Last week Nina Las Vegas and Swick dropped an EARMILK exclusive remix of her pal Anna Lunoe. The tune is a blisteringly bassy club mix with an irresistible groove that is a great teaser for the kind of music she'll be performing on her upcoming North American Tour.
We were pleased to have the opportunity to have Australian dance music producer/DJ/radio host Nina Las Vegas sit down for an exclusive interview with us via Skype from her home in Australia. She filled us in on her upcoming North American tour that includes stops at SXSW and WMC along with a slew of other dates all across the continent. Eager to find out the details of her past, present, and future, we dove right in with the questions.
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EARMILK: Where does the "Las Vegas" in your name come from?
Nina Las Vegas: It’s so simple, when I first started at Triple J, there was a guy I worked with that just kept singing “Nina Las Vegas” (viva las vegas). That’s literally it, because then I would work behind the scenes on the radio when I was a producer. Then when they would talk about me they would always say “AND Nina Las Vegas” (with feeling), like giving me that “on-air persona” and would just give me that persona. So when I started djing it was so natural, that I just became that.
EM: So you just ran with it? That’s good though, the best nicknames come from other people giving you the name. What was your initial introduction into Jersey Club and Juke music?
NLV: I was on the Hollerboard, so I was aware of Baltimore Club music. I knew Sam Tiba from a group I’m a part of, it doesn’t really work anymore, it’s an email chain called Black Grind. Just all different things inspired me. Juke from years ago, from following trends and hearing Gantman’s remix of Lil Wayne and stuff like that. Then Jersey club has become more relevant in the last year coming after the Baltimore club music. I’m a pretty online and aware person. If I like something, I then learn all about it. I heard that DJ Deeon “Numbers” reissue track so then I went through his entire back catalog. If people play something I like at a show, I’ll ask them about it.
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EM: Instead of trainspotting, just ask? haha. That’s the best way to go about it. I do that sometimes too, when you find an artist that you really like and then you go download the first track they ever put out. It will be so old that by the time you play it in front of people at a show they’ll be thinking “oh is this new?”
NLV: I don’t have any problem admitting that I don’t know certain things. One thing that people in the music world do is constantly claim that “oh yeah yeah that guy, I know him or her”. My favorite question to ask people is “oh yeah should I know them?”, but everyone is like yeah you should know “Snappy Jit” or other “blah-blah” name”.
EM: As if you are supposed to know the entire history of the Detroit techno scene (being from Australia).
NLV: I just don’t. I don’t know the history of anything except for what is going on in Australia and I don’t mind that. I just ask for knowledge and share back.
EM: At this point it’s like why not share because music comes out so fast and music is evolving so fast, so there’s no reason to act like everything you’re giving away is some secret weapon. Unless there are very specific rare tracks that you have.
NLV: I just toured with Swick in Australia. We have really similar taste, but every night we pushed each other to play different stuff, and then at the end of the night we would swap everything we were playing. So then it became a quest of trying not to play the other person’s songs. It was really cool and challenging. I think it makes sense because I hope that people would know I play a lot of different stuff.
EM: I hope the same thing too, to be honest. It’s hard to make a name for yourself when you’re changing your style set-for-set going to different venues and adjusting yourself to the crowd or experimenting with your live performance in general. I think for the most part, in the scene right now, most producers are known for one specific genre or a just a few genres, so I think it takes longer to become known for playing an array of music.
NLV: I’m super curious of what it is gonna be like in the states. In Australia, I’ve definitely made the last few years into transition of being a DJ that knows how to keep kids happy but trick them with cool stuff. I’m happy and excited and ready for the challenge to see what Americans are like at shows.
EM: Is the dance scene in Australia more competitive or more camaraderie based?
NLV: There are definitely pockets of scenes or cliques but it’s usually around the promoters. There’s a different vibe in Sydney, they’re happy to be smaller, with their underground techno. They’re happier to push that movement over-seas than to have major club shows. I’m kind of lucky, because people ultimately want me to play their tracks on the radio. So I don’t have any qualms with anyone. If anything, I make sure I spend more time in different scenes that I’m not familiar with. I’ll always reach out to the Dancing Animals crew from Melbourne and stuff like that. Maybe it because I’m a bit older, and maybe there is some fighting, but I think people are mostly supportive of each other because there is this healthy ego that everyone has. The biggest problem comes from festival promoters feuding.
EM: There’s always going to be conflict when it comes to money.
NLV: Definitely, there are different scenes and certain people respect other people more than others. Alison Wonderland and I kind of did the same thing. We’ve been playing for the same amount of time but in totally different worlds but in the past two years it has merged because she started playing and making trap music and other cool stuff like that.
EM: Like collaborating with Djemba Djemba.
NLV: Yeah. I’ve never seen her make that cross-over because she’s always had a “party DJ” kind of vibe.
EM: So that was a change up for her style?
NLV: No she’s always played the same kind of stuff, but didn’t always have the audience she does now. She’s been working super hard. She’s been working for like ten years. Having said that, I think Australian people tend to be super cool. I’d actually like to think there is more camaraderie here. In a sense you have to support each other. If you’re not going to and supporting each other’s parties than no one will go.
EM: Than there would be no scene, basically. There’s definitely a lot of both competition and camaraderie in America. There are cliques that don’t go well together, but it’s just such a big place and it’s so diverse that people have learned to become friends with other people across the country with the same mindset because you’re not going to be able to tour and travel unless you become mega famous or if you have good friends all across the country.
NLV: I honestly think Australia is too small to fight with each other.
