Exclusive Intervew: DJ MONDO

INTERVIEWS

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Born in Brooklyn, MONDO’s interest in electronic music goes a long way back. Enamored by the NYC music scene from an early age – which at the time, was the most elite school for culture and cutting-edge musical wisdom – he was taken under his wing by a neighbourhood friend and “The Father of Modern DJing”, Francis Grasso, who gave him his first insight into beat mixing and song programming.

MONDO’s love for the exciting dance music lifestyle and the art of DJing inspired him to continually hone his skills at various clubs and private celebrity parties throughout NYC and overseas in Italy, and he soon became sought after because of his knack for mixing various dance music genres and his ability to keep crowds moving on the dance floor.

Fast forward to 2022, and off the back of the recent CryptoDJs community launch, the New Yorker has just had one of his records signed to Christian Smith’s iconic Tronic Music imprint. We caught up with MONDO to find out more…

Hi MONDO and a very warm welcome to We Own The Nite NYC. How are you today?

Hi thanks for the invite, glad to be here. Things are going really well with me. Working on some music that I’m passionate about and planning some live events to share my music and to bring everyone together so we can all dance and have a good time. Coming out of the pandemic and now faced with the terrible conflict in the Ukraine, I think the world, more than ever, needs persons (who I strive to be through my music) that bring us all together in an inclusive manner. I see no better medium than electronic music to achieve that goal. 

First things first, please can you introduce yourself to our readers?

Sure, well if we were discussing watch collecting I would be considered “New / Old Stock” (LOL); meaning that I was manufactured as a DJ in the past but today I am virtually unworn, i.e. new to the current Techno scene. Back in the day I was a vinyl DJ in NYC playing at some known and unknown clubs in NYC and simultaneously studying to obtain a Law Degree. Although I was gigging and making mix-tapes, DJ’ing was not a career option for me. My parents, Italian immigrants, stressed education and work. I received my Scholastic and DJ’ing education right here in NYC. In High-School, University and Law School; I studied, worked at various paying jobs and DJ’d whenever I could. I have to thank my parents for teaching me to multi-task, it has helped me all throughout life. 

Who were your biggest musical inspirations growing up and how did you get into electronic music in the first instance?

I would say it would have to be the following folks; Francis Grasso (the father of modern DJ’ing … my mentor and teacher in the art of DJ’ing), Larry Levan (who I would go regularly to see mix live), Ted Currier (a DJ on WBLS in NYC who used to broadcast a wicked mix show on the station) and my closet friend Frankie aka Peter Monk (who was and is a successful recording engineer, studio owner and pop/dance music producer). 

My “Eureka” moment that was the catalyst for my interest and passion for DJ’ing and electronic music first occurred in the 8th grade. I went to a school dance and for the 1st time ever witnessed a DJ doing his thing and making the crowd dance. I was mesmerized and approached the stage and he signaled me to go onto the stage and I stood in awe of what he was doing.

When I entered High School I asked my my parents for some DJ equipment and with the help of my older cousin, they purchased my 1st set up; 2 Technics Belt Driven Turntables and a Gemini Mixer. I would go to the local record store and buy records I liked and practice DJ’ing without really knowing what I was doing. I had no clue how to beat match nor mix properly but it didn’t matter I was having a blast and loved it.

After a couple of months practicing DJ’ing I ran into a neighborhood guy, in my hometown of Brooklyn, named Francis, some 20 to 30 years my senior. I used to see him coming home from working construction. He would always ask me how school was or how my family was. One time, beaming with enthusiasm, I told him about how I was practicing DJ’ing and that somewhere in the future I’d like to do this for real. He said that sounded cool, he also said he had some records laying around and that I should stop by his house some weekend and he’d let me have them. So on one Saturday I went to Franny’s house and he invited into his living room to pick out how many records I’d like. Upon entering his large living room I discovered ceiling to floor & wall to wall bookcases of records. I was amazed. What I also saw was a proper professional looking DJ set up with a serious speaker system. I was flabbergasted. I said “Fran … what’s all this?”  He went on to tell me his story about how one time he was a famous NYC DJ … this guy was Francis Grasso (you can google him) he is the father of modern DJ’ing, he invented slip cueing and many other techniques in DJ’ing and so he tutored and mentored me for years and I learned to mix and song program and how to dj.
About the same time my neighbor who became my closet friend, Frankie, a few years older than me, was a classically trained pianist turned recording studio owner and engineer then top 40 pop/dance producer. I helped him build his studio in the basement of his parents house. There I received an education on how music was made and recorded. I got to spend a great amount of time watching him make music on analog equipment back in the day (like a studer 24 track tape machine, 48 track mixing board, etc.). Today he uses Logic and the digital plugins the rest of the world uses. In his studio many moons ago, before I became a lawyer, he did a record with Chubby Checker that got into the movie “She Devil”; I did the dj scratching on the record. It was my 1st contribution to music creation. 

