DJ Vice keeps records spinning, crowds hopping

DJ Vice, center, is one of Las Vegas' most celebrated resident DJs. Aside from residencies across the country, he can be found spinning at Tao, Lavo and Marquee.

DJ Vice, center, is one of Las Vegas' most celebrated resident DJs. Aside from residencies across the country, he can be found spinning at Tao, Lavo and Marquee. Photo by Al Powers.

The dream is the same for most people, pick up a baseball bat and become a professional baseball player, wear a fire hat and become a fire fighter or grab a Fisher Price stethoscope and become a doctor. But for Eric Aguirre, aka DJ Vice, his dream of spinning music was less about a career and more about making music.

Since then Vice has ridden a wave of popularity from a 13 year old with a turntable to establishing himself as one of the top DJs on the Las Vegas Strip.

The saying goes if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life and Vice has lived that life to its fullest and he’s not done yet.

Aside from numerous other residencies across the country and international tours, Vice’s home has been at Tao, Lavo and now Marquee where he has built one of the biggest followings of any local DJ and has the hardware to match. Vice was recently named Best Ongoing Promotion/Party/Event of the Year by Nightclub & Bar Magazine and Best Nightclub DJ by the readers of a local newspaper.

We recently caught Vice between shows to talk about his success not only on the turntables, but now as an owner of two sneaker boutiques. You’ve been named to a handful of awards lately, what’s it feel like to be recognized as one of Vegas’ top DJs?

Vice: “It’s really cool because honestly it’s always a surprise. I’m not like, ‘Yeah, I’m the best DJ in Vegas or the best nightclub weekly party.’ It’s really just me loving what I’m doing still after almost 20 years. It’s been a long process to get where I’m at, but I still love it.” You got your first turntables when you were 13, did you think you were big-time when  you got those?

Vice: “Oh yeah, I was in eighth grade and I was like this is the coolest thing ever. When someone would see Michael Jordan play ball and were like, ‘Damn, I want to be a basketball player.’ I saw (someone) DJing and I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s the coolest thing ever. I want to blend music together.’ I didn’t really think ‘Oh, I want to be a DJ, I want to travel the world, I want to make this much money.’ I just wanted to play music, I didn’t know where I was going to play it.” And then eventually you realized you could make money off of it, right?

Vice: “It’s weird, I didn’t really realize it. The only way I wanted to make money was just to buy more records. I didn’t care to make money to spend it on anything, like get a car, I just wanted to buy more music. Because at that point as a DJ that was the only way you could continue to be a DJ was to keep buying records. And it was $4.99 for a 12-inch single and I always wanted a double so it was expensive.” You talked about the money aspect of it, but did you ever think DJing would take you this far?

Vice: “I had no vision of like, ‘I want to get to Vegas, I want to go on tour and go to Asia.’ And there’s this Youtube video when I’m like 19 years old at my first DJ battle in New York and it’s crazy. It’s my first time in New York, I’m in a DJ battle and they interview me and someone put it up on Youtube recently and they’re like, ‘What’s next for you?’ and I’m like, ‘I just want to travel. New York’s so beautiful and I just to want to travel.’  I wasn’t like, even at that point, ‘Oh I want to produce, I want start DJing in Europe,’ I was like I just want to travel.” When did things start to change for you…when did you realize this was something you could make a career out of?

Vice: “Maybe in 97, I had this kind of reality like this is getting serious. That’s when I got on the radio station in Los Angeles (POWER 106) and that was right when I was 19 years old, about the same time as the video. I got on the radio as an actual DJ so I got my first paycheck. Everything else was always a gig and threw me like $60, $100, if I did a high school dance it was like $250, if I did a wedding it might be like $400-$500, but I got my first actual paycheck that was from a reputable radio station and it was like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy. I’m getting this check to DJ.’ That’s when it kind of hit me that I’m going to be able to do something with this. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I just knew that I could keep DJing.” What’s the difference between mixing live on the air and in a club?

