Check out our interview with talented DJ and ZOUK Vegas Resident Jonah who already got some huge backing from the likes of Zedd, Martin Garrix, Ookay and Griffin.
Dropping out of law school to pursue his creative ambitions, Jonah started out as a photographer/videographer, touring the world with the likes of R3HAB, Justin Mylo, Martin Garrix and Zedd. Stuck in Las Vegas last year due to the pandemic, Jonah decided to teach himself to DJ, acting on advice from his good friends in the industry. In August 2021, he played the first ever edition of zed.run, and the following week was invited to be part of Ookay’s show at Marquee, where he joined him for a special b2b slot as well as playing solo. Days later he played a b2b set with Zedd and Gryffin in the Hamptons, arranged by Zedd himself. In September 2021, he released his first single ‘I Found Love’ and has a host of new music ready to come fro 2022.
Follow Jonah @jonah
Hi Jonah, please tell us a little about you?
My name is Jonah, I’m 26, I was born in Malta (the tiny island in Europe) and I currently live in Las Vegas. My life changed completely in 2017. I was one semester away from graduating from law school in Malta when I decided to drop out to pursue what I believed would make me happy – a life full of travel and creativity. I started off working as a videographer & photographer in the poker industry, transitioned to esports, and then music; touring with artists like R3hab, Justin Mylo, etc.
In 2020 my life changed again, when I got stuck in Las Vegas due to the lockdowns. We had no form of entertainment so I decided to buy a DJ Controller, taught myself how to DJ, and started throwing these house parties every weekend (the first ones only had 4 people in attendance due to covid restrictions)
Things began to escalate when the world opened back up. My DJ friends, such as Ookay, started inviting me to these parties they were getting booked at, and I’d end up DJing with them. Next thing you know I’m doing these b2b sets at after parties with Ookay, Zedd, Martin Garrix, Justin Mylo, etc. It was so much fun…so I decided to dive deeper into the world.
Now here we are; I just played my first show in Vegas on NYE with Zedd at Zouk Nightclub; then played Exchange LA the next day, and Zouk again a week later. I’m super excited about the way things have transitioned from dropping out of law school 5 years ago.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Positive; Adaptable; Driven
We’re sure you have been asked this million times but how did you get in the industry?
When I dropped out of law school in 2017, I was working with my friend Joey Ingram on his poker podcast. He invited me to fly out to Vegas for the summer for the world series of poker. When I got to Vegas, my friend Remko told me the number 1 rule for Vegas was to say YES to everything…and I did just that. Any time someone would invite me to go out, it didn’t matter how tired I was, or if I didn’t want to go anywhere, I always said YES. Naturally, I just ended up meeting a lot of people.
I love to party, so I spent most nights at the club. I ended up becoming friends with a lot of people that worked in the music industry; DJs, Managers, production people, etc.
The rest is pretty much history. One thing led to the other, and I went from working in poker, to working in esports, to working in music. It was a very seamless transition.
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Bangers, Diverse, and High-Energy
Do you ever get nervous?
The first real show I played was this event in LA in April 2021. Me and a couple friends were going to LA for the weekend, when my friend Nicholas Parasram called and told us there was a super sick event happening that night in LA and that we should all go. We hadn’t partied in so long that we were all super hyped and snap called his offer. He called us 30 mins later and was like, “do you want to DJ the event tonight? Actually, I already told them to give you a slot, you’re on at 11:30 pm – 12:30 am, see you there!”
It hit me right after he hung up that I had never actually DJ’d a real event. I had only DJ’d at private parties with my friends. All of a sudden, I was soooo nervous. The rest of the day I was just thinking of a million excuses to back out and cancel, but by night time, all my friends had found out about the event and were telling me they’re going there just for my set.
That’s when I decided that I had two options…I could just back out, cancel on everyone, and never talk about becoming a DJ again…or, I could go there, and make my friends proud, crush the set, and then never have to worry about being nervous again.
I decided that if anything, I was going to do this for my friends. When I put my headphones on for my first song, it all went away. I went straight into the zone and I don’t really know what happened next, but everyone said it was amazing. At one point I just remember looking up and seeing all 600 people going wild to my music, and I completely lost it.
After that, I don’t think I’ve really been nervous again. I still get excited before each show, but once I get going, it feels super easy and comes natural.
Tell us about your single “I Found Love?”
After that LA show, I knew that the next thing I wanted to do was work on music. So I did just that. Me and my friends Daniel North & Stryv went to the studio the next day and started brainstorming ideas.
There was a lot of back and forth on the style I wanted for my first ever song release. I think I was definitely overthinking for a while. I felt the pressure of “this is my first song” but had to remind myself that, yeah, it was only my first song.
We decided to go for a high-energy club banger. The lyrics and vocals made sense. I connected with them immediately, even though super simple, just because I felt like I had just found my love for music…again, in an incredible way. The main goal for the song was to prove to myself that I could do it. That I could go from never having made music, to releasing my first single.
