INTERVIEW: Nina Las Vegas Gets The Party Started
It’s 8am in London, and Nina Las Vegas has graciously woken up early to chat to LUNA about her latest project, triple j’s first-ever House Party mix CD.
We say graciously because she’s in the midst of a European holiday (and therefore entitled to a much-longer sleep in), and was up late watching her musical crush Drake’s performance at Wireless festival.
“He was amazing!” Vegas (not her real name, in case you’re wondering) gushed.
“Nicki Minaj came out [for duet Make Me Proud]… It was pretty spesh to be able to go and see [him], in front of 70,000 people. He’s got such a clear rap show. I see a lot of rap shows, and he’s just so pronounced.”
It seems Vegas, who grew up in Wagga Wagga but moved to Sydney in her late teens, is a bit of a rap addict.
“I think rap is getting really big again; people are excited by rap music,” she said.
So can we expect to hear more Drake in upcoming House Party and Mix Up sets?
“I wish!” she laughed.
“I sneak a bit into the show every now and then but it’s usually like SBTRKT – Wildfire; that mix gets played a bit on the show. He’s not quite triple j, as much as I’d love him to be. I’ve pushed it with [Richard] Kingsmill, because I don’t think he’s played on commercial networks that much either, so we could own him like we own N.E.R.D and Kanye – but yeah, I don’t know. It’s a battle I haven’t won yet.”
But forget about Drake for a second.
We’re here to talk about a battle Vegas has won: the release of the debut House Party mix CD, an idea which had previously been rejected by triple j bosses because it “wasn’t the right time”.
This time around, it turns out there wasn’t much of a battle at all.
“Because I DJ a bit, I was starting to get offers from other compilations that wanted me to do them,” Vegas explained, “and I consider a lot of them, but I just wanted my own kind of stamp on it a bit more. I mean, when you team up with something like Ministry, it’s often driven by [them], rather than the DJ.”
This time, Vegas mentioned the idea of a House Party mix to her boss, who emailed the station’s big wigs straight away.
“Literally, within that afternoon I had a meeting set up [with the heads of music at triple j], and they were all for it, which was really exciting,” she said. “And before we’d even agreed on it, it was already happening… I was already compiling songs.”
The month-long process of compiling was “really tough,” Vegas told us, as she was very conscious of choosing tracks that were cohesive with her Saturday night sets, but also were what listeners wanted to hear.
“I just wanted to please the audience, and myself,” she said.
“It was like, ‘What am I gonna put on that’s going to be a real keeper?’ I wanted it to have no complaints, every time you listen to it. Which is why it’s got a lot of really different songs.”
Those songs include triple j favourites, such as 360, Ladyhawke and The Presets, alongside tracks and artists that aren’t necessarily heard that often on the airwaves, but which Vegas feels are typically House Party.
“Goldie by A$AP Rocky is a perfect example of something that I play a lot of, but that may not be heard on the station 24/7,” she explained. “But people who listen to House Party know that I love that.”
A self-confessed perfectionist, Vegas lamented that the one thing she wished the compilation had more of was dub-step.
“I have heavy bass stuff, with Knife Party, but I wish I had something heavier to bring it down,” she admitted. “I was trying so hard, but it’s also not very easy to get things approved. I learnt so much; that I don’t have the control like I do in House Party when it’s just me. I have to get things approved by labels, and management. It’s actually very interesting.”
We’ve caught Vegas in the middle of what she terms “a mini-break before everything goes crazy”.
Last week she spent some time in Paris visiting friends and family, and also briefly jetted down to Egypt, where her family is originally from.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to go and see my family before shit gets even more crazy or whatever,” she explained.
“There’s a lot of really smart, amazing young people [in Egypt] doing cool stuff, starting new restaurants and awesome little businesses. I went to a shisha bar on the Nile, and then I went to a club which was totally just like a Sydney club – it was playing Aeroplane, Van She and stuff. It was pretty surreal actually. But then in the daytime you’d go downtown and there’d be… people hustling. Very not like Sydney, totally third world country at times,” she divulged.
“A lot of these young revolutionists that were part of the movement last January are smart, have been raised in American colleges… and tend to move away, but Egypt needs them to stay,” she continued. “It’s kind of that double-edged sword: they either love it and find it really tough but want to change it; or like anyone our age, they can see an easier future, where they don’t have to worry about crappy governments, and they might move to Montreal, or New York, or Australia.”
Vegas will soon be back in Australia herself, taking to the stage at Spin Off festival in Adelaide and Splendour in the Grass.
So what can audiences expect from Nina Las Vegas live?
“I make a lot of edits, so I make my own versions of tracks to play; I mix between genres pretty fast; and I dance WAY too much,” she laughed.
“I’ll start with straight hair, most likely, and then get super-sweaty and gross, so I’ve stopped wearing make-up on stage.”
Vegas, who studied design at uni and confessed to a love of art and “pretty things” is also working on a series of visuals to accompany her sets.
In the meantime, there’s the House Party CD to promote, clubs and festivals to DJ at, and of course House Party and Mix Up to host.
With a lifestyle that she admits is “glamorous but stressful”, what songs can still manage to get the seasoned DJ dancing?
“I still love the Wavves and Miike Snow stuff,” Vegas mused, “and I cannot stop listening to this UK group called Disclosure who are really cool, I listen to that a lot. I also really like Mercy by Kanye West a lot, I still hear that and it makes me dance.”
She paused to examine her Spotify account.
“With the compilation I spent a lot of time back-listening to stuff that I love. Honestly, I’m still kind of listening to my compilation!” she admitted with a laugh.
“Because it’s still so fresh.”
There you have it: if Nina Las Vegas can’t stop listening, then you know it must be good.
triple j’s HOUSE PARTY: Mixed By Nina Las Vegas will be available in store and online July 27.