by promoters in and around the city. The Manumission Tour was coming over to Ireland to play at various shows around the country and I was lucky enough to be asked to warm things up for the Limerick leg of the tour. An opportunity I grabbed with both hands.
A few years later I moved over to Australia for a year. I already had a few gigs lined up over there but after the first few gigs, I was brought on board with the ‘Irish Invasion’ Parties flying between Sydney (where I was based) and Melbourne. Very exciting times. The Aussie crowd were great to play for. They love their tunes and if you did a good job on the night – they let you know. Yes, it’s 10,000 miles away but the year flew for me. DJing for crowds at the other side of the world was also another dream come true. Regrets? None whatsoever.
On your travels, where did you most enjoy visiting, and have you been back with the family?
I have been very lucky to have played in some amazing cities. I suppose if I had to pick one it would have to be London. Simply because I have played at two of the biggest clubbing brands on the planet – Ministry of Sound and Pacha.
Unfortunately, Pacha has since closed its doors but the memories I have playing at both clubs will remain with me for years to come. Plus, the UK crowds are great to play for.I see my family all the time now. I am back living in my hometown and have been for many years. So my family are never too far away.
Tell us about how you got into dance music. John Digweed is a pretty specific hero to have straight off the bat…
I have been into dance music since I was in my early teens. I remember buying ‘The White Room’ by the KLF many years before the DJing bug bit me. It wasn’t until I started serious clubbing that I came across the likes of Carl Cox, Nick Warren, Dave Seaman etc. I remember getting my hands on a copy of Renaissance Vol 1, which was a game changer for me.
The deeper I went down the rabbit hole the more I was hooked on this progressive sound championed by Sasha and John Digweed. Not long after that, Northern Exposure was released which to me personally, is the best-mixed compilation of all time. From that point, I studied all their mixes meticulously.
I am a firm believer that a set or a mix should tell a story. It should have a beginning, a middle and an ending. Nobody did this better than Sasha and John Digweed. I don’t believe in imitation but to aspire to be the best in the business can only help you be the best you can be.
Did you ever delve into the world of production?
Funnily enough, I just completed College where I was studying Music Tech & Sound Production. Nearly all of my time for the past few years has been dedicated to DJing and the production aspect was being put to one side. I decided to spend a year focusing on producing. I hope to spend as much time as possible in the studio in the near future. So watch this space…
You mention using effects as “a major part of your sets”. Do you have a favourite mixer/effects unit?
Yes. My weapons of choice would be a Pioneer DJM 900 Nexus mixer, combined with a Pioneer RMX 1000 effects unit.
How do feel dance music has evolved over the last 30 years. If you had the chance, would you change anything?
Hmm. Music always changes. It evolves. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. I believe genres pop up and die down every few years. Some last longer than others but I do feel that all genres of dance music are fundamentally linked. You have the younger generation coming up that loves all things EDM and yeah most of it is cringe-worthy, but it’s a gateway for these youngsters to explore the more underground sounds. The deeper you go down the rabbit hole… One thing leads to another. So I welcome all genres of dance music new or old, for that reason alone.
It’s been great to chat Gary, we wish you the very best for the future. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thanks again to all at Decoded Magazine for selecting me as the winner. I know I was up against some fantastic competition from the other entries. I just want to give a big thanks and congrats to those guys also. Much Love x