A Degree of Higher Turning

DJ Loczi has mad skills, not to mention some serious smarts

If you think the nightlife industry is full of money-hungry half-wits who look good but can’t form complete sentences, think again.

The club scene seems to have attracted a growing number of well-studied, well-spoken individuals, and among the smart and most talented few stands Zachary Loczi, a.k.a. DJ Loczi.

DJ Loczi Soul of Our City album release party

July 16 at Studio 54 at MGM Grand. 10 p.m., $10-$20.

The resident DJ at Studio 54, Tabu and Liquid is also the proud owner of not one, but three degrees—a bachelor’s in sociology from University of California, Irvine, a master’s in education from Cal State San Marcos and a certificate in music mixing and mastering from Icon Collective in L.A.

“I graduated at the top of my class, with a 4.0—I was super-studious when I was there,” he says of his time at Cal State. “But the reality was my passion has always been music. … I was playing in San Diego and Orange County and L.A., at minimum, five nights a week.”

Still, he pushed himself into a quote-unquote “real job”—then realized three years later that he could make a career out of being DJ.

“I was DJing the whole time,” he says of his tenure as a middle school teacher. “I would fly out to Chicago or New York or San Francisco and I’d play a party, and then I’d fly home the next morning and teach.”

His double professional life ended shortly after a club-loving parent recognized him at his middle school.

“They were like, ‘What are you doing here?’ and I was all, ‘I’m your son’s teacher,’” Loczi says.

After that, he says word spread and things got weird.

“There were [some parents who] never saw me teach, but thought that I shouldn’t be with their kids … and then the other half of the parents just wanted me to put them on the guest list for everything,” he says. “It was a really interesting dichotomy.”

He ultimately decided to leave the classroom, but he still teaches, at Serato’s online DJ academy, Serato Scratch Live. Still, he spends most of his days crisscrossing the country, playing nightclubs along the way—and despite abundant misconceptions about the mean nightlife employee’s IQ, Loczi says he encounters smart people everywhere he goes.

“The majority of people I work with in this industry are well-studied, are articulate, are incredibly intelligent,” he asserts. “There’s a ton of people who call themselves promoters, but … the people who are truly, truly, truly a part of the industry … for the most part, are highly, highly intelligent individuals.”

The big business of being a full-time DJ requires a lot of hard work, but Loczi says most outsiders—including well-seasoned party veterans—think it’s a nonstop party. “There’s a huge business aspect to running this as a career,” he says. “I have a record label [Earwax], I have a radio show [ShockwaveMIX], I’m a producer and a remixer, I have a publishing deal and I’m a full-time DJ as well, so I’m constantly juggling. … I’ve put a tremendous amount of time and effort to really, really practicing the craft. It’s not something that started six months ago because I‘ve got a laptop. I have 25-30,000 records at home.”

While he is generally known for his sets of American-style mash-ups, Loczi says it was the European DJs he encountered as a teenager while living in London, who first piqued his interest.

Still, he says it was more a sign of the times—before the dawn of the mass-market mash-up, or widespread popularity of well-known American DJs with a signature style all their own, like DJ Z-Trip—than a cultural divide. He says “there wasn’t really a huge, huge influx of American DJs” when he first tasted the sweet nectar of the 1s and 2s more than a decade ago. “There were guys DJing and stuff, but they weren’t really recognized, or given any kind of respect like the European kind of DJs were,” he explains. “You’d have a stadium that would sell out for Paul Oakenfold in Europe, and he’d be, like, one of the biggest pop stars in all of Europe. But then, in the United States, most of the guys that were DJs were just playing the weddings, the stuff like that.”

He strives to be a diverse DJ, playing Euro-house one day, mash-ups another, and hip-hop the day after that.

“They don’t necessarily know exactly what I’m going to play, but they know it’s going to be mixed well,” he says of his audience. “I play high-energy mash-ups, I play a lot of house music and some classic hip-hop—but for the most part, I play mash-ups.”

It’s possible that Loczi’s best-of-both-worlds blend of European and American styles has something to do with his multinational upbringing: He was born in Michigan, but lived in Sweden and England before heading off to college.

“My father was a car designer,” he says, “so we’d kind of cruised around when he was working for different companies.”

Much like his father’s career path, which has ranged from GM to Volvo, the genre-hopping DJ’s driving habits aren’t exactly brand loyal.

Loczi prefaces by saying he has owned “five or six Volvos,” but says after he totaled his last one in an unfortunate traffic cone-related accident on the freeway (oops!), he traded Swedish for German engineering.

“I just went to the lot and bought a Mercedes,” he says—and no, his dad doesn’t give him any grief.

“He doesn’t even drive a Volvo!” Loczi says with a laugh. “He drives a Ducati.”