Which artists and styles inspired and influenced you?
I think back then I was listening to a lot of tech house music. I think everyone was releasing a lot of slower tech house tracks because all the clubs were closed so no one was really partying. BUT, over in Vegas, we were throwing our famous kitchen raves every weekend…so I wanted a track that could work as a club banger as well.
So for styles, I would say a lot of electro house and tech house tracks. I couldn’t tell you what artists influenced me for the track though, because I was listening to so much music at the time.
When all the partying is over how do you like to chill out?
Hahaha, this is a great question. The real answer is…I don’t. I just played a show at Zouk Vegas on Friday. My set time was 12-1am. Then I partied super hard for Zedd’s set between 1-3am, and then went to the after party and ended up DJing till 5:30 am. I feel like I’m on such a high after the show that it’s basically impossible to chill out.
Best stage you have ever play?
I think this is very close between my first ever show in LA (that I mentioned above) and Zouk on NYE. Both have a very special place in my heart.. I think the reason I like both of them so much is because the crowd was just ready to party hard. I feed off of the crowd’s energy so much, so when I see everyone going hard, I feel like that’s my green light to try to out-party them. At both shows, everyone really brought the energy.
Funniest thing that ever happened at an event?
I was DJing at my friend Blake Pinsker’s birthday mini music festival – Blakechella. I had already finished my set and was partying the rest of the night. At the very end of the night everyone wanted to keep going so I hopped on the decks again. I must have been DJing for like 3 hours or so, at this point it’s all pretty much a blur, and at one point the CDJ went into what’s called an emergency loop, where the song just loops the same 4 bars over and over again due to a failure in the system.
The loop was at such a perfect time, and I was so busy trying to figure out which song to play after, that I didn’t realize what had happened. I think the song must have been looping the same bars for over 3 mins before I realized. The funniest thing is that when I looked up, not a single person seemed to realize what was going on and everyone was vibing with the music.
What is the feeling to have a residency at ZOUK in Las Vegas and to also be part of an amazing crew of talent like Zedd, Martin Garrix and more?
It is absolutely INSANE! I am so happy to have a residency in Vegas. Both Zedd and Martin Garrix are really good friends. I love going to their shows out here. The parties are always so crazy and super high energy. I’ve been going to their Vegas shows for the last 5 years and I always have a blast. To now be performing in Vegas as well, especially getting to play shows at Zouk with Zedd, just the party to the next level for me.
I’m super honored that Zouk believed in me from such an early stage in my journey. I’m excited to see where all of this takes me.
Any tips for new DJ’s and producers?
I think the best advice I can give someone who’s starting out in this world is to ask yourself WHY you’re doing it. Why do you want to be a DJ? Why do you want to make music? I think it’s really important to dive deep into the answers, to try to identify the core of where the motivation and desire for this stems from. It’s not the same for everyone, some want to make money, others want to be famous, some just want to have fun, others might want to just travel the world. Whatever that core reason is, I believe it’s super important to try to identify it early in because I think the strategy for what to do next will depend a lot on the answers you get to! Hope that helps someone out there.
What’s your favorite club/venue to perform?
I gotta say Zouk in Vegas right now. Vegas crowds are so much fun. They’re always different and it’s so hard to ever predict what the show is gonna be like. The best thing about Vegas is that for most people, that one night, is THEIR NIGHT! They could have been waiting for that one night of partying in Vegas for years…so they’re always ready to go wild!
Did you had events/gigs planned and cancelled because of COVID? If so have you done any online events or interaction with your fans?
Knock on wood..nothing yet! I did do a live stream in August last year though. It was the first ever Digital Derby for zed.run (a crypto/nft digital horse racing event). I was invited by my friend David Lee (who was producing the event) to DJ the opening ceremony for it. It was such a great event. I think there were around 5,000 people watching live. The production quality was incredible too. It was definitely a bit weird DJing in a studio that was basically empty…but trying to keep the energy high at the same time, while there’s like 20 cameras moving all around me. It was fun though!
What is fun and rewarding about what you do? And what’s not?
The most fun and rewarding thing about it is that I’m always so happy when I’m performing. I always have a lot of my friends with me at the shows, and seeing them party and have a good time just makes me so happy. I grew up in a musical family, playing a lot of different instruments growing up, and to finally be putting it all to good use, just feels so right!
To be honest, I can’t think of anything negative about all this.
What’s your advice for the newer artists?
I guess following up on what I said above. As things start to progress, and as more opportunities present themselves, it’s easy to forget about that core reason WHY you started doing it. It’s important to always remind yourself of this when your intentions start to deviate.
What’s next for Jonah in 2022?
