She could pass for Chloë Sevigny’s younger sister, but Mia Moretti has more than just model-good looks going for her. A frequent DJ presence at clubs like Mister H in the Mondrian Soho, Moretti has serious skills, having learned the craft from legends like Jurassic 5’s Cut Chemist and the late DJ AM, friends she made while living in Los Angeles. Now firmly ensconced in New York, she has established herself as a singular presence on the party circuit, performing with hip-hop heatseeker Theophilus London at Webster Hall and even spinning at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding reception.
“I still consider myself a beginner, but I guess I’ve picked up a thing or two,” she says. Considering her resume includes gigs at SXSW and the Ultra Music Festival, not to mention a remix of Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold” that made it onto the Billboard dance charts in 2008, that seems like a bit of an understatement. No two gigs are the same for the Oakland-born musician, who recently finished work on a “tribal-house-dance” single with electric violinist and frequent collaborator Caitlin Moe, and who will be feautured in the “Kids of America” campaign for Tommy Hilfiger. We caught up with Moretti to ask her about her background, her influences, and the secrets to her success.
BlackBook: Where are you from from, and how did you get to NYC? Mia Moretti: I’m originally from Oakland. I went to college in LA, then moved to NYC a few years ago. I needed a change, I was too comfortable in LA; I wanted to challenge myself and I knew it wasn’t going to happen unless I picked myself up and moved some place new.
What were your interests when you were younger? Drum circles, Phish concerts, listening to 2Pac cds in my convertible, arts and crafts, Spanish. How’d you first get into DJing? Any mentors or idols who inspired you? I used to go see DJ AM play almost every night in LA. That’s when I realized what a DJ was. I was very inspired by him, but I never imagined that I would be a DJ. Around that same time I was cast in a music video for Cut Chemist, we became friends and he started taking me record shopping. I had a lot of good friends who were DJs who slowly showed me this or that, but I don’t think anyone can “teach” you to be a DJ. It comes from inside you, like being a good writer or a good chef. I still find it hard to call myself a DJ, because I’ve had so many talented people around me, I still consider myself a beginner, but I guess I’ve picked up a thing or two.
What was your first gig? The Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. The only rule was I had to play vinyl and I couldn’t play Top 40.
Favorite/least favorite shows you’ve ever played? I can’t say I’ve had a least favorite gig. It’s normally the bad gigs that you learn the most from. My favorite gig was probably the Life Ball in Vienna with Katy Perry.
Favorite genres to play? Any you won’t touch? I love playing oldies / motown / doo-wop if it’s the right crowd. Genres I won’t touch? Maybe dubstep. I enjoy it, but I doubt you will find me throwing down a whole dubstep set. Any secrets to your success? What would you say to aspiring female DJs? You just have to work hard and take any and every job you can. Go listen to DJs, bands, search for music, practice every chance you have, and make your own opportunities. Trust me, there is always a party somewhere that needs a DJ. Don’t take shortcuts. Lug your turntables to the party if you have to. Get off iTunes and don’t play from a playlist!
Craziest on-stage moment? Power going out. That’s always a fun one. I was playing a show at Vassar with Caitlin Moe a few months ago and we blew a fuse, so all the sound cut out. It was in the middle of “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s so we got everyone chanting “OFF, OFF, OFF.” It’s pretty cheesy, but you gotta do something when you have a thousand people standing there looking at you.
What equipment do you use? 2 Technics SL-1200MK5 Turntables, 1 Pioneer DJM800 Mixer, Serato Scratch Live, Korq Kaositlatoor & my MAC Powerbook
NY versus LA? I find that NY is a little more diverse and has a broader appreciation of different types of music. Paris is probably my favorite city in the world to DJ, because they love to dance, they don’t care about Top 40 and you can still surprise them with some throwback tunes.
You’ve played at clubs all over, music festivals like ULTRA and SXSW, did the music for the Alice + Olivia video lookbook, and even the Chelsea Clinton wedding. Is there one type of event that you prefer over another? No, I love the variety being a DJ has. One day I’m at some dark drug-den-of-a-bar and the next I’m in a meeting with a designer doing the music for their show. It’s all related and I don’t think I would be good at one of them if I was no good at the other.
A day in the life? Wake up late. Run to the airport. Coffee. Emails. Fly. Soundcheck. Fitting. Rehearsal. Meeting. Play a gig. Dinner. Go check out someone else’s gig. Nightcap. Emails. Sleep.
When you’re not working you’re… Sleeping.
What do you enjoy the most about DJing? What would you say are some of the challenges? Getting to play music everyday. Being on a plane every day of my life!
What would you be doing if you weren’t a DJ? I would probably be working for Mary McDonald still. She’s an interior designer I used to work for in LA. She’s very talented and I really enjoyed working with her.
[Photos: Diggy Lloyd]