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Ep.9 Juan’s Desert Parties

Juan is a bus driver by day.

“I just drive people from the airport and back home,” Juan says.

And at night he turns into… “Super star DJ Phox!”

Juan grew up in Chicago, had aspirations of becoming a pilot. One night he was riding his bike home.

“I heard shots at me and I ducked on my bike and as soon as I ducked I felt something smacked my face.”

He was shot in the eye which put an end to his aviation dreams. To deal with depression, Juan gets into electronic music and later into DJ-ing.  At night he takes crowds to party in the wilderness: to the cliffs of California, canyons, deserts and mountains of Arizona. Why DJ-ing out there? Because it’s like being a pilot, Juan says, you take people with you, and you’re in full charge.

“When I was in high school I saw a flyer, and I saw some of my favorite DJs, how they’d move the crowd, they were like Pied Piper and we’re like the mouse.

“When I was still in Chicago, just to get away from the streets and get away from all that stuff that was going on, because I just didn’t want to be a part of that no more, I got myself some old rinko-dinko turntables I found somewhere and I used to go to the record shop all the time and just buy records. I’d invite all my friends to the basement of my house and we would act like we were DJ-ing. We’d play the songs and everybody would dance and would be like, ‘that was good,’ awesome, I’ll take a credit for that.

“Flash forward when I moved to Phoenix, I started looking for the scene out here – people that DJ-ed or if that even existed out here. It took me a year and a half and I finally found a flyer to this party. It was for a desert party, and I thought, holy smoke, what’s that? I was like, I need to go to this, I need to go to this…

“I had some friends that were here that were into electronic music. They were like, ‘We’ll go with you to Tucson.’ Sure enough as soon as we get there, just flashback to those events back in Chicago but it was in the desert. It was cactus around and dust everywhere and tents up because people were camping. It was halfway to Mexico from Tucson. It moves me in such a way that I was like, I’m back home, you know what I mean? I need to be part of this.

“It’s more open and free so you can hear it a lot farther distances, believe it or not and at times you can even hear it echo off the canyons or off the mountains at times. That’s how loud that clap is at times.

“I became real good friend with this DJ that was kind of new to the scene and we kind of teamed up together and we started teaching each other the tricks, we started playing together at shows, started getting bookings.

“Keeping the party alive, keeping people on the dance floor, keeping the beat going, keeping the energy going, keeping people happy… People want to sing along, want to dance, want to have good time, just forget their feelings, forget their stress and just let go of everything. Just put it all right there on the dance floor, let it all loose right there and let go of everything.

“Desert parties are more free, more relaxed. Security isn’t uptight. Just to be yourself, and to be with the nature out there is very, very unique. The stars are really bright, you can see the satellites flying around up in the sky, sometimes even a  space station – that’s how clear it is at night, sometimes even intimate. It’s crazy, it’s crazy spot.”


listen to Open Conversation episodes also every Tuesday on KJZZ 91.5, NPR member station in Phoenix, Arizona, a bit after 9:30 am PST.

music by DJ PhoxLoopstache
recorded, produced by Regina Revazova

note: this content is intended for listening. This transcript might not be accurate. We advise to listen to the podcast to get full range of emotional highlights and other story elements.