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Jo Moontribe born & bred on the Mediterranean Island of Malta.
Resident Dj at Ban Sabaii, Blackmoon Culture, Shiva Moon Party, and The Experience Festival, a passionate music lover with addiction to Rock since his early years and falling in love with Psy Trance since the mid-nineties.
After traveling around the Planet, almost ten years ago moved completely to Koh Phangan where he has become a well-known name in the local Party Scene as a Full-on Psy Trance Dj.
Hi Jo. Thank you for making this interview.
When did you first come to Koh Phangan and why?
I came here the first time, just for a short visit, in the late nineties because it was recommended to me by friends who had been here, know me well enough, and said that it’s ‘for me’.
Like almost everyone else who comes here for the first time all I knew about Koh Pha-Ngan was its Full Moon Party, which in those days was not as commercial as it is now. After I discovered that this amazing Island has so much more to offer than just the FMP, it started grabbing me and making me fall in love with it very quickly.
How was KP in general in these early days?
It was, as the famous phrase goes, ‘same same but different. The natural beauty of its white sandy beaches and the jungle mountains are still as breathtaking as ever of course, but different in a way that over the last few years it has been attracting more and more mainstream tourists other than just the down to Earth backpackers like in the good old days.
It has certainly come a long way, and no matter how much we old-schoolers tend to whine about all the pros and cons that ‘progress’ brings with it, the fact is that the locals are now doing far better for themselves than ever before, the business has been booming for anyone who takes it seriously, which is surely a positive thing to see. And for those of us who choose to live here, it has surely become much more comfortable in recent years.
What projects have you been involved in back home and here at KP?
For almost eighteen years (1987 - 2004) I was the owner of a prominent music Nitespot in Malta, and since 1995 also the Managing Director & Jumpmaster of a Skydiving Centre.
In 2004 I sold my business and a couple of months later I moved here, which I already had decided to do a couple of years earlier.
When I first moved here, after having spent most of my adult life living on the fast lane, in the night-life/party business, I just wanted to chill for a while, but before I knew it, just one month later I was making a small Beach Bar (Hut) at Star Bungalows on Sunset Beach in Haad Rin. At the time I was still working a couple of months every summer on a Skydiving Centre in France, so for me, the Beach Bar was just a fun thing, to give myself something to do during the rest of the nine months or so I was staying here for the first couple of years.
Then in 2006, I decided to give up my Skydiving passion so that I could live here all year round. I still miss jumping out of airplanes but it was a choice I had to make so I could move on. I still own all the student parachutes and equipment that I had to work with and through my old skydiving contacts I still rent them out to schools around Europe.
In 2007 together with my Swedish friend Andy, we took over Anahata, spent a few months doing it up, and opened it back for business. A few months later we started the ‘Electronic Nights’ introducing the Minimal & Tech-House scene to the island, which Andy is still running very successfully on Saturday nights.
In 2009 I felt that it was time to do something different and together with Sandra (my better half) we started up our Moontribe Progressive Fashion business which has been doing very well ever since.
When did you decide you wanted to become a Dj?
Good question and surely an interesting one to answer, so here we go….
To be honest, I don’t recall ever having some burning desire to become a 'Dj', it’s just a title that at some point I got labeled with because of what I love to do, it’s not some qualification or a degree I studied for. I don’t like to put ‘Dj’ before my name like I’m a Doctor or something. After all, I’m only a ‘Dj’ while I’m Disc Jockeying (with ‘Disc’ being the keyword here, let's not even get into that sore subject!), the rest of the time I’m plain and simple Jo ☺
Since the eighties, I had been more involved in the organizing side of things, making regular monthly parties mostly at my own place (Flamingo’s Nightspot) and also quite a few boat parties, from Rock to House, Techno and then also Psy Trance since the mid-nineties. But I never actually had the time to do any proper Dj’ing myself during my own events. Just out of curiosity a few years back I had learned how to mix on vinyl but I had never taken it seriously because I had not much time for it.
