Manchester Spotlight: Mike O’Mara

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Mike O’Mara can usually be found in Soup Kitchen, either upstairs in the bar or downstairs supporting one of his many promoter friends’ nights or with his own Inside Out party, which has welcomed Beautiful Swimmers, K15, Ge-ology, Intergelactic Gary. He’s known for his encouraging nature and is seen as mentor by many young promoters in Manchester, so it’s about time he gets some love back. We traced his musical routes and also drilled him on where Manchester music is at right now. It’s accompanies an eclectic selection including Music From Memory, Denis Bovell, Metro Area and a new edit from Al Zanders.

The next Inside Out party is Soup Kitchen on 29th April, with Tomson. 

First, our usual ice-breaker. What’s your first musical memory?

My parents had big record collections and we always had music on at home growing up. My first proper memory though is buying the re-release single of Jackie Wilson – Reet Petite with my pocket money when I was 7. Still get terrified thinking about the creepy clay animated video that went with it.

Can you talk us through your musical phases? [i.e. was there one point when you were really into house music, one time you were really digging hip hop, etc]

Growing up I was lucky as I had mates who were into decent house music. They took me to some proper clubs and helped to broaden my horizons at an early age. In terms of DJing I’ve always bought lots of different styles of music and still do but there have been definite phases to the types of gigs I’ve had. In my early 20’s I worked at Blue Vinyl records on Tib Street for 3 years. We sold mainly house music but the only gigs I got in Manchester at the time we’re playing hip-hop, soul & disco in backrooms. I was the backroom resident at a party called Development for a couple of years and that was some of the most fun I’ve had as a DJ, was given the freedom to just play anything except house as they had that covered in the main room. I’d always carried on buying house but it wasn’t really till I moved to Sheffield in my 30’s that I started gigs playing it.

You’re well-known around Manchester for your ‘Inside Out’ parties with Chris Feinmann. Can you explain the concept behind them and why you started doing it?

The concept is just pretty much just to book people that we’d love to see, no real specific genre or style. We try to get a nice mix of people playing in Manchester for the first time alongside DJ’s we love that haven’t been over for a while. The emphasis is very much on their talent as a DJ as apposed to someone whose just released a couple of big records. As for why we’ve been mates for years and once I moved back over from Sheffield we decided to give it a go.

You’ve well-known around Sheffield too… How did that happen?

I moved to Sheffield as a mature student to do a social work degree in 2010. It’s such a fantastically friendly city that doesn’t really pay much attention to or care what the rest of the countries up to. I’d DJ’d with Dan J in Sheffield a few years before moving over and and we’d kept in touch. We both loved drinking rum and playing records and decided to do it together once I moved over. We were lucky to get some fantastic gigs and we got to play on some great line ups. When I moved over I thought I’d get my head down and study but it ended up being 3 really fun years and my liver and degree mark suffered accordingly. Dan’s still playing regularly over there for Pretty Pretty Good and Hunie and is getting the props he fully deserves! We’re hopefully going to be doing something huddle related in the next few months as its five years since we started it this summer.

You’ve city-hopped a fair bit – any plans to move in the future?

I’ve loved being back in Manchester and being close to family, friends and my football team. There’s lots that I do miss about Sheffield though so maybe moving to the Peak District and being equidistant between the two is the answer eventually.

What’s your day-job? How do you balance this with music?

I’ve just recently left a job carrying out therapeutic work in children’s homes with kids. The DJ thing used to impress the kids for 5 minutes before they’d give me stick for playing weird music and not playing scouse grime.Going in work after DJing on very little kip was hard, the kids could definitely sense weakness. Getting that balance was hard at times.

Now for some Manchester-focused questions…where’s your favourite place to buy records in Manchester?

King Bee in Chorlton is round the corner from me and still turns up some fantastic records but my favourite spot at present is Planet Rock in Ancoats. Tons of great records and the owner is super friendly, the kind of shop you could spend all day in. After living in Sheffield for four years I tend to buy most of my new music online now out of habit but do pop in Piccadilly Records or Eastern Bloc now and again if I’m in town.

What are some of your favourite parties to go to?

Tom Boogizm and Jon K throw a party called Pariahs at The White Hotel in Manchester. They’ve just thrown their second one, it’s them two back to back all night and it’s proper. Since I moved back to Manchester I haven’t been out dancing nearly enough due to work commitments and the amount of Inside Out parties we’ve thrown. We’re cutting down the numbers of parties this year so hoping to get out a bit more. Really want to get to High Hoops, Euphony, So Flute, Beyond A Rhythm and Heads Up parties as their bookings are always fantastic.

What new / young talent should we be keeping an eye on at the moment?

We’re lucky to have a couple of monthly radio shows on Reform Radio and Limbo Radio and the standard on both is fantastic. There’s lots of opportunities for young talent compared to a few years ago in Manchester with these two stations and NTS now broadcasting from here too. DJ wise in Manchester I really like Glen Cutwerk, FOY, Szanja & De Le Creme. FOY is one to watch production wise too, really liked everything he’s sent over so far.

If you could throw Inside Out anywhere, with an unlimited budget, what would you do?

Lots of DJ’s I love are out of our price range in a smaller venue like Soup Kitchen. With an unlimited budget I’d book Hunee or Theo Parrish at Soup and make sure our regulars got tickets. Probably a bit obvious but I’m not going to give up our bookings wishlist to anyone reading this!

What’re you looking forward to over the next year?

I’ve just been booked to play at The Night Kitchen in Sheffield for their closing parties in June. Gutted it’s closing as it’s such a special space but I’m sure the send off will be fitting. On a normal weekend they party hard so I’m a bit scared already about that weekend. I’ve started to miss running a record label as we haven’t put a record out in a long while on Development Music. Hoping to be starting something new before the end of the year on that front. Really looking forward to carrying on our radio shows with Chris on Reform & Limbo Radio too.

Could you tell us about the mix you’ve made for us?

The mix was recorded at the studio at Limbo Radio in Manchester. The lads kindly let me in for an afternoon as I only have the one turntable at home. In terms of the idea I just wanted to play a mixture of old and new stuff that I love.The Five special record is a big personal favourite, Nick The Record played for us in December and he played it near the end and the reaction in the club was amazing. There’s a couple of new bits coming on there from Lodger and Medlar too, both well worth grabbing on vinyl when they drop.

What’s coming up on the horizon we should look out for?

We’ve taken a break from Inside Out for a few months as Chris and his partner Jess have just had a baby boy, shouts to Fred, but we’re back at Soup Kitchen on April 29th and we’ve our fellow Development resident Tom Lynch AKA Tomson as our guest. It’s the first time we’ve played together in years so should be lots of fun. I’ll also be playing some records the night before on 28th for Dimensions Festival launch at The Night Kitchen in Sheffield. Heavy weekend!


Richenel – Autumn
Sun Palace – Palace Strut
Love Club – Hot (Medlar Dub Edit)
Nexus – Stand Up (Instrumental)
Metro Area – Dance Reaction
Unknown – Channel Affair (The Love I Lost)
Tabu Ley Rochereau – Hafi Deo
Dennis Bovell – Heaven
Tru Tones – Dancing (Roger Thornhill Edit)
Lodger – Doin It
Five Special – Why Leave Us Alone
Nina Dunn – Stay And Dance
Harris & Orr – Spread Love

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