At the age of 15, California boy Mackenzie Johnson moved to Macau, China to become a racecar driver. The global experience taught him a lot about the real world and introduced him to his first club, where DJ Qbert, one of the most highly regarded scratching DJs in the business, was on the turntables. That would prove to be a life-changing moment for Johnson, who saw a new career in DJing, and later dubbed himself MAKJ. “I went up to the DJ booth and was just staring at what he was doing. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,’” he says.
After a couple years abroad, he decided to head back to his hometown of San Luis Obispo, California, and immediately started DJing at fraternity parties. By 19, he was in Los Angeles opening for legendary turntablist DJ AM.
Back then a lot of DJs Johnson calls “high commodity” weren’t producing, so coming at it from a different approach opened doors. AM’s signature hip-hop and EDM mixes and iconic Vegas sets were an inspiration to Johnson, but mostly it’s about, “still doing the turntablist stuff and trying to show off that lost … kind of hobby of scratching,” he said.
It’s this kind of passion and style that allowed Johnson to score his first club residency in 2010 at Wynn nightclub Tryst (now Intrigue). He was only 21 and one of the first electronic acts to play there. It was a test of sorts to see if he could work the crowd and keep people in the club. Now 26, Johnson recognizes that being able to read the crowd has kept his career alive.
For the last seven years, Johnson’s been focusing on evolving as a producer and DJ. “[I push] myself to sit behind a computer five to 10 to 15 hours a day,” he says. “That’s the only way you’re going to be able to get that creativity out of [yourself].” Most recently he’s been busy touring. He just wrapped Miami Music Week, and hopes to return to Electric Daisy Carnival this year.
Johnson continues to find fresh ways to remix music, from Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” to Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” which he reworked in three hours. His original song, “Knock Me Down,” is a current collaboration with Max Styler, featuring Elayna Boynton, and is gaining popularity for it’s future bass and trap blending. He’s also got a mix of Future’s “Mask Off” (which debuted March 30) and is thrilled to be back at Wynn with a 2017 residency deal. In addition to playing at Intrigue, he also will headline at Encore Beach Club and XS, where he kicks off his extended engagement on April 3.