From backstage, Eric Jao, aka DJ Enferno, could hear 50,000 screaming fans as they awaited the Material Girl’s arrival onstage. Opening night of Madonna’s 2008 tour would be Jao’s first night performing as Madonna’s DJ and his first time spinning in front of such a massive crowd.
“I didn’t know if I was nervous, honestly,” says Jao (Com ’97). “We had gone through the show so many times in rehearsal. It was just a matter of whether or not mentally I was going to get nervous in front of so many people.” After grueling 10- to 12-hour practice sessions six days a week for three months—during which he perfected his routine and remixed classics such as “Like a Prayer”—Jao knew he was ready.
At 15, Jao began developing his DJ skills at high school parties. While a UVA student, he served as a resident DJ—and earned his epithet—at the Divine parties at the former Trax nightclub in Charlottesville. Then Jao worked as a network engineer while moonlighting at D.C.’s hottest clubs.
In 2003, he won the U.S. division of the prestigious DMC World DJ Championships, an annual DJ battle hosted by Disco Mix Club. He placed second in the DMC world championship. After touring nationally and internationally, Jao considered quitting his day job. Reverting to his Commerce School skills, he conducted a break-even analysis and found he could survive for more than a year without another gig. “I haven’t looked back since,” he says.
Jao has continued to grow as a musician, DJ, turntablist and producer. He created the Live Remix Project (LRP) in 2006, a “one-man symphony” production that he performs live, incorporating turntables, a laptop, keyboards and other musical instruments. Jao got his big break when Kevin Antunes, Madonna’s musical director, caught Jao performing an LRP set at an Orlando club. With a mandate from the Queen of Pop to find a “turntablist who was cutting edge,” Antunes tapped Jao for the Sticky & Sweet tour.
Not yet tired of the limelight, Jao joined Madonna again for her 2009 summer tour. He’s also gearing up for a series of LRP club dates around the world.