The techno lads from Tempus are back this October. Back in March they put on Innervisions’ Marcus Worgull. Their next party looks much closer to home for inspiration. Lo Shea will join them for a revel in the dark stuff on 5th October. We e-mailed the Hope Works boss, aka Liam O’Shea, and he responded passionately, talking about his home town of Sheffield and all it can offer.
You have just announced Hope Works’ Autumn Season, and the line ups are really impressive. Tell us about why you wanted to book the headliners that are on there?
I like to put together lineups that i’d like to go and see, that’s the essence of it really. I’m looking for quality across the board – good is good to me, it’s not limited to a genre. I’m a musician as well as a producer and DJ and I have a natural thirst to be excited and challenged as well as creatively inspired. I suppose the lineups this season really reflect this, a lot of inspiring artists at the top of their game…from Floating Points to Blawan and Lee Gamble or Hunee to Batu…some new, some veteran…a mixture that creates a balanced season thats isn’t compromising in order to achieve the sense of balance…that’s my goal.
I find it really interesting that you have retained the tradition using resident DJs for your in-house nights. You are lucky to have two fairly high profile residents in the form of yourself and Chris Duckenfield. How did you two meet? And how has Sheffield influenced the way you both work? Did you ever feel like leaving the city?
I’m hugely lucky to have known Chris for many years and he’s a very inspiring person to me. An incredible, and i mean incredible DJ who can go toe to toe with anyone…and he’s been doing this since the very beginning of Acid House and UK Warehouse culture. I first met him when he worked in Warp Records on division street Sheffield as the buyer…I still have loads of 12″s with his description stickers all over them…and I got to know him a bit more when my best mate Jamie Wilkins started looking after his bookings (Jamie ran a Deep House night called Scuba in Sheffield for many years…it was ace). Together I think we provide a balance of different styles as I’m newer to House and Techno than him, but I bring my different history to the table and it ends up in a big force of experience spanning over 25 years in Electronic music. Between the two of us we have taken in loads of UK forms as well as the US heritage and other European developments and styles.
I can’t speak for Chris, but to me Sheffield has grounded me, it’s given me the space and the community to develop as an artist and as a promoter. It’s got such a great creative community, one that I’m privileged to be part of. I love my city in that it gives me nature, art and community. The only other place I’d consider and feel so at home in is Berlin, but for now, it’s still Sheffield.
When you say in Hope Works’ description that ‘Sheffield Is Music’, what do you mean by that? And what is the Hope Works’ message?
Ok, you can read that and think “WTF are these pretentious idiots on about”?…Sheffield is a city…music is a vocal or instrumental sound or sounds combined in such a way as to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion! OR you can allow us the indulgence to propose that we are a creative city full of music makers – we have a thriving, independent community that really is unique and contributes a lot to the culture of the place. If you read between the lines of this metaphorical musing…I’m sure you get the picture, the Hope Works message is actually ‘Music and art first’. It’s the idea that we’re putting the focus on doing things because we have a need and want to explore and express above all….we need to survive and make money yes….but what are the core drivers of why we do what we do. It’s not corporate jargon this either, I’m serious…Hope Works is a labour of love that is very much driven by myself and my vision, but one that includes and celebrates my community within this framework as I’m a product of my environment as well as of my experiences over time in other places.
How has the Sheffield scene changed over the years? What sort of events were you going to as you grew up, and what sort of music was popular? How do you think you came to make techno music?
I came here in 1991 from Nottingham where I was born and lived until I was 18. There have been many many changes here since that time, clubs have come and gone (CJ’s/Occasions/Wicker Arches/Gatecrasher) musical movements emerged and faded …and re-emerged from Sheffield Bleep to Niche/Baseline. Live music has been where all the action was at times (culminating in the Arctic Monkeys), Electro was king for a while…UK garage ruled the roost at times as did Drum and Bass and Funky House…and Trance….these things have all played their part in Sheffield’s night life and some still do, to a greater or lesser degree. Throughout all of that though there has always been Techno and House. I started out going to gigs at Rock City in Nottingham then off to a rave straight after…my story has always been one of fusion. I’ve always had my eye on all kinds of scenes and movements. I’m interested in where the energy is and where new ground is being broken, but also classic forms.
