For this next instalment of Digging Deeper we invited Mike O'Mara and Danny Lynn to tell us about their latest project, ROAM. A DJ duo and club night, Mr Bongo have long held these two in high-regards for both their selections and the way they make a wide-range of genres and tempos fit together seamlessly. If you see them on a line-up or one of their own ROAM parties, do the smart thing and go check them.
You don't need to just take our word for it though, the guys have kindly put together an exclusive mix for our Record Club Guest Mix series that demonstrates exactly why they deserve the high praise. There's street soul, Brazilian heat, African funk, Turkish funk, kwaito, boogie and all sorts of the good stuff up in the mix. A real DJ's DJ type affair...
What is the idea behind ROAM?
We’ve both always collected records that don’t necessarily fit into club DJ sets. During the Covid lockdowns we were buying records to listen to at home rather than the latest pumping dance records, exploring different genres more with all that extra time on our hands! It’s nice to be able to share our finds in public finally and see people dancing to these records. Ultimately, it was just a really good excuse to get together and play each other records given we now live across the Pennines from each other. We unfortunately lost a very close mutual friend (and incredible DJ) recently, Danny J Wooton, it’s brought us closer, remembering him by still getting together with some booze and good tunes.
Can you introduce yourselves and a bit about your musical history?
Danny: When I was younger I used to DJ a fair bit at free parties and clubs in London, I quickly got more into the running of the parties which overtook the DJing side. A lot of my friends were great DJs too so I was happy to let them take the reins on that front. I continued to buy records but I was quite quickly just buying stuff I liked to listen to rather than for DJing. I worked full time as a club programmer and promoter in London then later in Sheffield. That's how I ended up meeting Mike. I moved up north to run the late night programming for Tramlines and manage the bookings at The Harley then became good friends with Mike and Danny J when they were promoting their Huddle nights at The Harley which always involved a lot of rum…
Mike: I was lucky growing up, I had older mates who got me into decent music and clubs at an early age. I worked in a record shop for a few years in my early 20's in Manchester which was a real education, I got put on to so much great music by Adam and the other lads who worked there. DJ-wise, I was a back room resident for a few years for the Development parties in Manchester, they had the likes of Ron Trent, Kerri Chandler and Benji B in the main room and me playing soul, disco and hip-hop in the back room. I moved over to Sheffield to study at 30 and started a little party called Huddle with the legend that was Dan J. That ran for about 5 years and was lots of fun and lots of rum.
Where do you guys tend to DJ now?
Danny: I haven’t really considered myself a DJ for almost 15 years, so just in my living room mainly! I am enjoying playing records again and happy to be playing at our ROAM parties for now.
Mike: Lucky to be a resident for the mega Crucial Youth Sound System parties in Sheffield, they throw three or four free parties a year and they’re always loads of fun. Apart from that it's been a quiet few years gig-wise to be honest. I've just finished a two year Masters Degree whilst working full time so haven't really been very proactive on that front. It'd probably also help if I stopped telling people I've retired every 6 months.
How and where was the mix recorded?
The mix was recorded at Mike’s in Stretford, Manchester. On the lovely Mastersounds Radius 2 and FX Unit, two turntables and two very old CDJs.
The mix is a masterful blend of music styles from across the globe, how did you discover these tracks?
Danny: Personally, I spend a lot of time connecting the dots between older artists and producers I like, then spend a fair bit of time going through music on Youtube like a manic teenager. I try to listen to as much new music as possible, listen to radio shows and keep up with labels I currently rate, which includes fine re-press imprints that save us from bankrupting ourselves on discogs. We both send each other tunes a fair bit and there’s some healthy competition to find new stuff that Mike might not have heard yet but as long as it’s good we will play it, no matter the source. Some of the tracks I’ve had for years, a few we’ve scoped out especially for the mix.
Mike: Echoing Danny really in terms of finding music, it’s an obsession and takes up most of my free time. A mixture of trawling through Bandcamp, Discogs, youtube and the like, plus nipping in record shops whenever I get a chance and getting my knees dirty. There's a mixture of new finds and older records that’ve been sitting on my shelves for a while. I picked up the Kleeer and Carla Thomas records many years ago, both were really big records in Manchester in the 90’s. They linked in really well with the international street soul and Kwaito sounds we’d both picked up recently. I’ve never had the money to be a proper digger/collector so I’m happy to pick up and find the music however it comes, be it a re-issue, compilation, charity shop find or a Wav off Bandcamp for a quid, I’ve never understood the snobbery of owning an OG copy!
Also, how did you go about programming the running order?
We had a full day of playing each other records whilst hungover after seeing WITCH in Manchester on a Monday night. Once we'd decided on what we wanted to include it was just a case of trying to find links between the different records and styles, and fitting them together in a way that flowed nicely. Hopefully it does.
Any personal favourites in the selection?
Mike: "Mighty 7 - Call Me" is an all time favourite, lovely boogie record from Gee Bello who apparently was on tour with Wham! around the time he made it. I’m a sucker for any boogie record with a phone call/phone number in it.
The "Akiyo" record is another favourite, it's beautiful. I only recently discovered Gwoka music from Guadeloupe thanks to the excellent Time Capsule comp that came out earlier this year.
Danny: That “Spokes H” Kwaito track has been a big ear worm for me recently so I was particularly glad we made that fit into the mix, it sounds a bit different but actually ties a lot of it together, I think it was made in ‘97 but I could easily see it working in an Amapiano or Bruk mix too.
The final track “Ay Bir Tane” is a personal favourite, it’s simply beautiful. I’m a bit obsessed with Turkish funk as Mike will attest to, so glad we snuck it on there.
Where do you record shop?
Danny: Unfortunately there’s a lot less physical record shops in Sheffield than in Manchester so I don't get out buying records in the real world as much as I’d like. New stuff I try to buy directly on Bandcamp where I can and of course Mr Bongo is a go-to for discovering new music. I’d like to shout out Sounds of The Universe (Soul Jazz) though, when I was younger living in London they really opened me up to a lot of different styles.
Mike: There's records in the mix from quite a few different shops. King Bee and Vinyl Resting Place in Manchester are the regular local spots for me, plus there’s a couple from the ace Distant Rhythm online shop. I always try to check out local shops when I'm in a different city too, there's some records in the mix from recent visits to Yo-Yo in London and Vinyl Disc in Porto, shout out to the lovely Nuno and his port wine!
Which other DJs are you fans of and why?
Danny: Debonair is a favourite for sure. She plays across the board but everything she seems to play is her sound. Every time I hear her sets I end up on Discogs after buying a record I never would’ve thought I’d be into.
Mike: I know he's a glaringly obvious choice, but I’ve always been a huge Theo Parrish fan, his nights at Plastic People were as good as anything I’ve ever experienced. It was the perfect place to see him from start to finish.
In terms of local DJ’s, Angela Kendall, Matt Lewis and the Sunny Side Up lads in Sheffield are big favourites, great DJs with phenomenal record collections. The Dharma Collective chaps in Liverpool are favourites too, James and Kole are mega DJs and their radio shows on Melodic Distraction are a must listen each month.
What have you got coming up parties wise?
We've got a free party on the 30th September at Piña in Sheffield. We've got MYNA on as our first guest, one of the most exciting young DJs in the north at the moment.
We're just finalising some plans for a couple of all day fundraising parties next year in Sheffield and Manchester for local charities. Hoping to get some pals to come along and play.
Many thanks to Mike and Danny for taking the time to answer our questions and sending us the killer mix. Make sure to follow them on Instagram and keep an eye out for forthcoming ROAM parties.