Living in a Pacific-island paradise can be a curious proposition. Surrounded by natural beauty, you can enjoy an idyllic lifestyle; but the distance from the North American continent can lead to a few issues not experienced on the mainland.
For promoters and fans of underground electronic music in Hawaii, limited access to the globe’s top DJ talent is one such situation. Some of the big jocks do make their way to Honolulu, but not nearly at the same rate as you see in other big cities. The remedy?
A true believer who’s willing to go the DIY route and throw events on a regular basis. In Oahu, one such scene stalwart is Miko Franconi.
As a promoter, Franconi’s Centered brand has kept the underground beats pumping since 2018, bringing in a unique range of talents like DJ Dan, Robag Wruhme, and DJ Hell – not to mention his legendary, older brother, DJ Keoki. As a DJ/producer (also known as SoundSex), he’s released a variety of tasty tracks, like the menacing 2021 techno bomb, “Tension 3.0.” As a performer, along with other Centered jocks like Jon Conscious and Giuli G, he regularly spins at several different Honolulu venues, including the swank rooftop of Alohilani Waikiki Hotel, the ShoreFyre, and Hawaiian Brian’s. Additionally, he hits the mainland for gigs, including a pair of coming shows in Los Angeles and Tulum, Mexico.
After catching a pair of his rooftop sets, which saw him spin groovy house flavors for a fashionable Friday-night crowd, we connected with Miko Franconi.
DJ LIFE MAG: Those rooftop events you play at the Alohilani Waikiki Hotel draw a great and appreciative crowd for some very underground house music. Also, The Republik does a good job bringing in some of the bigger global-DJ talents – we just saw Nero there the other night. As a native, how would you describe the scene – DJs, venues, events – in Oahu?
Miko Franconi: Oahu has a beautiful scene. It’s had its ebbs and flows like any scene in any city, I’m sure. When I was a teen, we would have 2,000- to 3,000-attendee raves in the warehouse district of Honolulu. In the 2000s thru to the 2010s, a local promotion group OOSPOT would host 15,000-person concerts with artists like Christopher Lawrence, MSTRKRFT, Kaskade, and Z-Trip, to name a few. Right now, I can say our scene is in a perfect “calm-before-the-storm” place where our clubs are full and our pop-up parties… well… pop.
DJ LIFE MAG: Tell me about Centered Hawaii and how you’re bringing underground DJs to the islands. How long have you been doing these promotions?
Miko Franconi: Centered was founded in October of 2018. I just returned home to Hawaii after spending about four-and-a-half years in Los Angeles absorbing and participating in what I regard as one of the most influential and forward-thinking dance communities in the game. When I returned, I felt it was best to put some of what I’d learned on the road to use for our local community of dance-music lovers.
DJ LIFE MAG: Where are your events?
Miko Franconi: We started as a Wednesday weekly in Chinatown – in downtown Honolulu – at a venue called NextDoor. We’ve relocated the Wednesday weekly to a larger venue near Waikiki named Hawaiian Brian’s – aka HB Social Club. We also now produce afterhours events on Fridays, Tuesdays at ShoreFyre in Waikiki, special events on Saturdays, and occasional pop-up events throughout the isle.
DJ LIFE MAG: Who are some of the better-known DJs you’ve brought?
Miko Franconi: I’m thrilled to say we’ve had an incredible roster of DJs we’ve hosted for Honolulu – DJ Hell, Joeski, Keoki, Julian Jeweil, Alberto Ruiz, Harvard Bass, DJ Dan, Zombies in Miami, Death on the Balcony, to name a few. We have Robag Wruhme appearing soon, and we’re really excited about that.
DJ LIFE MAG: What kind of crowd do you get?
Miko Franconi: Our crowd is extremely receptive and open to surprises. I love that we could have an amazing house DJ one week, followed by techno or melodic the next – and our crowd is grateful to dance to either. I noticed it a lot more post-pandemic. I feel people have lost that “expectation” part of the nightlife a bit, and are more open to the feeling of just being out and dancing being enough. It’s a nice place to be as a promoter.
DJ LIFE MAG: On the music side, where did you find your influences? What made you want to follow a path in music?
