Monday, February 11, 2013


Making it big in the world of electronic dance music and making a name for yourself as a DJ or a kick-ass producer can be difficult, but it’s all about working hard and putting yourself out there. For 22-year-old Mackenzie Johnson, known as MAKJ, his hard work is paying off, as he gets to travel the world on tour and do what he loves.

Starting out with simple mash-ups, he eventually gained support from some of the biggest EDM names out there (Tiesto, Hardwell, Steve Aoki, just to name a few). MAKJ has come a long way and has began producing his own material. Take a listen:

As for how he got into music in the first place, his story is an interesting one.

He has a background in racecar driving, even spending some time competing professionally in China as a teenager. It was in Macao that he first caught a glimpse of the world he wanted to be a part of. He stumbled upon a club and saw DJ QBert, a world-champion scratcher, and since then, he was hooked.

When he got back to the States, he bought his first DJ equipment and started playing at college parties and weddings, anything to get as much experience as possible. And after graduating with a degree in architecture, he decided to move down to LA to attend Icon Collective, a school that specializes in music production, to learn the ropes. 

Source: Facebook

He was in Toronto for the first time for a show on January 26th at TheHoxton (one of my fave venues) and it was great chatting with him before his set. Check out some of his answers from the interview:

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve come across?

MAKJ: There hasn’t been any big horror stories that I’ve heard about, I won’t really mention them. I’ve heard some from clubs. But going to these everyone treats you really well and are really nice. I was just telling my mom this, it’s like a different life every time I go and play. I meet new people, I eat different food, I sleep in a different bed, it’s different every single night. So I really just think of it that way. I love what I do. Traveling, if that’s the worst thing I can come across right now, I’m stupid.

Do you have any pre-show rituals? How do you prepare before a gig?

MAKJ: I eat a cheeseburger, no I’d be 500 pounds. But no, not really. I go to my hotel room and try to find the dumbest thing on TV and try watching it while I do my music.  But not really. A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I’ve been DJ-ing for around six years. A lot of people that start following me and come to my gigs, they don’t know how well I can DJ. So for me, showcasing my DJ abilities is super crucial for me.  That said, I do everything live. I’m not going to know if the crowd is going to be a bunch of 50-year-olds or a bunch of 18-year-olds, so I’m really playing for the crowd. And that’s a huge highlight for me because I know that every DJ out there has a set already planned. But that’s the rush of it.

It’s the thrill of it, knowing how they’re going to react to the songs. For me, that’s what I really like to do. Like tonight, you guys are going to be like, woah I didn’t know you were going to do that. I’ll be going from house to old school hip hop, back to house and then trap, and people will be like, what how did you do that, I’ve got a full array. It’s a very A-Trak thing. So it’s cool that I can show people what DJ-ing actually is.

Who would you love to collaborate with someday?

MAKJ: Everyone has a dream collaboration, but for me, yeah EDM guys are awesome, so definitely with Hardwell or the bigger guys, that would be awesome. But I really want to do something with an old classic rock band, like how Skrillex did that thing with The Doors. I think the generation thing would be so sick.

What advice do you have for other aspiring DJs and producers?

MAKJ: Do stuff for free. Definitely that’s the way my fan base came across. People love free shit. If you don’t have any free stuff to come by, do what people like. It sounds cliché, but do your own thing. I’m trying to do an album right now of all the stuff I think I would like. If you go to Beatport and reference the number one track on Beatport, I don’t really see you going that far because you’re not being yourself. So be yourself and break the rules. For me, give away free shit.

DJ MAKJ brought my friend and I along to the venue for his show and he did not disappoint. His set was fast-paced, energetic and the place was bumpin.  I had such a great time (ps: it was also my birthday weekend, so this was a bonus!). Check out some of my coverage from The Hoxton:

He's got tons of upcoming shows, from Boston and New York to Puerto Vallarta and Miami, plus a residency spot at Tryst in Vegas. He's also on the line-up for Ultra (March 23rd) for the first time this year!

And during our interview, he mentioned a sick collaboration he worked on that he'll be releasing later this year, but couldn't reveal the until then, keep an eye out! 

For more from MAKJ, find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@DJMAKJ).

- Christina
Follow my adventures on Twitter: @christinaaa28

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