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In the booth with Drai’s Beach Club • Nightclub resident MAKJ

Last updated: September 19, 2018 at 11:26 am. Posted by in Nightlife, The Cromwell. Comments Off on In the booth with Drai’s Beach Club • Nightclub resident MAKJ.

MAKJ at Drai's

Even though he’s only 25 years old, Mackenzie Johnson—better known by his stage name, MAKJ—is already on his way to becoming one of the top names in electronic dance music. The energetic DJ-producer has recorded a string of dance hits, including collaborations with such artists as Hardwell, Lil Jon and Thomas Newson, and has performed at some of the world’s biggest music festivals, including Coachella, Electric Zoo and Ultra.

The San Luis Obispo, Calif. native holds down a residency at Drai’s Beach Club • Nightclub at The Cromwell Las Vegas, where he regularly brings his blend of dance, rock and hip-hop jams to both day- and nighttime parties. We recently caught up with MAKJ to talk about his technique, club experiences, and what makes playing Las Vegas nightclubs different than anywhere else in the world.

How do you prepare a set for the specific vibe of a club at which you’re DJing? Do you vary your approach based on the venue?

Definitely having experience pays off fully. Vegas is one of those markets where every weekend can be different—new people, different reactions, different clubs. I really love playing at Drai’s for one reason: versatility. The amount of different genre acts Drai’s books really lets the crowd know that they’re in for a good night.

What do you do to get pumped for a set? Do you have a ritual you go through before hitting the decks? Any good-luck charms?

I’m not really a superstitious person, but I always like checking out the opening DJ to kinda get a feel for the room before I hit the decks.

The day I program a set is the day I’ll throw my DJ career down the drain.

Is there anything about DJing in a Vegas nightclub that’s different from doing so elsewhere?

Vegas is the mecca for all DJs. One night you could be going against the top DJs in the world. Vegas also has the hardest crowds to DJ for. A lot of the time, the crowds have no idea who you are. Vegas is always fun for a real DJ.

When you’re at a gig, do you stick to a programmed set, or do you make on-the-fly decisions based on crowd response?

The day I program a set is the day I’ll throw my DJ career down the drain. Coming from a DJ background, the last thing I like doing is preprogramming what I’m going to be playing that night. Like I said, every weekend can be different in Vegas, so keeping my sets fresh and also throwing in the classics will always be the MAKJ secret.

Can you share any tricks or techniques?

Listen to music that makes you feel that certain way and try recreating it. I’ve always gone back to listening to classic rock whenever I’m in the “writer’s block” phase.

Do you have a go-to song that you know will always get the audience jumping?

I know the songs that work and that will always work but relying on those will keep your set very stale. I love throwing in stuff people know then following it up with a track they don’t. It keeps their attention on point.

What keeps you going throughout a night of DJing? Do you have a go-to cocktail, energy drink or snack?

I love playing the day parties in Vegas because the food Drai’s has is next level! Tuna tartare tacos FTW!

Nightclubs can get a bit crazy. Can you share any particularly funny or wild experiences you’ve had or seen during a night of DJing that stand out?

I was playing a club in Germany and a girl walked up to me and asked for a song for her birthday. Her breath smelled like vodka and cheesy hot dogs. I told her I would try playing the requested song. In reality, taking requests is a no-fly zone. I gave her a simple nod of the head and she turned around, stopped and barfed all over the floor.

What kind of music are you listening to at current?

Everything! The Weeknd, G-Eazy, Tom Petty, Nas—the list is endless.

When you’re not at the club, what do you enjoy doing in Vegas? Do you have a favorite restaurant or bar?

I recently went to an insanely good Thai food spot called Lotus of Siam. Must-go if you’re ever in the feels for some really good Thai food.

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About The Author

Pj Perez is a longtime Las Vegas resident and UNLV graduate who has been writing about his adopted hometown for a variety of travel guides, websites and magazines since the 1990s, which isn't possible, because he's not that old. When not jockeying behind a keyboard, he can be found with a bass guitar in one hand and a gin cocktail in the other.

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