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California-based DJ and producer Hoj started his Tale + Tone imprint with Burridge in 2017, after forging a friendship through his residency for the British DJ’s All Day I Dream parties. His recent ‘You Are A Wonder’ release on the label is a love letter to the dance music community and supporters that have made things special for Hoj over the years.
We caught up with Hoj to hear about his new release on his imprint and the production processes behind it, activities during lockdown, the backstory behind ‘Tale + Tone’ and upcoming projects.
Hi Hoj, Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, where in the world are you right now and how are you doing?
Hi there. Thanks having me. I’m at home in Oakland, California. I’m doing pretty good – got up early to bake some bread … just pulled it out of the oven, and it’s looking pretty epic. So that’s a good start.
2020 has brought some intense challenges for almost everyone, and has been particularly tough on the live music industry. What has your experience been like for the last few months, and how has your lifestyle adapted?
Well, I’m baking bread now – that’s definitely new. With the touring / DJ lifestyle, it just never occurred to me. Practically, you’re not home that much. But to make a solid sourdough, you need patience, appreciation of the process, presence of mind, reverence for simplicity, and respect for routine. These are some things I’m learning during this rare time – things that have helped me in the studio, and things that I will keep with me far beyond COVID.
You and Lee Burridge are co-owners of the Tale + Tone label, can you tell us a little bit about how your partnership started?
I guess our relationship started when I heard his Global Underground NuBreed CD in 2001. He just didn’t realize he was in a relationship with me yet. I think we eventually met at Burning Man in a friend’s RV many years later. He had a toothbrush in his pocket. Over the years we would play some of the same places and end up at afterparties together and what not. All Day I Dream was kind of born at one of those afterparties – and we would talk a lot about the music and Lee’s vision. I did what I could to help him bring it to fruition – I think those first years of All Day I Dream helped to solidify our partnership and our friendship.
Tell us about the label’s history and outlook?
Lee and I like a wide range of music. That’s what I’ve always loved about Lee as a DJ – he does his own thing and gives you a lot of range in a single set. I strive to do the same. As All Day I Dream gained momentum, Lee and I found ourselves with a lot of amazing music that wouldn’t necessarily fit in a dreamy, daytime setting. So we decided to start a new label to showcase the music that we play at night.
The outlook is simple. We look for music with story (tale) and groove (tone). We just ask ourselves – “Is this something I would play in a Lee + Hoj b2b set?” If the answer to that is yes, then it’s right for the label.
Your new EP on the imprint, ‘You Are a Wonder’, is superb in our humble opinion, can you talk to us a about the writing and recording process for this release and what inspired it?
Thank you for the kind words. I think this EP started with my nephews pre-pandemic. We were messing around in my studio and I recorded them reading some stuff. The older one said “You Are A Wonder” into the mic. It went onto my hard drive.
Then it’s March 2020, and we’re in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m at home and failing miserably at making bread. All of my upcoming gigs have been cancelled, and I’m really missing my friends. I came across my nephew’s “You Are A Wonder” recording one morning … I threw it into Ableton and things started to flow from there.
So I think my nephew inspired me to start the EP. I started posting progress on my Instagram. The positivity and support from my community inspired me to finish it.
You have New York’s Newman on remix duties, an artist who you are obviously a big fan of, when did you first meet Newman and what did you think of his mix of ‘You Are a Wonder’?
Lee sent me Newman’s “Sky and the Earth” when we were putting together the first Tale and Tone record, The Storybook EP. We signed it – I think that was Newman’s first release (as Newman), but he has been around and making music for a long time. He is truly one of the best producers I know. He’s helped me immensely in the studio with my own productions, and we’ve become good friends. I love his epic You Are A Wonder remix, and we’re both excited for our collaboration EP coming out on All Day I Dream later this year.
Away from music, what keeps you sane, have you got any particular passion projects, hobbies etc?
You mean besides the bread? Haha. So many passion projects. I love filmmaking and am working on some documentariy shorts(one about Lee!), some music videos (including one for Sweet Verse), and a short narrative film.
What are your favourite 3 movies of all time?
That’s a big big question. My head spins. Cinema Paradiso, City of Lost Children, and Pulp Fiction. No wait, Breathless, North By Northwest, and Color of Paradise. Or – ummm Badlands, Big Lebowski, Full Metal Jacket … this is hard.
I know this question is tough right now, but what do you have planned for the year ahead?
No plans really – I just want to continue making things. Music and maybe some more bread to start.