How Mochakk's Authentic Energy Made Him Go Viral
If 2021 was the year of John Summit, 2022 is the year of Mochakk—aka Pedro Maia. The young Brazilian star gained traction on social media after videos of his immense energy in the DJ booth went viral. What became quickly apparent was that Mochakk was no Tik Tok DJ. He has released tracks with Vintage Culture's Só Track Boa and Chris Lake's Black Book and has quickly become a can't miss name when it comes to performing. At only 22 years old, Mochakk has a long career ahead of him.
Brazil has emerged as a house music destination in the last few years. Its iconic Green Valley is one of the top clubs in the world. And the country has produced multiple house music superstars, including Alok and Vintage Culture. An entire generation of young South American artists have been inspired to take up music production and DJing, all trying to craft their sound and musical identity.
Growing up in the shadow of these icons certainly helped Maia dive into house music. But even before he discovered house, music played a substantial role in his life from a young age. Growing up around jazz, soul, rock, and hip-hop, the young star uses a plethora of influences to create his sets and sounds. Also a multi-instrumentalist, Pedro is known for a soulful, funky brand of tech house that maintains the feel of the underground.
We caught up with Maia to chat about his recent release on Black Book Records, "False Need," how he developed his incredible stage presence, and when fans in North America can hope to see him live.
First and foremost, let's talk about the new track, "False Need," on Chris Lake's Black Book records. It felt like people in the states were just starting to become aware of you, and then you released a massive single on the most prominent label for house music right now. How did the connection with the Black Book team come about?
I started talking to Chris and Ian during quarantine. When Chris was weekly streaming on Twitch, sometimes producing and sometimes listening to demos, I sent him some ideas and tracks I had ready at the time and managed to get a pretty good reaction out of the guy. So he got me in touch with Ian from his team, so I could keep him updated with my new stuff. From then until now, I've been hitting the rim with them, almost there every time. One day I sent Ian a couple of tracks, and he was like, these are really cool. You're close, man. I got really motivated and did "False Need" that same day, stayed up all night working on it, sent that to Ian in the morning, and he responded with, "This Ripss!!" We got it signed the next day or so. I think cheering for yourself and transforming that into motivation and putting your mind to what you're doing is powerful!
You have such an incredible aura and presence on stage, bringing rare energy to the decks. Tell us about your mindset when you approach a set and what gives you the confidence to bring this type of energy to a job that many of your peers approach in a more muted (and less fun) fashion?
I think the way I use body language [to illustrate] the vocabulary [of a song] is something I got from my younger days when I used to dance hip hop and breakdance. I always loved music, and when I discovered the dance pillar of hip hop and how it could translate certain parts of the song visually, I couldn't help myself but try and learn it. Not only through dancing, but through acting and simply doing gestures or changing my facial expression [gives people] the vibe the song is trying to communicate. I think it is a vehicle to present the art that connects me to a new audience. Artists who do their homework have so much to pass on to the audience when it comes to music, its story, all the different types and genres of music, the function of certain elements in the track, and the way a song works. Having tools like this comes in handy when trying to present something new, especially if you're a visual learner like me!
You hail from Brazil, a country that many in the states associate with dance music but admittedly don't know much about. How do you feel the dance music scene in Brazil has changed over the years?
We have a popular saying, "We always find the Brazilian way." That drive, that force of adapting, finding a way, having persistence is like a superpower, man. Even limitations turn into a path sometimes, creating aesthetics and molding whole cultural movements, just as you can see with "Brazilian Funk" taking over. The power of adapting [is] one of the DJ's most valuable skills, the ability to command the floor in different situations. A good DJ warms it up, cools it down, sets fire to the place, and makes people laugh, flirt, cry, and trip. To make that happen, you need to adapt your choices in the booth to match the situation. That power of adaption is something we have from birth!
Do you have a memory of how you first discovered dance music?
I discovered it through my mom mostly, I think. She was really into new wave, 80s electropop, Italo disco, boogie, disco, funk, and all that. Later on, I started dancing hip hop and breaking, and after a while, house music came along to me via the internet…instant love.
How did you decide you wanted to pursue being an artist?
I've always known that I would live for art. From guitar playing and singing at five with my mohawk wanting to be Anthony Kiedis, to skateboarding, breakdancing to fashion school, to music school after, there was never anything else I could do that wasn't art-related.
You've spoken about growing up playing instruments and listening to a lot of jazz and hip-hop as a kid. How would you say that influences your music today?
I think that the chord structures and patterns are the stuff that influences me the most. 2-5-1 cadences always get me. Also, trying to get that true funk feel to my grooves is something I really try to achieve!
One of the things that propelled your career forward is your incredible social media presence. All the videos you post are natural, nothing feels forced, yet it's an incredible insight into what a Mochakk set is like. As part of the younger generation, do you feel uniquely equipped to take advantage of social media, or did this happen naturally?
It's all natural. I'm just like that all the time. If I were to show you a tune right now, I would be trying to make gestures to help you "see" the music. It's just my way of enjoying the tune and showing it to people. As far as social media goes, it just blew up out of nowhere, Nadai (my videographer) was already working with me, and we were already posting his vids on my IG. The day it all started to go bananas, we were in Rio for the week. I saw a John Summit Tweet saying something like, "If you're an aspiring DJ and you're not on TikTok, you're wasting your time cause it's the only platform where you can go viral without a previous following." I was like, ok, let me get one of the videos and post it there, and the rest is history.
Now that people are beginning to know you in the states, you signed with an American agent and are about to embark on some big gigs here. What would you say you're most excited and most nervous about when you look towards your first festival sets in the USA?
I'm excited to discover how the floor works there, I think it's very different from the Brazilian crowd, but I'm excited! When it comes to what I'm nervous about, I think it's the touring routine. So many gigs to play in a row! I really have to be careful managing sleep and stuff. It's my first tour, so I've never done that before. I'm confident, though.
You recently had the opportunity to play with Gordo in Brazil, further signs of the American DJs recognizing your talent. Is there anyone you are eager to go BTB with or get in the studio with?
Yeah, Seth Troxler is a guy I want to go to the studio or play a B2B with! Such a cool guy! Also, some old-school guys like Steve "Silk" Hurley.
How do you feel about the tech house genre overall? Are we heading in the right direction, or has it become too commercial?
I think tech house in its natural shape and form is something really solid that will never die out. It's a dope blend between the industrial, sometimes futuristic, and raw sound of techno but keeping the uplifting driving groove of house. The euphoria the unrefusable dancing invitation house gives you, this trendy tech house isn't touching on that, and I think it has an expiration date. When stuff becomes replicated, many times, it loses its soul and becomes just a recipe. It's like musical Fordism, and that saturates the niche quickly. In two years, we will still have a solid tech house scene, but the tech house sound that reaches the mainstream will already be different. Music with soul stands for ages, though, I often play tracks from 2014, 2009, 1999, whatever, and they still work. They're not dated because they weren't made with the current time in mind.