EM: I know you’ve always been an advocate for female DJs and producers, what is your current take on the state of things now for females in the industry?
NLV: My personality if I was a dude would be the same. I’m a hard-working person that’s not afraid to put myself out there. Never really had a problem being female in the scene. It’s super easy for me to lead a situation. I think it’s definitely changed. Look at lineups. There are definitely more of a focus on women in music now. It just actually takes people just doing it. It takes people like A-Trak doing #wcw. That’s how it’s going to change. I noticed when Mad Decent Block Party, when Skrillex was playing there were ten dudes dressed in black standing behind him while he was playing and I’m thinking “why aren’t there ten guys standing behind me while I play?”. During my set I made Diplo come to it even though they put us on opposite stages. I texted him and I was like “we need you here!”. He was like “I’m kind of drunk”.
EM: I definitely saw a video of you guys performing together.
NLV: Ya know if you’re gonna do Soundcloud Wrap-Ups or Follow Fridays (#ff) than you have to recognize females need to be involved a bit more. That’s not patronizing, that’s just realizing the actual statistics of the scene.
EM: I’ve heard from different people that females being more involved should be less talked about and others think it should be talked about more. Some people think that by acknowledging it that…
NLV: People need to bring more attention to it?
EM: Yeah, exactly. I’m seeing improvements. Reid Speed is playing tons of shows. Jubilee is on the Mad Decent Boat Party. I’ve been a fan of Star Eyes for a while. I think it just takes females setting the example.
NLV: That’s what I mean. I’m not saying people need to do articles about it. I’m just saying, the stuff that the females already do, that’s what’s going to change the kids’ perspectives. The reality is that I can sell out a show in Australia, and that’s why people should book me on a festival, not because I’m a female. I think the way things will get progressively better is when your friends look out for you even more.
EM: Obviously you have great support for the tour. You have many people supporting you in the states. There are people that will come to your shows that have been wanting to see you for a while.
NLV: I hope so. (haha)
EM: Ya know the real fans that are going to come up to you and be excited that you’re finally in the states. I haven’t ever seen you involved in any…
NLV: Whack shit?
EM: (hahaha) yeah.
NLV: That’s lucky for me because in this day and age, if I started now, I’d probably be the most intense person on Instagram but I started a while ago and I don’t look at numbers or likes.
EM: It’s good to ignore it at this point. Likes don’t even hold actual weight at this point.
NLV: Yeah, those numbers just don’t mean anything. Absolutely nothing. Sometimes I’ll look at a song, and it’ll have 800,000 plays on Soundcloud and I’ll listen to it, and it’ll suck.
I think I have a bit of history behind me, ya know like, Dillon Francis wears my shirt (haha). Kids might have heard about me from RL Grime tweeting about me.
EM: “I saw that RL Grime tweet about you so I had to check you out” (haha)
NLV: “I’ve been wearing your shirts since Cashmere Cat wore them” (haha)
EM: Your North American Tour starts March 11th. So, what’s your most anticipated tour date and why?
NLV: I’m looking forward to seeing Djemba Djemba play because I’ve never seen him play. I’m looking forward to that. I have a feeling that it’ll just be great vibe sets together. That’s in Montreal. I’m super excited about the SXSW showcase. I’m also stupidly nervous because I’ve never been to SXSW.
EM: I grew up in Texas, you’re gonna have a great time.
NLV: I love my lineup for SXSW. So many cool different sounds.
EM: I saw the lineup actually, and I was really blown away by it. Nadus has been a friend for about 3 or 4 years. We’re on the same coast. We play and make a lot of the same music. He was part of that second major wave of Jersey Club guys with Sliink.
NLV: Am Only was like, “you can do a showcase if you want”. And I was like “oh….me?”. They’re so good that they come to you at the end of all the SXSW booking and then everyone that wants to play your gig are cool to get on the party. So I ask “all these people wanna play my party?!”. So I deliberately put people like Ikonika, TKay, and Uniique on the lineup. If I’m hosting a party, I want the best female DJs on. That’s the way I change stuff with girls in the industry. That’s how I do it. You’ll never see me in an article talking about it, you’ll see me just booking females. Miami is going to be nuts. A few years ago I just went to Miami to take it all in but now I’m super excited to be involved and playing.
EM: You get to discover a lot of new places in the states. Some of the smaller towns can be a lot of fun. If there’s not a whole lot going on, if a great show comes through, kids can get all excited and full of energy about it.
NLV: I underwhelm everything, I love being surprised and not disappointed. (haha) I’m going to be in NYC the same night as Cashmere Cat when he plays at Webster Hall. So I’m going to try and play my set and get over there to see him perform.
I’m trying to think of the song I used to play of yours.
EM: Yeah it was one off a Dicksquad compilation.
NLV: (haha) Yeah it was called “Beep Beep Dick Rock” (hahaha).
EM: It was funny because you played my track into my friend Whiskers Po's tracks. So we were super excited to be on the mix not only together but also mixed into each other (haha).
NLV: When I saw the Dicksquad thing, I just laughed and thought “I’m downloading a compilation called Dicksquad” (hahaha)
EM: Yeah (haha) we didn’t take that whole thing very seriously. We made some good connections through it at the very least (haha).
NLV: Swick has an edit that’s super cool but it just goes into a drop that just goes “dick dick dick dick” (haha).
EM: There’s a lot of dick in music these days. (haha). Jersey Club brought it to everyone’s attention and then it got thrown into all this other music like what the Main Course guys are putting out.
NLV: Yeah I’ll have to play that tune this week now (haha).
Nina Las Vegas North American Tour Dates: