Olivia Chau pictured above. Picture: Tarmo Tulit
10 questions with DJ Olivia Chau
Olivia Chau has been part of the music scene in Limerick for over 13 years now. If she isn’t running, promoting, or playing at gigs, she is at gigs. Having started as an Indie DJ over 13 years ago, she now plays a blend of Disco, Nu-Disco, ’80s, and ’90s R&B.
Olivia has been a resident of DIE Limerick since it first began 10 years ago. Along with her fellow DIE Crew, she has helped to cultivate a unique night once a month that brings in acts from around the globe.
Over the last couple of years, she has been a firm favourite in The Buttery, Limerick, playing every week. Olivia has played at Lumo Summer Party, Electric Picnic, Body & Soul, and Limerick Pride, bringing her eclectic blend of different genres to people who just love a boogie.
In 2019, Olivia became a Craic Mechanic of Sing Along Social, a no commitment choir for people who can’t sing well. Just this year in March 2020, she started her own radio show called Don’t Kill The Beat on Limerick City Community Radio, which you can listen to every Wednesday night from 7 pm to 8 pm on LCCR.ie. She also has a new podcast called ‘Chancers with Olivia Chau”. Olivia also has a day job she is very passionate about as a Youth Worker with Limerick Youth Service.
Tell us about your childhood?
Well, until the age of 14 I lived in Limerick my whole life.
We lived in Corbally when I was very young but when my parents split up, we moved to Pineview Gardens in Moyross. My house that I lived in isn’t there anymore, which makes me sad, but I get why they had to demolish the houses there. Even back in the ’90s, they weren’t the best. Growing up in a single parent household was tough on my Mum, but she did everything she could for us and we never went without.
When I was 14, my Mum married my stepdad and we moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, in America. I hated it at first, it was a tough transition, and I felt like a sideshow freak because everyone wanted to hear my accent, so I lost it quite quickly and that’s why I have a weird accent now. Trans-Atlantic you could say.
I remember my first morning there. My Stepdad (Sean) brought us out to breakfast and the food tasted so weird. Like the sausage was in a burger shape. I was like, what the F is this.
I had only ever been outside of Ireland, twice when I was really young before this and America seemed like this mythical place that you only see in a movie or tv show. So it kinda didn’t live up to my expectations at the time.
However in the 4 years that I was there I actually made a lot of close friends and we still talk nearly every day.
I won’t go into any detail on my teen years, let’s just say I was a very moody, forceful young lady.
Growing up, I didn’t feel different from anyone, I think in Ireland I did because there were so few mixed race people back then. My sister would disagree but I definitely encountered casual racism to full blown racism all the time and even when I moved home to Ireland when I was 18, I think people thought I was Spanish at first but they knew I wasn’t Irish, I’m sure the American accent didn’t help either which I lost more or less few months after coming home.
When did you know you wanted to work as a Youth Worker and a DJ?
I don’t think I ever knew I wanted to be a DJ, but it looked fun, and the thought of picking music that made people want to dance and enhanced their night out, really appealed to me.
Shane (my husband, weird still) showed me the ropes. I started out just using my laptop but as I was getting more gigs, I realised, I couldn’t just use my laptop anymore and I kinda felt like a bit of a fraud. There is snobbery in the DJ world, the Vinyl DJ’s look down on the CDJ DJ’s, the CDJ DJ’s look down on the DJ’s who just use a controller or their laptop, and at the end of the day, aren’t we all just trying to have a laugh and make people dance. Like to me, it’s not about the mixing, it’s about the tunes you pick.
The right set of songs and you will have the dance floor full and that to me is the most important element of being a DJ.
Anyway, I’m lucky enough to get gigs where I get to pick what I want to play and I think I do a good job.
As for getting into Radio, it’s been a weird relationship. I’ve had show’s in the past and I’ve covered for Alan Jaques on his show Green and Live on 95FM a few times but since joining Limerick City Community Radio, I feel like the show is just mine. It’s definitely a passion project, because I don’t think many people listen, which is ok…I do it for myself.
Being a Youth Worker, well when HMV was closing down, I was looking for a new job, and my friend John Real (he is part of Bad Reputation Ireland and runs the Siege of Limerick) said they were looking for someone to help out in the Lava Javas which is the Youth Cafe. I applied and had an interview. I was shocked I got the job, but I must’ve said something right. My contract was only for a year but I learned so much in that time. When my year was up, Limerick Youth Service decided to keep me on and be the Youth Worker for the LGBT+ Youth Group which I work with in association with GOSHH. I think they were impressed with how well the Pride Party and our giant Dragon float had done that year. It’s been challenging and tough at times, but at the same time, it’s been a lot of fun. The group went from only having 6 people to 30 but the numbers have dwindled again to about 10 and that’s due to Covid. I’m hoping the numbers will rise again once we can reopen the youth cafe.
