Producer, selector and now a promoter with reason to celebrate. By drawing upon his years of expertise in the game, his own style of production and a genuine love of both his city and job, Lo Shea has turned Hope Works around from a wartime arsenal supplier to Sheffield’s foremost dance music force. This Saturday (22 November), Lo Shea is bringing bonafide techno royalty to the Works in the form of Jeff Mills for the venue’s 2nd birthday party. The last of the tickets can be found here. Ahead of going down and joining in with the proceedings, Shuf caught up with Lo Shea to talk about the history of the city and the part Hope Works now plays in it’s landscape.
How did your running of Hope Works come about? Tell us a bit about the venue…
I have been involved in promotions for many years in Sheffield. Before Hope Works i co-ran a warehouse club called Dan Sane. This club ran for 2 years where we booked all kinds of great artists. The venue was fantastic vibe wise but limited in size. I wanted to do some bigger events and to find somewhere that I was really able to develop according to my own specific vision. These factors combined with the necessity to find somewhere where noise wouldn't be an issue drove me to find Hope Works. It is an old WW1 gun barrel factory. Its a classic steel girder and brick turn-of-the-century Sheffield industrial unit. It screams Sheffield in 1913 but now, lovingly turned into a cathedral of creativity and a place to share wonderful explorative experiences together rather than a place to construct the mechanisms of mass slaughter.
Hope Works is 2! How excited are you about welcoming Jeff Mills along to Sussex Road for the birthday?
Lord, just a bit. I can't stress what a big deal this is for me personally, and also for many people here in Sheffield to have Jeff come to our city. I'm so happy I've managed to make it work. Its going to be such a special night, the anticipation for this is huge.
Do you think dance fans underestimate Sheffield?
I think that people who really know their stuff know about Sheffield. You find this especially with US and European DJs who all know and respect seminal electronic pioneering artists like Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League and Heaven 17. Its a legacy that stretches out across the world. In the UK I think Sheffield has been slightly overlooked in the past. I think thats changing now though as our nightlife has blossomed over the last few years, despite the hard times we all face financially.
You've talked before about making music that sounds like the place it was made in, what does Sheffield sound like?
Sheffield is an amalgamation of things. I've mentioned before that theres no one "sound" of Sheffield as it all depends on what branch of culture you tend to follow. To one man its The Arctic Monkeys, another its Toddla T, another still its the sound of disused warehouse spaces being reclaimed for creative use by people who tend to be on the fringes of the mainstream. When bands like Cabaret Voltaire,The Human League and Heaven 17 emerged it was very much a kind of DIY punk ethic using minimal but new technology to create something from the ashes of a city who some would say had had its primary industry and manufacturing heart had been ripped out by the Thatcher administration. The industrial machine funk written by these seminal bands in a way reflected the bleakness of the time combined with an underlying determination Sheffield has to find a way through things with a healthy creative, quirky and grounded approach to things. I think today we are experiencing a renaissance of this era in a kind of way. There have been people such as myself who were ready to take risks and to ultimately devote their lives to making something happen here. This has once again helped feed the culture and ultimately the music. The temporary licence system that evolved in recent years helped this to happen.Its enabled a different type of person to have the ability to put on events, ultimately giving the music life of the city a much more contemporary approach.
Other than Jeff Mills, which other heavyweights would you like to bring to Hope Works?
Well, we’ve got another one of Detroit techno's true pioneers coming in January, Robert Hood! Lets just say look out for 31st January!
In what ways are you looking to expand the Hope Works brand? We've heard about label plans?
At the moment i'm focussing on the label. However it would be great if we could visit some other clubs and cities, bringing what we do to these places. We are also looking at working with some other big artists and organisations. For instance in late February we play host to the Winter Hessle Audio tour thats going to see all 3 of Hessle Audio joined by DVS1 for a hugely special event for us.
Are you looking forward to playing the 2nd birthday party yourself?
Like you never know! I love playing at Hope Works. Its my home crowd and I love the people who come to the club. Its such a special atmosphere in the place. Its raw and relaxed, hype and heavy all rolled into one.
As a resident at Hope Works, how do you keep the sets feeling fresh?
I'm a music collector and an artist. Its in my nature to be constantly looking for new music and to find interesting ways to put it together and share it with people. My sets are always a combination of original material and records I've bought. It enables me always to have something old and something new, something familiar and something only I have.
Do you have any plans to honour Sheffield's bassline heritage at Hope Works? What can you remember about that explosion?
Yes indeed. I was there at the time. I used to work for the guy who owned Niche and I went there a lot. I saw the whole development in the club from house to very much US Garage House to speed garage. It became absolutely huge though. It was something that really went off in this particular club in Niche, though it also spread quickly to the sister venue "Capitol" (now PLUG). Those bass lines just tore the roof off and people became quickly addicted to tacks with massive bass lines so the artists kept making more of them. It was crazy to see how it caught on, and especially to be there behind the scenes as it happened. Seeing it from the inside was an experience. So to answer your question… yes bass music is already being represented here. We have a great local drum n bass crew called "Displace" doing some great events with us at Hope Works.
For people who haven't been to Hope Works before, what can we expect from the 2nd birthday?
Expect this- a totally full venue (we are on course for a sell out show again), incredible music from start to finish in the main room as well as the rave cave (a second room bass cocoon). An incredible Void Soundsystem, a special lazer show and the most wonderful crowd of devoted music lovers. Its strictly positive vibes at Hope Works. You are likely to want to come back...and actually you might not want to leave…..
Words: Duncan Harrison
Lo Shea’s Deep Draw EP is out now via Hope Works