Desert Dreams and Dancefloors: Mikey Lion's Musical Odyssey

Aug 6, 2023

Photo of Michela Iosipov

Michela Iosipov

4 min read

Dive into the world of Mikey Lion, the man credited with infusing love into house music. Michael Leon, commonly known as Mikey Lion, began his journey as a teenager, scratching hip-hop records. However, a transformative night at Coachella in 2006 firmly redirected his passion. Mikey didn't just stop at spinning tracks; he became a central figure in the Desert Hearts movement, aiming to spread as much love and high energy through music as possible.

From organizing intimate gatherings in the Mojave Desert to establishing the iconic Desert Hearts festival and creating Desert Hearts Records, his dedication to the rhythms of house and techno is palpable. Today, Mikey stands as not only a recognized artist but also an ambassador of positivity, love, and community.

In our recent Q&A with Mikey, he sheds light on his earliest influences in house music, the moments that shaped his sound, his pre-performance rituals, and his perspectives on the evolving landscape of the genre.

How did your passion for house music begin, and what were your earliest influences in the genre?

The first time I ever heard dance music, I was 17 at Coachella in 2006, I took my first ever ecstasy pill and witnessed the debut of the Daft Punk pyramid that changed my life forever. I was a hip-hop/scratch DJ at the time and that performance completely blew my mind. I didn't know exactly what happened at the time, but I became a house DJ that night.

Can you share a pivotal moment in your life or career that significantly shaped your sound and artistic direction?

In 2009 I studied abroad in Barcelona where I got a residency spinning Wednesday nights in the side room at the super club, Razzmatazz. They kind of threw me into the fire by DJing once a week for five hours a night. I was able to witness a ton of different types of sounds throughout the week living in Barcelona and then try them out while DJing. This was like going to DJ college for me as I learned how to tell a story with different kinds of music.

Mikey Lion in 2009

Do you have any rituals or preparations to get into the right mindset before the gigs?

Before my set, I always find a place where I can be completely alone for one to five minutes to breathe deeply and channel all the love in the universe so I can share it during my set. I ask the universe to let me be a vessel for love to flow through me and allow me to be the most effective healer I can be with my music, energy, and my vibe.

How do you envision the future of house music, and what trends do you think will shape the genre in the coming years?

House music and dance music are very cyclical with what trends are popular at the time. Tech house is riding a monumental wave and has surged to the forefront of dance music which brought a lot of mainstream EDM listeners into other genres of house music.

As tech house becomes more commercialized, producers looking to get away from the sound are mixing it up and branching out to other genres like minimal house, deep house, and techno. It's also awesome to note how fast everything is. Ten years ago, all my favorite artists were playing in the low 120 bpm bracket, and now everyone is playing in the low 130s, me included. These waves we ride ensure that dance music always stays fresh and I'm looking forward to what comes next.

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