When Justin Baulé began DJing, it wasn’t cool. At just 15, he was the youngest member of Minneapolis’ underground house scene. Wide-eyed and impressionable, he dove into the rave world, soaking up all the knowledge and experience the Midwest had to offer. Fast forward about 10 years, when Baulé traveled to the West as an amateur snowboarder, ultimately reviving his passion for the decks when he landed his first Las Vegas residency at the world-(in)famous Drai’s After Hours in Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon. On hiatus from the notorious nightspot, he held residencies at the Artisan, Pure and Savile Row while he focused on transitioning from DJ to producer. On Oct. 20, Drai’s will welcome Baulé and his unique style back home.
This year you’ve held the slot as Tiësto’s opening DJ during his residency at The Joint. What are some secrets of an opening DJ?
An opening DJ is the most skilled, because you have to keep a level of energy and timing and drive, yet you can’t burn up the commercial tracks. The headliner and whoever is playing after you might play that track, so it’s not fair to do. That’s why most opening DJs have very extensive libraries and they know what they’re doing.
That is a challenge for any DJ and especially different for you because your overall sound is deeper and funkier than most.
I don’t know what it is, but really funky-type house is just what has always spoken to me. Progressive, trance—I never really liked it. Maybe it’s because my parents spoon-fed me Motown, Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass. I feel like there’s this weird acquaintance between Motown and house music. It’s that the BPM is all the same. I think that’s why I really like it. Funk and soul have just always spoken to me.
So what’s your formula when you reign over the dance floor?
I really try to create trust, that’s what it comes down to. I hate to get all scientific, but it’s like an entity you’re dealing with. Once you create that energy and that flow and that motion, whether [the crowd] likes the energy or they don’t, they can’t get away from it.
There must be an underlying goal to that energy you create.
We’re in the business of making women dance. That’s the bottom line. I love high-energy music, but some people don’t always want party [music], some people want to just kick off their shoes and get down. And not everyone just wants to get on the dance floor and pump their fist.
What makes a night fulfilling?
Those 10-15 people at the end of the night. The groove comes out at the end of my set. I’ll build up with tech house, just to get into that last deep, groovy house. I’m telling you, [the crowd] loves it; I can’t get them off the floor. I’ll have no one at the bar and 30 people on the dance floor. That’s the best part of the night. Everyone’s just grooving, and security gives you your last 5-minute call and you put on your last song, throw off the headphones and dance with everyone.
In the end, what do you take home from the experience?
It’s all about connecting. I’m not trying to be an activist but you can change someone’s day, someone’s week, someone’s month. [Opening] at Tiësto, there’s nothing more amazing than 4,000 people putting their hands up at you. When you finish your set at a festival or rave, it’s as close as you get to feeling famous. You can’t walk 10 feet without a kid coming up to you and you feel like you’re the cat’s pajamas. But the 20 people that I end my night with, that’s way more meaningful. It’s quality, not quantity to me. The funny thing, too, is they’re sober; they’re there for the music. That’s the meaningful thing.