Jon Patrick Layson didn’t plan to use the DJ JPogi name – but it’s the name that has stayed thanks to fellow DJ Sims Cabrera.
“Sims wanted to give me a funny name,” says Layson. “At the time, I was the new guy and girls seemed to get dressed and Sims were like, ‘Because you’re the Pogi type, that’s why.’ So it started as a joke and it stuck. I just wanted to call myself Jon Layson. “
Born and raised in Guam, Layson began DJing professionally at the age of 18 – just four years after buying his first turntable and teaching himself to mix and scratch. Layson bought it with a sack of coins which took him a year to save.
“When I was 14, I got my first turntable and had to work for it,” says Layson. “Every time my mother sent me out shopping, she would let me keep the coins. So I saved € 200. It took at least a year. “
Layson learned to DJ by watching MTV and other DJs’ old videotapes and mimicking what he saw. By the age of 16, Layson knew enough to be able to help mobile DJs at house parties and ballroom gigs. At the age of 18, Layson was doing his own gigs in clubs all over the island and shaped the scene by bringing new music to Guam from the west coast.
Guam to Los Angeles
In 2007, Layson put his professional DJ career on the back burner and moved to Los Angeles, where he spent a year and a half in the city’s sanitation department. When he lost that job due to budget cuts, Layson got back to serious business as a DJ. He bonded with the LA Filipino-American DJ community and made many friends who influenced him and helped him develop new skills.
“If you’re in Los Angeles Filipino and you’re out of town, pretty much all of you are connected. We met every few weeks and put our skills to the test. It was like hanging out on the turntable and taking turns. I got to witness people who were better than me and see what they were doing, and I asked them questions like, ‘How do you build this?’ or ‘How did you do that’? Some people guarded their secrets, but many were open, ”says Layson.
Although he’d been a DJ in Guam for several years, Layson was unknown in Los Angeles and had to start at the bottom. He played at parties for free and got free gigs by connecting with people through local forums and social media.
He also ran lights and sound and occasionally worked as a DJ for an event company. Layson says all of the “random things” he did opened the doors to clubs in LA and resulted in bigger gigs – some with well-known artists and musicians.
“I was DJing for a Bone Thugs n ‘Harmony show out there. When I did club stuff, I was the main DJ for The Dream, Marques Houston and Omarion. I met Ariana Grande while she was busy spreading her music. Before Far East Movement started blowing up, I used to hang out with them in their garage when they were practicing. They turned me on when they came to Guam for Guam Live and it’s cool that they still remember me, ”Layson says.
Layson moved back to Guam to take care of his family when his mother fell ill in 2011. His mother died in 2012 and he decided to stay in order to “create a staple food and use its influence to help others”.
“I definitely want to give back to the community with whatever I can, be it to help someone learn to DJ, or to donate time. I want to start a school someday – not just a DJ school, but one that also includes music production because I think that’s something we’re missing here, ”says Layson. “We don’t have many island music producers – they’re all outside the island. Plus, it’s a personal deejaying goal to play in Vegas or something like Coachella, even if it’s just a small stage. That is my personal goal. I would be happy about that. ”
Outside of Guam and Los Angeles, Layson has played at events in Seattle, Hawaii, Houston, San Diego, Fresno, the Philippines and Saipan. In 2014 DJ JPogi received the Guam Island Music Award for best club DJ.
Follow him on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook: DJJPogi.
This article originally appeared in the Pacific Daily News: DJ JPogi Brings LA Sounds to Guam