More DJs With Surprising Pasts
Jan 6, 2022
5 min read
Sometimes a name change is simply an artist growing out of an identity that no longer resonates with them. Often it is accompanied by a complete musical overhaul and a venture into a new genre. It's always a way to try something new.
We're once again revealing the (somewhat) little-known stories of your favorite DJs and the identities they left behind before you knew them. Some DJs listed here didn't stray too far from what they knew, while others embraced a radically new style. New musical direction or not, prepare to have your mind blown with some of these artists' past lives.
Charlotte de Witte
When Charlotte de Witte first came onto the scene, she was known as Raving George. She adopted that name because she wanted to dispel preconceived notions about female DJs and for her music and skills to speak for themselves. She truly embraced techno's aggressive and despondent side and established herself as a force with which to be reckoned. As Raving George, she played festivals like Tomorrowland, I Love Techno, Sunset Festival, Pukkelpop, Summer Festival, and Dour Festival. In 2015, she decided to retire the Raving George moniker and switch to her birth name as she began to experiment with a more barebones and emotive type of techno.
You know him now as Eric Prydz, with the famous Pryda snare, but did you know he was a founding member of the first unofficial lineup of Swedish House Mafia? Informally, Prydz, Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso found themselves DJing together a lot at The Rainbow Room in Stockholm in the 2000s. The quartet was dubbed Swedish House Mafia. But Prydz, a self-proclaimed "control-freak," chose to venture out on his own and has since adopted his own shortlist of monikers, Pryda and Cirez D.
A quick look at the writing credits for Noizu's hit single "Summer 91" reveals the feel-good house producer's real name and a bit about his past. Previously known by his given name, Jacob Plant, the British dance producer and DJ got his big break in 2013 with releases on Ministry of Sound, Defected sublabel Speakerbox, Calvin Harris' Fly Records, and Steve Aoki's Dim Mak Records. He had several high-profile remixes for Rihanna, Calvin Harris, Benny Benassi, Iggy Azaelia, and Sub Focus. He even co-wrote a song with Rhianna for the soundtrack to the 2015 animated movie Home. Jacob's music earned him airtime on BBC1 Radio and billing at festivals like Lollapalooza and the Reading and Leeds Festivals.
Since the '90s, Jeff Mills' name has been synonymous with Detroit techno as he was part of the second wave of DJs to put the genre on the map. He felt he had to be more progressive and experimental than his contemporaries. Mills began DJing in the '80s under the name, The Wizard and was known for beat juggling, scratching, and turntablist tricks.
He co-founded the techno collective Underground Resistance in the late '80s with 'Mad' Mike Banks, of Parliament fame, and minimal techno pioneer Robert Hood. Together, they created music geared towards abstract militancy and raising awareness about political, social, and economic issues. Mills ended up leaving the group to go solo in the early '90s, thus using his given name to fully take the techno world by storm.
House and techno DJ Elvin Zedo is also known as UK garage turntablist DJ EZ. He first used Elvin Zedo (and DJ Easy O) back in 2004. The names allowed him to play house and techno without interfering with his progress in the garage and bass scenes. Throughout his DJ career, he's hosted various radio shows featuring UK garage anthems, classics, and bass, with his current show being the weekly NUVOLVE Radio. He recently revived the Zedo moniker as a way to return to his roots but plans to continue DJing under the name EX as well. He reintroduced this alias in the most DJ EZ way possible—by playing a 10-hour Boiler Room set.
Richie Hawtin debuted in the '90s as part of the second wave of DJs bringing that Detroit techno sound. But did you know that in 1993, Hawtin hit the music scene hard with acid techno under his alias Plastikman? Plastikman's most famous release is "Spastik," a dance music classic. This track pushed the musical envelope in skill and production, experimenting with minimal techno. Hawtin uses both the Plastikman moniker and the Hawtin name interchangeably, so it's hard to say which is the former name and which is the current one, so keep your eyes (and ears) out for both.
Alexander Ridha, aka Boys Noize, is a Berlin-based producer, songwriter, and DJ known for his genre-defying techno punk beats. He's gained popularity by collaborating with Skrillex, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tiga, and Benga, remixing artists like Snoop Dogg, Daft Punk, Justice, and Depeche Mode and creating his label, Boysnoize Records, in 2005.
Before becoming Boys Noize, though, he was part of the duo Kid Alex, alongside Andreas Meid. Together, they supported DJs like Felix da Housecat and DJ Hell and had their first significant success in 2003 with the track Young Love (Topless), later remixed and used in a Coca-Cola commercial. The duo continued performing together until 2007 when they broke up due to Ridha wanting to go solo, and thus Boys Noize was born.