Paolo Mojo's career blew up in the past few years; he proved that he's one of those DJs that balance the atmosphere on a knife edge and then drop you off, pull you back up and throw your senses to all points of the emotional compass. In 2001 he won the Muzik Magazine's Bedroom Bedlam competition (and a subsequent nomination for 'Best Bedlam DJ' at their annual awards) and was chosen as the winner of Rapture TV's Homelands Contest, which awarded Paolo with a 90 minute set in the Back2Basics arena at Homelands that year. He runs Music Is Freedom, which is rapidly establishing itself as a respected underground house label, developing a wide assorted release schedule from artists such as Dino Lenny, Simon Rogers, Smight, Koo and Paolo himself that has earned praise from a host of DJs including Craig Richards, Sasha and Deep Dish.
In our latest interview, Paolo sits down with us and chats about several interesting aspects of today's underground dance music world and where does he find himself on it, his current activities in the production front and Dj-ing and much more... Click below to read the interview.
Interview: Paolo Mojo
Getting into dance music is something that you always wanted to do or you rather though that you might do this just like everything else?
Depends what you mean by getting into dance music. I never sat down and thought "right I want to be a DJ", in the sense we think of one nowadays. I was always fascinated by playing records and making people dance. My mum and dad used to have parties and I would hang around the record player until I had to go to bed, trying to pick the records or cassettes. Every time I went round to an aunties or uncles, or friend of the family I would have my head buried in the record player (they all had those stack systems at the time with tapes and LPS stored inside! The first time I played out was playing 7" pop records at my old primary school discos when I was 13, for £10 I did that for a bit, and some other small things before I heard someone use a mixer and pitch control to mix two tunes together for the first time – at a family wedding. It was February 1989 and the tunes were Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry and Wait! By Dr Robert!
I got my first proper decks and mixer set up when I was 17. I was in a car crash a few years before and when I got my damages paid out I used it on that... I picked it up instantly to be honest, and by this time I was buying house tunes every week. But it's fair to say that for a long time I was lazy, people used to tell me off for not using my talent as much as I should. I eventually listened to them a few years ago and managed to start getting myself out and about with a bit of success. Since then I've also taken time to learn the studio, and I'm happy with the balance I have now.
Who was your childhood hero? And where the name Mojo comes from?
My childhood hero was actually Ian Rush, a striker for Liverpool! I was also fascinated by Michael Jackson when I was younger – then Prince when I got slightly older, say about 16. As for Mojo, well it's nothing more than a happy accident. It comes from the name of a club night I was involved with a few years back called "The Big Mojo". In order to promote the night on a few message boards and emails (they were getting popular at the time) I stuck it on the end of my name as Paolo Mojo. It stuck around and people seemed to like it. The night finished soon after and I decided to keep the name.
How would you describe the Paolo Mojo sound for those that didn't catch you playing yet?
Umm it's just dance music really... mostly different kinds of house with influences of everything thrown in behind a big fat drum kick. A lot of people comment that my sound is pretty diverse and I guess that's true in the sense I don't play progressive house, tech house, electro or funky house or any other kind of house exclusively. But I've never personally seen that as being particularly diverse – I just see it as my job. I'm a house music man basically.
Tell us about your Music Is Freedom record label in conjunction with Orcmusic. You wanted it to be an outlet for your productions or you really felt the music needs something new? What artists are you currently work with?
Well, let's clear it up. Music Is Freedom and Orcmusic are two separate labels, first of all. I have released tracks on Orcmusic but I don't run the label. A guy known as the Orc actually runs the label. Music Is Freedom is my label, and we have various projects coming up from Can Costa, MarcAshken, Simon Rogers, Mazi and lots of things from myself. It's an interesting time.
I was chatting to Mazi about this the other week actually, your point about starting a label to break new talent – that's how we both started our labels but we came to realise that in the current climate the best thing a small independent dance music label can be – is an advert for you. So nowadays although I release tracks I like from other artists, I'm turning much more towards MIF being an outlet for my ideas. I want people to really start to identify Music Is Freedom with me.
'Heretic' is the collaboration with your fellow saboteur Cass. Can you tell us more about it?
Heretic is simply what Cass and I do together, be it playing or remixing. We also decided to do a mix cd for the hell of it. It's nothing too serious to be honest, if it does well then fine, if it doesn't well – we had fun doing it anyway. We're hoping to have the CD out within the next 3 months on Sabotage. You should already be able to pick up a remix of Sikha on Sabotage and soon Joe Montana's "boys". We're also supposed to be working on a version of Lee Burridge's "Do You Smoke Pot", but we haven't really got around to that yet....