With all this wonderful music experience I didn’t see music as a career path so I kept studying, got my law degree, passed the bar exam an entered the practice of law. I never stopped DJ’ing but it did take a major back seat to being a lawyer. I have always kept my passion for the art of DJ’ing going, Every week I would practice routines of mixing songs together and record them.

About 2015 having this void I decided to jump back in but this time professionally and as a second career. Loving Techno, that’s my genre of choice, I created a weekly podcast/mix show Called Gravity Radio that is now syndicated on 30 radio stations around the world. I also started to produce music and I started live stream of me mixing live. I was getting some gig offers but then the pandemic halted that so I continued with the live streaming. Currently I’m working on putting together a live monthly show/event overseas in Amsterdam and actively looking to land gigs and sign with a booking agent.

We understand that you recently had one of your records signed to Tronic by Christian Smith, but in rather an unusual way. How did that come about?

Yes, talk about lightning striking, well I became very interested in the CryptoDJ NFT platform (which I’ll discuss below). I’m part of their Discord Community and so recently Dan Duncan of Pig & Dan (label Elevate) and Christian Smith label boss of Tronic (footnote these are people I hold in high esteem in the Techno Scene) offered the CryptoDJ community the opportunity to send a track for their review. Having pretty much completed one of my Techno tracks I sent it over for review. I received my slotted one-on-one with Christian & Dan and logging in I was really excited because the following day I planned to make some revisions to my track and I figured their critique would help in my revisions. So during my session, I had butterflies and was shrinking under my seat as we exchanged salutations. I kidded around with the guys to break the ice. So they play my track and all of a sudden both Dan & Christian throw their hands in the air and are bopping in their seats! Still in shock, I start to talk about the things I wanted to change with my track. The guys say “don’t change a thing” and Christian generously says I want to sign your track to Tronic. I was totally elated. Later on, in private and I’m not ashamed to say, I had tears of joy in my eyes. Publicly I wish to thank them and CryptoDJs for this tremendous opportunity. 

That’s such an incredible story. Can you tell us more about the CryptoDJs community and how you became involved with it?

Well always being a technology geek and having developed an interest in the NFT and blockchain platforms, I saw some posts on the socials for CryptoDJs. It looked as interesting concept, mixing NFT collectability and Techno artistry together. So I registered for a webinar and one lazy Sunday afternoon logged into a zoom webinar and before my eyes was Dan Duncan and one of his partners in the platform. The 3 of us zoomed for almost 2 hours. I got to tell my story and my path as a DJ and I learned some interesting information about NFTs and their platform. We also got discussed some relevant legal issues (which is my wheel house) regarding the platform and it sparked curiosity and decision to become part of the CryptoDJs platform and community. 

Was CryptoDJs your first foray into the NFT and blockchain space?

Yes it was and I’m really happy that I jumped in with CryptoDJs. It’s more than just a platform to buy, collect, and trade NFTs. The CryptoDJs community is a great community because I see the following value being offered to its members: it’s an all inclusive place where (1) information is shared on all things music and NFTs, (2) a place where you can ask questions and learn more about the info being shared, (3) there is the giving and receiving of advice and mentoring on the info shared and finally (4) opportunities are created. I’m one example of an opportunity being created. In my opinion, there’s not too many communities, of like minded people who are into electronic music, where this occurs 

Looking to the future, what would you like to achieve with your music? What does success look like to you?

Success for me is to share my music and my story so that other’s are inspired to pursue their passions. It’s never too late. Forget about what you didn’t do … start today. The other thing I hope to do is to inspire people to realize that in life you can do more than one thing or career. I think I’m a good example as having a professional career in the Law and a career in electronic music. I love them both! 

Will you be playing in NYC any time soon? Where will our readers be able to catch you spinning?

Nothing set for NYC soon but in line with another release of mine in the end of April, I will be playing an event in Amsterdam where I plan to hold a monthly event/residency. In August also in Amsterdam I will participating in a 3 day event at the LPM Conference. I hope to connect to some booking agents and promoters and begin gigging in my hometown NYC and beyond. 

What else do you have coming up between now and the end of the year? Any other exciting projects you can talk to us about?

I’ll be working on more music and releases. My Gravity Radio Mix Show is currently at 158 episodes as of the date of this interview. I have some more exciting stuff I’m planning with that show. I will continue to spread encouragement to everyone in the Scene and promote that they go after and achieve their dreams with electronic music! 

Thanks so much for your time MONDO! We wish you all the best for the rest of the year!

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