Mackenzie Johnson, a.k.a. MAKJ, is one of the fastest growing DJs and producers right now. Many of the tracks he's produced have hit the top ten on Beatport, and his music is supported by the most well-known DJs in the world. Not only is he being support by those big artists, but he's working directly with them too!
We caught up with Mackenzie after his set at TomorrowWorld, where he talked about his track with Hardwell "Countdown," who he would love to work with, his upcoming tour dates, and ... melons?! Find out what he had to say:
How was playing the main stage at TomorrowWorld?!
It was amazing, Tomorrow World was, OK, it’s like, if you really think about it this was like the biggest event of the year. You know there's Ultra, there is EDC but tomorrow world coming to the States for the first time. It's amazing. So being a part of that! Just no words, no words.
You posted on Facebook: "This set was full of the most unreleased MAKJ tunes ever." So how many new songs did you play?
Ten or eleven. Yea, it was crazy. Some songs people already knew, but they are not out. I dropped the Hardwell collab, of course, I did my Nervo remix that I’m doing (it is the their new single), a Henry Fong collab, Deorro collab, Dannic collab. So there is a lot of new stuff, and my LiL Jon collab of course, but that one is going to be a big one though. A lot of unreleased stuff. Its crazy! I'm a machine in the studio, but it comes with a tole. I am pale, I have no life, I travel all the time and I sit in a box. I am a mole.
You just released "Revolution," and we heard Axwell and Calvin played it in their TomorrowWorld sets!
Yes. Amazing, it was crazy. I was DJing actually in Boston last night (shout out to Evolution for being in Boston!), but I was in Boston last night and I kept getting these tweets like, "Oh Axwell is playing "Revolution." I was like, "Naw, he doesn't support my stuff." Low and behold he played the song and he mashed it up with "Leave the World Behind!” Which is awesome. Then, also Calvin played it, which is really good. Just double wammy, its the best.
You also recently previewed "Countdown," your collab with Hardwell. What was it like working with him?
Amazing, I learned a lot from him, and not just only the production side but also how to really do a proper release. You know, his label is very very easy to work with, they are very professional, he has a timeline for everything. We really want to wait and we debuted the track at the Ultra Music Festival in March, you know, so it’s seven months ago. It was kind of like, the anticipation was there. Everyone knew about the track, but no one knew when it was going to come out. People still don't know when it is going to come out. And everyone is doing the countdown. Once we got the timeline from his label we were like, OK we are going to release it then we are going to release it for TomorrowWorld. We want it to be like the anthem for New Years, we want it to be like the anthem for TomorrowWorld, we want it to be the anthem for ADE, and now it’s right around when the DJ Mag results come in, so they planned it out at the perfect time. My name is buzzing, his name is unreal. So it is the perfect time to release something and that is what we wanted. So, it was amazing just to learn from the proper release on a label and also to work with him. It’s just crazy.
You are working with all these big artists and all of these big artists are supporting your music. Is there anyone you really want to work with that you haven't yet?
You know funny you ask, I’ve always loved Alesso's stuff. And everyone asked me, "Oh does Alesso ever play your stuff?" I don’t think he does, You know, but having Axwell playing my stuff, and Thomas Gold playing my stuff, it really puts me on the map that, I am not just another producer, it kind of just pushes me to that next step. So definitely I want to work with Alesso, definitely Calvin Harris, but really come up with that big anthem, everyone singing along to it because that’s just the best feeling. People know my tracks, but once they start singing along to your stuff it’s a whole other feeling.
Did you really live in China as a professional race car driver? How did you get into that?
Oh, yea! It is true. My step dad, he has been racing cars since he was 15, his dad was doing it before, and I have two older brothers and they didn't want to do it. I don't know how stupid they are for not wanting to drive go-carts when they were kids. And [laughs] and so after that I started doing local races, and that moved to competitive regional stuff, and then after that the economy kind of went to poo-poo. They were like "hey, the economy in Asia is a lot cheaper for you to race. If you really wanna to do this we are going to literally make you live in Macau, China." It’s kind of an economic standpoint, it’s about half the money and you get twice as much as you’re getting if you are going to race than in the States. So it was a no-brainer. And they were like , "Hey you are going to go over there, you are going to go to school over there." So I went over there, went to a charter school, learned Mandarin. It was intense, it was good though. I was going to Australia, New Zealand, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, everywhere, even in the middle east. I was in Bahrain, I was living in Bahrain for a year, so it was definitely a good experience to go over there. I learned a lot.
Your radio show airs every Sunday on Evolution.
Every Sunday at 5 p.m. PT [8 p.m. ET]. I love the show. Like I said, I was playing in Boston last night, and a lot of people came up to me and were like "We listen to your show every Sunday, it’s SO good it’s like every time you go on we just want to rage in our car, we want to rage in our house, it's the best." So, yea definitely download the APP, you can get it wherever you want. It is a lot better than all those other stations because you don't have to pay for it! It is free. Free music. I love giving free music out.
What is next for you? You have all these unreleased tracks that are just waiting to be released!
I got a lot of touring coming up. The Bingo Payers Tour, it's the "Rattle and Roll" tour, I am doing 27 shows with Bingo players and Bassjackers, and all around North America. We start out in Florida and we end in LA. So it's going to be Canada, Boston, we are doing House of Blues in Boston, so I will have the Evolution kids come out to that one. I am doing a Nervo tour in Mexico, and then I’m doing an Australia Tour at the end of the year! And then after that I am going on a two-month Europe tour with Benny Benassi. So it’s going to be crazy.
You are touring so much! What are the essential things that you need to have on tour with you at all times?
That is a really good question. Baby wipes, hand sanitizer, sour patch kids, water, (of course) my computer. That WiFi. That is about it. Really the personal comfort kind of things that you get at home, I’m never home so I don't really know. Sitting on the couch, I never have that feeling watching the Super Bowl on my own TV. Definitely the small things make a difference for me.
What is in your tour rider?
We actually just changed it. It starts off with Arizona iced tea, Crown Royal (shout out to Crown Royal!), baby wipes, hand sanitizer, beef jerky, Ciroc, and a fresh array of fruits. No melons! I am allergic to melons. Fun fact. No melons. I will die. Like, I was on a plane one time, and in first class they were eating melons with their dish, and it got in the air system, I started beraking out on the plane. That is how intense my melon thing is. So if you want to kill me, give me melons. Don't like my music? You can kill me with melons.
Photo Credit Katherine Tyler for iHeartRadio