Clearing the Air

Dave Fogg rolls back into XS

Dave Fogg has the distinction of both witnessing the city’s progression as one of the top party destinations in the world and having played a part in shaping Sin City’s club-music scene since 1987. When XS debuted on New Year’s Eve in 2008, he was the venue’s opening music director, resident DJ and was programming an EDM format back then, setting the scene for what is now standard in nearly every nightclub in the city. Following a one-year stint at the Palms as the N9NE Group entertainment director and resident DJ, he returned to XS in 2011 to once again take his place alongside international headliners as resident DJ and program director. Fogg has experienced the rise in popularity of electronic music firsthand from both the DJ booth and behind the scenes. But which does he prefer?

What are some of the biggest changes you’ve observed since returning to the XS DJ booth?

That’s a good question, because it shows how things have changed: There’s no more booth. It’s a stage, with LED walls, lasers, confetti and cryo-blasts. DJs and producers have become rock stars and act accordingly. It’s a concert now, complete with backstage antics. And I totally support this. It’s interesting to see the transition though; shortly before this you were “DJ Seldom Seen.” You were in a booth or some type of crow’s nest. The focus wasn’t on the DJ, but you knew they were there. From a Vegas perspective, when you drive down the street and see Wynn billboards for Garth Brooks and Deadmau5—it’s kind of mind-blowing.

What were your reasons for leaving XS the first time?

It was really just about an opportunity to work in a position with more duties and responsibility. Not only being involved with DJs and the administrative duties that comes with that, but also the talent, buying, marketing, management, concept development, etc. It was hard work and I learned a lot, about both business and people.

As a program director, do you see variations in the format from club to club, or does Las Vegas have a homogenous format?

The Strip largely stays with the same musical format—let’s just say electronic dance music, although I cringe when saying this. What you get now at every venue in town is a variation of it, with strong branding and marketing of artists to get that market share. Tao Group residents are trance artists like Above & Beyond and Gareth Emery. Wynn residents are electro and dubstep artists like Diplo, Skrillex and Deadmau5. Hard Rock has Pauly D, etc. It’s all sliced up, but it’s the same pie.

Why does the term “EDM” make you cringe?

I seriously put [the term] up there with catchphrases like “swag.” It’s a label that popped up only a few years ago to describe music that’s been made for close to 40 years now. I appreciate that the mainstream is now into electronic music, and also understand that they need a corporate abbreviation to relate to.

Over the years, which has changed more: the Las Vegas club scene or your personal progression as a DJ?

They are both connected. The progression of a DJ can be determined by trends in both the club and popular culture. Less than five years ago, open-format DJs were playing house, hip-hop, rock, ’80s, mash-ups, etc. Now it’s house, hip-hop, dubstep and moombahton. Your relevance in this industry is dependent upon your ability to adapt to change. If you’re not moving forward, you’re going to get left behind.

Run down your Las Vegas résumé for us, would you?

In chronological order: Whiskey Sky at Green Valley Ranch, program director and resident DJ; Hard Rock Hotel, assistant director of entertainment and resident DJ; Ra Nightclub, program director and resident DJ; Tryst Nightclub, program director and resident DJ; XS Nightclub, program director and resident DJ; N9NE Group, director of entertainment and resident DJ.

Do you recall your first Las Vegas DJ gig?

Specifically, no. For a time the nightclub industry was run almost solely independent from the casinos. There was one fully integrated company called Las Vegas Record Systems that pretty much ran the town in terms of providing DJs, sound and lighting to all the venues in the city. So any given week I would do a sports bar, strip club, wedding, LGBT bar, college party, etc. It was more like a journeyman position rather than the traditional notion of what a DJ is nowadays.

What’s been on your plate this summer?

I’m returning to music, and making more time for production makes it great. The year started off pretty good with being featured on [Diplo’s label] Mad Decent with a super-nerdy mix I did. There are some Beatport releases out there, and also some re-releases of production work I’ve done in the past with a Grammy-nominated artist involved. I’m working on music, and my style is all over the place. I’m also fortunate enough to work with some great artists. So things look pretty good.

Who is the Grammy-nominated artist?

Gregory Porter; he was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album last year. I did a deep-house song with him that’s been making a bit of resurgence. There’s also been some interest from Gilles Peterson and talk of a remix project.

Do you tailor your style to suit each venue, or do you stick to your game plan no matter what?

I change both, depending on the venue. Playing downtown is not the same as the Strip; playing out of the country is not the same as the States. Some would say that [having] a game plan is the move [to make], because it’s an extension of your brand and identity. I understand it, but honestly, that’s boring as hell.

At XS, which hat do you prefer to wear most: program director or DJ?

DJ for sure. I’d rather be onstage than in the office.