We tend to imagine world touring DJs just as they are today: successful, famous, and in many cases quite rich. But it wasn't always that way.
Many got their start with much more humble beginnings, though some had big lives before hitting the big time with electronic music. Here we look at 8 jobs DJs had before they were famous.
Steve Aoki – Heir to Benihana Inc./kitchen help
That’s right. The world’s most famous cake thrower (well, former cake thrower) is the son of the founder of Benihana – to quote Jordan Belfort: “Beni-fucking-hana?!”
But according to Aoki, his father made him work for everything he has.
“He was never invested in Dim Mak, he never gave me a cent,” says Aoki. “He worked from nothing so he wanted to give that to his kids – that concept. So we all worked. My first job was working at Benihana as kitchen help. In college I was a telemarketer for a company at the same time I was a bike messenger for this greasy fast-food place.”
These days Aoki is one of the world’s richest DJs, raking in $23 million in 2014, while Benihana accumulated a net worth of $30 million to $40 million in 2000, according to The New York Times.
Dixon – Footballer
If it weren’t for injuries, the world might not have one of today’s most celebrated DJs.
Berlin’s Dixon was on the fast track to a career as a footballer, even playing nationally for the East German team, but constant knee problems kept him back.
These days we know him as the two time voted RA number one DJ, but aside from his illustrious music career, he’s also owner of a Berlin Bakery and FC Magnet Mitte. If music ever fails him (which we highly doubt happening), Dixon certainly has all his bases covered.
Deadmau5 – Canning Peaches
It seems Deadmau5 is full of surprises. From the Gumball Rally to his meme-wrapped supercars his gun shooting skills, his natural flair for starting shit on Twitter, and of course his musical prowis, he was once canning peaches. Maybe that's why he's so onry all the time?
A troublemaker even then, he told Eric Prydz on their last coffee run that he "used to take the [pear] stems, and I used to make little arms and then stick them into the side and then carve little eyes […] and I’d get in trouble for that.”
Calvin Harris – Grocery Store Clerk/Fish Factory
Before he became the world's richest DJ, Calvin Harris (real name Adam Richard Wiles) used his height to help old ladies do their shopping.
"Before I was signed (to a record deal on Columbia), I worked in a succession of supermarkets," he told USA Today. "I was very good at it because I'm really tall and could help old ladies reach their cans of beans."
If you're wondering in the slightest whether or not Harris has any nostalgic feelings about his younger years, wonder no more.
"I can't think of a single thing I could possibly miss from those days -- it was horrible," he says. "I worked at a fish factory for about a year after school and got laid off on my birthday."
Eats Everything – Phone Recruiter
While Dan Pierce worked as a DJ for a few years as a youngster, but admittedly he was "more interested in getting wrecked," spending his DJ earnings before Monday morning. Eventually, his wife told him it was time to get a job. And along with a little bit of manual labour, he wound up working for three years in a recruitment centre making cold calls.
He said of the time, "It was the three worst years of my life" to RA in his Origins film. In fact, he was close to giving up, telling his wife he needed just more crack at becoming a full time musician. Just before his year was up, he signed 'Entrance Song', and the rest is history.
Nina Kraviz – Dentist
In one of the more impressive pre-DJ jobs, Russian techno producer and label owner Nina Kraviz had a full fledged career as a dentist, earning er doctorate in dental medicine while writing for a Moscow based fanzine and working on a local radio programme.
"I lived a double, triple life,” she told Mixmag. “I would get up at seven in the morning for studies or work every day, and nobody would know what I did at night, or that my head was full of some strange electro I’d listened to all night. And medical studies are no joke – you can’t miss a class even for sickness, you have to repeat it if you miss it. But I managed it because I was a doer. I didn’t think about anything, I was just feeling, I just followed the direction I was going in.”
After completing her doctorate in dental medicine, Kraviz went on to work in a hospital for Russian army vets, and some of her patients even included ex-cosmonauts.
“I remember them telling me about the dogs that went into space,” Kraviz tells Mixmag, “and how beautiful earth looks from far away. That it has very unique light – once you see it you always remember that slightly blueish, incredible light of earth.”
Sven Väth – Pop Star
Not all of the DJs on our list had everyday jobs before they made it as a DJ. In fact, the Cocoon boss Sven Väth was once a successful pop star.
In fact, the money Papa Sven made from his time as a pop star in the group OFF, or Organisation For Fun, and their hit 'Electric Salsa' was what helped him open Omen in Frankfurt, kickstarting one of the most prolific and important DJ careers in history. Hooray for 'Electric Salsa'.
Diplo – Teacher
This is one job we truly wish would have remained. Imagine a Diplo free world where instead of teaching kids to twerk, he taught them something useful, like math, English or science… One can dream.
As fate would have it, it was not to be. The Mad Descent star found the strains of teaching kids with behavioural problems in inner city Philadelphia too much to handle. Though to be fair, that sounds like a really tough job, and he did admit he’s got “much respect” for teachers, it just wasn’t for him.