It was a great night to be at Create in Los Angeles. Along with an awesome nightclub experience, we had the opportunity to hang out and chat with headliner Mackenzie Johnson, also known as MAKJ. His music and extraordinary DJ sets have brought him fans from all over the world in both the EDM and hip-hop communities, with a massive social media following to show it. How does he do it, you might ask? Find out below!
DB: The first thing I read about you was that you were a race car driver before you were a DJ? Tell us a little bit about that.
MAKJ: Racing cars, it was honestly a crazy 10 years of my life. I started racing cars when I lived in Asia, where I got into DJ'ing. When I was living there I went to the clubs for the first time because I guess I was young enough to go to the clubs there. They didn't really care about how young you are, they care about how tall you are. And if you're American they really want you in the clubs. So I experienced my first couple of club gigs there and I've been hooked ever since.
DB: So you found your love for DJ'ing out there and when you came back home to the states, you trained with DJ AM. How was that?
MAKJ: It wasn't really like a training session, a lot of people don't know that he and I were actually really close friends, we weren't just DJ friends. I didn't even know he was a DJ, it was more of a mutual friendship. He was just a homie, I knew him through a mutual friend and long behold he was a DJ as well. It was never like "I'm gonna teach you how to DJ" it was just...we were just friends. That's why I really appreciated Adam, he was such a good guy. He was never that cocky dude that thought he was Jesus at the time, which he was in everybody's eyes. He never really thought that way of himself.
DB: That's another thing about people that do what you do, they think so highly of themselves in a way since society has put DJ's in such a high and mighty place, what's your take on that?
MAKJ: Everyone's gonna have a different personality, if you're really gonna have to push that bad boy image, so be it. If it's gonna work for you, it's gonna work for you. I'm doing my own thing, everyone else can do their own thing. If they don't like that, it's all good.
DB: So did it start with DJ'ing and then producing?
MAKJ: Yeah so I started DJ'ing when I was 17, and I'm 24 now and I've only been starting to produce for the past 2 to 3 years. I never started production, but I've always been a DJ. If you've never seen me play before I always play SO much music. Like tonight it's gonna be an LA crowd, so I know I'm gonna go to my roots and play a lot of hip hop. I play a lot of hip hop in my sets when I'm in LA because that's where I came from. I came from playing Banana Split Tuesdays, I played Greystone Manor, playing Playhouse, that's where I came from so there's a lot of hip hop that's gonna be played tonight.
DB: What was it like to collaborate with people like Henry Fong, Deorro, and Bassjackers, and going on tour with the Hysteria crew?
MAKJ: It was good man, the really cool thing about those guys is I looked up to them for such a long time. When I got to meet them they treated me like I was one of their friends from home and that's what's so warming about this community, the EDM community, everyone's so open armed willing to be your friend it's amazing. That's why I love this industry so much because they want to be your friend but not for the wrong intentions From Maarten from Bingo Players, to Marlon from Bassjackers to Ralph, everyone's amazing. It's mind blowing that everyone wants to be in this industry for the right reasons, if you're doing it for the wrong reasons everyone can point that out and not be your friend, and that's what's amazing about it.
DB: Even being on the media side of things, I haven't met one DJ or anybody I've interviewed that's given me the cold shoulder. Everyone's been so eager to talk, they really like to...you know.
MAKJ: Think about it this way, the only way I was able to get my music heard was through social media. If there was no social media I would never be where I'm standing right now. So if it wasn't for you guys, who actually go out to gigs and did these interviews there would be no DJ's. There would be no rising stars as fast as they are now today in this world because that's how people want to know about other people, is through social media.
DB: I agree, and you in particular compared to other DJ's, you have a really big Facebook and social network following. You can post a funny video about giraffes and it gets ten thousand likes, is that something you feel helps with relevancy?
MAKJ: Yes and no, it's very hard because Facebook has really cut corners a lot in the past year. Last year was really well because Facebook weren't competing with all these other places like Instagram and Twitter. Facebook was on its own level, but now it bought Instagram but they can't buy YouTube and Twitter, so they have really cut corners with stuff. If you want to be on Facebook you have to be posting Facebook original content. It's annoying because I posted a SoundCloud link and direct it as a third party link, and it cuts my reach in half so the people that have been waiting for a remix that I've been waiting to release for so long, they can't get it because they don't see it unless they actually go to my page which is impossible. I will never go to a Deorro or Bassjackers or Bingo Players page unless I see something on my wall, so they've really cut corners in that. I'm lucky enough to have such a good following on Facebook but...it's hard, it's really hard to keep up. I like posting the funny videos because it keeps people engaged, but also that it's posting a funny video. I mean...like I'm not gonna not laugh, you know?
DB: You're also really good about keeping fans engaged compared to most.
MAKJ: Every day, it's twice a day. If you don't do twice a day like...everyone asks who runs my social media and I'm like I run my own social media, and that's the best thing about being my own boss, I run everything. I overlook everything, and I know what works and what doesn't work. Being able to control my fans by just posting a funny video to posting music, you just have to really gauge it the right way as well. You gauge it like "I want to post this funny video on a Monday, but I'm gonna post a remix on Tuesday because I know the video is gonna get shares and likes," and people are still gonna be looking at it so when the remix comes out, they're already gonna be on my page. So it's kind of a science, but it's a really easy thing to go about I guess.
DB: So if you got to meet yourself when you were 16, what would you tell yourself knowing what you know today?
MAKJ: Don't drink as much. (everyone laughs) Stay healthy, and don't drink as much, 100%.
He went on after the interview to play a killer set, and it was a great night. We look forward to seeing MAKJ again in the future, and hopefully get some more tips about being successful in the industry!
Photos by Jay Wade Photography
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