Loads of my past shows are uploaded on Mixcloud.
You can head over to this link if you would like to listen to them: https://t.co/GmEFZFbRH5
— Olivia Chau (@olliechau) October 15, 2020
Who are your greatest inspirations?
This is going to sound so cheesy and corny but honestly it’s all my friends and family. They work so hard and they put in so much to their jobs and projects, that it lights a fire under me to do something. I’m like, well if they can do it, so can I. I am a really lazy person though, I move at a sloths pace at times, which I’m trying to fix.
Where has been your favourite place to DJ and why?
One of the best places has been The Buttery, because they gave me a regular DJ slot every week. I learned so much because they let me play the music I wanted to play. Every week, my beat matching and mixing were improving because even though I was playing to people, there wasn’t any pressure to make them dance, so I could play anything and everything. So thanks to having a regular gig, I was able to hone my skills.
There have been a lot of fun gigs though. Playing at Limerick Pride, playing at Electric Picnic, playing at Body & Soul and at Lost Lane in Dublin.
What is your radio show ‘Don’t Kill The Beat’ on Limerick City Community Radio about?
Don’t Kill The Beat is a weekly radio show of music that I just like and I think or hope other people will like too. I try to play new music every week or a new genre or theme. I don’t pick any particular genre to play as I don’t like to pigeon hole myself. I do my best to play as many Irish artists as possible. So I try to focus all my attention on them, however some weeks, it can be hard, so I might just play all 80’s/90’s tunes or even just do a live DJ set of House music. I even did a Costello’s dance floor show and during Pride month I played all LGBT+ artists and Icons.
I don’t chat much on the show, and when I do talk, I talk about the music I’m playing and the artist and just ask people to go support Irish music and the local scene. And in Limerick right now, we are really lucky. The Hip-Hop scene is massive at the moment, with some unreal groups and artists coming out of the city.
Going to be playing music from Irish bands we love from the 2000’s! pic.twitter.com/FLObYovsrK
— Olivia Chau (@olliechau) January 13, 2021
Tell us about your new podcast?
The podcast is called ‘Chancers with Olivia Chau’.
I’ve been working on it since last year and it’s me having a conversation with different people from Limerick. I came up with the name because at the end of the day we’re all chancing our arm at something new and if it works out then that’s unreal but also because the word chancer is such an Irish term.
Series 1 which is out on Monday, January 25 on Spotify and iTunes and has me chatting with the people who are and have been involved in some of the best dance/club nights in Limerick. I don’t think they get enough credit for how major some of the nights are and how big and integral they have become to Limerick’s nightlife.
My plan is to keep the podcast as Limerick centric as possible for now but I would love to chat with other people from around Ireland.
I have the next 4 series mapped out in my head of who I would like to interview.
I still have to interview a couple more people for series one, but I’m already thinking about series two.
25.01.2021 Mark that date in your diaries 🎉 (hopefully out on all platforms.) More info to follow on Episode 1. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/hhshGqEEi5
— Olivia Chau (@olliechau) January 18, 2021
What is your fave part of being a Youth Worker?
Being a youth worker is a thankless job and can be really tough, but when you know you’ve helped a young person struggling or have somehow made their day or even week a bit better than that’s all that matters. I think as older people we tend to forget how hard it is to be a teenager/young person and they have a lot more anxieties and struggles than we ever had, so if I can help them to feel better then, it’s been a good day.
What has been your greatest achievement in life so far?
Honestly, it’s passing my driving test. I didn’t think I was going to do it and I was freaking out so much about it. It consumed my life for over a year and a half, I was so glad I passed the first time around. Don’t get me wrong, graduating college and getting to play at some of the biggest festivals in Ireland has been class but I found driving in Limerick a big struggle. The roads are so tiny here!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hmmm….I’m not sure at the moment. I’d love to take podcasting full time and make it into a career. I definitely would like to work for myself. It’s hard to say at the moment but hopefully, I’ll be back gigging too and back working at events for Dolans.
What do you love most about Limerick?
What don’t I love about Limerick? I love the people, the humour, the music, our coffee shops, our venues, our art scene. I love the fact, that I can go into town by myself and end up meeting someone I know every 5 minutes just walking down the street.
Limerick in the last few years has come on leaps and bounds. What I would love to see is more street art around, really utilising the Georgian laneways ways we have and make it a greener, more people friendly city. Bring everyone back into the city centre.
We have a long way to go yet but I am really happy that I get to see the progress we are making.
Don’t Kill The Beat is on Limerick City Community Radio every Wednesday night from 7 pm to 8 pm on LCCR.ie.
You can listen to Olivia’s podcast on all streaming platforms from Monday, January 25.
For more info on Limerick City Community Radio go HERE
For more stories on Limerick City Community Radio go HERE