Sunshine is her real name. Sunshine Rosie Trott. Her parents were hippies. Her father lives off-grid in northern New South Wales somewhere, but the superstar DJ and incoming producer recently took him to his first festival where, as usual, she knocked it out of the park.
Said one enthusiastic reviewer of her housey, feelgood, vibrant set: “If you don’t have a wide grin in the midst of one of her mixes, give it fifteen, look about, you’ll soon do by osmosis.”
But everyone has story – a past, a present and an imagined future. Sunshine’s happens to be like a Hollywood script. Except of course no-one has made this up. It’s all real and it spans triumph and tragedy and back again. It’s quite a thing, and she is quite something.
Sunshine (her real name!) is from Perth. At age 12 she was going to “illegal, underground raves.” She was mesmerised by the music, by the scene. She figured she could express herself through it somehow. By 14 she was buying records. This was in the heady days of the mid-90s. Then at 16 she left school with a dream to become a DJ.
She went fruit-picking to earn enough money for the bus and train fares and a little bit more then crossed the entire country on her own to landed in Melbourne in 1998 with $300 in her pocket.
She knew one person – a school-friend from Perth – and moved in with her, and set about working as a sandwich hand to save money for the hallowed turntables. In the end her mum lent her the money and she got her Technics and a bodgy old Vestax mixer and set to work – “for the first year-and-a-half I practised an hour a day, just playing records, trying to figure out what it was all about.”
Even back then Sunshine had eclectic tastes. She was – and still is – into soul, hiphop, rock, gospel and funk as much as she is into house and techno. It’s this spirt which eventually saw her secure the Saturday morning residency at infamous Melbourne club Revolver, a spot she has now held for a staggering 15 years. But it hasn’t been easy. Sunshine doesn’t mind talking about this part of it – her struggles with drug addicton. She’s clean now, ten years off heroin, but has had trouble with other drugs, and alcohol, since.
“Maybe telling my story will help other people,” she says. “It’s not easy. I try and do clean-eating, exercise and mediation, but back then it felt like I was living in an isolated shell. I had the one job you could keep even if you were high at work. It paid me good money to support an intense drug habit. Now I won’t touch that stuff again. I have big plans.”
Her first gigs – after only half-learning to mix and doing it on the second beat of the bar – were eclectic breaks sets at 331/3, then The Lounge, then Revolver midweek, by which time (around the year 2000) she could mix, program and keep a dancefloor alive.
“This was my dream,” she says. “I was living for it and I couldn’t believe I had achieved it. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do in my life.”
She kept DJing. Festivals, clubs, parties. That Revolver residency just kept going and to say revolver is a central part of Melbourne’s incredible club legacy would be understatement – is the centre, the kingdom, the ground zero. This is where she held court entertaining the jesters, clowns and fools. No mean feat in such a ‘lively’ place fill of colourful local identities.
Now Sunshine is expanding her horizons. She has set up a record label called Disco Faith Recordings, begun producing her own music, established Disco Faith, a gospel choir, investigated the world’s greatest clubs in Europe, and started her own parties, the first of which, Midnight Mass, was held just before Christmas 2017. This has all come after a point of crisis was reached where just DJing – just playing other people’s music in clubs she has been in many times before – began to feel less exciting. “I still love DJing but I wanted to push myself creatively.”
The first release on Disco Faith Recordings will be ‘Here to Stay’, written entirely Sunshine and the Disco Faith Choir. It’s out in June. Club music with a live gospel choir – why hasn’t anyone thought of that before?
`“My DJing sound developed over the years into a sort of gospel, bluesy sound with harder house and techno. That’s the sound I’m known for. It’s a natural progression to turn that into a live performance. But I have to put it out there first to see if it works!”