What makes a superior Dj, an above average jock, in your opinion?
DJing is a simple business and anybody who tells you otherwise is talking rubbish. You don't need to complicate things unnecessarily. It's the same with anything, business, great footballers, they make things look easy. You don't need to blind people with science; you just need to play good music in a well thought out way that gets people dancing. So that's a combination of mixing, programming and most importantly - music choice, it's the same as it's always been. Whether you use a laptop with Ableton, cdjs and edits, lots of outboard gear or plain old two decks and a mixer to do that, that's up to you. Don't let what you use get in the way of the music.
Having said that, there's no doubt if you keep it in its proper perspective there's a lot you can do these days that you just couldn't do in earlier years. Like many DJs I create my own edits of most things I play, and occasionally make full blown remixes using just little parts of tracks I like. I make a lot of use of CDJs, samplers and EFX. I'm yet to go down the Ableton Live route in a live setting although I have used it here in the studio. It's a great piece of kit, very intuitive although I think its time stretching still needs a bit of work for production use.
Who do I think gets my vote? People who play diverse and interesting stuff. Lee Burridge has a panache that's fantastic; he's been a big influence and a good friend for a few years now. Desyn Masiello, another friend but someone who has a real ear for a tune. Danny Howells energy is infectious. I also like Josh Wink, Craig Richards, Mazi, Mark Farina, Terry Francis, Francois Kevorkian, Derrick Carter, Nic Fanciulli, James Zabiela, Laurent Garnier, Ritchie Hawtin, John Digweed, Sasha.. Anyone that puts a bit of thought and effort into their performances really. I also enjoyed listening to a mix from ALT-CTRL, a London electro act recently - and people like Neil Quigley always have my ear too.
Your DJing schedule seems busier then ever these months... Do you plan any visit to Romania in the future?
I do. I have no bookings confirmed, but I enjoyed my previous visits to Romania, to Bucharest, Timisoara and Constanta. Hopefully I will be able to come before the end of the year.
You've played this year at some massive parties at some of the hottest clubs around. What have been your finest moments?
If you're talking about this year then I think the best gig was at Fabric at the end of January, without a doubt. Fantastic crowd and amazing club. Warming up for Sasha was an interesting experience. It was good to get the crowd who were obviously there for him, into what I was doing as well. I was really eye opener in terms of how you have to deal with that kind of attention as well. I've never seen fans as intense as that at such close quarters before. I've also had fun in Norway, Turkey, and some great gigs in Russia, on the Black Sea Coast for Password to name a few others this year.
What plans / collaborations / releases / ideas or expectations do you have for the coming months?
Well I'm working on a track with Mazi, we sketched out the basic idea together in London and we're working independently on two versions of it now. But other than that, to be honest I'm not looking at too many new collaborative ideas or projects at the moment. Simply because I am an awkward bugger and I've found I prefer (for the moment), working my own ideas. That may change but for the moment I'm concentrating on seeing what I can do. I work much faster and quicker alone.
In what direction you think the house music is heading to?
As long as people still want to dance - then house music or whatever you want to call it will still be there. Its evolving nature keeps me interested. And people who aren't afraid to step away from the template in their producing or playing will always feed things and keep it fresh.
What's your favourite non-dance music album and why?
Jeeez. Impossible question to answer. It changes all the time. Stevie Wonder 'Innervisions' to pick one that I have been playing recently.
Your top 5 at the moment would be...?
Ame - Shimo / Sonar Kollectiv
Mister cisco – culo / pigna
Ben mono feat. Sirius mo – protection (remixes) compost
Patrick turner – planets aligned
Paolo mojo – discotek ep / honchos
- [a:rpia:r] - A successful story
- Simian Mobile Disco - New Future Electro Disco Heroes
- Luciano: I'm Still the Same Guy
- The Model - A Special Man With Special Needs
- Me and You is M.A.N.D.Y.
- Carl Craig: I'm Not A Fortune Teller!
- Audio: In Between with Paul Van Dyk
- Audio: Steve Bug - 'I Don't Make Music for Bugs!'
- Ricardo Villalobos - from South America with love
- Lee Burridge: Balance, drugs and Tyrant
- Audio: Ricky Stone, a busy combination
- Hook N Sling - a Fat Australian Export
- Break-Beat lessons with Krafty Kuts
- Ewan Pearson, the lucky guy
- The other side of Ellen Allien
October 20, 2004 at 10:25 AM CEST