When you do what we do its very easy to start thinking of yourself as indestructible, or at least not vulnerable to the same pressure and pitfalls that everyone else is. Thats rubbish; in fact, youre probably putting yourself more at risk than any other group because of the nature of the lifestyle.
Sipping a Café Machiato on a sunny afternoon in a High Street Kensington Starbacks, tech/ house/ prog DJ Paolo Mojo looks a picture of health, despite a year which has seen him battling with the serious potentially life-threatening and excruciatingly painful illness pancreatitis. Blessed with fresh faced youthful features, he looks considerably younger than his 31 years though is under no illusions that his previously relentless 7 days a week workaholic lifestyle contributed to his condition.
Last September, just before I got ill, Id realistically been on tour since March, I did the Miami conference, then promoted a compilation and released tracks throughout the summer and everything kept on rolling and rolling, he recalls
Id never previously toured that extensively and was playing every weekend and also Mondays, Wednesdays, consistently overseas. So Id be going from Australia to North America to Asia then back to North America and Europe then suddenly realising Id not been home for ten weeks. After a while that starts to physically wear you down and mentally play with your head as well.I used to tour with Sasha two years ago doing a lot of warm up sets for him and he used to tell me that by the middle of August each year hed go a little crazy. I didnt quite appreciate what he meant at the time but now I do- you become a little stir crazy.
12 months on, hes almost fully recovered from his pancreatitis (I still have twinges of pain now and again now) and equally back on the international DJ circuit, promoting his latest compilation for Renaissance (Digital 001) and his own new label Oosh.
Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): Where are you at musically these days?
Paolo Mojo: The Renaissance CD has recently come out and its essentially a cross section of house, tech-house and progressive house which is pretty much what I play. A lot of DJs say you cant categorise what I play but of course you can.
Skrufff: Are you producing much music at the moment?
Paolo Mojo: Lots of stuff, yes, I have a new record label called Oosh.
Paolo Mojo: Yeah, spelt double O, S, H. People always wonder where it came from. Ive got a brother and Im pretty close to him and when we were younger we used to have our own little language and one of the words we came up with was Oosh, which indicates youre completely bored with a person or situation. I always resolved that one day I would do something with that word, so Oosh it is.
Skrufff: Why launch your own label now when the music industry is in such crisis?
Paolo Mojo: Its a combination of things. I was getting tired of doing remixes for people that for one reason or another never got released. Another reason is its very good to keep a consistent stream of your own releases coming out and the best way to do that is with your own label. Thirdly Im a producer as well as a DJ so it makes sense, and finally Ive got a really good team around me now who run the label. One of the things you learn as you get older is what youre good at, and also not good at. Im certainly not good at running a record label, I tried it once before and ended up owing thousands of pounds. I was terrible. I have other people doing it and were showing a profit already.
Skrufff: How much is producing these days about marketing yourself for DJing?
Paolo Mojo: Thats a valid point in that its becoming more and more difficult to be a DJ without having a portfolio of productions. Im not sure thats a good thing but thats the way its gone. And one of the reasons for that is that the market has gone so global. One of the quickest ways that people pick up on an artist is through the music they make. That trend has accelerated a lot on the last five years, you dont see many DJs coming through anymore who are just a DJ.
Skrufff: Is it getting harder to be a DJ these days?
Paolo Mojo: Its becoming very hard. There are more and more people buying into it, more and more people want to be DJs, theres more and more technology which levels out the basics meaning that youve got to work harder and harder to differentiate yourself. On the flip side, theres not many barriers to entry and most of the music is readily accessible but overall its definitely harder.
Skrufff: You recently took a break after contracting pancreatitis, did you have to stop for a period altogether?
Paolo Mojo: I didnt and maybe I should have taken a little more time off actually if Im honest. I got sick at the beginning of October last year and struggled through November. I was out of action for the whole of October then jumped back into it in November, not with anything too strenuous but still working in England and Europe, and I found it really hard. It was mid December before I felt even vaguely normal.
Skrufff: When did the pancreatitis start kicking in?
Paolo Mojo: I got food poisoning at a gig in Lisburn in Portugal, I remember looking at the calendar that weekend and the week after I had a break for the first time in six months and I remember thinking thank God. Then that morning I are something bad in the hotel. I tell you what; if you ever hear DJs moan about hotels this is a very good reason why they do. I was put into a crappy hotel in Portugal which was clearly not a very good place and I caught food poisoning from the buffet breakfast. I had eggs and cheese. When they did the stool culture test at the doctors to find out what was wrong with me they asked me what Id eaten and asked me if Id eaten eggs or cheese. I said yes, apparently this is very prevalent from buffet breakfasts. If you stay in a budget hotel and it knocks you out for two weeks its a false economy.
I flew back to England with a bad stomach ache then over the next few days it really came on. I saw my doctor and he gave me some antibiotics and a week later I thought it had cleared up. Then I started feeling weird stabbing pains in my waist thinking what is that? I dont know whether the food poisoning or antibiotics triggered the pancreatitis, the doctors havent ruled either option out. The first time I felt the pain from the pancreatitis was when I was at my Mums recuperating from the food poisoning. I took some Nurofen and swallowed them whole which was really stupid. I was drinking wine too at the time and I felt the Nurofen burst in my throat and it burned so badly. All the way down. They were Nurofen gel caps and I stupidly just munched them, so they burst in my throat. The next day I woke up with a terrible stomach pain unlike anything else Id ever felt- it was a boring pain right in the middle, I couldnt get out of bed. I had a gig coming up in China and I was phoning my manager saying if this goes on, I wont be able to make it. I somehow made it to the post office to get some photos done for the visa. Anyway., I decided to go back to London on the train and bought myself a first class upgrade so I could sit back. I couldnt sit forward because it was so painful.