I think this is going to be the best year. I really believe it. I’ve never felt more focused on what I want to accomplish. I really want to play as many shows in as many cities and countries as possible. I’m also working on a lot of new music with some exciting collabs, and I can’t wait to start releasing it. In addition to that, I’m working on an NFT project that I’m hoping to announce soon. I’m super fascinated by the NFT & Crypto world, and I’m excited to find new ways to combine that with what I’m doing on the music side.
As a popular artist you are followed by so many people. How do you feel about that pressure of doing always the right thing, and encourage people to follow their dreams?
I think the first thing is to not put any unnecessary pressure on yourself. I don’t feel the pressure to always do the right thing, because I don’t expect myself to always do the right thing. I’m very self-aware and I know that I’m not always going to do the right thing. What’s important for me is to always treat everything that happens as a lesson, whether something succeeds or fails. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that when that reason isn’t so obvious you just have to be patient till you figure it out. There’s always a lesson to be had.
I’m all about following your dreams. I think if everyone put happiness at the core of what they do, the world would be a much better place. A lot of people thought I was crazy when I dropped out of law school. In fact, there were probably only a couple people that supported my decision. A lot of people believed I would just fail and have to go back to law school. The truth is, I was aware of that possibility, and I was ready for it if it were to happen, but what I was certain of is that I never wanted to look back and regret not following my dreams and trying it out. The worst case scenario to a lot of people seemed like this really big deal…to me, it was just another possible outcome.
What book should every entrepreneur read?
One of my favorite books is Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Another really good book that taught me a lot was Fooled By Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
What advice would you give to your younger self and why?
Honestly, I’m right where I want to be in life right now…so I would just have to say “good job, you’re doing the right thing…keep going!”
If you are a book, what would be the title of the book and why?
Everything Happens For A Reason…and you’ll have to read it to find out why it’s called that 😉
How would your best friend describe you?
I just asked my friend Richard Blankenship and this is what he said: “Jonah is the ultimate networker who has the ability to connect with anyone, anywhere & at any time. This is why he has been so successful in everything he does.. everyone he meets wants him to win at whatever his latest mission is: music, investing, videography, law, etc”
Best advice ever given?
To not overthink what others think of you and what you’re doing. Sometimes, you might be so many moves ahead that any random person would think you’re crazy for doing what you’re doing. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. Take advice from people, listen to what they have to say, but also be aware that you might just have to go against a lot of people’s advice in order to explore your deeper purpose.
Name one your strengths?
I think I’m super self-aware but also able to relate to almost anyone I meet, which has led to me being able to have a lot of great friends in my life, all over the world.
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
Starting off the day catching up on some sleep, getting a coffee and cooking a healthy breakfast, going to the spa, spending some time outside in the sun with the people I’m closest too, and just overall relaxing.
What is your own definition of happiness?
Waking up with a smile on your face and going to bed with a bigger smile on your face, knowing that you just spent the day doing exactly what you want to/should be doing, and knowing that you get to do it again the next day.
Do you support any charities?
I’ve been supporting Charity: Water since 2016. At the time, I was super unhappy with what I was doing and had started to lose motivation to get out of it, when I watched a short film that Charity: Water released, in which they said that around 600 million people don’t have access to clean water…not to shower, not to drink, not to wash clothes, etc. That’s when I realized that no matter what I was going through, it could be so much worse. There are people out there who can’t even wash their hands with clean water. After that moment, my life changed, literally. So I vowed to always support them as a token of appreciation for how they impacted my life, and to also help make a difference with such a big problem in this world. It’s really cool that a few years ago I connected with the CEO and they gave me a great tour of their HQ in NYC.
What is your favorite healthy food?
I really like eating salads, the more creative and green the better.
And your favorite cheat food?
I don’t really believe in “cheat food” – I think it’s important to mix it up sometimes. BUT, still, I’ll have to go with pizza.
What would be a deal breaker on a first date?
I would say, probably when someone tries too hard to impress by being someone they’re not. Not very sustainable.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Great question. Alive I’m going to go with Steven Gerrard (ex captain for Liverpool FC) because growing up he was someone I looked up to as a leader. Dead, I’ll have to go with the grandpa I never got to meet because I heard he had great lessons to teach!
How do you see yourself in 5 years?
Super happy, continuing to live the dream, traveling the world with my friends playing amazing shows to massive crowds around the world, all while trying to leave a positive impact on the planet.
How would you describe your fashion style?
Super comfy with an attempt at being stylish.
What do you think of Social Media?
Life-changing. If it wasn’t for social media I wouldn’t be here right now. Growing up on such a small island, everything felt so far away and I felt so disconnected with everything. Social media changed all that.
Where we can follow you?
Quote: I’ll give you two. 1. Do to others as you would have them do to you 2. The way others treat you says more about them than about you
Movie: Wolf Of Wall Street
Travel Destination: Super close between Indonesia & Japan.
Sports Team: I’m from Europe so I grew up playing soccer. I’m going to have to go with Liverpool in the English Premier League.