I invited Mick Boogie to meet me at Parm, the sandwich-y offshoot of the excellent Torrisi in NYC’s Nolita district, because he’s got great taste in music, so I figured that’d extend to food. But, of course, there was some foodie TV show overtaking the joint, and we were forced next door to a Midwestern-style sandwich spot that I never knew existed. The man born Mick Batyske in Youngstown, Ohio, who is one of the best mixtape and party DJs in the land, was unfazed: He’d be happy with a ho-hum chicken caesar salad.
Turns out he’s waaaay more discerning about old-school hip-hop cuts (check out his mixtapes, like this one; or better yet, download his brand new Christmas mixtape!) than he is about tracking down killer chicken parm sandwiches. But after 45 minutes of talking about food — and revealing a kinda crazy Chipotle infatuation — Mick Boogie, the man who can turn any party into a serious bash, from Miami to London to Vegas, is into it. He’s more obsessed with food than he thought, or maybe he’s just having such a good time that everything tastes great.
“I have the best life ever, I really do,” he says. “I came from a small town in Ohio, I was fat and not cool in high school. My life was not supposed to turn out like this! All of a sudden, I have the best job, a beautiful wife, live in a great neighborhood [in Brooklyn] and have no worries. I am very grateful.”
Let’s start with music: What’s the process like for you to get inspired to do a remix or put together a new set?
I try to find a common theme or common threads I can pull together. If I’m going to do a mixtape, for example, I’m not just going to slop together a bunch of songs and say, “This is my mixtape” or record my set from the club last night, put it out and say, “Check it out.” I might take elements from both of those ideas. It’s similar to a chef — they’re not going to just cook chicken and put it out. They’re going to add all these other things to make their whole dish sound different from the other guys’.
What is a hard crowd to get going? Like a fashion week gig or something in Hollywood, maybe?
Everybody has their own little quirks and funky mannerisms. For me, fashion people tend to be a little more bourgeoisie — they know their music and can be a little bit on the “too cool for school” side. That’s good, though, because you want to be able to impress them with your musical knowledge as well. Random corporate events, even for some of the biggest brands in America, you have to start at the lowest common denominator. As the night goes on and as the alcohol flows, people get drunk and you can take the music in a more creative direction. Hollywood tends to be pretty much right in the middle. Everyone is pretty cool. Not as cool as the fashion people, but definitely more cool than average American corporate events.
Have you played like a big Silicon Valley party or something like that?
Yeah. One thing I’m actually looking really forward to playing is the Mashable party for South By Southwest Interactive this upcoming year. All those people are going to be super-advanced in the tech-world — these are the people who invented Spotify and Turntable.fm. They know their music better than anybody.
Do they come up and try to see what programs you are using?
I have noticed that at some tech things. People may have invented some million-dollar app but are still amazed that we are DJ’ing on a laptop. It’s pretty cool.
What about technology? What do you use when you DJ?
I keep it pretty simple. I use Serato with two regular turntables and a mixer set-up. I am pretty loyal to certain brands. I love Pioneer mixers and headphones.
Do you use those when you are making mixtapes, too?
I use those with mixtapes. I do most of my mixtapes on Ableton, though. It’s a game-changer because I can be on an airplane and do an entire project by the time I land. It’s just amazing.
Is that what you usually do when you travel? Do you sleep?
I do everything. I sleep when I can – I take a lot of redeyes and early morning flights so I tend to sleep. Usually on flights going to gigs, though, I try to get as much work done as I can. Wi-Fi on airplanes is a pretty amazing tool and enables me to be very productive. I spend a lot of time texting back-and-forth with my wife and checking in on what’s going on at home. I also try sometimes to shut down and read and do stuff I normally wouldn’t take the time to do. Delta has Wi-Fi. I fly Delta often, and when I do, I’m working. United doesn’t, though, and I fly with them often too. Then I know I can just read. I try to split the difference so that I can get some chill time in.
Do you book your own hotels or do you have a travel agent?
I book my own travel. I actually enjoy the whole process. I have it down to a science now. I’ve scheduled layovers, too. I scheduled one in Denver just so that I could go to the first-ever Chipotle! I love Chipotle. I scheduled a stop there, had a friend pick me up and take me and then they gave me a tour of it. They took me down to the basement where the original Chipotle guy sat at his desk. They showed me some meat cleavers — the original cutting up of the chicken — and gave me a shirt and everything. I have pictures! It was amazing.
What’s your typical Chipotle order?
I’m really boring, dude. I eat lettuce and chicken or I eat chicken in a tortilla wrap. I don’t eat any toppings – I actually don’t even like Mexican food, I just like chicken. I eat plain chicken on everything. This is great for a food website, right?
