Warren Peace at Home on the Cutting Edge

The secrets to the pioneering XS DJ's longevity

Illustration by Jon Estrada

Illustration by Jon Estrada

By day, Warren White runs three businesses, is a proud husband of 16 years and father of three. But by night, as DJ Warren Peace, he shares the stage with the likes of Deadmau5, Afrojack, Laidback Luke, Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki. Peace has been the driving force behind the “Vegas sound” since 1988, beginning with his award-winning UNLV college radio show “Word Up.” A decade and a half later, in 2008, Peace created the music format for XS, one of the most successful nightclubs in the world. A self-proclaimed tech nerd, Peace beta-tested a once little-known program called Serato Scratch Live before he introduced DJs such as AM and Vice to the game-changing software.

Fresh off of his third DJ tour in Asia, Peace reflects on his accomplishments, his passion for technology and still loving his job after all these years. (Just don’t mistake his confidence for arrogance—he’s earned every stripe.)

In 1989 you had the No. 1 college radio show in the country at UNLV. How did your HipHopSite online record store and Direct Music Service record pool—a paid subscriptions service for DJs—come out of that?

I moved to KLUC in the mid ’90s with Mr. Bob and Chris Tracey with a show called “The Friday Vibe,” and became fascinated with the Internet, so I started HipHopSite, with DJ Pizzo. It started in his sister’s bedroom after she went to college, and we became the No. 1 online retailer. We opened the [brick and mortar] store in 2000 across the street from UNLV and closed in 2005 because everything was going digital. The DirectMusicService.com record pool started in 1999 with DJ Kevin Scott; I partnered in around ’04. We’re the No. 2 record pool on our way to No. 1.

Ra in Luxor was a groundbreaking nightclub in Las Vegas as well as your first major gig. What contributed to your success there?

I had access to records no one else did. We had Dave Fogg—who knew all of the obscure records and was heavy into rock and the mash-up scene before anyone even knew what that was—and Mr. Bob [currently of KVEG 97.5-FM] was a star and presence. I’d hook up Bob to his own mixer and monitor so he could see what I was playing and could cut the music out whenever he wanted to hype up the crowd. People loved it. Nobody was doing anything close to that. After Ra closed in 2005, the explosion of southern rap was taking over.

Everyone was into it, image became the priority, other nightclubs were opening, and the reality was, no one wanted a black DJ playing hip-hop. I couldn’t catch a gig at all; aside from KLUC 98.5-FM, I was out of work for almost a year. I finally took a job playing ’80s music at Poly Esther’s at the Stratosphere—humbling. I learned a lot. I knew I had to reinvent myself and prove to everyone that I wasn’t just a hip-hop DJ.

Photo by Danny Mahoney

Photo by Danny Mahoney

And you did reinvent yourself to become one of the most revered house DJs in Las Vegas. How did you do it?

Yeah, first hip-hop, then mashups being part of a production crew called the The InHumanz, now house. But I love music—period. So I had to figure out my next move. While at Poly Esther’s I was given the chance to create one of the first house-music radio shows before electronic dance music hit Vegas. So I called Dave [Fogg], and we went to work. It was called “Vibrate” on KLUC. We started with cool electro remixes of pop songs as our anchor, and then would drift into playing sounds that I was discovering listening to a lot of BBC Radio. I had gone to Wet Republic, heard Bad Boy Bill’s DJ set and it really defined the aggressive sound that I liked.

Mashups were dead, hip-hop was changing and I was really into this sound we were programming for “Vibrate.” Dave got me an audition at Tryst, so I took a chance introducing this new sound and it worked. Which ultimately led to us creating the music format together for XS.

Your DJ setup looks like the cockpit of a spaceship. You were one of the first DJs I ever saw use technology when I was once your co-pilot.

[Laughing.] My set up is crazy, I know, but I like to be at the forefront of technology. I was a beta-tester for Serato, the first on the West Coast to have it. I’ve always been passionate about using technology to further my craft. If you don’t take advantage of what’s out there you’re missing out on so much to add to your DJ sets.

The sound that you created at XS is now called the “XS Format” in certain circles. Where will you go from here?

I call it “progressive open-format sound,” that big-room XS feel, with various genres mixed in throughout the night. Music is changing at a rapid pace; I’ve never seen music move this fast. Signature sounds are copied almost immediately, subgenres become fads almost overnight, but I love the challenge. I love what I do. You have to stay with it at the speed of light. Relevancy is key. You gotta take chances, or you will undoubtedly have a lifespan as well.

Give Warren Peace a chance March 15 with Avicii and March 17 with Tommy Trash at XS.