Interview: MAKJ discusses new single ‘Too Far Gone’ and life in Las Vegas
Since catching the eye of Hardwell, with whom he recorded “Countdown” in late 2013, US producer MAKJ has enjoyed a vibrant career packed with a dozen critically-acclaimed tracks, including Lil Jon collab ‘Let’s Get F**ked Up’, Bassjackers team-up ‘Derp’ and Andrew W.K. and Timmy Trumpet production ‘Party Till We Die’ in 2016.
The LA based DJ and producer has now delivered his new single, a synth-laden electro production titled ‘Too Far Gone.’ Having spent much of his career collaborating with some of today’s most talented DJs, his new solo track bridges the gap between Johnson’s early career and his return to more mainstream roots with 80’s inspired electro sounds and a deep bassline underpinned by the dreamy vocals of Chicago singer-songwriter Matthew Santos.
Entering the music world after a successful stint abroad as a racing car driver, MAKJ’s first first meaningful exposure to DJing came at the Macao nightclubs he and his teammates would frequent after races. Self-taught in the art, the legendary DJ AM chose to mentor MAKJ, a figure whom the American still credits to this day as a major influence on the trajectory of his career.
“When producing this record, I found myself really digging deep into the organic music side of my brain,” said MAKJ. “This record speaks on so many different years of my life. From the ’80s inspired synths, to the live drums, new wave rhythm, and vocals from Matthew. I really wanted to make this an art piece, not just another single.”
Enjoying a career that has seen MAKJ play at some of the largest and most prestigious music festivals in the world, including Coachella, Voodoo, Electric Zoo, and Ultra, MAKJ maintains a residency at the Wynn Las Vegas as his stock continues to rise, as he told us in this exclusive interview when we caught up with him:
The new track ‘Too Far Gone’ is out now. Where did the inspiration for the track come from?
“Talking Heads, Phil Collins, that whole sound. So throwing some 80s inspiration into my electronic productions just made sense. Now the new sound birthed from that has become the new MAKJ.”
The track features Chicago based singer, Matthew Santos. How did this collaboration come about?
“Matthew was referred to my management a while back and him and I just kept in contact with each other over the last couple of years. We began to bounce off a few ideas here and there, and ‘Too Far Gone’ was the one that eventually stuck – grant it, ‘Too Far Gone’ is two years in the making.”
Once a track is completed, as a DJ, tell us what it’s like for you to hear artists on your mix and ‘complete’ the track?
“I like having a full vocal on production; I think that is always a good indication that a track is coming together. With that full vocal on production, once doing the final mix down and master; you know it’s ready.”
Who are some other vocalists you have your eye on to work with in the future?
“I am less on the names and more on the hard work. I want to work with anyone who is willing to work and learn. And that goes both ways, I find myself learning from my collaboration processes just as much as I hope my collaborators are learning from me during the process.”
Congratulations on your residency at Las Vegas’, Wynn. Talk us through a couple of your highlights so far?
“What more can I say than Summer in Vegas is always the best. Great people, great music, great vibes. Vegas is one of those places where people come from all over the world to let loose. I’m always excited to be a part of that energy, as a DJ, that’s the exact energy you want.”
What’s next for MAKJ musically in 2018?
“Becoming more of an artist. ‘Too Far Gone’ is a good example of me pushing my creativity and sound to the next level and towards where I want my sound to be and where I want to be as an artist.”
Having started DJ’ing from a young age and with your 10 year anniversary approaching, what would you like to achieve before the big milestone?
“I really want to buy my mom a new house. I love her to death and she deserves it.”
‘Too Far Gone’ feat. Matthew Santos serves as an embodiment of MAKJ’s diverse and dynamic production talents and is out now.