Nina Las Vegas: Australian bass amplifier goes global

nina las vegas

The DJ with one of the most instantly recognisable voices in mix culture: Australian broadcaster Nina Las Vegas has hosted and introduced all manner of awesome sets on the country’s Triple J radio station. Often the first to champion UK and US artists in her country, she’s become something of an ambassador of cool sounds, cherry picking the finest club flavours from across the world and sharing them with as many ears as she can reach.

Ears are popping up further and further afield. Thanks to her productions with studio partner Swick on NEST HQ and, most recently, Fools Gold, Nina is no longer an Aussie hero but a global tastemaker force who appears to have even bigger plans up her sleeve.

Before this year she’d never toured the US. Now she’s on her second tour over there. We caught up with her to get her unique perspective on how she finds talent, the future sound of Australia and FIFA 15…

I love searching for shit, people use the term tastemaker but, from my perspective, I’m just making sure I listen to every promo and follow up every Soundcloud link. I’m looking at everything that’s going on in club music… Not just what kids wanna hear in one city but music from all over the world.

This is your second US tour this year, right?

I’m just trying to go everywhere! There are so many places I want to explore and it blows my mind that there are so many people over here who’ve heard of me and like me enough to come see me. There’s stuff popping off in every corner. It’s a really interesting country and kinda the opposite to Australia which is a just a handful of big cities across a big space.

Let’s introduce you a little. Is it over the top to say you’ve played a critical role in introducing a lot of US, UK and European sounds to Australia?

We’re all on top of it but this is my job. This is what I love to do; find new music wherever it’s from in the world. Like listening to Monki’s mixtape and thinking ‘okay, this track has got something about it!’ Like Skepta’s track Shut Down, for instance, it wouldn’t take long for people to realise how big that track is… But I know I played it first on Triple J.

That’s just one example; I’ve been working on my relationship with labels and artists from around the world for a long time now. I think I got it easy, other broadcasters on Triple J have to focus on everything – rock stuff, band stuff, rap stuff – I’m able to focus on my specialist subject which I guess you’d call club stuff. I love searching for shit, people use the term tastemaker but, from my perspective, I’m just making sure I listen to every promo and follow up every Soundcloud link. I’m looking at everything that’s going on in club music… Not just what kids wanna hear in one city but music from all over the world.

What’s your favourite find? Something that’s blown your head off…

I remember watching the Micky Pearce Boiler Room and there was a Gage track in there that was really fucking good. I had no idea what it was but I was able to hit up Micky and get the details. That’s what I love; having those connections so when something does hit me, I’m able to find out exactly what it is straight away. On the other hand I love going on weird tangents, like all the crazy nightcore stuff that happened last year. Really cool and weird pitched up versions of club tracks; they sound ridiculous, and when I find them I’m always like ‘what is this crazy shit?’ It’s fun and rare to play out. So I’m just open and always try to make sure people know I’m contactable and I love hearing new shit all day long.

Do you worry about opening the doors too wide and subjecting yourself to all sorts of unfinished shit?

Ha! If it’s general demos or kids asking for opinions then I can’t do that. I only check stuff when it’s ready. I’d love to give some kids feedback but that’s not my job. I don’t offer feedback, I only play it because it’s cool. I’m a sharer; If I like something then I play it.

Let’s talk about Australia… More and more talented acts are coming from your way. What’s the latest development after the future beats stuff we’ve enjoyed over the last few years?

What I’m noticing right now is a lot of really cool and talented singer songwriter girls. Like George Maple and Tkay Maidza… There’s a whole bunch of really interesting singers. What we’ve found is that good lead melodies are hard to find so these girls are getting featured on a lot of interesting production. Likewise the boys, for example Collarbones who Flume just remixed. We don’t have a huge pool of topliners in Australia; there’s not a big industry for that. So there’s some really active singer songwriters popping up.

Interesting! Another thing I noticed from Australia was the amount of news that went viral from Stereosonic last year. It was up there with Ultra for big stories…

Really? Like what?

That Steve Aoki-alike, the banishment of  steroidy guys, Skrillex doing that Zhu thing. Maybe that’s because there was fuck all going on over here that week, but Stereosonic just kept coming up on every feed while it was on.

Well it  December, I guess. But it was a crazy tour. I was on the HARD line-up and my role was to drag everyone to little crazy clubs I knew and getting everyone on mad back to backs. One night in Brisbane we had Guy from Disclosure, Diplo, RL Grime and me all playing. It was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. We went from Joy Orbison into Jimmy Edgar into Boys Noize… It was just a melting pot of really cool records and so much fun.

Nice. Let’s talk about your productions… They seem to be the final piece in the puzzle.

No no, there’s another piece in the puzzle but you’ll work that out in a few month’s time. I’ve got something really different coming up. When I explain to people what I do they pull a strange face and ask ‘so it all comes together?’ And it does. But I’m travelling so much now so the radio thing is harder to do when you’re on tour. So I cut back on the radio 18 months ago and I’ve been working in the studio more and more. I’m now working on my own solo EP now I’m more confident.

Tell me about Swick…

He’s a guy who I linked with through shared tastes. We’ve been swapping music for a long time, he’s super talented in the studio. It’s quite scary moving from being a broadcaster to being an artist but Swick helps me work out what I’m doing and lets me know if I’m doing it right. Plus I’m a very social person so being in the studio with someone else is so much more fun. But now I’m writing my own EP I have more confidence, and that’s down to him… He’s shown me that there’s a great pay-off from spending hours and hours and hours on your own in the studio: the reaction of people on the dancefloor.

So this other piece of the puzzle you were on about… Is that the solo EP?

No, its’ another piece. It will all make sense eventually.

We’ll stay tuned on that. Let’s wrap up with your Cool Sports EP…

I wanted to make music that I would play out. I play club music but also future drops so it had to be energetic, fun and comprise everything I love about this music. So obviously we test these tracks ougt and see if they’re working or not but one final test Swick likes to do is see if his mates can play Fifa to it. That’s a real test to some people! So we made the whole EP to get energetic to. To run to, to exercise to, to play FIFA 15 to.

How are your FIFA skills?

I can’t play it for shit! But I run to all my tracks. It’s a really good way to test your demos… If I can run 7 or 8k and have something on repeat and not get annoyed by it then I know I’m on the right track.

Like an insanity test?

Totally! If you can’t play your own tune on repeat how do you expect other people to? Keep working on it.

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Catch Nina Las Vegas on tour this month…