Grand Master O – whose real name is Orlando Glenn Richard – grew up in Chicago but came to Milwaukee in 2007 to attend Concordia University. The same year, he started DJing at college house parties, and, during his junior year, he met up with DJ Peace Simon who today is his business and creative partner.
"Peace – which is his real name – gave me my first shot at a hole-in-the-wall bar in Port Washington called Gopher One," says Grand Master O. "And we’ve been partners ever since."
Grand Master O, who now lives on Milwaukee’s East Side, graduated in four years from Concordia with a degree in business communications and a minor in marketing and human resources.
"It really helps having these skills," he says. "It rounds out my businesses."
Grand Master O is a DJ every Thursday night at Cheryl’s Club in Slinger; Fridays during the Late Night Party Cruise on the Edelweiss Boat and Saturdays at Schooner Pub in Port Washington and The Washington House in West Bend. He also has a booking business that connects Midwest DJs with Wisconsin-based weddings and private events.
OnMilwaukee recently caught up with Grand Master O after his set on The Rebel Stage at Summerfest and chatted about his music, family, goals, hair and definition of happiness.
OnMilwaukee: How would you describe your style of DJing?
Grand Master O: I have a very open format. Being from Chicago, my specialty is electro house, but I love so many different genres of music. Mostly I just like to play to the crowd and engage people.
You started DJing in 2007, but how long did it take you to get good?
I’m still trying to get good! It’s a never-ending process that requires practice and repetition. As a DJ, you gotta stay fresh because the competition is right on your heels all the time. You gotta bring something new – recreate the wheel and make it better.
Were you into music as a kid?
When I was younger … wait. I don’t even know if I want to admit this. OK, I’ll admit this, when I was younger I got my first stereo at 6 years old, and I started blasting Spice Girls. Why would I do this? Why?
Luckily, my family was into music, and I got into a lot of other music. My parents listened to a lot of Motown, one of my brothers liked rock and metal, another brother got me into freestyle 90s and another brother liked everything, like I do today. My family’s influence on my music taste is why I am able to be an open-format DJ today. I see the crowd as an opportunity to touch everyone’s buttons and then bring them together in one melting pot.
You have three brothers?
Actually I have one biological brother and three step brothers, so there were five boys growing up in my house. We take care of momma, though. My step dad is white, and there’s a little Indian on my dad’s side, so my family’s a mix; a fun bunch.
You must be a big fan of Grandmaster Flash to pick a name similar to his?
Grandmaster Flash is a pioneer in the industry. He puts on such a powerful yet simple show, and he is the master of engaging people. I really admire him. He is the one who gave me a life.
What are your goals for the future?
I usually don't tell people my goals, but goal No. 1 is to not have a part time job anymore – I work at Best Buy – and I am back on track on that. Goal No. 2 is to DJ full time and travel around while doing it. Finally, my end goal would be to own a hot club somewhere. Currently, I’m working down the line, taking it one day at a time, loving and appreciating life.
Tell me about your hair.
Ah, the story of my hair. Through grade school, high school and college, I had so many different hair styles. But I got this style by accident. I dyed my hair this color but kept it curly – I had a ‘fro – but one day, I went to pick my hair out, and my pick wouldn't go through my hair so I just let it go and this happened. I didn't pay to have it rolled or anything; it was a natural process.
Do you plan to stay living in Milwaukee?
Milwaukee has treated me well and that’s why I’ve been here longer than planned. Every time I think it might be time to go somewhere else, another opportunity pops up here.
What makes an awesome DJ?
It comes down to the passion you have for it. It also takes a lot of practice, not just with the music but learning how to work the crowd and be personable. There are some a-hole DJs out there. You also have to stay cool under pressure. When I was younger, this was the hardest part for me. I was sweating bullets before I plugged my tables in. But I learned how to use that adrenaline to channel back into the music.
To be really, really good, I don’t think you can fake it. Being happy and really wanting to live this life is the key.
What does it mean to be happy?
Being true to yourself and realizing and accepting what kind of person you are. You have to be able to come back from dark places. There is happiness in the music. Music makes you feel anything and everything and serves as an expression of our emotions. Happiness is the form of sound, not something we can see.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.