Shortly after his departure from sunny Sydney, we caught up with master musicologist Hoj for his thoughts on Return to Rio and the lowdown on his past and future shenanigans...
RR: Great to talk to you Hoj. First things first - how do we correctly pronounce your name??
Hoj: Thanks for having me. The correct pronunciation is with a long “O”. So like the “O” in “no”, but with an H before it. And a soft “J” at the end. Not a “G” sound. I’m not Hog.
RR: Haha got it. Let's talk about your recent trip to Australia, in particular - Return to Rio. How was your experience of playing at the festival?
Hoj: Australia is an amazing place. I feel really comfortable in Sydney - I’m a California kid, and it always feels like similar vibes. I was fortunate enough to play Return to Rio two years ago. It was epic then, and it was epic this time around as well. Even more epic... I made so many great friends there the last time around, and I got to hang with all of them again. And playing was extraordinary - the festival is unique and a global stand-out for me. The production is next level... from sound to stage design to food vendors to music, everything is on point. But more than that, the festival has it’s own character and vibe. It’s just a good time with a decent helping of ridiculous. You can’t beat that.
RR: Absolutely. The theme was outer space this year... what outfit did you go with?
Hoj: I went with a black t-shirt and jeans, but I played some spacey tunes though!
RR: Speaking of festivals, you're one of the founders of the opulent temple at Burning Man - what are your best memories of BM?
Hoj: That’s a tough question to answer. Floating in Carolyn’s raft at Pink Mammoth comes to mind. Or the impromptu B2B session with Lee Burridge at DISTRIKT the year before last.
RR: You met Lee Burridge there and you two have gone on to do big things together. Tell us how it happened...
Hoj: I think I met Lee in a friend’s RV at Burning Man. He had a toothbrush with him. He probably had other stuff too, but that’s what I remember. That was a long time ago - I was living in San Francisco at the time. I subsequently moved to New York and we started hanging out a bunch there - long walks around the city talking about music. Everything just kind of grew from there.
RR: The two of you recently launched your own label, Tale and Tone. What's the concept behind it?
Hoj: We just wanted to showcase some of the stuff we play at night… tracks with a story and groove. I had read a book called the Night Circus about a magical black and white circus that just appears out of nowhere, and we were talking about doing events like that. Then we started talking about the kind of music we would play at events like that. And the label was born from there. Magical events to come...
RR: You also created the iconic cloud logo for the All Day I Dream label. Where did the idea come from?
Hoj: Lee was obsessed with the sky. I have a background in design, and I tried some stuff - but it all felt a bit generic with just the blue sky and clouds. Then I started thinking about the “dream” part of “All Day I Dream”. In my head, a dream shares many properties with a cloud - mysterious, pure, organic, fluid, unique. So I thought... if for each release or event we did a single unique cloud, then over time we will be creating our own sky. It’s cool to see the sky form over the years.
RR: Nice. You've been playing progressive for a while - what was the progressive movement like in the early San Francisco days? Has it changed much since?
Hoj: I play a wide range of house music - deep, funky, tech... it’s all fair game for me. But the early San Francisco days were great. Wednesday the record shops in the Lower Haight got their shipments, then off to Qool SF at 111 Minna followed by Satellite at Anu. Fridays and Sundaes at Spundae. I learned to DJ in those days, and those DJs told stories... they took people on a journey. San Franisco has completely changed now. So has the sound. But for me, great DJs still tell stories and take people on a journey.
RR: You started producing your own music a couple of years ago - how different is it to DJing?
Hoj: It’s a completely different mindset for me. If I’m in a DJ mindset, I’m listening to songs and getting to know the vibe and flow of a whole song - categorizing it in my head so I know where it could fit in a set. I’m after the feeling of a song as a whole. But when I’m in the production mindset, I’m not hearing songs. I’m hearing sounds. It’s a loop of sonic deconstruction and construction... one sound at a time. It usually takes me a day or two to get myself from one mindset into the other.
RR: Ok... can you pick one memorable set that you've played for us that really stands out for you?
Hoj: I just played an Ebb + Flow boat party in New York at the end of the summer. It’s their summer closing event and I’ve played it the last few years. It’s a standout for sure - there’s something really intimate and lovely about that boat party. It just feels really warm, and I feel like the crowd is right there with me for every tune. It might be because nobody can actually get off the boat or leave, so they really have no choice!
RR: Haha. Finally - where to next in your career? Any releases or projects in the pipeline?
Hoj: I’m currently working on events and the next Storybook EP for Tale and Tone. I have some great DJ gigs to look forward to, closing out 2017 with Do Not Sit in Art Basel, All Day I Dream in LA, and New Year’s Eve in NYC. I’ll be in the studio banging away the rest of my days and nights, and I’m looking forward to it.
RR: Sounds dope. Thanks for the chat and we hope to catch you in Australia again soon!
Photo credit: Martin Vivian Pearse📷