Jojo Electro's Founder, Mike Mattarocci talks House Music and more
In tune with the launch of our brand new ‘Not Everyone Understands House Music’ T-Shirt (full collection also on sale) collaboration with JOJO Electro, we sit down with it’s founder Mike Mattarocci in an Exclusive Interview.
1) Mike, thanks for taking time out to do this feature with us. What’s your history with House Music and how did this evolve into the JoJo Electro Company we know today?
Thanks…. great question. I grew up in San Diego and somehow got my hands on various mixtapes that blew me away at the time. I’m talking 20 – maybe 25 years ago. I think some of my earliest memories were of the “San Francisco Sessions” volumes 1 – ?. I remember hearing DJ Dan, Mark Farina, and a bunch of other underground west coast cats and thinking to myself “why isn’t this music being played in clubs in place of the rap and top 40” that was so pervasive at the time. Myself and some other house heads finally found a club that we thought was amazing. It was a gay bar in Hillcrest called Rich’s and on Thursday nights Jon Bishop would play an amazing set every week where straight people mixed with gay people and everything in between. That’s when I really started appreciating not only the music, but also the open-minded (almost PLUR mentality) atmosphere of the house music community.
You may be black, you may be white; you may be Jew or Gentile. It don’t make a difference in OUR House.
So, around this time in my 20s, I started a payphone company and ATM company that I built up for about 10 years while playing beach volleyball professionally. At about 31 yrs old, I sold the companies and moved to L.A. because I had a dream of creating the best Sunday afternoon house music day party in L.A. This was in about 2002’ or so. My partner and I eventually achieved that goal with a cool, little place called DRAGON at the Hermosa Beach Pier. Everything was going great for about 7 years until we lost a court battle with the city of Hermosa Beach and they took our dance permit away. Very long story. Sort of like a scene from a strange FOOTLOOSE sequel. Up until that point, I was known as the guy who brought house music to what is called the “Southbay” of Los Angeles… Hermosa and Manhattan Beaches. At the time, it was just deep house, but you would have thought I was the devil bringing “Techno Music” to a peaceful little beach town. Before loosing our dance permit, you could walk up from the water with a surfboard under your arm, walk in with flip flops, and hear Kaskade, Giom, Jay-J, Heather, Sir Piers, Miguel Migs etc etc playing a cool set surrounded by girls in bikinis – indoors. It was a special time.
Once I realized dancing was done at our place, I was devastated and wondered what was next. The only other thing I wanted to do was to market a product globally on the Internet that I was also really interested in. Child porn was out – too risky (joking). Seriously, I noticed that there was a gaping hole in the arena of dance music merchandise worldwide and set out to see if I could fill some of that void. If we still had our dance permit, I would still be playing house music on Sundays and enjoying the bar/restaurant/club world which was my original dream.
2) What was your main vision with Jojo Electro in its inception? Did that vision change with the growth of your market?
My goal with JOJO ELECTRO has always been (from day 1) to create a global marketplace for dance music merchandise and apparel. I have always wanted to sell my original designs alongside hundreds of other entities, whether it be an edm record label, a famous club tee shirt from say “SPACE IBIZA” or “THE GARAGE”, or even especially assist artists with marketing their merchandise. This is why roughly 6 years ago I started building the “collaboration” section, which I will touch on later. I want this to eventually become the EBAY or AMAZON of all things related to house, techno, trap, dubstep, breaks, DnB, nu-disco etc. I have been for years (and still may be) the only brand on the web whose entire focus is 100% only the genres mentioned above. We cover those genres and only those genres. You won’t see any metal or country stuff on our site ever. Not that I don’t listen to DEF TONES once in a while, but I decided to not stray from that path and I’m sticking to it, right or wrong. I would say that over time, I started to accept more ideas and products outside the box of just tee shirts and tank tops. For instance, RAVE AID has really nice packaging and a great product and we now proudly carry another edm brand’s clothes, that I have a lot of respect for – the guys from “I LOVE YOU BUT HAVE CHOSEN TECHNO”. In the beginning years, I thought I’d only be selling stuff I made for JOJO ELECTRO or a well-known artist, for example. As time rolled on, I realized that it made sense to think of anything and everything interesting to me, within the dance music culture. However, I don’t think it’d be smart to sell downloads or tickets or vacation packages to Ibiza, for example. I’m trying to keep it from looking too much like a yard sale. Lol.
