At the age of 19, Mez attended his first queer dance party: Honey Dijon at Battle Hymn, New York. He just went to dance and have a ball, but the experience inspired him to try getting behind the decks himself. Just two years later, Mez was booked to support Honey at Dusk Camp, Los Angeles. Until 2020’s biggest party pooper – coronavirus – came and cancelled the fun. Undeterred, 22-year old Mez created No Signal, an online party space and mix platform showcasing himself and his favourite DJs. His euphoric sounds lay classic soul vocals over heavy house beats with dark techno undertones too. Is disco having a resurgence? According to Mez, “it never left.”
Hey Mez. How is lockdown in LA today?
Of anywhere in this country I’d wanna be right now, I’m happy to be here in LA. I lived in NYC for two years before this and I’m extremely seasonally affected, so the weather here keeps me somewhat sane through these crazy times. My friends and I go to the beach a couple of times a week usually, but even here the elements can be a bit much with like fires and how it affects the air quality. Overall though, I love LA!
I’m typing out these questions whilst listening to the newest mix uploaded onto your collaborative SoundCloud platform, No Signal. A mesmerising b2b with another LA-based DJ, Keenan. Veeery hot! My foot is tapping furiously. What inspired you to create No Signal?
I’m glad you like it! I’m really proud of that mix. I was able to get my own equipment over the summer and have been honing in on my mixing skills a lot. Every time I listen back to it, it just makes me very happy to hear that progress, even from the last guest mix I did for Por Detroit in August.
I started No Signal because I wanted a project to work on during quarantine. It kinda gives me a jump start on throwing my own party too once everything reopens because the infrastructure is already there, so essentially, it’s a party that’s online for the time being. I’ll continue to use it as a mix platform too – I love when parties have a Soundcloud they use to invite other DJs to showcase their talents or upload mixes from fun nights at the party. I’m someone that listens to mixes literally all day long.
I read in your Gay Times interview that the first queer dance party you attended was Honey Dijon playing Battle Hymn in NYC in 2018. You cited it as a pivotal turning point that steered you towards becoming a DJ yourself. Since then, you have entered the underground club scene in LA as an exciting newcomer. Does it differ to NYC and other places you’ve partied? What makes LA unique?
The scene in LA is waaay different from NYC’s. Firstly, you’re not allowed to legally sell alcohol past 2am in LA. That means most bars are kicking you out at 1:45am, which is when any dance function I wanna be at is just getting good. Because of this, almost all of the good parties happen illegally in various warehouses downtown and go till 6am. That’s right up my alley in terms of how I like to party, so I love that aspect.
I do find it’s more difficult to convince people in LA to show up to things. Maybe it’s because nothing is walking distance or because everyone thinks they’re too cool for anything, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed. In NYC, I see people set up decks and throw impromptu block parties in Brooklyn. That just doesn’t happen here.
I also read that major musical influences for you were the gospel music and Whitney Houston tunes that your grandma and great-grandma played when you were little. And then my heart swelled when I clocked the Sister Sledge (He’s The Greatest Dancer) sample at the start of your I Don’t Drink Beer SoundCloud mix! So, is disco having a resurgence?
Yeah! I mean, I think it was just instilled in me very early on what it feels like to have soul in music. And disco is soul you can dance to. ‘Resurgence’ insinuates it’s coming back, and for any true house head that makes the intention of honoring the roots of house music, it never left. House music is disco. Some samples in the most commercial of tracks now can be traced back to disco records from the ‘80s. Plus, nothing sets me off at 4am like the proper disco record dropped at just the right time. A lot of – if not all of – my sets incorporate disco in some way, it’s intertwined into who I am.
Where else do you draw artistic influence from, musical or otherwise?
Currently, I’m very inspired by the ‘90s, especially house music during that time. We’re going through a rough patch as a planet right now. This tension creates a strong need for release and, when that happens, creativity flourishes – giving rise to our own modern-day renaissance of art, culture, and nightlife. I feel a connection between the sounds of the ‘90s and what’s really tickling my ear right now. Everyone always talks about how crazy those parties were then, and I think once clubs reopen, we’re going to be able to experience our version of that – as long as it’s dark and no phones are allowed.
Perusing your Instagram feed, I’m seeing a lot of leopard print and other glitzy glam looks. Where do you find fashion inspiration?
(Laughs) Shoot, honestly, I have my friend Levi to thank for that animal print look! A lot of the times he has a vision and I get the honor of being his creative outlet. It’s nice to have friends whom you inspire and are just as inspired by. I’m pretty straight-forward when it comes to dressing myself. Though I do have an eye for fashion and keep telling myself I’ll get more into it. Recently though, I’m either in a speedo or sweats cuz I’m at the beach or at home. Sometimes I wear speedos at home and sweats to the beach. Just depends.
Disco and house music now sit comfortably in the musical mainstream. Their predominantly Black and LGBTQ+ roots are often overlooked: whitewashed, submerged and commercialized by pop. As a house/disco DJ, how do you navigate this? Do you feel connected to the history of dance music? And do you think representational problems are changing at all?
As of literally this year, there has been a shift in the collective consciousness. A lot of us knew this before, but it seems like only now are these conversations at the forefront of the scene. Jessica Kariisa just wrote an article for Mixmag about how Dee Diggs (who I love so much) is reclaiming Blackness in house music. But you’d (maybe not) be surprised by how many white people are unwilling to listen to POC perspective on this, even in a scene that purports love, unity, and respect.
Regardless of past or present systems of oppression in place against us, being Black is and always has been cool. And oftentimes, without even knowing it, white people cash in on this without giving credit where it’s due. One of my main goals with No Signal is to build a community and platform that’s entirely Black-run and can hold space to showcase the slew of super talented POC and LGBTQ+ DJs out there because it’s really necessary work. As for if I feel things are changing, I’ll just say I’m optimistic about the future.
“Regardless of past or present systems of oppression in place against us, being Black is and always has been cool. And oftentimes, without even knowing it, white people cash in on this without giving credit where it’s due.”
Lockdown hit and brought everything to a standstill just as your DJ career was really starting to gather momentum. How have you taken care of yourself during these weird times?
Shit. Yeah, you noticed that too? The weekend before lockdown, I was booked to play with Bradley Zero and Physical Therapy in San Diego, and obviously, opening for Honey was major for me. I don’t feel like I’ve lost that momentum. If anything, I feel a lot more grounded in my career since I was able to pause and focus on my skills, both technical and taste-wise. And those connections haven’t gone anywhere, they’ve only gotten stronger. I’m confident once we reopen everything will take off again. And I’ll be ready.
As a curiosity, do you have a quarantine anthem?
Free Man (Tom Moulton Mix) by South Shore Commission.
As a self-confessed part-time time raver and full-time DJ, are you looking forward to getting sweaty and messy in the rave again after Miss Rona has been dealt with once and for all?
I am for sure a speaker bug and always down to get messy and sweaty. I regularly watch videos that I took from parties. They feel like a distant memory. There are some good Boiler Room archives too. Kinda weird watching them now, it’s like porn almost, right? Like this is taboo now, but I’m watching other people do it as a voyeur to gain pleasure. Idk. But yeah, me listening to mixes all day long is mostly to relive (not relieve) that feeling of being out. Luckily, I have some immersive speakers in my room and a great relationship with my neighbors!
My foot is still tapping away to your mix… Do you plan on touring Europe and the United Kingdom at some point?
I definitely do! I can’t wait.
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Trousers ZILVER, necklace ALAN CROCETTI.
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Turtleneck SELFMADE, trousers ZILVER.
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Full look NO SESSO.