During all the rest of the (nonparty) nights, playing music for my clients, one track in/one track out sort of thing, without mixing or beatmatching it, was good enough at the time and it worked fine in those days. This was always a big part of my work and what made my Nitespot well known for its music scene and very successful for almost two decades. Although the task of a Disc Jockey is to play music for others to enjoy was what I had been doing for many years, I never considered myself a ‘Dj’.
Since I started living here on Pha-Ngan I have been very close friends with Jonnie (Ban Sabaii) and Leung (Magic Phangan) who are still like ‘brothers’ to me and are both well know Psy Trance DJs on the island.
They are the guilty ones who ‘pushed’ me into taking it more seriously, so I can blame the pair of them for labeling me with this 'Dj' title. They convinced me that it’s time I got behind those decks because the only thing I needed was to practice my mixing skills. I had no more excuses that I had no time for it so I took them up on it.
And that was that I started learning a few tricks of the trade from my two mentors and practiced my mixing skills. Due to my background, I found it very easy and quickly got into it pretty seriously. As for the music selection itself, I didn’t need much help because what I play I know very well and have loved for many years. After all, it’s all about the taste in one’s music and the right track selection that makes a Dj, any donkey can learn the technical side of how to mix, it's no Rocket Science, it takes a good pair of ears and practice, but no one can teach another person what their taste in music should be or what to play, one either has it in them or they don’t!
Thanks to the opportunities that I’ve been given by Leung and Jonnie I soon became a resident Dj at Ban Sabaii, Blackmoon Culture, and The Experience Festival. I’m also involved with the management of Leung’s own ‘Magic Phangan’ which is the organization that practically started the Trance Scene on the Island way back in the mid-nineties with Blackmoon Culture, and is still responsible for holding all these mentioned events.
Music has always played a big part in my life, from when I was nine years old I was studying the Theory of Music, and at sixteen I had qualified from the ‘Royal Academy of Music (London)’. Since my early teenage years I was learning to play a variety of instruments, mainly the guitar, but sadly, for no known reason, I gave it all up. I grew up with Rock Music and it’s still my inspiration and what drives me deep inside.
Since I was thirteen I have been a big Pink Floyd fan, who was my first love for Psychedelic Music, and when I heard Psy Trance for the first time in the early nineties I got hooked on it right away.
Why did you choose Jo Moontribe as a Dj name?
I didn’t choose to have a Dj name. Since I had never given myself the title of ‘Dj’ I never had a reason to choose a Dj name. Jo (Joseph) is my real name and Moontribe is the name of my business, and without me even knowing they once put my name on a Lineup as ‘Jo Moontribe’ and it stuck.
What kind of music do you play?
I play from groovy full-on to the slightly more psychedelic trance, averagely ranging from 142 to 145bpm, which is not so hard or ‘crazy’ and quite easy to digest even for people who have never heard psytrance music before.
Depending on which venue I’m playing at and at what time, I adjust it for the right people at the right time.
I only play Psy Trance (when Dj’ing) because it’s the music that I love and understand. I find most of it to be very intelligently made. It’s not for everyone, it will never become commercial and to me, that’s what will always keep it so ‘special’.
With Psy Trance, unlike any other commercial music, once you have a good knowledge of the tracks that you select to play with, you can ‘tell a story or ‘create a journey’ within your set. Choosing which track to play next, at the right moment, and fitting with the previous one is what does the job and what it’s all about. Personally, I never make a ‘Play list’ before I go to play at a party, I just take my whole CD Book with me and go with the flow. I always go a couple of hours before I have to start my set to get into the atmosphere of the party and get the feeling in which direction I have to go with my music, normally while the Dj before me is playing the last couple of tracks I decide on which track to start my set with and then keep the ball rolling from there, I find it challenging and a lot of fun at the same time. I need to feel the energy coming from the dance floor and then going along with it, after all, I’m a dance floor junkie myself for more than thirty years, which makes me much more experienced at being one of the crowd than I am at being a ‘Mr. Dj’ ☺
I enjoy being able to give to the dance floor what I have to offer and love seeing them dancing to it with big smiles on their faces, that’s the best job satisfaction I could ask for, with the bonus of enjoying it and most of the time dancing to it myself while I'm playing my set.
