MAKJ Shows Us How to Party

Here's how a superstar DJ does Vegas

Illustration by Jon Estrada

Illustration by Jon Estrada

Mackenzie Johnson—better known as MAKJ—missed our first scheduled interview. Can you blame him? The DJ/producer is on his first U.S. headlining tour, and he’s had a lot to juggle on top of it, including a couple of PR nightmares, most notably when he claimed to have created a track with Axwell that was in fact the work of fellow producers Kryder and Tom Staar. His decision to pursue the rock-star lifestyle as a DJ in the U.S. came after a stint as a professional race-car driver in China. His progressive house style is similar to many other EDM figureheads, and he isn’t ashamed to admit that his music can be “generic.” We finally connected with MAKJ before his next show at Drai’s on December 13.

If you could book the perfect party, who would be on your dream lineup?

Does it have to be DJs? Because I wouldn’t hire any DJ.

Sure, it’s your party. You can do whatever you want.

I would have Pearl Jam headline. Opening up, I would have The Bravery. The middle set, I’d have Kygo. That’d be sick.

So, if you don’t really listen to DJs in your free time, what do you listen to?

Classic rock and some hip-hop.

Which bands or artists do you like?

Shit. Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys, Pearl Jam—if you wanna consider that classic rock. Definitely Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac. Bob Seger, shit like that.

You’re bringing along some cool supporting acts for your current tour, too. Who are they, and why did you choose them?

One is Joe Ghost—he’s a good friend of mine. He works the club, a lot of people like him, he has a cool look—nice kid, very marketable. So I felt like it’d be easiest.

How was your last stop through Vegas?

I was there for my buddy’s bachelor party, and I ended up at Spearmint Rhino getting a lap dance. It was pretty intense.

Are there any other Vegas haunts you have to hit while you’re here?

I go to this barbershop—Hi-Rollers, on Maryland Parkway! It’s been on Pawn Stars and a couple of reality TV shows. The guys in there are super rad. It’s kind of in the ghetto, though. So I feel like I’m gonna get stabbed by a crackhead or some shit.makj_no_credit_WEB

Aside from a haircut, what else do you have on the horizon?

I just signed a release on Spinnin’, coming out December 5. [It’s] kind of a generic song, but [I’m] stoked for it. It’s been in the making since Ultra this year. I have a bunch of free releases coming out with Deorro; a free release, an original vocal song, with a guy named Zak Waters next month; a collab with A-Trak; a progressive house track that has either REM or POD on it—we’re trying to decide who has a better vocal. Then, in January, I wanna take a full month off to start writing my album.

What will this album sound like?

It’s the evolution of MAKJ. Everyone had their punk-rock days and then hip-hop days and then electro-house days. That’s the evolution. [The album spans] what I started listening to and what I ended up listening to. So it’ll be a multi-genre album.

You’ve had a couple of scandals in the past when you’ve been accused of taking credit for other musicians’ songs. How do you go about dealing with that, and how does it make you feel?

Stealing others’ stuff, that’s shit. If people accuse me of stealing other people’s stuff, they’re trying to get publicity out of it. I just take it with a grain of salt. They’ll forget about it in a week. That’s just how this industry is: Kids just wanna hear drama. It’s always been like that, like a reality TV show. Once someone decides that they are jealous of you, they wanna be you; they try everything in their power to put you down. That’s how this industry has become: Don’t speak unless spoken to—that’s always my shit

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