Masterson’s Plan

Actor and entrepreneur Chris Masterson also explores life as DJ Chris Kennedy

Best recognized for his role as Francis on Malcolm in the Middle, Chris Kennedy Masterson wears a lot more hats than you’d think. The nightclub owner, actor, DJ and talent manager with a cast of brothers equally as elbow-deep in multiple entertainment endeavors in Las Vegas and beyond might just be building a life that’s as storied as his middle name. Vegas Seven tracked down the Los Angeles resident as he returned from the Sundance Film Festival to chat about his endeavors under the moniker “DJ Chris Kennedy,” and his new biweekly residency at the freshly reopened Body English, next appearing March 1.

When you attend Sundance is it to work as a DJ, to oversee your nightclub during a busy time or to wear your acting hat?

I was mainly at Sundance as a DJ, but because I have a club there, there was that work. Opening weekend for me is usually the busiest as a DJ, and then closing weekend is the second busiest. Midweek I get to jump into the club and do some of the fixing, but I had to play some dates out of town, so I just ended up leaving on Wednesday and didn’t go back.

As an actor you are credited as Chris Masterson, but you DJ under the name Chris Kennedy. Why separate the two? Why not consolidate fan bases?

The vast majority of “celebrity DJs” … they suck, you know? I really like the art form of DJing. If I build a name, I hope it’s because people like the music that I play, like the way I perform. I decided to just change the name a little bit and not get lumped into the celebrity DJ thing.

When did you add DJ to your résumé?

I started DJing in 2006. For about two years before that, I DJ’d in my bedroom pretty much every day for myself. I enjoyed the act of DJing almost like playing a video game, only the challenge wasn’t getting to the next level, but figuring out how to do this one scratch, or mixing two songs I didn’t think could go together—just all these little puzzles. I started playing really teeny little gigs. I would play in a little local bar, and it truly was just for the experience, and I’d be nervous playing for 25 people. As I did it more, I started to think about, “Why did these people stop dancing earlier?” and “What made them start dancing again?” and “What did I do technically to elicit a response?” “What was the thing I did technically that made everyone look at me like I was the anti-Christ?”

You’re known for being an open-format DJ, but is there any one style that you hold a little closer to your heart?

I’d say there are several styles close to my heart, and they’re not unheard of. When I started DJing, mostly what I played was old-school hip-hop, because it was my favorite genre at the time. I also really like rock, and I think rock is about to make a big rebound in the club scene, so I’ve started experimenting with more rock in my sets, and I find people are really responsive. Really, I love all genres.

I think of an open-format DJ as a person who’s supposed to go into a room, look around and see what people are responding to, and then give them the best set within that genre or group of genres. As an open-format DJ, I just feel like I’m supposed to be able to play everything really well. You see a huge bachelorette party come in and you gauge their age and demographic, and you go, “Oh you know what, these girls are going to love some ’80s rock, but how do I play that and mix it into a house set? Now I’m going into hip-hop; how do I keep that going on and make sure these guys on the right who are buying bottles don’t leave?” To me, that’s the puzzle and that’s the fun of the whole thing.

How does the vibe at Body English differ from other Las Vegas nightclubs?

Have you seen it since it reopened? The venue is so great! It was always my favorite spot, especially back in the day. The bones feel the same, but everything is brand-new. I think they went with this idea that DJs have become a bigger deal in the last year, so they took the booth down from the balcony and put it on a stage, right on the dance floor, so you’re staring at everyone, and they’re staring at you while you’re playing. That communication is really important, so it’s fun to rock the room there. And the crowd’s really cool. They’ve really been killing it.

They have a late night, after-hours party-type of a feel, which is kind of cool. They’re also doing cool stuff: They want their DJs incorporating rock and indie and indie-electro, but they’re also aware of the fact that it’s Vegas and people come from all over the world, and they want to dance to music they’re familiar with. The DJs are able to merge those two worlds, which is really fun.

There’s just such cool talent going through the room, and people are noticing. It’s not a knock on the other clubs, because I like so many clubs in Vegas; there’s really great stuff out there … But to answer your question, Body English is kind of marching to their own beat at the moment.

What’s your favorite exhibit in the Hard Rock?

Matt Sorum [of Guns ‘n Roses] has a motorcycle in there, and I really love that bike. Besides that, I really love the quotes that they have on the railings in the elevators. And now since they’ve expanded, there are always more elevators, so I’m finding new quotes every time I go there.

Many DJs seem to make production their next step. What about you?

I think it’s a natural progression; it makes sense. I work on Ableton, and about half of what I play in my sets is my own edits and my own re-drums of songs. I like to take a lot of songs that people love but can’t necessarily dance hard to, and I like to make those re-drums. I think that the production I do and the beats that I make, I’m going to wait until I find them mind-blowing myself to start bringing them out. Right now I just do them for myself at home, like a closet producer.

Is there a song in your rotation that you secretly wish you had produced?

A flash answer would be yes. I hear songs all the time that my first thought is, “Goddamn, I wish I had made this song. This is incredible!” It’s a cool time for music, because there are these genres that kind of pop up: It was dubstep for a while, it seems like now it’s trap for a while … I like when more mainstream producers take newer genres and start incorporating them into the music that everyone already wants to hear.

It’s also a cool time for music because of accessibility and social networking and things like that. I get to hear stuff that some kid in Alaska made, and some kid in Brooklyn made the track that’s playing after it, and then some super-producer in Sweden made the track after that. Circling back, I get exposed to stuff from every walk of life that I kind of wish I had produced and hope to someday do.

What is next for the both of you—Chris Kennedy and Chris Masterson?

I have some cool places that I’m getting to play regularly, some really fun rooms: 207 in San Diego, Studio Paris in Chicago—which is one of my favorites. Vegas, as a platform, I think it’s my favorite. There’s not a lot of other places where you get to DJ for, like, German people and French people and people from Ohio and cool kids from L.A. and New York and Miami all on the same floor, and you get to figure out how to make that work.
I have a DJ management company called Table Manners, and our roster is one of my favorites out there. We have so many cool DJs and so many cool residencies for the company, and that’s been expanding so rapidly that getting to play with that has been really fun. My company represents me as a DJ, as well, so those two horizons are kind of linked. That’s most of it, and I’m just going to keep expanding on everything going forth.