[Interview] Hoj keeps us on our toes with a night of mischief and genre melting mastery.

[Interview] Hoj keeps us on our toes with a night of mischief and genre melting mastery.

By Kristin Gray

Photos by Teddy Williams

The Alley Cat I had known up to this point has transformed since their grand opening with Simon Baker. Now their headliners perform upstairs. It’s dark, minimal and sweaty. It is exactly the underground venue you go to if you want to just absorb the music and dance your cares away. The sound reverberates off the exposed brick walls as Vince Lin and Ian James start us off with chill vibes that smoothly escalate to a late night house set. An industrial fan is set up for those of us a bit more vigorous in our dancing or faint of heart in the heat.

Hoj takes to the decks and I swear watching him was almost as mesmerizing as listening to his music. It's as if the relationship he has with his music will forever remain in the sweet honeymoon phase of love and never-ending excitement. Each new track he seems completely enthralled by, and even though he knows the upcoming selection, his face lights up with each new phase in. Then there was the music. His style I would describe as both figuratively and literally keeping us on our toes. Switching from house to techno and back again, the energy was an ever changing flow that kept up an air of intrigue and seduction. Prior to his set we were able to weave our way onto the outdoor patio where we sat, relaxed, enjoyed the fresh air and chatted about Burning Man, his musical journey and ice cream.

HOJ-4

You recently finished a stint in Miami and Playa Del Carmen, where you got to play alongside some great talent, including a few long time fellow collaborators. Can you tell us about that?

Everywhere I go to play, I am surrounded by friends in one way or another. Whether I’m playing with Lee {Burridge} or any of the All Day I Dream guys, or Behrouz...or anybody, it’s always kind of amazing to go play when you know the other DJ’s. You’ve hung out with them, you’ve been to their houses and they’ve been to your house, and you know you have similar sensibilities. It’s always nice musically too because you know what they’re gonna do and they know what you’re gonna do.

What is the story of you becoming one of the founders of Opulent Temple at Burning Man?

Oh, that’s a long time ago. The story is that I had never been to Burning Man, and I was a resident for Opel Productions at the time in San Francisco. We threw parties in San Francisco and Opel was run by Syd Gris. Syd had been to Burning Man a bunch and had done some sound camps, and wanted to start his own. He had a meeting at his house with me and a guy called Rich who did metal art installations. Basically, Syd told us he wanted to go to Burning Man and start Opulent Temple, and {asked} did we want to come help out? So I said, "Yeah, I’d never been before." We brought a bunch of wood and Rich built what we called the “O-Pod,” that shot fire out of the top of the roof. It was small, it just had one DJ booth, but we worked our asses off so over the years it grew and each year they would add stuff. And now it’s a pretty big sound camp. This started about thirteen or fourteen years ago.

What inspired your creation of the deep and mischievous music you are so well known for?

I just want to play something that’s true to my personality, and I like to cause a little trouble when I can. Also, I started going to raves in San Francisco when I was really young, like fourteen or fifteen years old. Back then, they were playing funky house and deep house and there were guys like DJ Dan. Those were the cats I grew up with and we would just go to dance. I was in a break dancing crew, we’d go in with cardboard and duct tape and we’d do a dance in a circle all night. I always wanted to keep it danceable when I moved on to make music of my own. And that’s where it partly comes from. And the mischievous part comes from my personality. I like to get into a little trouble. Not too much, but a little bit.

Can you describe what your journey has been like, from your discovery of your love for music to where you are now?

The best way to describe it is to talk to anybody that’s close to me. If I don’t listen to music pretty much on a daily basis, or I am away from it for a while, I kinda turn into a grumpy ass hole. And people will tell me ‘you need to go listen to some music’. For me, the journey has always been that music is a really huge part of my life, and without it I turn into a grumpy old guy. The journey has been feeding that beast as much as I can. Now it’s grown with All Day I Dream and we’re getting to play a lot of the music we love to play. It’s really been a pleasure.

Last year you were on tour with fellow Listed Productions DJ and long time friend, Atish. What were some of your fondest memories along your European tour?

Oh, so many! We had fun everywhere we went. I called him my DJ wife, and he called me his DJ husband. We will still text or call if we’re traveling a lot just to check in to see what we’re doing. But the tour, man, Beirut was amazing. There is a lot of down time when you’re touring, you’re playing Friday and Saturday so then you’re in a random place from Sunday to Thursday. You’re lucky enough to have really good locals to hang out with and show you around. Everywhere we were… Istanbul and Beirut… we got to really learn a lot about the culture and see how they lived and partied. You’re really comfortable when you’re there with one of your closest friends. And we ate a lot of ice cream.

(So then I had to ask as a fellow ice cream lover) What’s your favorite flavor?

That’s a really good question. Persian ice cream is the best ice cream that there is. It’s saffron and rose flavored. It’s the only flavor they have, if you go to get Persian ice cream in Tehran, there is that one flavor. And we actually did a photo shoot with DJ's dressed all in black but with ice cream cones. Then every city we went to we got an ice cream and posted it to Instagram. People still come up to me at clubs and ask me if I want an ice cream.

 

We just got to see Lee Burridge for his set in Atlanta, can you tell us the experiences of getting to play alongside such a masterful DJ?

Lee Burridge is my favorite DJ. And over the years we’ve become close. I’ve gotten to play with him and before him and after him, all of those. It’s always effortless. He brings the best out of you and you’re also standing next to your favorite DJ. You kind of elevate your game but without the pressure. And he’s so open and very much believes in you and wants you to play whatever it is you want. I never got a sense that he was uncomfortable, and it’s a very warm, open experience. I consider myself one of the luckiest guys alive.

What was involved in your latest mix Alpha, and the process that went into it’s creation?

I always try to do mixes as kind of a whatever I’m feeling at the time. Sometimes they come together, but there’s a lot of mixes that don’t, and I’ll just scrap them after a while and you tell yourself that this mix isn’t happening today. Alpha was one of those where I was touring quite a bit, and after you’re touring and playing every week you get to learn of a lot of good music. Alpha was literally, I was in a hotel room and had just gotten back from a gig, and instead of sleeping I just started to program the mix, and it kind of put itself together in a very quick amount of time. I barely even thought about it. It was what I was feeling, and they were the tracks that if I were to play a set at the moment, those were the ones I would have played.

Any upcoming projects or releases we can be expecting from you?

I like to do the mixes a lot, so I think in the next few weeks after the Winter Music Conference I’ll probably put out a new mix. And there’s some original productions that I’ve been working on, so we’ll see what happens with those.

Expand showcases Mindshake Records with Paco Osuna & Ebgert (Live).

Expand showcases Mindshake Records with Paco Osuna & Ebgert (Live).

[Interview] Patrice Baumel, M.E.N.U, and Project B. switch things up for a dark and enduring experience.

[Interview] Patrice Baumel, M.E.N.U, and Project B. switch things up for a dark and enduring experience.