Once a member of indie dance group LA Riots, Jon Pegnato, aka Hot Mouth, hasn't seen any drop-off in activity since going solo -- he's playing residencies in Vegas, recording a new EP, and keeping a full schedule of fun in between. Breaking away from the LA Riots sound, Pegnato has become known for mixes that are techy, dark, and funky, as opposed to the electro sound of his earlier work. All Shook Down recently spoke with Pegnato about why he decided to go with the moniker Hot Mouth, adjusting to a solo career, and the goals for his new music. Hot Mouth plays this Thursday at Monarch with Sticky K, Christian Martin, and Amanda Panda.
Give us a little background on how you started DJing.
I started going to raves in '98 with a bunch of my friends from high school. While everyone was rolling their faces off in the crowd, I would be the one standing right next to the DJ, watching him... and rolling my face off. I don't know if it was the ecstasy that made it look so cool, but I didn't care. I wanted to do that! So I got some crappy turntables, some crappy techno records, bought a t-shirt that said "Technics" on it so people knew I was legit, made friends with the promoters, and started playing shows. Once that got boring a couple years later I bought a computer and started making music.
You used to be a part of the LA Riots. What made you want to go the solo route?
I was in LA Riots for two years. It was an amazing experience. I played all over the world at some amazing shows and met amazing people and fans. We also did some really big major label remixes, even got to write the theme song for Johnny Cage for Mortal Kombat... but it wasn't a right fit for me. We didn't see eye to eye creatively and both wanted different things. So it just made sense that we wished each other well and went our separate ways. No bad blood, Daniel [LeDisko] is an amazing DJ, but we are both better off solo.
How is your production work different from the music you made in LA Riots?
With LA Riots, as fun as it was, there were too many creative borders. We were known as DJs that always played what the crowd was into (that month), so when it came to working on music I had to constantly be chasing my tail trying to make what was "hot" -- no pun intended. So I really felt my growth was a bit stunted. With Hot Mouth, my production has gone back to being more creative and fun, and not necessarily sounding like what's popular this week. My focus is to make music that will rock a crowd but also something you would have in your iPod. Like songs you could kill a kitten to, and still have a smile on your face, you know?
With a DJ moniker like Hot Mouth, there must be some misconceptions of...
Yes! "What does that mean?" "Do you have a hot mouth?" [Laughs.] It was really a joke at first, and since I can rarely take anything seriously, my friends urged me to keep the name. It's hard to forget something like Hot Mouth. Any time I say Jon Pegnato to someone, I have spell it out phonetically for them to stop looking confused. Just recently I had a limo pick me up from the airport, and the driver had a piece of paper that said "Don Pagnatl." I can't win.
Is it different DJing solo now, or is it just more elbow room?
There is definitely more elbow room. Not saying I don't mind company in the booth, but it's nice to be back in control of my entire set.
Your latest release is called "Bad Habits." We have to ask: what are yours?
Drinking too much, sleeping in, eating out, washing my hands constantly, interrupting people when they are telling a story, talking with food in my mouth, over compressing, not calling my mom back, building random forts for my cats when I should be working on music, starting books and not finishing them, over tipping, not picking up the phone even when I need to, waiting till I have zero clean clothes before doing a wash, parking tickets, and texting friends in the middle of the night to just say, "Hi!"