True, Helena Atherton is stunning. But she’s also one badass DJ. Having already conquered the Australian charts, she’s now secured one of 18 core residency spots at Drai’s Beach Club & Nightclub at the Cromwell, making her the first female headliner at Drai’s new projects. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough to make us take note, she’s signed a Sony Music management deal, hosted her own showcase at Ultra and will have a heavy festival and European presence this summer. Upon her arrival from Sydney, Vegas Seven caught up with Atherton in L.A. to chat about her upcoming residency, new music and her recent power nap in a Tokyo DJ booth. She plays at Drai’s Nightclub on May 24, 26, 30 and June 13, and Drai’s Beachclub on June 22.
How did your Drai’s residency come about?
As Drai’s team was planning their roster for the year, my American agent Rob Woo at SPIN and my manager, Jon Hanlon, were discussing where they felt I would be best suited in Vegas. Last year I had a presence at Marquee, but we started a dialogue with Drai’s. They put a proposal together, and I couldn’t be more excited. It feels like a perfect fit, and it’s cool to have locked in a residency at the hottest new club in town!
Las Vegas is kind of in the midst of a DJ craze right now. What sets your sound apart?
I believe diversity is the point at Drai’s; I have more shows than any of the [other] residents, and I think it’s because they know I can also be quite a versatile DJ. I can support the likes of Eric Prydz and Showtek, but can also obviously hold my own in my main-room headlining gigs.
It’s also a good sign that they approached every other DJ and asked them if they’d be happy with my support, and every single one said, “Yes, without a doubt.” As for my sound, I love big drops and creating moments and atmosphere. I play a lot of progressive and big vocal tracks, but tend to lean toward ones with bigger drops and those that are a bit harder, because that’s what gets me personally going more.
What do you have in the works, production-wise?
I’ve had five releases out this year already, and am just finishing up a new track called “Raven.” It’s a big, driving instrumental. While I really love big vocal tracks, I love the big, stronger, dirty instrumentals as well. My production will always reflect that, and I don’t stick to one or the other—I really like mixing it up.
What was it like taking center stage during Ultra with your Helena & Friends party?
We initially discussed it about six months ago. I’ve been playing a lot in Miami and getting a great reaction. I love Miami and my fan base there, so when it came to music week we discussed doing my own party with the Opium Group. To be honest, it was quite a ballsy move to be taking on people like Kaskade and Hardwell right in the middle of Ultra weekend. I really wondered if I was ready for that, but sometimes you just have to take a chance whether you’re ready or not, and it really couldn’t have been a better party.
Did being female make it more of a challenge to break into the electronic space?
Yes, of course there were challenges. I get asked this question a lot and there obviously is still a lack of top female talent. I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of female DJs in the market—there are actually a lot. There’s a lack of females, though, at the top end of the industry.
You have Nervo, Nervo, Nervo … and Krewella. Everyone asks, “What’s going on, why is this?” I am almost sick of talking about it, because I don’t think it does females any good to just keep addressing it. There is a lack of top female talent in almost every industry. It’s up to girls to go out there and change that, though. You can’t sit here saying it’s not fair and have a cry about it; I say, put out a No. 1 hit and earn your place. If you want it, go out, work for it and earn your place.
I have to ask: Is it true that you fell asleep in a DJ booth in Tokyo?
That is very true. I had been DJing for three nights straight, and flying in straight from America, doing 10,000-person capacity shows with no sleep, and this was the fourth show of the tour. I was just standing in the DJ box and had 10 minutes before I had to start playing. My eyes just closed. I sat down, I turned to the promoter and said, “I’m sorry, I need to sleep.” I shut my eyes and slept for 10 minutes before he woke me up and said, “Are you going to play now?” I was like, “Yeah, OK. We can go now.”
And you delivered?
Yes. It was a great show actually.
Keep up with Helena—if you can: Follow @DJHelena on Twitter.
The complete list of resident DJs for Drai’s also includes: 12th Planet, 3lau, Adventure Club, Arty, Borgeous, DJ Irie, DVBBS, Eric Prydz, MakJ, Quintino, Project 46, Showtek, Sick Individuals, Sidney Samson, Ummet Ozcan, Vinai and Warren Peace. About half of the 18 turntablists have moved over from Marquee, XS and Light, while the rest will embark on their first Las Vegas residency.