My first DJ gig was upstairs at the Wicker Arches at a Techno night called No Logic. My mate ran it and I was surrounded by DJs in my friendship circle, initially I was never one myself, more interested in just listening, getting high and having a laugh…but I eventually succumbed as it was a kind of social thing that happened naturally in the end. I just joined in the dialogue with my mates who all enjoyed playing records and became quickly obsessed with electronic music from there. It was very new to me in 1990 when all this initially started and I just found it so vital like any self respecting child of the rave generation would do! From the early 1990’s I started to want to produce music so got myself an Atari and an AKA S2000 sampler with a Roland D5 and off I started on my journey into production, a journey I’m still on now. Eventually I came back to where it started for me…Techno and raves. I suppose after all the searching, the 4/4 base and industrial aesthetic were what did it for me and still do. When i say 4/4 base…that’s only a loose base from which to go off on rhythmic explorations…its not a limitation at all….just a starting point.
How would you describe Hope Works to someone who hasn’t been before?
It’s a warehouse rave that has something of the original essence of UK acid house and rave culture. It’s a place where you can be yourself, where you’ll meet like minded souls who want something other than the mainstream and who love music and art. It’s somewhere that prides itself on booking the best artists in electronic music and prides itself on great production …that’s sound and visual….great art and a great sound system, whats not to like?
It’s out the way, you have to look for it…and as such, those with ears to hear and eyes to see will find it…and when you do you’ll be glad you came.
How important is it for you to have several Warehouse spaces to work with?
It allows me to curate things with a more complex tonality. As well as on a superficial level provide some different spaces to add to a varied experience…I like keeping things moving…whether from a static address or physically moving address.
Tell us a bit about Mixed In Sheffield, the company that runs alternative arts events at Hope Works.
I started that in 2009 to celebrate music culture in Sheffield. It began with me connecting the dots between electronic music styles and producers and encouraging collaboration and connection between artists in the city. We also wanted to try and show the outside world what a great creative community we have here, especially within the world of electronic music. I quickly went on to doing lots of events and numerous album projects that involved live bands and visual artists, all from sheffield, and all with the express purpose of connecting people, and celebrating Sheffield art across the board from photography to music. I’m definitely a connector as well as an agitator and questioner in this respect. The 2012 album “Crossing The Line” was an Olympic themed album that involved 39 Sheffield bands remixed by 39 electronic artists with 39 pieces of cover art…each by a sheffield creative….as well as an event and art exhibition. Why 39? There were 39 sport disciplines in the 2012 olympics. The first event at Hope Works was a mixed in Sheffield event and this year I did a project called Mapping Creativity that celebrated Sheffield music and art with a huge 3D projector mapping art installation in the club, it was seriously impressive and yet another step forward for collaboration and innovation here.
Have you had many memorable experiences in your neighbouring town of Leeds, where you’ll be playing at Wire in October, a place that is know more for its house music?
Oh yes…many many…haha. I first played at Wire when it was called something else…many years ago. It was a Drum and Bass event and I played with Marcus Intalex. I used to be resident at NY Sushi in Sheffield and this brought me over to DJ first. My connection runs to Back To Basics and all over the shop though…I mentioned before my mate who ran Scuba, well there was a strong connection with Ralph Lawson and Dave Beer from that and then there was The Orbit in Morely…the Techno Pilgrimage site that essentially spawned my mates to start No Logic at the Wicker Arches in Sheffield…Sheffield’s answer to that phenomena. More recently I’ve played at the Garden Party at the Faversham and District bar which were both great. Leeds has always been somewhere that I’ve felt comfortable playing and being. There are some great promoters and clubs that I respect, some people with a very good understanding of things too. I know I’m going to have a great time on the 5th!
Are there any plans to keep the Hope Works label going?
Yes, I have a new release coming late October as a matter of fact. It’s another one by myself and I’m really excited to get this out there. It’s going to be another labour of love, different artwork and packaging this time too. I’m looking at some releases by different artists after this, people with relationships to the club. I’m not enforcing a release schedule on myself though…I’ll just release things when I have something I like enough to release…it’s not a factory spitting out music every month…like Hope Works itself it’s more personal and a labour of love than that.
Although you have been active for many years, your first release as Lo Shea only came in 2012. Why is this? And what is the secret to longevity in the music industry?
My life has been a very varied journey so far. I’ve released music in all kinds of guises over the years, it just so happens that this one has stuck more than the rest. There probably are some fundamental reasons why this is the case, but then again maybe not, who knows. Secret to success…ummmm…My 2 penneth….. think carefully about how you define success in life….think very carefully. My experience has involved sacrifice, a lot of passion and loads of mistakes, but I’ve kept turning up for work. There are so many knocks to endure, if you truly need to do this you’ll stick at it though, if you don’t you’ll find some other way to exist I think. I’ve learned to be versatile, this is useful, and above all be hard working as nothing has been given to me on a plate. Work hard, have dreams, be passionate, be humble, be open to new ideas and criticism, give what you want to get. The end.