I went straight to the doctors where they initially misdiagnosed me. I told them the story of the Nurofen and they thought Id created an ulcer. That when on for a couple of days then I went in again and said its not working. Another doctor did another test and told me to go to hospital immediately.
Skrufff: What treatment did you have?
Paolo Mojo: Nil by mouth basically, no food or liquids for two days. I had a lot of residual pain when I went home which took a long time to clear up, I still have twinges now and again now. My gall bladder got very sensitive too and at one point they were going to remove it but thats now died down after a long time. Not a pleasant episode at all.
Skrufff: How sympathetic were people in the club industry?
Paolo Mojo: They were fine the longer you go on the more youre drawn to like minded people. Most people were sympathetic. In fact more were quite ignorant about what pancreatitis is, they just think you had a stomach pain.
Skrufff: is there a danger it might recur?
Paolo Mojo: Erm, I hope not. They havent ruled it out but they said hopefully its gone.
Skrufff: Are you on a mega bland diet now?
Paolo Mojo: I was for a while and I still generally avoid spicy foods. I eat more fresh fruit and rice. . It made me think a little more about my schedules, how I treat my body. I do drink alcohol again now, but nothing during the week just a few at the weekend. I never really drank that much anyway.
Skrufff: Has it changed your outlook on life?
Paolo Mojo: Sure, just in the sense of understanding Ive had a little taste of what life could be like so treat every day like your last, take the opportunities that come your way and really try and make the most of it. I guess its all good experience, I dont take any of this DJ lifestyle for granted- Im aware that your career can disappear.
Skrufff: What career did you envisage before you took up Djing?
Paolo Mojo: To be honest I never really thought about what I was going to do. I studied music, classical piano, and I guess I was DJing since the age of 16. For a long time friends used to tell me you should do more with this, youre really good and Id be like its just fun, its just for you lot. That went on until I was 24 by which time Id already come to London and established a full career in PR.
Skrufff: Who did you work for?
Paolo Mojo: Most recently Cubitt Consulting, a financial firm in the City. I was DJing throughout that period but it was only during the latter stages of that job that it kicked off for me. And then I faced a little decision about what to do. I did very well, I was an Associate Director at 25, which was the youngest theyd ever had, and I was set for a really good career, earning quite a lot of money as well.
Skrufff: Were you wearing suits?
Paolo Mojo: Yes and no. I was there during the dotcom era when all that was taking off. I was working heavily in technology and digital media companies so I was viewed as the trendy associate director who didnt always wear a suit to the office. Though obviously I had to sometimes. Then two things happened; firstly I got more involved in the music then the crash happened in the technology stocks market. So my role got a little compromised and after a while my managing director who was really supportive came to me and said What do you want to do, where do you want to go? I know youre doing well with your music, youve got a choice here. He came up with a deal to give me voluntary redundancy with full pay for six months which was perfect, it was a real cushion for a while.
Skrufff: Was it relatively easy to make the switch?
Paolo Mojo: No, because the story doesnt end there because I didnt really crack DJing the first time. I was talking to Danny Howells about this recently, because he used to be a psychiatric nurse and he had to go back and work again and I really relate to that because I had to do the same thing again. When I left Cubitt Id just won Muzik magazines Bedroom Bedlam DJ competition and a Homelands DJ competition, all things that at the time seemed very big. And they are big things but they dont really establish you in a proper sense. You might get the odd booking here and there and you think youre doing well but youre not. I kidded myself that I had a career in music when I didnt so I did two things. Two years later I went into the studio to learn how to make music and I went back to work as a freelance PR. That was a sobering moment, going back to PR. I went to work during the day and Id come home at night and learn how to make tracks. I did that for a year or so then my tracks started to get played by Pete Tong and some other people, I got offered an Essential mix, joined a DJ agency and things crept up and up and up. And suddenly I reached a point where I thought this is valid. I was DJing every week, earning more money from DJing than PR: that was the moment I thought go again, this is the right time. And touch wood, Ive never looked back since.
Skrufff: How do you manage your social life at home being away all the time?
Paolo Mojo: Its difficult thats one of the things I struggle with. Not in the sense that I struggle to make friends but I struggle with feeling dislocated. I dont have a regular girlfriend or a wife and I think that can be a good thing in DJing. I have good friends like Nic Fanciulli who has a regular girlfriend and she keeps him very grounded. Im not saying I dont want a girlfriend but this dislocation is an issue. You come home and see your friends and through no fault of yours or theirs you feel in a bubble.
Skrufff: How do you handle the girl in every port situation?
Paolo Mojo: Errm.
Skrufff: Do you have a girl in every port?
Paolo Mojo: I must admit its one of the by-products of DJing. You go to a place for a short space of time, youre the centre of attention and inevitably there is a certain type of person that wants to be the centre of attention too. Im very aware of what it does and doesnt mean. Im not going to say I dont take advantage of that from time to time but Im aware its not to be taken too seriously. The other side of that is that I genuinely have a lot of good friends in nearly all the places I play in, especially the places I play regularly. You do meet some very nice people, great people and thats one of the upsides of DJing.
Paolo Mojo: Renaissance: Digital 001 is out now.
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)