“I’m not the sort of ‘giving a speech in front of people’ person, or that sort of thing,” Pope says. “People are like, ‘You’re a DJ, and so you’re good in front of a mike,’ and I’m like, ‘No, I’ll turn it on for you and hand it to you,’ but I don’t like talking in front of people.”
Pope, 38, a resident of Brookhaven, has been expanding his reach beyond his adopted home recently. In April, he marked his second appearance as the headlining DJ for Rites of Spring, a major HIV benefit in Birmingham, Ala., and in June he will travel to Orlando for the first time to spin for some of the large parties for Gay Days.
Pope’s also busy around town as the resident DJ for Joining Hearts, where he spun for last weekend’s Change of Seasons tea dance, and he has spun for official Pride and Pearl Day parties.
But Pope was a late bloomer and might not have gotten into music if not for WETBar, a now-defunct but much-missed Atlanta gay bar.
“When I finally started, and I waited far too long to get into DJing, it was a combination of three individuals: DJ Kim Crawford and Gregg Dean who was the DJ at WETBar… and of the course the person who really gave me a kick in the butt was Tony Moran,” Pope says.
Moran, a recognized DJ and songwriter from New York, has remixed songs from Madonna, Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Rihanna, and saw talent in Pope.
“He was really the one who said I should be out there doing this,” Pope says.
Pope works in multi-media presentations. He currently is a manager in the audio-visual department at the Art Institute of Atlanta, and began to see hints that he was developing as a DJ while working on presentations.
“There were things that were kind of hinting to me back then, like beats and progressions, but there is a big difference from doing things for bands to doing things for hundreds of people,” he says.
Pope began playing in front of people in the mid ‘90s while he was living in Florida, before moving to Atlanta in 1997.
“Whenever I hung out with friends I always had an iPod going or brought CDs, and I remember for this one party I had this stack of CDs, not mixing them, just playing the tracks,” Pope says. “It was a big house party and people started really responding to it and I thought now is when I need to have my own equipment.”
After investing in mixing equipment Pope began playing around with beats and tempos in ways he hadn’t before. His official debut came at WETBar, the massive dance club that once catered to a gay crowd before becoming Primal in 2008, which has a primarily straight clientele.
One night he was asked to fill in for DJ Kim Crawford for a few songs. “It was just a few songs and I barely wanted to give the headphones back I was feeling it so much.”
WETBar led him to more shifts in club DJ booths and soon he garnered a growing fan base, both gay and straight, spinning at Opera, Jungle, Primal, Amsterdam, Whiskey Park, Bellissima, Artistry, Beleza, STEEL, The Fox Theater, Front Page News and Shout.
Pope has also offered his skills to a growing list of non-profits, most famously Joining Hearts, the massive summer pool party in Piedmont Park that benefits housing for people with HIV.
“I’m privileged [to have Joining Hearts] call me their resident DJ and that’s normally something that’s reserved for clubs,” he says. “I’m honored that they consider me that.”
Pope is enjoying the out of town gigs that he’s starting to land, but Atlanta will always be his home.
“I love Atlanta and I’ll always try to take gigs there first, but it’s exciting to start branching out,” he says.
Photo: After spinning at Joining Hearts’ ‘Change of Seasons’ party on April 25, DJ Mike Pope is also slated to appear at Gay Days at Disney in June. (Photo courtesy Pope)