It’s not every wedding DJ who can count Nelson Mandella amongst his audience, but Rory Gleeson isn’t your average DJ. With seven years behind him as a bass player in a band, along with over ten years’ experience getting dance-floors popping around the globe, Rory is a professional DJ with a difference.
Having been brought up on a mixture of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, it’s perhaps no surprise that Rory went on to work in the music industry. With a dad at EMI and a mum with a passion for good tunes, Rory describes his childhood as a loud one, with music “blasting out” regularly at home. In his words, music is “in his blood”.
When you choose a DJ for your wedding, it can be a real balance to get music that covers all genres and eras to suit the wide range of your crowd. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the right playlist, you’ll find your party is rocking, with a buzzing atmosphere and ALL ages on the dance-floor – from your best friend to your great aunt. When Tigerlily caught up with Rory Gleeson, we were inspired by his motivation behind what he does: “Job satisfaction for me comes from seeing people dancing.” It really is that simple.
You used to be a in a band before you were a DJ – how did the transition to professional DJ take place?
Even if I’d never been in a band, or wasn’t working as a DJ, I would be doing something in music. It’s in my soul. I grew up with music and live it every day. I was listening to good tunes from the age of 5 and learning instruments from the age of 11, so it was a natural progression to go into a band. But when the band broke up and we didn’t get a record deal, the DJing work became more serious. I loved it and still love the immediate appreciation you get from pleasing a crowd, so it felt like the right career to pursue.
In the years since you’ve been doing this, what’s been your most memorable event?
Meeting and playing for Nelson Mandela was pretty special. But so was a party I played at in Verona, Italy. The stunning location there was what made it stand out, looking out over the mountains.
For me though, every successful gig is one to remember. It’s a euphoric feeling, entertaining a crowd and getting that feedback as you see everyone enjoying themselves and dancing. That’s what really inspires and motivates me.
Have you got anything on your “no” playlist?
I’m not a fan of novelty music, so a particular K-Pop song that was massive last year wasn’t top of my favourites list! But, basically, I just love putting together a mix that’s going to get people dancing. I find it really liberating when couples trust me to do that, without stifling my creativity too much and telling me a whole list of tunes and genres to avoid.
What’s your own personal ideal music style?
I love a bit of Indie / Dance crossover, with a bit of Old Skool House and Hip Hop thrown in. For me, it’s all about instinct and what sounds good together. Just like design, I think it’s something you have in your blood – a feeling for a sound that goes well together and works.
What’s the biggest challenge you face when DJing at a wedding?
There’s a huge range of ages at a wedding, so it’s really important not to limit your boundaries too much in what you can play. The hardest thing is when you get a tough crowd, where people don’t seem too keen on dancing. It can also be quite funny when you get inappropriate requests from people who’ve had one too many glasses of champagne – but that makes me smile.
I have a four-hour playlist I like to use, that I know will work and get people on the dance-floor. 99% of couples accept this and trust me to do my thing, but as everyone has access to an iPod and music online now, you can find that everyone thinks they’re a DJ and so, sometimes, the stipulations about what I can and can’t play can make finding the right balance harder.
How important is music to the feel of a wedding?
I know I’m biased, but I think it’s absolutely pivotal to a successful wedding. With music so accessible now, I think people are more discerning about their tastes. People have clear ideas of what they like and dislike, so they really know what they want. If you were to book your next-door neighbour or a long-lost uncle to be your DJ, you might not get that experience and that “ear” that a professional DJ has. It really is a unique skill, just like being a photographer.
What are your music predictions for the near future?
I think dance music is certainly coming back to the forefront with all the EDM tunes. At private events now, people from 18 to 60 go mad for Calvin Harris/David Guetta etc. I also really like the Deep House thing that is happening right now, it reminds me of the good house records of yesteryear.
Who were some of your musical influences when you started DJing?
I started DJing in 2003, so a lot of good RnB records were out at the time. I remember playing Outcast “The way you move” loads and also Beyonce “Crazy In Love” – both are still mainstays in my set today.
What’s your greatest dance track of all time?
Baby Let Me Love You For Tonight by Kariya or Blue Monday by New Order. Even though it was released back in 1983, I still think it’s up there with the great dance records.
What’s the first record you bought?
Pass The Dutchie by Musical Youth – I still have it now! (I was four years old at the time so I’m pretty sure my mum paid for it at the counter!)
Who is your all-time DJ hero and why?
Eddie Temple Morris from XFM. I love the way he pushes new music and his sets are phenomenal!! Also, he championed our band in 2003 when he played our demo on XFM.
Who is your all-time music hero and why?
I would have to say Roger Waters from Pink Floyd, as his music influenced me so much from an early age and ultimately encouraged me to pick up a guitar and start a band. That then switched me onto loads of different music and artists. Without Pink Floyd, I would never have got into music and become a DJ (although their music doesn’t feature much in my sets!).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
“Don’t believe the hype!” (Chuck D)
What can’t you live without?
My wife, my daughter, my music and my Apple Mac.
What makes you smile?
My daughter smiling – it’s the best thing in the world! Also, QPR’s inevitable relegation this season, along with drunk punters with inappropriate requests.
Do you play to educate or entertain?
In the private party industry, I would have to say entertain, because it’s vital that people dance instead of stand at the bar scratching their chins or forming opinions on your mixing ability. For me, it’s all about seeing the party going off – my job satisfaction comes from a full dance-floor.
You’re playing a private party, what track would fill the dance floor?
It’s got to be MJ! Maybe Billy Jean or Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. Recently it’s been “We Found Love” by Rihanna and Calvin Harris – that song always causes a massive surge towards the dance floor.
Last question, but it’s a big one! Can you list your top ten favourite albums?
Wish you were here : Pink Floyd
The Contino Sessions: Death In Vegas
Straight Outta Compton = NWA
Blue Lines: Massive Attack
Michael Jackson: Off The Wall
Snoop Dogg: Doggystyle
DJ Shadow: Endtroducing
Primal Scream: Vanishing Point
The Beatles: Abbey Road
To book Rory for your wedding or event please contact Matt Maurice Event Music & Production
Words By: Matt Maurice from Matt Maurice Event Music & Production