Nina Las Vegas Interview 2/24/2015: ElectricSloth.com

Electric Sloth: You have Egyptian and Australian roots, your dad worked in graphic design & advertising, while your mom was a teacher – a). how were the pyramids built & b). could you please go into how you think your cultural background influenced you along with how you feel each of your parents formed you to become the person you are today.

Nina Las Vegas: Okay so uhm have you seen the pyramids? When you go there you just can’t comprehend how it happened – they are just huge. So I’m up for the conspiracy theories, it’s just one of those things that is one of the wonders of the world. I haven’t read about it too much I’ve just been there but I’m all up for the idea that something larger than life played a role in it’s creation. So my dad was an immigrant in the 70’s & in Australia we have a really multi-cultural society however it’s pretty white so although I can come from this background and have a grandma that only cooks Egyptian food on Sundays and you know have parents that speak Arabic – I think you kind of assimilate in Australia – and especially me since my dad moved to the country and we grew up in this town called Wagga Wagga, so I was always different for a start. And just because we had a different cultural upbringing, but also because I liked silly things like music & going out and stuff like that. I had a lot of friends that did the same but as soon as I finished school I went straight to University and studied sound engineering and got involved in radio straight away. And I think it’s like the determination you get when you have to move countries for your family – like my grandma did for her family – that gives you that kind of strength. I guess that’s kind of how they made me who I am – but my parents are ridiculous. I don’t know.. right now I’m looking at a post where my dad has put up an anti prime minister billboard and is going crazy – and yeah I just go with it because what can I do, they’re proud & loud people. I have no pressure, I can do whatever I want – obviously they want me to be happy but me and my sister, there’s just two of us – we haven’t taken normal paths. My sister runs a theatre and used to work in television and I was working with music and go out every weekend.

Electric Sloth: At 18 you moved to Sydney and started working in radio production – having begun an internship at national youth radio broadcaster in 2004, what was it like moving from Wagga Wagga to Sydney and how do you think the initial relationships you formed there alongside the larger city contributed to the earlier stages of your introduction to radio. 

Nina Las Vegas: In Wagga you’re in a country town and you have to know what to do in terms of I don’t know, to stay alive I guess – it’s just boring otherwise. So I did endless music lessons, endless band productions, endless musical stuff – so if I hadn’t had grown up in that town I probably wouldn’t have played piano, I probably wouldn’t have listened to Triple J because Triple J is very much a rural life line like it’s the only channel you can get and I think it just shaped who I am, because also I feel like especially with radio and when I travel I feel what it’s like to grow up outside of the city so I put in 110% when I go somewhere smaller because that’s the position I was in when I was 17 years old.. so I think that of equipped me for being in Sydney. It was a massive difference, I can still remember getting sick for 6 months because there’s no smoke in my country town and then moving to the city which is nowhere near as big as any city in America – all the smog just killed me. Then at the same time so I didn’t have to travel anywhere to see music that I wanted to whereas growing up as a kid I would have to drive 3 hours to get to the nearest city to see something cool.

Electric Sloth: What individuals involved with radio do you look up to the most – what about them gives them their edge?

Nina Las Vegas: Oh definitely Annie Mac – that’s a given. She’s a powerful female force and she just rules it. She sold out a festival this year, she’s just taken over Zane Lowe on Radio 1, she’s nailing it. I like telling people that I aspire to them because you need to have someone to look up to in order to do more. And I’m lucky because I can look up to her & I know her so when she does something cool I let her know..and I’m not trying to be her – I just really admire her and I like being able to watch what she does. The good thing about us is that we completely different tastes so there’s never any sense of competition or anything because I’ll always play like an Australian and she’ll always play like a European. I’ll never have that background that she has in house & grime where as I’m a little more in line with the heavier bass stuff and I guess Soundcloud vibes and stuff like that. That’s why I can always feel confident in letting her know she’s killing it because there’s no way I could ever replace her in terms of music selection in the U.K.

