Interview with DJ Michael Toast

I love meeting and interviewing new people, and this was no exception. I had the pleasure of interviewing DJ Michael Toast in his town, Las Vegas.

I first met Michael in Whistler where he was working at the Ski and Snowboard Festival. Aside from being a great artist and entertainer, what caught my eye (or should I say my ear) was a profound line during his performance: “Thanks mom and dad for not putting me on Ritalin!” Like I said, my ears perked up and I new there was a good story here.

In keeping with the purpose of my Newsletter and the Interviews I publish, I am always interested in people who are either doing something that furthers humanity and the well-being of the planet, or individuals who have wisdom to offer through their own life experience. Michael Toast does both.

Michael was born in Queens, New York — the eldest of three. His mother Jewish, his father Italian. He told me that his parents were best friends and they always wanted to be together.

Michael was diagnosed with ADD at 8 or 9 years of age, and like many ADD kids, his intellect was high (reading at age 3!). It all started when a guidance counsellor tested him and labelled him gifted and creative. Then off to a doctor, then off to the drug store for the little yellow pill: Ritalin. However, after only one dose, no more for him! It made him crazy and he “went off”, so his parents knew there must be a better way.

Michael was fortunate to have parents who knew he needed to be busy and have outlets. He was hyperactive and couldn’t focus, unless he was listening to music or playing it. Music saved his soul, claims Michael: guitar, piano, trumpet . . . there was always music in his head. He played, recorded and had bands in his backyard. As a DJ, he had amazing dexterity with which to manage the instruments and DJ equipment, involving layering and concentration.

Simultaneously, Michael’s parents also taught him boundaries and respect. He was allowed to be in his room, playing and making music, until it was their turn to enjoy watching movies for the evening in the next room. Michael had to stop making noise then, and respect his parents’ need for their quiet time. They also insisted he keep the commitments he made, for example, no quitting team sports before the end of the season. They gave him a lot, and expected a lot.

“Music is a great outlet for any active kid; good therapy” Michael says. As examples, he spoke about his friend, DJ Dezie, who has a son with autism and is an advocate for music and the therapeutic role it can play. He also mentioned one of his idols, Joey Ramone, who suffered from OCD so bad he would count the pickets on a fence.

“When someone thinks they’re doomed to a less than wonderful life because they have a mental illness or physical defect, just look at what Ramone did. Then you can try to tell me you can’t soar above the things that seem like limitations.” Bill Brenner, the OCD Diaries.

DJ Michael Toast’s advice to Parents:

  • keep the stimulation up — physically active and cherry pick activities
  • encourage kids — use an iPad for music, songs, or a DJ app
  • beyond what you see for your kids — see them as people
  • be supportive, and know when to be assertive; scheduling and rules are important
  • recognize your kids’ passion; harness what is good and use it to be something

DJ Michael Toast’s advice to Kids:

  • be patient with your parents and appreciate them; they are trying to do the best they can because they love you
  • don’t be afraid to try new things
  • watch your diet and sugar (if Michael has soda, he will beat the bus to school!)
  • stay on track with planners, phone apps, etc.
  • leave your ego behind
  • use your super powers for good, and leave a good footprint here on earth: positivity, give love, pay it forward :)
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