3) The JoJo electro website offers a lot more than just clubbing gear. Why did you think it was important to expand the company into the new dynamic company that it represents today?
The first year or two I remember thinking everyday “Why would somebody want to come to this site more than once?” At the time, I was releasing one shirt every month or two, so I was always nervous thinking people would lose interest fast. So, I was always looking to collaborate so that people other than me would hopefully be telling their friends or fans where to go online for some gear focused on the music they love so much. Then, one day I had an epiphany to add a news feed called “Latest edm News”. I might not be able to release a shirt everyday, but we could release news every day. News is a great offering, in my opinion. This is also how I got the idea to release edmn – the first global news app for the world of electronic dance music. The basic website is www.edmn.info. We aggregate global news regarding festivals, artists, funny topics, etc. We stay away from news about parties in small towns nobody has heard of or record releases from artists nobody cares about. Hopefully, just macro topics.
4) You have various collaborations with respectable DJs, Record labels & music companies like; Mr. V, Naked Music, Bora Bora respectively. Tells us a bit more about this, how it started and where you plan to take it.
I built this collaboration section to fit 1,000 clients. We’re far from that number, but you have to start somewhere. I got it off the ground with the most well known people I knew, who were interested. Most of the massive names I approached (that I didn’t know) said “Who are you? Beat it! Come back when you grow up a bit”. Haha. So, I work with people I have access to. I just added CRAZIBIZA and I LOVE YOU BUT I’VE CHOSEN TECHNO last month. It’s always growing. To be honest, TRAXSOURCE is the most meaningful collaboration to date. This concept was designed with somebody exactly like TRAXSOURCE in mind. A great company, with a massive database of satisfied customers all over the world, who love dance music. But, making merchandise and apparel was sort of outside of your core strengths. I created a turn key solution for people who should have merchandise available globally, but don’t have the time or inclination to manage the creation, marketing, selling, shipping, returns, and many other hassles of doing it themselves. For instance, I love the DEFECTED RECORDS logo. I went to their site a few years ago and noticed every shirt I liked in my size was “out of stock”. Plus, they didn’t ship worldwide. I said to myself that one day we would have every cool dance music entity in the world wanting us to handle their production and global shipping. I still have that vision. It’s a long road ahead.
5) What’s next for JoJo Electro?
Another great question. I would love for us to work with an entity like AM ONLY, for example. On paper, we should be making all of their artist’s gear and making sure it’s available online 24/7 worldwide as well as at festivals. The same could be said about a TRAXSOURCE “artist” program. You already have the relationships right? Currently, it’s sad to see the “Official Merch” booths at monstrous festivals and you’ll find a mediocre KREWELLA headband and maybe a CALVIN HARRIS tank top. Not much else. It could be so much better, regarding logistics and options. I would also like to figure out a way to effectively sell at all the major festivals around the world and not just North America, like we do now. I haven’t figured out how to get all our merchandise and hardware onto a plane, fly somewhere globally, and turn a profit in a merchandise booth. We are in negotiations with some people who want exclusive rights to Western Europe. This could shorten shipping times and help cut costs as well as create a model for a South American and Asian licensee possibly. We are also really focused on regular releases for TRAXSOURCE. We set the bar higher than normal with the newest “NOT EVERYONE UNDERSTANDS HOUSE MUSIC” design and now feel the challenge of trying to follow it up with something as good, if not better.