Interview: Manchester DJ Craig Connelly on turning music hoarding into roaring crowds ahead of Sankeys set

By Glen Keogh & Lucy Hilton

For many musicians, DJs or performers working their way into an industry, getting the opportunity to prove yourself alongside your heroes is a sure-fire sign that you have made it.

That’s exactly what Manchester DJ Craig Connelly will be doing when he plays Sankeys nightclub with legendary trance DJ Paul Oakenfold on this Friday.

MM caught up with Craig to chat through his career so far, how he’s made it to where he is and what’s next for the rising star of the trance scene.

As with all great stories, it’s best to start at the beginning, and Craig found his love for his music and DJing in a relatively orthodox fashion.

“When I was younger I used to go to an under 18’s dance club called Maximes, which I’m sure everyone from Wigan will be familiar with,” he said.

“They used to play all kinds of new sounds I’d never heard before, mostly records imported from Europe which you could only get on vinyl.

“So my main reason to start DJing was to collect music I loved really – the reason to keep doing what I do has changed as I’ve got older.

“Now it’s as if I couldn’t do anything else.” 

Luckily for Craig compared to the rest of us, he has carved a niche for himself doing the job that he loves, and has performed sets across the world including at the legendary Space club in Miami.

Dreams of musical stardom often beckon many of us but are swiftly stamped out at the realisation that we’re not much good at it.

But Craig is working as hard as he ever has been.

“Right now I’m working on some original vocal records and I also have four demos on the go that I’m working with vocalists on,” he said.

“Plus a few instrumental tracks and remixes which should keep me busy with releases throughout the year.”

There’s also the small matter of playing alongside Mr Oakenfold this weekend.

Craig said: “It’s really exciting to be playing alongside such high profile artists.

“A lot of the people I’ve played with recently are artists I’ve personally been a fan of for years so to play alongside them is flattering and exciting at the same time.”

Working from the underground to the mass dance/trance audience currently out there seems an unnerving and certainly problematic transition, but Craig’s eclectic musical taste, youthful looks and increasing audiences indicate he’s going to be on the club scene radar for a long time to come.

He cites DJs like Paul van Dyk as early inspirations but goes on to name electronic acts like Underworld, Sasha, The Prodigy and Chemical Brothers.

Even a fraction of their success could see Craig become a household name but it’s his other influences – bands like Elbow and M83 which may set him apart.

Craig said: “My sound is mainly uplifting electronic music.

“It gets labelled as ‘trance’ but there are many other elements like house and electro.

“What I play can range from more relaxed warm up house and electro to very intense and fast uplifting trance.

“It really depends on when and where I’m playing. “

If his number one in the chart is anything to go by (‘it’s like the mecca of electronic music…’) then Craig is on the cusp of further success.

You may have missed his remixes of Gareth Emery and Tritional, you may have missed him live at London’s Ministry of Sound and Birmingham’s God’s Kitchen and unless you were extremely lucky you won’t have caught his Space set in Miami, but this Friday in Sankey’s you have a chance to see what all the fuss is about.

Picture courtesy of Craig Connelly, with thanks.

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