MIKEY DA ROZA
CLUB OWNER. PROMOTER. DJ
Mikey started DJing when he was 17, when he was living in Vancouver. The underground rave scene was just starting to blossom there, and Mikey ended up meeting some people who helped him get interested in the craft. He remembers the first time he saw turntables. It was at a high school friend’s place—Taro Bremner (of former Phonics Records). They went there after school and Taro played Stevie V’s “Dirty Cash (Money Talks).” Mikey says, “I had never been exposed to that hip-house sound. I knew I had to hear more.”
Taro introduced him to these underground events, and Mikey was immediately drawn to the music, the DJ, the feeling of freedom that these parties brought. He was amazed at how one person in the room could control people’s feelings and emotions through music. It was at that moment that he knew he wanted to pursue it and learn more. Back then, there was a sense of belonging. No drama, no attitudes—just people gathering in illegal warehouses and abandoned buildings, all there to dance into the morning.
A short time later, Mikey befriended a DJ by the name of Marty McFly. This is where he really got the chance to play records and started collecting vinyl, developing his skills and sound. It was because of Marty that Mikey played his first gig at some warehouse for a promoter named Leandro—“For that”, Mikey says, “I will always be thankful.” Mikey was fortunate enough to make more friends in that scene, and one of them was a DJ by the name of Ricochet (Ricco Colinares). His influence and friendship would single-handedly change the course of Mikey’s musical tastes for years to come.
Outside of these friendships, Vancouver was rich in talent, so there was no shortage of influence. Tyler “T-Bone” Stadius, DJ Czech, Dicky-Doo, Markem X, James Brown, Minute Maid, Quikfix—names like these were what the Vancouver scene was built on. These were Mikey’s idols then, and they still influence him to this day.
Did you have a defining moment when you realized you wanted to make music as a career? And how did you transition to the current day?
Up until this day, DJing is still a hobby. I’ve been very lucky and have had a chance to play some unique events and have been blessed with some amazing opportunities in my music career. I’ve made appearances at the BPM Festival (Mexico), Kaskade Sundays (Las Vegas), and many major U.S. cities, as well as across Canada. Currently, I’ve toned down a bit on the DJing and shifted my focus to more of the business side of Blueprint Alberta and Habitat Living Sound.
Maybe you could describe how you prepare for a set. What does your creative process look like?Because I’m currently only playing a few times a year, these events have become very special. A lot of time goes into the preparation for these sets. Most of the time is spent on finding music that suits my style, my mood, and the environment that I’m performing in. I can’t tell you how many hours a DJ spends sifting through music. Because of the popularity and the access to new music, the market is flooded with choices and options. It’s all about finding a few of those gems for your set and building around them. I truly believe that house music is timeless, and because I’ve been a music collector for so long, I’ve been able to reintroduce music in my sets that perhaps was made or released five, seven, ten years ago. It’s quite an exhilarating experience watching an old record get a dance floor into a frenzy, especially when the patrons are hearing it for the first time.
When someone is walking away from a set, what do you want them to be thinking or saying?
It’s not about what they’re thinking or saying, for me. I want them to feel the same way I do. When you nail a performance and leave it all on the dance floor, I want them to be a hot, sweaty mess. Often after my set, I’m overcome with a feeling of bliss and accomplishment. Nobody’s leaving until we’re all satisfied and have scratched that dance-floor itch.
Since 2008, you’ve been the owner and managing partner at Habitat Living Sound. What’s the core theme behind the club, and what’s the driving force behind each event?
As one of the owners of Habitat Living Sound (habitatlivingsound.com), I have to say that it’s my favourite spot. Not because I’m involved in it, but because I understand the foundation that it’s built on. It’s a DJ-owned and -operated venue until this day—and we’ve been open for almost eight years. We hand-pick the international artists who grace our stage and have a great sense of community there. We have plenty of different nights and try to include as many DJs as possible into what we do. If you haven’t been to Calgary’s first micro-club concept, you have to check it out.
Besides your being an owner-operator of Habitat, how did your involvement in Blueprint come to fruition?
From 2000 to 2013, I ran my own promotional company (Aqua Audio). We were partly responsible for helping develop the electronic music scene here in Calgary. We started by throwing parties at the now-closed Skybar before moving into bigger events. We were the first promotional company to bring many A-list DJs to this city, threw the first-ever DJ event at Flames Central (Pete Tong), and introduced one of the first major outdoor festivals to the market (long live Badlands). We had a ton of fun with it—but like any party, it had to come to an end. Being from Vancouver, we’ve always had a strong relationship with Blueprint and Alvaro Prol. In 2013, we had a brief phone call, and before we knew it, we were in a position to talk about a merger/acquisition and Blueprint Alberta was born.
I have to say, those 13 years were great, but I was hungry. I wanted to be in rooms where I was surrounded with highly driven and motivated individuals who knew how to do my job better than me, and Blueprint has provided that. I owe a lot to Cain Trynchuk and Justin Pandos, as these guys have been by my side, helping share some of the highs and lows with me from the beginning. When you surround yourself with like-minded people and you do what you love, it’s hard to consider it work.
Working in the industry, you must have had the chance to interact with a lot of solid DJs. Was there a certain time that really impacted you or your career?
There have been plenty of times when I’ve had the chance to meet, talk, hang out, and develop friendships with the talent we’ve brought to our events. My friendship with Kaskade led to an invitation to play Kaskade Sundays at Encore Beach Club, which I gratefully accepted. That for me has been one of the greatest highlights and honours thus far. The experiences are endless—from backstage shenanigans to seeing DJs in different cities and having them show nothing but love. It’s been truly amazing and humbling.
Between promoting shows with Blueprint, being involved in Habitat, and DJing, how do you find the time to kick back and unwind?
Like I’ve said before—when you do something you love, it’s often not considered work. I have a great team that surrounds me, and we have a ton of fun. When I do look to unwind, it’s straight to the beach and somewhere tropical. I like to travel a lot and love to get my feet in the sand.
What are you most looking forward to in 2017?
Since the inception of Blueprint Alberta, we’ve had a great couple of years. I’m looking forward to pushing out new sounds and shows, and interacting with our patrons, new and old. I want to continue to push music I’m passionate about at Habitat Living Sound and to hone my craft even more to see greater wins and success •
PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRIS MURPHY |stokedonphotos.com|