Electric Sloth: How did you originally link up with Andrew Levins (Sydney DJ) and Wesley Pentz (Diplo) to form Heaps Decent (a non-profit organization which supports emerging underprivileged & indigenous musicians). What has it been like to witness the evolution of that program given how much music plays a role in nearly every aspect of your life.

Nina Las Vegas: I was thinking about that today, it seriously does. Like last night – Drake’s in Australia right now so I went to his show on my first night off in some time and I’m thinking I have no life haha.. but it was so good, you could tell he was so excited to be in Australia. But just the internet, we were all on the Hollow Board – that’s how I kind of got into everything. Do you remember that? Maybe not if you’re 23 but it was where you went and you met – like I used to talk to all the Flosstradamus guys back then – but it was this community based out of this forum. Look up the Hollow Board and the Hollowtronix stuff –  It’s like really early Diplo days. It was Low Budget’s forum as well – this DJ. So when Diplo came to Australia in 2007 and asked if he could do a workshop and Levin’s the kind of guy that says ‘yeah yeah that’s fine’ and then has no idea how to do it – and that’s why I love him & he knows that’s that. But at the time my mom was working in juvenile justice so he did a workshop with some of the kids at two locations initially – one of which was my hometown of Wagga Wagga at the Juvenile Justice Center and it was awesome. He collected so much money from the tour he was doing that he did a raffle – we got all this gear together afterwards that he got donated, and we spent all this time researching where we should give it and realized it should have been something new maybe. And then it happened from there because we realized there was a gap for what we wanted to do and to be honest the last 8 years have been amazing because we have over 10-15 facilitators – Wes is not really a part of it anymore because Diplo is obviously the busiest man in the world but you know they prop us when we need help & they’ll always shout out if we need a link but we think it’s really important to keep what we’re doing within Australia – and we do major projects. The best thing to do is to just take a visit to the website where it can give you some insight onto what’s going on. There’s five production workshops a week and we’re putting out an EP with one of the kids we met – it’s all very exciting.

Electric Sloth: You put out House Party Volume 1 in 2012 while you were the host of House Party on Triple J – it went gold; in 2013 Triple J issued a follow up compilation House Party Volume 2 which was also mixed by you – it went gold and hit number 1 on the Australian iTunes (both made ARIA top 25 dance albums of the year). All the while you were curating and touring alongside Wave Racer, Tyler Touche, What So Not, Flight Facilities, & Flume – what was the largest source of inspiration and drive for you between 2012 & 2013 and how do you think those years in particular layed additional groundwork & deeper levels of legitimacy for you to be in the position you are today?

Nina Las Vegas: I just think with those cities and those shows – like it’s not a new concept to put out a compilation, it’s not brain surgery. But no one had done it. It’s kind of just like a new wave of producers working together, like obviously Flume who had traveled first changed a huge perception that Australian production can come out of a bedroom. Until then I don’t think anyone really thought that was possible. And people were making good stuff but not really, we had a good party scene but not enough quality producers – where now it’s the opposite with some many producers and no parties. But I think I was able to use my national pull to see what people like – I had my opportunity to come up through Triple J which I asked for but then the tour happened because I noticed all these festivals weren’t selling out and there was a lack of things to do cheap. Like there was no real club touring culture, people would have to come out for one show, pay forty bucks a head and that was it – everything is super expensive in Australia. So we tried to make it seem that coming to these parties was like coming to a house party you know? And you had Flume, What So Not, Beni, me & Wave Racer – and the moment you stepped in it was on and the moment you left it was still on. With that in mind it kind of put me in a position because I kind of just did it and no one can say that it didn’t work because it did, it really worked. It never looked like I was riding off of this, I was apart of it and I think that’s a point of difference – there just hasn’t been anything like it since. We haven’t done another House Party tour but I do my own NLV presents now and it’s doing well too. I have to wear a lot of hats but it’s all part of the same thing – I’ve been a part of this world for so long that I can’t imagine anything else and I really think that adds longevity to what I do where I’m going to make a difference. I honestly do feel like I’ve got the contacts and the PR and the passion to just scream out what’s cool now. You might see people do that sometimes whenever you look at a blog post and you see something that says ‘all the latest hot tracks’ and you’re just like ‘do you really think that or are you just saying it for content?’ Where like I leave it and play it, and just get as much like out there as possible so then it’s not a surprise.