What are some of the favorite places that you like going back to?
I tend to visit more of the smaller spots rather than the big place that everyone has to go to. I’m in Vegas a lot and have a residency at Hyde — I like to eat at this restaurant that’s in Crystals. Wolfgang Puck has a restaurant there. It’s not his most glamorous place but I love the food. Whenever I go to Vegas, I’ll sit there by myself, read The New York Times and just eat my dinner.
If I am in Hollywood, I always eat at Tender Greens, which is also an amazing salad and chicken place. I end up having this same routine — I like to eat healthily on the road. It’s really tough when you travel a lot and it’s so stacked against you. Even on an airplane – the food is disgusting and the “healthier” you eat on it, the closer you are to dying. You’re better off eating the ice cream and steak because it might at least be real. The salad has been there for like three days, the chicken is rubbery. You have to choose your battles. I eat sweet potato chips everywhere — the Food Should Taste Good brand. I just keep them in my bag. Almonds, too. I’m weird [laughs].
Do you have a routine before you go on?
My routine is more creature of habit than a superstitious thing. I like to stay in the same hotels and to walk in the same areas. Moreso from a comfort point of view — I like to eat at the same places and go to the gym a couple of hours before my set, if possible. That’s unless the hotel has a really crappy gym — then I’ll go run outside. It makes you feel healthier, a little bit lighter and clears your mind before you perform.
Do you have a rider for food at your gigs?
Not for food. I have a rider for beverages like Red Bull and alcohol but I don’t have a food rider.
What do you like to drink?
I don’t drink too much. If I’m going to drink alcohol, it’s probably going to be Red Bull and vodka. Or I’ll drink water – sparkling water, because that’s my thing now. I’m a man on the quest for the finer bubble [laughs].
Do you cook a lot at home?
My wife is really getting into cooking. She’s a really good cook. We’re in the process of moving and I helped re-do the whole kitchen for her. I’m getting her all these appliances that she’s really excited about. I actually just did an event for a company that makes food appliances called Bella. They have toasters, coffee makers, juicers — they’re actually sending us a bunch of stuff for our new kitchen, which is awesome. It was one of the most fun events I’ve ever done. I signed up thinking, “I’m doing an event for a bunch of kitchen appliances. How weird is this going to be?”
What are some of the brands you have worked with and developed good relationships with?
That’s really something I’ve strived to do. I hate when shit seems like, “I’m just going to sit on top of this Ford car for a minute because they’re paying me.” The two brands that I’ve worked most with in that regard are Red Bull and Adidas. We’ve done a lot of really cool projects together — event-wise, mixtape-wise, production-wise. They’re the type of brands where I could do something for them and even if they don’t put their name on it, they’re so happy with how it turned out that they will still push it for you. We’ve created some really cool projects that way.
Have you formed relationships with other DJs along the way?
Yeah, all the time. We all end up running into each other at airports or hotels. You could be anywhere in the world and meet people. Steve Aoki and I were boarding a plane in Las Vegas a couple of weeks ago together. I hadn’t seen that guy in a couple years. When I checked into a hotel in Hawaii the other week, Pusha T was checking out. You find these really weird moments where, even if they’re not your friends like that you hang out with everyday, you end up running into them all over the world. It’s a cool thing about our lifestyle — if you make respectable stuff, there’s a mutual brotherhood between all of us.
With that said, let’s put together the ultimate dinner party. Who are you going to invite to a dinner, with your new fancy kitchen?
How many guests can I have?
It’s up to you. I’d say six to eight is a good dinner party.
I would do Ghostface Killah… and Raekwon, because Ghostface is just crazy. I would have Joe Biden because Obama is the cool choice, but Joe Biden is the guy who just says whatever the fuck he wants whenever he wants and nobody cares because he is the Vice President. I would also have Joan Rivers because she’s crazy and old and seen every pop culture moment for the last 250 years.
That’s a brilliant idea to have Joan Rivers and Ghostface together.
They’re really the same person, right? I might have Steve Jobs, too. It would be interesting to put together a bunch of people from different places. Oh, and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. That would be my dream dinner party. It sounds like a very Brooklyn dinner party right there.
Any last thoughts?
I have the best life ever, I really do. I came from a small town in Ohio, I was fat and not cool in high school. My life was not supposed to turn out like this! All of a sudden, I have the best job, a beautiful wife, live in a great neighborhood and have no worries. I am very grateful.
And you listen to good music for a living—
I try to listen to great music. Not everybody would always agree…