Despite a condition that limits his hearing, this fierce native New Yorker has carved out quite a career in nightlife as a DJ. From the glory days of Splash to current success at The Ritz, Mikey Mo is a driving force behind one of the city’s most popular weekly parties… and before this year’s end, he’ll be slaying a few other parties as well!
Thotyssey: Mikey, hello! Thanks for taking to us today! So… are you in the Christmas spirit yet?
DJ Mikey Mo: I’m definitely in the Christmas spirit these days! In fact, I just joined my family today in our annual trip to get their tree.
Fun! Your family is local?
They actually live about 10 minutes from me.
So, I take it your a native.
I’m from the northern suburbs of New York, about a 40 minute drive from Midtown.
So then, you’ve probably been exploring the city’s nightlife for some time!
Then big dance parties and club music have always been your thing, as far as your DJ inspiration goes.
Absolutely. Being deaf, I always loved feeling the thumping bass of dance music. As a teenager I used to buy Louie DeVito’s NYC Underground Party CDs and listen to them non-stop. It was a natural transition into club life, getting lost in the music of some incredible DJs.
Tell us more about being a deaf DJ. How do you do it?
It’s all about figuring out alternative ways to get past obstacles. For example, DJ technology has evolved to allow for visual methods of mixing, alongside using what I can hear and feel.
For clarification, you are not completely deaf… you have some hearing ability.
Yeah, I’m completely deaf in my right ear and about 65% deaf in my left. A hearing aid in the right ear doesn’t help, but in my left ear it really helps a lot. In fact, a lot of times people don’t even realize I’m deaf. Using the hearing I have and some crazy good lip reading skills, I’m able to carry on a conversation with very little problem. I think that’s another thing about nightlife for me: it’s so loud that no one can hear anyway, so in a sense we’re all on the same level, as far as ability to hear on the dance floor!
That’s amazing! So what appeals to you, musically?
I love all kinds of music. Pop, hip hop, punk rock, etc. What strikes me first in a song is the sound of it more so than the vocals, but again technology comes to the rescue with a wide availability of song lyrics being posted online for me to read along with the music.
How and when did you start as a DJ?
Back in 2012, I downloaded some DJ software, bought a cheap basic controller and just went for it. I learned a lot of the basics from observing other DJs while they worked. If there was something I couldn’t figure out, I asked. I made some mixes, and got lots of feedback on how to improve.
My first gig was April of 2013 at Gay College Tuesdays, which was at Splash at the time. Me and DJ Steve Sidewalk had become good friends, and he along with Dougie Meyer invited me on board to DJ the downstairs every Tuesday. That was the spring board that found me eventually working at some amazing venues both here in NYC and beyond since.
Do you face a lot of adversity as a hearing impaired DJ in this business, from venue owners or others?
Not directly. But there have been instances where I’ve heard that a venue was skeptical about bringing me on board. However, given the chance, I’ve been able to put their fears to rest. Fortunately, most places have been great when it comes to my hearing loss, and are willing to work with the few limitations I may have. For example, working with a queen doing a show, I tell them that visual cues to start the track are much more effective than saying it into the microphone.
Everyone still misses Splash so hard… do you have any favorite memories from your time there?
I love to tell people that I was the last ever DJ downstairs, lol! But my all time favorite memory was the very last night they were open. DJ Max Rodriguez put on “Don’t Stop Believing,” and everyone on the dance floor started tearing up, and we all ended up underneath that famous disco ball in a giant group hug with Dougie at the center of it. It was a powerful moment of family and belonging that I will never forget.
Are you sad to see so many larger venues disappearing from the city?
To be completely honest, I’ve been sticking more to the smaller LGBT-oriented bars and venues these days-. Although, I recently ventured out to 3 Dollar Bill in Brooklyn for the first time, and had a fantastic time. I even mentioned to my friends that it reminded me a lot of what Splash used to be. Unfortunately for me, Brooklyn is a bit of a trip… so most of the time you’ll find me at The Ritz or Monster.
Your partner-in-crime Steve Sidewalk is very pro-song requests from patrons. Do you think that it’s always a good time to requests?
There’s a time and a place for requests. It never hurts to just listen to the requests, even if you have no intention of playing it. Sometimes you’ll get an idea out of it, or maybe it will help to tune the set better to what the patrons want to hear.
What do you think about “All I Want For Christmas Is You” suddenly being number one on Billboard?
Isn’t it every year? Lol. I used to hate it, but I’ve come to appreciate it for the classic that it is, and the joy that it brings to the dance floor. I find myself dropping it at random times during the year, just to see the reactions from people
I’s always hilariously jarring to hear it in August.
But very appropriate for Christmas in July!
Speaking of long-lasting institutions, Gay College Tuesday is now about to celebrate it’s seventh year at The Ritz! The 18+ party has had a number of drag hosts (currently Zarria) and gogo dancers over the years, and you and Steve have been in the booth the whole time. What has made this party so enduring, do you think?
I think there’s always been something fun about reliving your college partying days with cheap drinks and sing-along pop music. Steve and I try to bring in a blend of the latest trending Top 40 stuff, as well as everyone’s favorite throwback anthems to just jam out to.
Our current hostess Zarria does a fantastic job of not only putting on a great show, but interacting with our patrons the entire night. And this week, we are fortunate to have our former hostess Honey Davenport join in on the fun. She was with us for a long time before being called off to Drag Race fame, so it’s exciting to have her back.
Also rounding out the GCT crew are our rotating cast of gogo dancers, who liven up the dance floor for us every week.
You’ll soon be doing something in Jersey, too.
I’m really looking forward to December 28th, which is my debut Saturday on the main floor of Paradise in Asbury Park. It’s an incredible room, and it’s truly an honor to be a part of the team over there.
And here’s exciting news: you’ll be spinning the New Years Eve party at Monster, with Jasmine Rice hosting!
I’m so excited. This is my second year with Monster for New Years Eve, and I’m so glad to have been called back. I’ve worked with Jasmine before, and she brings some real fierceness both in her look and her performances. There will also be many surprise guests popping in during the night to say hi, and that’s something I always look forward to. You never know who will come down those stairs!
And what’s coming up for you in 2020?
I’m looking forward to working in new places and new cities. I already have some stuff in the works that will hopefully lead to some exciting gigs across the country… and of course, right here in New York!!
Have great gigs! Okay, last question that I’m asking everyone: what’s the number one item on your Christmas list?
I love my V-Moda DJ headphones. So now, I want their wireless version for listening to music around town.
Thank you, Mikey!