Electric Sloth: How would you describe the steps your radio programs have taken since their inception to gain such popularity and ultimately become Mix Up Exclusives?

Nina Las Vegas: They were two separate shows – one was just a straight mix program that I curated, because basically House Party was an amazingly popular show and still is but I just stopped loving it and I don’t want to do stuff unless I love it anymore. And it wasn’t because I didn’t like the output or the listeners, it just wasn’t a challenge – I could do those mixes with my eyes shut and I didn’t think it was fair to do something half-assed. So I moved into just Mixup Exclusives, I still get to curate the show but I also get to put together a club mix and because I was always playing out and I was playing late at night, and I am into the dance scene I think it just suits me so much more. I think it’s also because I am genuinely in the scene, so if I don’t have something on, like I have kind of ins in almost every element of the Australian dance world but also overseas – I trust a lot of people’s thought processes & travel a lot so I’m always looking for new opinions or ways to look at things. I’m also not afraid to take a risk & I think that’s why people like it. I say no to so much stuff that might be really popular but to me I just see it as exhausted and I think that’s what people like about my show because they’re always curious as to what I’ll put on. It might be massive, but it might be really small but just as cool. I had that dude Awe on and he’s so new and then the next week I get a press release saying he’s signed to AM only and Skrillex loves him and all that kind of stuff – and I’m just thinking ‘oh cool, I just thought he was sick.’ Lastly I think it’s because I’m trying to shift and do more stuff overseas – it’s the only real way I can get my brand, my ideas, and the NLV concept across the water. So I think people will look more at the new show over the House Party ideas because we want it to be on par with the Essential mix – and in the southern hemisphere it is, it’s the best thing we’ve got – but I want that kind of identity for it. And I guess I just needed more time to focus on that and also because I had so much energy to make my own music as well I needed a bit of distance from regular radio work, I just focused on one thing.

Electric Sloth: What are your main intakes of information & music?

Nina Las Vegas: Soundcloud is definitely my main one but I have a Dropbox and a really good relationship with some producers in Australia that we do nothing but swap music – I probably speak to Ryan Hemsworth like everyday and we share stuff. I look at Twitter a lot and I know that sounds weird but I wake up (I follow everyone on Soundcloud) and just favorite everything so when I get to work I can go through all of it. But it’s just music swapping – if I play a gig with Wave Racer then they have to bring a USB and we’re swapping that’s just how it works. And I check playlists a little bit – like obviously I’ll look at what Red Bull Music Academy has going on. But everything is so social and loud now that you don’t really miss stuff – I barely look at press release emails in terms of a song because I feel like if you hear it you’ll know as well – if I hear something live I usually just write it down or record it .

Electric Sloth: As a tastemaker, compilation creator, and curator what were the top 3 best tracks of last year & the 3 best albums in any genre? We’re 2 months into 2015 – who has impressed you the most thus far in terms of production and who should we have our eyes in the near future?

Nina Las Vegas: Swick just put out the dopest club track ever that I love & it’s so ridiculous and hard to play but it’s awesome. I’m also really excited about all the new Cashmere Cat stuff just because I know he’ll up the game – I know he won’t do the squeaks and the Jersey Club sound and it’ll be something totally different. Looking forward to Unique and Sliink and all those Jersey guys putting out cool club tracks and obviously in Australia there’s some really cool sounds coming from guys like Drew Carey & Strickface – there’s definitely a new wave of tough club producers which is really exciting. I could have never imagined the Flight Facilities CD to go that crazy and then perform to sold out audiences all around the world that’s pretty amazing. And Flume as well!

FOR ALL THINGS TRIPLE J:
www.triplej.net.au/mixup
www.twitter.com/triplejmixup

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