DJ88 beats genre expectations

Bree Cohen -- aka DJ88

Bree Cohen -- aka DJ88. Photo by Jana Cruder.

Not content with sticking to one genre or style, Bree Cohen — aka DJ88, is all about the music.

DJ88 got her start in the music biz working in the soundtrack division of Atlantic Records. She’s been DJing for nine years, including six in Vegas, with residencies including a stint at ghostbar and current work at Insert Coin(s), Marquee and Hyde Bellagio in Vegas. Her latest project is VERSUS, which assembles some of the best DJ talent in the country for the weekly set described as “No genres, just dope music” Wednesday nights at Insert Coin(s).

What’s it like DJing in Vegas compared to other cities?

It’s such a different vibe out here. The competition is aggressive, especially being a woman in a man’s profession. At first I really got kicked in the ass and was forced to really put a brand together and an individual style to get into some of the larger clubs. It’s been a very successful six years out here.

Vegas is known for one thing musically, so you either learn how to do it and jump in there, or you don’t really work that much. Now with the [development] of Downtown, you have more options.

What’s the Downtown music scene like these days?

Downtown has become this nice alternative for people who want a break from the Strip or want to go to Beauty Bar and hear a rock band, who want to go to Insert Coin(s) and hear a little of everything, or go to Downtown Cocktail Room and hear some soul-house music. Within a block or two, whatever kind of vibe you’re into or whatever you’re feeling that particular day you can walk 15 feet to a new place and catch a completely different vibe.

That’s why I started putting a lot of energy into Downtown, because I have such a vast musical library and have so many different loves of different genres of music, because everything that I want to play that I never get to play on the Strip, I can do down there. And there’s an actual audience for it.

Tell us a bit about creating the Snitch format for ghostbar at Palms

We wanted to create a cool vibe, basically similar to what we have in Downtown now, but be able to have the amenities of a Strip venue with a great sound system and be able to walk into a room and hear new disco or electro or old-school hip hop or whatever the case may be. It was definitely a first for a casino property to embrace it. It was a really trailblazing thing for the Strip to do.

And now you have a night Downtown.

Yes. VERSUS Wednesday night is similar to Snitch in the sense where it’s an alternative format, but with VERSUS I created it to be able to give DJs an opportunity to play stuff that they never get to play. Not only is [VERSUS] a playground for them to screw around and maybe play what they don’t get to play, but it’s also derived from the interview series on my blog called “Hang the DJ” and that’s actually how the night started. We’re bringing incredible DJs from across the country and overseas.

What was the idea behind “Hang the DJ?”

It’s not your regular Q&A, but more like an actor interviewing an actor. People have no idea what we go through, so I wanted to start this interview series to give people a behind-the-scenes look. and have all of these guys get to not only vent, but tell funny stories. A major part of the series was to introduce amazing DJs from all over the country and internationally, so I’ve had everybody from Jazzy Jeff to guys from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn who DJ at little hole in the wall places and play amazing music, but aren’t really going to get outside their market

And what’s the reaction been from DJs and fans?

It’s been awesome. I mean, I was asked to turn it into VERSUS night. One of the questions is “What do you love to play that you never get to play?” So that’s kind of the whole point of VERSUS,  for these guys to play whatever their answer is.

So, VERSUS is more of a house party vibe than it is a nightclub vibe and they don’t feel the pressure to quick mix or create a dance floor by playing Top 40. We’re reaching out to listeners who want to create something different. And just give the DJ a chance to relax and love what they do again, because a lot of us get fried by having to play the same thing all the time.

Sometimes, it’s just not possible to play these things or get these things booked on the Strip, which is why I’m crushing so hard on Downtown right now. And why I’m putting all this energy into Insert Coin(s).

What kind of music influences you and what do you have in your library?

The laundry list is way too long to list, I love everything. I have mixes in my library that range from from 70s post-punk to electro to underground hip hop to top 40. I like it all. I have a big hip-hop background, so that’s always going to be my first love but I’m just a music lover in general. Whatever it is that moves me, that’s what I like.

In addition to “Hang the DJ,” you use Twitter and blog a lot. How does this help you connect with fans and DJs?

[The Internet] is amazing. Not only can you discover incredible DJs or bands, but I think that it is a huge force and very advantageous for pushing your [DJ] brand.

I feel it has been a great conduit to bring other people together, to introduce people to things I think they should know about.

What do you have in store for 2012?

I’ll definitely be focusing on VERSUS and downtown. I want to focus on making VERSUS something that people know in Vegas, so that there’s something in Vegas that has a cool factor that shouldn’t be missed. It’s my pet project. I want to be a part of making Vegas as cool as a music scene as other markets.

I will always DJ and that’s going to be my first passion forever, but I am looking at taking it to a much higher level, taking my brand and personality and utilizing that to create different concepts for people to enjoy as an alternative experience. I think I’m going to end up being in Vegas for a little while because I feel like I have a home here now.

DJ88’s Blog:

Listen to DJ88 on SoundCloud: