Behind the Mic: Meet Sanjo

This interview is part of our new weekly series, “Get to Know Your DJs.”

What inspired you become a DJ? Mix tapes were a huge passion of mine when I was growing up. I used to queue up for songs on the radio late nights and make mixes for crushes and friends. I started losing that later in adulthood when tapes, then CDs, and then free downloads all kind of went away for the most part. I started fixating on getting a DJ set-up to more or less listen to my records more actively, like a live mix tape by myself at home. Coincidentally, right after I got my set-up the way I wanted, I saw a Freeform Portland DJ recruitment flyer and thought, “Why not?” Here I am.

Sanjo, host of Beginner’s Mind Riot

Tell us about your show!
Beginner’s Mind Riot is primarily an exploration of psychedelic music—a bit of a catch-all for 60s/70s psych, freakbeat, prog, krautrock, jazz, acid rock and soul. I play other stuff for sure, but that’s the bread and butter of it. Not only is “psych” music massively foundational for nearly all contemporary genres from hip-hop samplings to punk rock anti-authoritarianism to most of indie’s emotional and shoegazing fundamentals—it’s also got a lot of something we don’t have enough of these days in my opinion: a quest for insight/right mind. I don’t hear a lot of new music actively seeking an internal presence of mind that wants to engage the self and the world both positively and consciously. I don’t hear a lot of new stuff that’s willing to live in that space. I think pure anger, pure nihilism, pure coldness, pure overwhelm, or on the other hand, pure party, pure vapidness, pure “good vibes” are all kind of lost on me. Psych music, and soul for that matter, have lyrical and musical dimensions that speak with an unmatched warmth to constant change, transformation, and struggle. So that’s what I try to get at with my show!

What do you love most about DJing? I love the songs I find and I want to share them and hope people feel what I feel or dig on it the way I do. I love getting to throw things out there for anyone listening. I love having a show and DJing out because it takes that idea of making someone a mix tape out into the world at large. I DJ like it’s more of a listening party than a dance party. There’s also an essence to anything I play: It’s gotta have a hook/riff/break/moment!

What advice can you offer to aspiring DJs? Unless you really love just one thing, don’t stick to one style, whether it’s collecting or DJing. Plenty of DJs just want to rock a party with disco and boogie or whatever. Nothing wrong with that, but I’d challenge any DJ to push the boundaries of what a set can sound like. It’s like movies to me: If you want a non-stop, adrenaline-fueled action flick, that’s can be awesome, but that’s not the only thing people need or deserve to see. If all that appears in theatres were action flicks, that would end up being all people expect going to the movies.

I feel the same about the DJ booth. Music is here to engage in not just our senses, but our sensibilities. You can dance to it or have it in the background sure, but music can also evoke deep thinking, complex feelings, memories, ideas, inspiration, conversations, touches with history, and expansion. Always consider expanding a listener. The honor of people listening is also a responsibility and a platform. Try to give listeners something to take with them.

Listen to Beginner’s Mind Riot every other Friday from 8 – 10 p.m.