We’re Going Hard for Mija
Hot beats, cool hair, all the passion, no genre. And OWSLA’s leading lady is just getting started.
You could say that Mija is a little busy. Over the past two years, the promoter-turned-DJ has hit the stages of Bonnaroo, Coachella, and Ultra, and just kicked off 2016 with her second world tour. She’s come a long way from Phoenix, that’s for damn sure. Before we catch her set at Hard Summer this weekend, we sat down with the technicolor DJ to talk working with Skrillex and the OWSLA collective, being taken seriously in EDM, and pinning DIY “Anti-crombie” logos to your entire wardrobe.
How did you discover your passion for music?
My parents wanted me to do an extracurricular activity, so I tried playing sports for like six weeks. I was probably six or seven years old and I hated it, so I joined the Phoenix Girl’s Chorus which was mostly classical and folk music. I ended up doing that for nine years, and I think that was the start of it. From there, I joined band in middle school, where I played the clarinet. I kinda just kept music as the one staple thing throughout my life.
You’re primarily a DJ now, do you ever see yourself going back to the microphone?
Yeah, definitely. I’m writing a lot of songs right now and most of them are with my vocals that I’ve warped and tweaked; I use those sounds as additional instruments in my production. I quit singing when I was so young to focus on other things, but with vocal chords, you have to practice to keep them in good condition. I’m working on that now, so I can go back to that.
Do the vocal cords even lift, bro?
[Laughs] It really takes practice and I’m constantly touring and smoking and, you know, doing the road thing. But using your own vocals makes the song special; it gives it more personality.
How did you and Skrillex come together?
I booked him back in 2010 for some rave I was throwing–it was before he put out Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites and he had just started going by Skrillex–but I didn’t actually see him again for about five years, when he showed up on my stage at Bonnaroo. We wound up doing a huge back-to-back set, became really good friends, went to Burning Man together, and he basically convinced me to move to L.A. and hang out with all of these people who are in this world. That’s how I became involved with him and OWSLA.
What’s it like being a part of the OWSLA family?
Amazing. It’s very close knit. They’re some of the nicest and most supportive people you’ll ever meet. It’s just kind of the mentality behind our whole crew. It’s like having a little family outside of your family. There are a couple other girls in the group, too.
EDM remains a very male-dominated genre, did you feel like you had to fight to establish your place in the industry?
I wouldn’t say it was difficult to be taken seriously, but I had to make a very pointed effort. Like when I put something out and have people come back at me with, “Oh, you didn’t produce this, this isn’t good enough.” You know, people not believing that I make my own music. I’ve been lucky to not really feel that way coming up because I started so young as a promoter, I was doing my own shows and people took me seriously from that. But there’s a reason that everybody who’s in this industry in L.A. wears all black, all the time. That’s how they differentiate, “You’re supposed to be there, you’re part of something.” There would be times when I would show up to gigs, and if I wore a dress, and I showed up with my boyfriend, they would think that my boyfriend was the DJ and that I was the DJ’s girlfriend walking behind him. I take a lot of pride in being taken seriously as an artist and a business person.
You describe your musical style as “fk a genre,” how do you feel that fits into your position in the EDM community?
“Fk a genre” came from me coming up really fast and not initially being a producer or having a specific sound. Also, growing up, I was one of those kinds who would jump from group to group, friend to friend, learning as much as possible about everything. That’s what I want people to take from it: give artists a similar freedom to what I’ve established in my own career and made work.
Who’s your dream collab?
Right now, I would say Dizzee Rascal. I’m going through this big UK grime and dubstep phase and he’s a legend. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to.
Your look is really tight. Where do you pull style inspo from?
It fluctuates based on where I’m at in the moment. I grew up really punk, wearing big band t-shirts and cutting up Abercrombie logos, making them into “Anti-Crombie” logos, safety pinning them on things. But I’ve been through phases where I’m just wearing lacy flower dresses and being girly as hell. It’s kind of a combination of that. I mean, I’m wearing a plaid skirt with a Slayer shirt right now.
What advice do you have for girls trying to break into the more technical side of the music industry?
Really, the only thing you can do if you wanna make music is to do it every single day. Work harder than everyone else around you, work with cool people who inspire you, and don’t even pay attention to the Internet–there are those dark holes online that you can’t get sucked into. The people who are part of that have other motives and intentions, and that has nothing to do with you. Focus on the positive, reply to the positive, and work hard.
Catch Mija on the Hard Summer stage this Saturday in Fontana, CA. If you’re not making it out there, we’ll be covering the whole day on Snapchat. If you are, watch our snaps anyway.