For the last few months, I have been signed up with ‘Antu Records’ which is based in Chile. It’s one of the top and well-recognized record labels in our Trance World. It’s an honor for me to be asked by its owner (ITAL) to become part of this international family of trance artists. It surely makes life so much easier when Psy Trance music producers are regularly sending me their latest releases which are in the style that I play. For Dj'ing it’s very important to stay in touch with the latest music coming out to keep it always fresh. Most of the time it’s sent to me a few weeks before being released so I can put it out on our dance floors here in Thailand and wherever else I get invited to play.
I am also signed up with ‘Magic Phangan Records’ which is the newest project of Leung’s organization. A new local record label is still a baby and already looks like it has a very bright future.
The Psychedelic Trance scene is not just about the music itself but more to do with all the like-minded people from around the globe that it brings together in peaceful harmony, and that’s what I love most about it.
What do you think makes a good party?
A professional organization, one that knows what it’s doing and not in it purely for the money!
When we go to a party and we think that it’s not all that brilliant, most of the time it has nothing to do with ‘bad music’ or ‘bad Djs’ (no such thing in both cases, it’s a matter of tastes), I would sooner blame the (unprofessional) organizers for booking DJs who are the style of music does not fit in with their party’s concept, or at least for not having given the Djs the appropriate times when they should be on the lineup according to their particular styles. This is a big responsibility of any party/festival organizer that has to be done professionally to create the perfect atmosphere.
On the other hand, when we go to a party it makes sense for us to know beforehand what style/genre of music to expect rather than going there and complaining that the party is no good simply because the music is not in the style that we would prefer it to be. I can never understand how some people can come to a Psy Trance Party and then come to the Dj Booth asking us if we can play something totally different because they don’t like this style of music like we are some Human Jukebox or something, quite funny to see sometimes but can get a bit annoying too at some point!
And last but not least: It’s the Crowd… we can have a professional organization all we like, with top DJs, super sound systems, perfect music, amazing venue, nicest décor, ext… but unless the crowd is satisfied with what we have to give them and aren’t enjoying themselves, then we would have absolutely nothing, in the end, it’s the Crowd that makes a good party, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be huge in numbers either, in the low season over here many times I have played for a small number of people and the energy can still be awesome.
The Dance Floor never lies!
What is most important to becoming a good Dj?
SPIRIT, everything else comes after!
In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a ‘bad Dj’, there are the beginners, like every other one else once was, and there are the more experienced ones. If the beginners, the ones who truly love what they’re doing, are serious and consistent with it they too will become experienced, and that’s all there is to it.
From my own experience of being on the organization side for many years, I would much rather book a beginner Dj who’s heart is in it and who deserves the chance, over a more experienced one who can be egocentric about it!
As long as one does it from their heart, for the love of the music they play, for giving it to the dance floor, and not for their own ego, then that’s what’s most important. Excelling and not competing is most certainly, in my opinion, what makes a ‘good Dj’.
What is it about KP that makes it so special for you?
Since my late teens, I have been traveling around quite a bit, I have also lived and worked in a couple of other countries, but I had never yet found a place that has made me feel that I belonged to it as this Magic Island does. It has cast its spell on me and now every time I go somewhere else for a short holiday, after about three days away from here, I can’t wait to get back.
For me personally, coming from Malta, a small Mediterranean Island just twice the size of here, being a 100% Islander I’m very used to the laid-back island style of life, the hot temperatures, and being surrounded by the sea. Having been brought up, lived, and worked in a touristic seaside town, where even my parents were in the same kind of business, it’s like a home from home for me… only far better. Needless to say, it is a Tropical Paradise situated in the Gulf of Thailand, and not in Europe with all its fancy rules and regulations, which is what makes all the difference. I love Thai culture, the people, and their way of life, and I also like meeting some of the interesting people who come here from all over the world.
Oh, and it's all year round, open-air, wicked Parties of course. It’s a haven for all sorts of Party Animals and Misfits like myself, my perfect place!