Miko Franconi Being a kid and watching my brother, Keoki, do what he loves and live comfortably was probably a huge reason I wanted to pursue this. Watching him change people’s lives for the better just a few times… and I knew that’s all I wanted to do.
DJ LIFE MAG: Did Keoki teach you anything valuable about DJing or production?
Miko Franconi: Absolutely. When I was 15-years-old and visiting him in Los Angeles in 1997, I remember he was sleeping in the middle of the day – shocker – and I was playing around with his turntables and records, pretty sure I was mixing Sesame Street Live over an acid-techno banger, and he woke up and asked me to stop so he could rest. I pretty much said, “Look, I’m going to do this eventually – why not give me some pointers, so I don’t fuck it up?” And his response was: “OK, if you’re going to do this, just play the music you love. If other people love it, you’ll be successful; if they don’t, fuck it – at least you’re still doing what you love. The second you play a record for someone else to love, that you don’t, is the second this becomes a job.” He stayed up with me and we played records together for hours. I never forgot that, and it still doesn’t feel like work – so, I guess it stuck.
DJ LIFE MAG: Creatively, how did you approach your studio projects? Do you have a regular process? Or does the muse have to strike you to get you into the studio?
Miko Franconi: Both. I find I’m most inspired when I sit my ass down and get to it.
DJ LIFE MAG: With no events to push, how did you survive the lockdown?
Miko Franconi: I wasn’t letting anything stop the music in my world. The downtime for me didn’t last even a week. As soon as things shut down, I organized a weekly Centered Wednesday live-stream and broadcasted local DJs from various places – beaches, jungles, rooftops, parks – around the island. I was lucky enough to stumble across some hardware that allowed me to venture outside of Wi-Fi range and broadcast on LTE networks. It kept me busy and my heart full to be delivering to those stuck in their homes.
DJ LIFE MAG: What was it like when the clubs reopened?
Miko Franconi: Our events coming out of lockdown were sold-out at announcement. I really attribute that to the reach and love we got from the live-streams. Also, our capacity was restricted to 50-percent…
DJ LIFE MAG: What’s your main studio gear?
Miko Franconi: I’m an Abelton Live user. My first three singles were made on FL Studio – shhh! – but I wanted to jump into something a little more professional and versatile should I ever go the live route. I have Focal Alpha 80s for studio monitors, a Moog Sub Phatty analog synth, Roland TR-8S Rhythm Performer, Elektron Cycles groovebox, Behringer TD-3 analog synth, Korg Volca Keys synth, Sterling Audio condenser mic, and my MIDI keyboard is a Nektar Panorama P4 – which I love! Focusrite Scarlett is my sound card.
DJ LIFE MAG: Who are your favorite producer/remixers, and why?
Miko Franconi: That’s always a tough one. I have so much great music from artists I admire. I’ve been on a trip lately with music by artists like Echonomist, Damon Jee, AFFKT, Rafael Cerato, TouchTalk, Curses, Zombies in Miami… see, the list could go on and on, so I’ll stop there. I’m really feeling the synth overlays on heavy techno lately.
DJ LIFE MAG: In the DJ booth, what gear do you use, and why?
Miko Franconi: I recently purchased Pioneer DJ CDJ-3000 player and am in love with them. So, my preference is three CDJs and a Pioneer DJM-900NXS2 mixer. My style of DJing is pretty aggressive. If the crowd is with me, we’re moving.
DJ LIFE MAG: Give me three tracks that are always at the ready for you.
Miko Franconi: Robag Wruhme’s “Wuzzelbud FF.” It never fails to turn heads and light up a floor. Underworld’s “Crocodile” (Oliver Huntemann Remix). It has a relentless bassline meant for melting. Indie Elephant’s “Answer.” This track is just so different and full of surprises. I love unleashing it.
DJ LIFE MAG: Which DJs do you admire, and why?
Miko Franconi: I love observing mixing styles from the greats. Derrick Carter B2B Seth Troxler at ARC Chicago last September blew my mind. Derrick was relentless. But, honestly, I most admire live acts now. Seeing a producer mold a night with hardware blows my mind.
DJ LIFE MAG: What’s next for you?
Miko Franconi: Working on a live set, finishing a full-length album and getting back on the road again. For Centered, a festival is definitely on the horizon.
To check out more interviews, click here.