Vice: “When you’re DJing at a radio station, the room is maybe the size of a walk-in closet and I’m DJing up against the side of the wall, with no view, and I’m DJing for 1.6 million people, that was the average listenership for the station at the time. And it was live, there was no rewind, I messed up, let me try that again. So that trained me for the nightclub.

“Whereas at the nightclub where I go to these nightclubs and they have 2,000-3,000 people in Vegas and the energy is right in front of your face and you have to keep up with everybody else. It’s a whole different experience.

“I’m glad I got both because radio trained me for what nightclubs are and being flawless and clean, but radio didn’t train me for presence. Because in a nightclub routine you still have to have presence. You can be in front of 2,000 people and be a great DJ, clean mixes, and when people look up at you and you have no presence then how good is it really going to be for an average club-goer at a club? So I had to learn that at the clubs as I went along.” Which one do you think is more difficult?

Vice: “Man, that’s a tough question. I think they’re each their own world. With the clubs it’s always a challenge I think because you never know what the crowd wants. LA had its own style, New York had its own style, you go to Vegas and you’ve got someone from LA, New York, Nebraska, Hong Kong all mixed up into one club so you have to plug in every style. Nightclubs are always constantly changing, whereas radio you have a format, these are the songs you’re going to play and this is our type of music and you can’t go off the track, you can’t go real left lane you have to stay in one lane on the radio. So I would say clubs are a lot more challenging to the average DJ.”

Vice Sundays at Lavo hosted by DJ Vice, above, was recently named ongoing party of the year by Nightclub & Bar Magazine. Photo by Al Powers.

Vice Sundays at Lavo hosted by DJ Vice, above, was recently named ongoing party of the year by Nightclub & Bar Magazine. Photo by Al Powers. You’ve been at Tao since it opened six years ago (minus a one-year break while at Pure), what’s keeping you there?

Vice: “I can honestly say I’ve never walked in on a Saturday night and been like, ‘It’s kind of slow tonight.’ I’ve always walked in and been like, ‘Wow, how do they have this many people here every week?’ It’s really an iconic room as far as layout for the energy of the crowd, all condensed right in front of you. It’s kind of like a pit right underneath you when I play on Saturday nights so I get to basically walk up at midnight and take the room from already being at a 10 to like 100.” Do you see a difference when you’re at Tao versus Lavo or maybe Marquee?

Vice: “Yeah, yeah. The whole breakdown at Tao is definitely the Saturday night, I call it, weekend warriors. Everyone’s out to rage, balls to the wall. That’s the crowd on Saturday. On Sunday, it’s local, it’s more industry, a lot of the Vegas crowd that might not want to deal with those on a Saturday, but they might come out on a Sunday. And then on Monday at Marquee, it is just madness. Someone was just asking me is it the same routine, Saturday, Sunday, Monday? I’m like no way, Marquee I’m really on stage performing in the sense the way the club is laid out and everyone is just right there staring at the DJ, I’m like there’s no downtime. You’re not up there like checking your cell phone, standing around because you’re non-stop partying with the crowd, bringing that energy.” Going on to one of your other projects, CRSVR (at the Cosmopolitan and Santa Barbara), are you a guy that believes in fate? Because the story behind that sounds like fate.

Vice: “I’m all about that dude. Kind of like how I came about to play on the radio. I got on the radio by happening to be at the right club at the right time and somebody came in and was like I work at the radio station and blah, blah and kind of building off of that. The same thing happened with CRSVR with me on the plane with a mutual friend and meeting my partner, Nick Sakai, and talking about shoes because we had the same type of Nikes on. He was talking to me about Santa Barbara, ‘Yeah we have to drive to LA (to get shoes),’ and I’m like that’s crazy. I was on my way to Santa Barbara for a gig and I’m like you have to drive an hour and half just to get some good kicks? And we joked, ‘How ’bout we open a shoe store?’ And I just met the guy for the first time and it was totally random. But he followed up with it and I followed up with it and kept building and building and it just worked out. And two years later we opened up in Vegas. It’s like going from the farm leagues to the majors. We grew really quick in those two years.”

You can catch DJ Vice at Tao on Saturdays, Lavo on Sundays and Marquee on select Mondays.