A few months back, Rio-based DJ Leonardo Justi got in contact with me via gmail. He had noticed that I supported the work of Brazilian DJs, particularly in relation to my post on DJ Wooles, whose Aporavamento Sound System Mix I put up in April.
The rest was history.
Leo and I kept in touch as he grew more and more in Brazil, his talents having been highlighted by O Globo, his being invited to play at Bootie Rio at Fosfobox alongside DJ Gorky (of Bonde do Role) and DJ Faroff, and even Vegas Club, one of my favorite dance spots in Sao Paulo, and one of the most well-known clubs in Brazil. I featured several of his remixes and full mixes here to rave reviews, and word spread quickly in NYC that there was a new funk carioca DJ to look out for on the map.
What’s interesting about Leo is that his initial path was not at all one would relate to a funk carioca DJ and producer. His roots are in more traditional music and he later even dabbled in rock, yet somehow fate ended up leading him to the genre where he fit best. Though humble beyond words, his skills speak highly enough for him on his own. With a unique music taste and a good ear for what songs work well with each other (even though they often lie on antipodal ends of the genre spectrum), Leo continues to create music that’s perfect for parties. Fortunately for us, he puts his open self-exploration, musical progression, and professional growth into words, articulating both the triumphs and insecurities that come with the territory of being part of the music industry, and provides a few laughs as well.
So without further ado, take a moment to find out What’s Good? with one of the hottest DJs in Brazil, Leo Justi:
Considering your exposure to classical music and later the guitar, what compelled you to become a DJ?
I had a pretty bad adolescence, which got better when I lived for one year in Germany and started to drink. Through alcohol, I found out parties could be really fun and that I could dance, and stop giving a fuck about anything . . . All those wonders of alcohol.
What I mean when I say “bad adolescence” is in the sense of having peace of mind, which I still don’t have that much. It was a time I was doing music 100% to express myself, which nowadays is a bit muddled, since I’m 23 and have to make money. So, I started DJing because I started to love parties (after a while, only drinking wasn’t enough to have fun; I wanted nice music playing) and because I really quickly saw that in years of having bands, I had only spent money, but in months DJing, I started to make money.
My background with classical music was really a blessing, since I really believe that hearing Mozart might have given me my really good ear for music. Actually it’s funny because my best ability in music is harmony, and now I’m doing club music most of the time with no harmonies, just percussive sounds, and like one single kick giving a note.
What were some of your musical influences as a child?
As a kid, I really only listened to classical music and some bossa nova. When I was 7 or 8, I started to like some baile funk songs everyone was singing, but that was repressed by some folks, so I ended up “denying” this taste.
At 10, I started liking some Brazilian pop like Skank, a reggae-pop band (that is kinda shitty nowadays). I hated rock back then. Later on, I started listening to punk rock and when I was 16, the Deftones really opened my mind. From then on, I’ve been listening to everything.
What inspires you now as an adult?
Mainly when I see people really enjoying music and “losing their pose” doing it. Usually it’s alcohol and girls that actually make this happen, not music, but still there are different grades of happiness on the dance floor and there is definitely music that makes that difference. By the way, in my experience girls are usually more into music really, even when their taste is MTV-oriented and they don’t like what I play as much. João Marcelo Boscoli I think said “make music for girls and gays, because (straight) men only go after girls, not music.” And in considering the mainstream, that’s true . . .