It’s difficult to leave something you love behind. It's even harder when you’ve helped develop that thing and it's done the same for you. This is where Nina Agzarian — AKA Nina Las Vegas — found herself in 2014, when she abdicated her position as DJ of Australia’s electronic radio music program House Party. She sought change and inconsistency.
“I have the attention span of a baby,” she told us recently.
But her music has the manic complexity of some kind of mastermind.
The up-and-coming producer, House Party pioneer, and current host of Triple J Radio's Mix Up Exclusive has packed up her turntables to tour America for the first time.
Well-known for her eclectic music tastes, intricately layered tracks and passion for curation, Agzarian has only formally recently released her own music. Despite first airing on House Party in 2009, she released her first EP, Don’t Send, in 2014. She followed her debut with Cool Sports in 2015.
We spoke to Agzarian as she began her American tour. She shared her logic for leaving House Party, what it’s like working day and night, and how much she loves hearing listeners talk about their fish dishes.
New Times: How did you begin hosting House Party?
I used to make the show behind the scenes, producing stuff at Triple J Radio. When the program House Party came to fruition, the radio people didn’t really know how to put a mix together, so I started making mixes for another host. That host quit after a year and I was so involved in the process of the show that it just made sense that I was the host. I did a demo and got the job.
I really made it my own. There’ve always been mix shows on American radio. But in Australia it was pretty old-school — track, intro, track kind of thing. So it was a big shift for a Saturday night radio show to be focused on straight up party sets.
Then I started playing weirder stuff and focused on finding new mixes. And I started doing these club shows, Mix Up Exclusives. After a bit I got exhausted by playing the same things on House Party because I have the attention span of a baby. The club shows let me get out there playing what I like, not necessarily party tracks.
You grew up with House Party, so what made you leave last year?
I just needed a new challenge. I was working full time. People would ask what I do during the day and I’d have to explain, "I work at the radio station!" because I had to put together seven hours of radio a week. And I started doing more, playing other shows and traveling. Australia is far away, so at least cutting back my hours — as much as it sucked giving up my show I loved — then I could actually do more.
If you’re busy and you’re not enjoying everything, then something has to change. I enjoyed the live element of the show. But in five or six years I’d mixed three, 40-minute mixes for like 40 weeks a year. That’s a lot of sets. I got to the point where I wasn’t even putting headphones on sometimes to mix. And when that happens, I’ve got to change. That’s not cool. The music doesn’t deserve that kind of energy. The listeners don’t [deserve that]. So I stepped off.
Do you miss House Party now that you’re gone?
It was fun. I’m still on air but not engaging as much because I’m only on air for a minute or two every hour. I do miss the live interaction of listeners calling up and telling me they cooked some really good fish while my show is on. This doesn’t quit happen with my weird club sets at night.
You’re last two EPs were both produced with DJ Swick. How is it collaborating with him? What do the two of you bring to the table together?
He’s an amazing sounds designer. We just clicked, spent a week together and made like 10 tracks. it’s good because we have similar taste but different elements. So I’m learning as a producer now that you have to take your time. I thought I'd find a sound I like, just make something quick and clean that up. But Swick is more about not stopping until the sound is right. I had to learn that some songs never come out. And some songs you’ll just hate. All that stuff I learned doing it with someone who’s done it for so much longer than I have.
What drives you to make tracks that are so intricate and layered?
It’s hard with club music because unless you have a top line reset, it’s hard to keep it engaged in an entire instrumental construct the whole time. You have to really work hard to make it interesting. So yeah, it is varied and it is thick, but I’m proud of how dense it sounds. I’m proud that people think they’re weird.
Nina Las Vegas, 10 p.m. Friday, July 24, at Stache 1920?S Drinking Den, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-449-1044, or visit stacheftl.com.