interview: nina las vegas
Hard-working DJ Nina Las Vegas has been getting her voice heard all over Australia as Triple J’s Saturday night ‘House Party’ host. Named after the famous Elvis Presley tune Viva Las Vegas, she can also be found DJ’ing at clubs around Sydney most weekends, either solo or with her all-girl posse, Hoops – a three-piece ensemble consisting of Anna Lunoe, Bad Ezzy, and, of course, Nina herself. And if all that wasn’t enough for you, she’s also a full-time producer at Triple J, and a co-producer/director at Heaps Decent.
But success didn’t just happen for Nina, who has been working her butt off ever since landing work experience at Triple J almost ten years ago.
‘I didn’t start as a presenter, I worked behind the scenes. If you want to do something in radio or television or music, learn the skills first, just be behind the scenes. Offer your services, do things for free, if you work hard, people know you as a hard worker and that’s it… I have done every job at Triple J. I’ve been on the web team, I’ve done podcasting, I was a producer, I worked in the library. I’ve done, like, everything. I’ve been hosting House Party for four years and people think it’s just happened. It didn’t just happen.’
Growing up in Wagga Wagga was an advantage, musically, for Nina, who learnt piano and bass guitar, and enjoyed performing to small crowds at local cafes.
‘I had a great group of friends and a really, really musical school, so everyone did music or drama, everyone was in a band. I was in three or four bands in high school.’
After graduating, eighteen-year-old Nina moved to Sydney, where she attended university, eventually finding herself in the world of radio and DJing.
‘The first gig I ever had was with my friend, and I played first at his party called Ro Sham Bo, and that was in 2006, I think, and I pre-mixed everything, I made the set. And I got so nervous because I’d never even touched a CD or a DJ set… I practiced a bit more and everything became a little bit easier and then it just happened really fast and then we were playing every weekend, so I stopped being nervous.’
Through her work, Nina met fellow DJs Diplo and Levins, and together they founded Heaps Decent, a not-for-profit organisation committed to finding and encouraging young, underprivileged, Indigenous emerging musical artists in Australia. The company provides resources and opportunities that encourage youths to pursue their creative talent by running music workshops in schools, juvenile justice centres, and drop in centres and studios.
Nina has come a long way since her early days as an intern and DJ, her hard work earning her regular spots at popular clubs and music festivals around the country. Splendour in the Grass, Groovin’ the Moo, Big Day Out, Stereosonic and Parklife have all been ticked off Nina’s to-do list, and festival-goers in Adelaide can look forward to Nina’s appearance at Spin Off Festival this month.
‘I’m really excited because it’s going to be the first show on the House Party tour. So I have a pretty tight set worked out. We’ll be just hyping up the CD as well. It’s just a whole new set, which is really cool.’
And for those aspiring DJs out there, Nina’s passed on some advice:
‘If you want to be a DJ, and especially girls, make fricken beat. When people ask what it’s like being a female DJ I’m like, ‘It’s fine, it’s easy…’ so many people do it. Australia is so small, if you spend a lot of time making a track or a remix and then putting yourself out there, as soon as you make one song that’s on the radio, you’ll be offered every single club.
‘DJing is fun and it’s a great party skill, but if you really want to break in, cause a stir, you know?’
Nina Las Vegas will be appearing at Adelaide’s Spin Off Festival this Saturday, 21 July, and at Splendour in the Grass on Sunday, 29 July! Triple J’s HOUSEPARTY: Mixed by Nina Las Vegas will be available in stores and online August 3. Make sure you follow Nina on Twitter to keep up with her latest news!