IPod. iPad. iKon? Aaron White—better known locally as DJ Ikon—has become one of the busiest of this city’s resident DJs, holding it down regularly at Light Group properties such as Liquid Pool Lounge, 1 Oak and The Bank, among others. But before the seasoned spinner (also a sneaker-head, with his own shop, Feature Sneaker Boutique) worked his way up the ranks, he was just a kid working in a Reno record store. We catch up on his journey from vinyl to Vegas.
You’ve got a new label. How’s the production progress going?
DJ Exodus and I are doing remixes, mash-up kind of stuff just for ourselves, to give out to friends and play in the club. One day we were like, “Let’s try to make some original music.” We got accepted to this music-production school called Icon Collective, which has nothing to do with my name. It was funny, because when I was signing up, the lady was like, “You’re DJ Ikon?” and I was like, “Yup.” It’s owned by Morgan Page and Mark Knight and was pretty cool; they only take a certain number of students each semester.
How would you say your productions differ from what you are doing as a DJ?
The stuff that we are producing now is just more EDM-driven, but we’re not trying to make stuff that is like Knife Party music, or anything really crazy. We want to keep the stuff that we make very musical and very, almost house I guess you could say. … In the club I play a lot of hype party music. Our stuff will definitely work in the club, but it’s not necessarily just straight club music.
Many times, tourists won’t even notice who’s spinning for them. What defines an Ikon performance?
I’m really interactive, and I am a pretty happy person in general. I am smiling, I get on the mic and hype people up, and I try to interact with them as much as I can. You’ve seen when DJs are really animated; it’s fun, you enjoy yourself more. I want people to go [to my gigs] and have an experience.
You’ve been playing gigs in Las Vegas for about six years. How do you keep things fresh, not only for the crowd, but for your own sanity?
Traveling. I spend a lot of time playing out of the city. That definitely keeps it fresh, because you’re not necessarily playing the room or an event that you play every night. You pay more attention to the crowd, and also when I go and do something that is new, I really spend a lot of time preparing my own edits and stuff that I think will be fresh to the listener. Then I translate that to constantly staying up-to-date and fresh for Vegas.
How has the shift in the Las Vegas club scene from commercial hip-hop to electronic-dance music affected you as a DJ?
All of Las Vegas’ local DJs have had to take a more business-minded approach. We all have some people on a marketing team, whereas five to six years ago that wasn’t the case. I mean, the exposure of being in Vegas is huge. I can go to any other city in the country and spin at a really dope club just because I am a Vegas resident.
Has there been any one person who inspired you to DJ?
There’s a guy in Vegas named Josh Swissman; he was the drum and bass DJ years ago. When I was 16, I went to my first rave in Reno. I just remember watching him spin, and I had never heard drum and bass before or experienced any kind of electronic music or even a big party. So I just remember watching it and thinking, “This is incredible! This is what I want to do!”
There are some really big club bangers out here that everybody kind of has to play. How do you find balance between what you want and what everyone else wants? Or do you specifically go for what the crowd wants?
It kind of depends on the night. If it’s an industry night, I would tend to play more [popular stuff], not necessarily just your 50 Cent and Rihanna and whatnot, because industry people themselves listen to that stuff five times a week. But weekends in Vegas, they’re just people who come here and they want to know the words to the songs. They want to sing them, and they want to get drunk with their friends. From a DJ standpoint, that’s what a Vegas DJ is: You come and you dance. For the most part, tourists just want to be force-fed those pop hits. But like on an industry night? It’s great. You can definitely differ from that, you can play a lot of stuff you know people are into, like, “Pressure.”
Regarding your Feature Sneaker Boutique, why are so many DJs sneaker-heads?
I wouldn’t say that DJs are the most fashionable people, but when it comes to shoes—I don’t know why—but we all love shoes. I got into shoes once I became a DJ, and I felt that it was from being around OB-One, for instance, and some of these other guys that had these huge sneaker collections. Now I am living off shoes; it’s hilarious to me.
Do you think sneakers have replaced vinyl as what DJs collect now?
Not necessarily. … DJs are just collectors in general. We collect music, we collect sneakers. We’re almost like hoarders in a way.