Five Questions with Johnny Chaos

What was inspiring you when you were creating the mixtape?
I actually started working on this mix under a beach cabana where I live. The sun was setting and the ocean waves were breaking a few feet away. At that moment, I felt inspired to create a mix that reflected what I would be playing if I were DJ-ing a party right then and there on the beach. The set would start out light and groovy, and then get a little funky and dirty after dark…so that’s how I programmed the mix.

Where did your DJ moniker come from?
Ironically enough, my first trip to Miami was in 1999 and I went to see George Acosta at Shadow Lounge. On my flight home to Chicago I decided to buy some basic DJ gear just for fun. I was working full time in advertising and had no aspirations of DJ-ing being anything more than a hobby.

At that time, I was traveling a lot to both New York and Los Angeles for business and would always visit the local record stores (there was no online music back then), so I was acquiring a lot of vinyl records, many of which were “white labels” that were not available in Chicago record stores. I liked the idea of playing this fresh, new music for people, but I didn’t have anywhere to play.

I decided to start putting my DJ gear in the trunk of my car, go to underground clubs like Crobar and find out where the after-hour party was going to be. I would hunt down the host and offer to DJ for free. This became a weekly occurrence, and within two months of buying DJ gear I was playing consistently at big after-hour parties all over Chicago. 

After a few months, I was playing my biggest warehouse party to date. As the sun was rising, I dropped a brand new monster house track and the place exploded. The host jumped up on a table next to me, grabbed the microphone and screamed, “WELCOME TO THE CHAOS!” He pointed at me and got the crowd chanting “CHAOS, CHAOS”, and the name just kind of stuck after that. However, there was already a prominent New York DJ named DJ Chaos, so I just added my name in front and “Johnny Chaos” was born. Within a few months I quit my day job and was lucky enough to DJ all over the world for the next 7 years.

You have had a long career as a DJ – is there a musical trend that you’ve seen carry through?
Over the last 20 years, I’ve watched the electronic music scene evolve in many directions, including erupting into the mainstream 7 years ago. Many clubs have gotten bigger and brighter, and cities like Las Vegas and Miami have experienced a proliferation of more mainstream “VIP” clubs featuring the “Pop EDM” music that you might hear on the radio.


However, there have always been purveyors of the underground that have provided an outlet for house and techno lovers. House and techno music has evolved as well, but the underground vibe has remained constant and awesome… you just have to know where to find it.

Now we are starting to see a small shift away from the big VIP clubs to smaller venues featuring more underground DJs and producers, as well as bigger clubs featuring underground DJs. I think there should be a variety of options for every musical preference, so the more clubs/venues offering diverse genres of music - the better!

What contemporary artists are you currently a fan of?  
There is an ever-increasing number of talented artists putting out great music thereby making it impossible to keep up with it all. But when I am track hunting for music that I personally want to hear, I do steer my mouse in certain directions…

One of the dirtiest producers out there is Olivier Giacomotto. His tracks are dark and funky and consistently on point. I’m also a fan of many artists on the Suara label. Suara takes techier twists and turns than other labels and is always coming up with new sounds.

For more uplifting, funky deep house, I am a fan of Russian producers like Ivan Spell and Andrey Exx. If you Google them, you can go down a rabbit hole of dope Russian deep house producers.

But despite the deep and tech house realm that I frequent, the top of my fan list is – and has been for many years – is Eric Prydz (a.k.a. Pryda, Cirez D, and many more). He owns his own genre of music. His sounds are notably recognizable and his production is unrelenting. Not to mention he is humble and cool as hell.

Name one song that you are tired of hearing.  
Right now there is not a particular song grinding my gears, but last year there definitely was. Although I respect his production skills, Avicii’s “Wake me up” was exhausting me! It was constantly on the radio, every department store I went into was playing it, TV commercials, network shows, and even the NFL played it during game broadcasts! Hopefully the NFL won’t continue with it, but only time will tell. I’ve definitely heard that song enough to last a lifetime.  

Johnny Chaos
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