Brett Rubin Mixes Things Up in the Underground


The best dance floors are increasingly being found in less likely locales, such as in the middle of the high desert or poolside as the sun rises after the Electric Daisy Carnival. Brett Rubin throws those kinds of parties. After 15 years as a DJ, Rubin is now spending more of his time in the studio as well as focusing on creating events that bring music out from behind nightclub walls. But Rubin will once again get behind the decks when After after-hours moves into its new home at 1923 Bourbon & Burlesque in Mandalay Bay, as well as Norhtern California’s Northern Nights Music Festival the third week in July.

You’ve had an extensive history in the Las Vegas scene. What are your impressions of its growth and its affect on local DJs?

Back when I first started playing in Vegas, there was after-hours and maybe a weekday with good house music; everything else was mash-ups and hip-hop. We were still doing the underground stuff, especially the after-hours at Empire Ballroom. We worked to build an audience for the music, and eventually, it kind of came around into the mainstream scene.

[Today, clubs are] importing so many headliners from out of the country and out of state, and a lot of venues are using one or two local guys as their support and giving them all the shifts. And they are spending so much on the headliners that the local guys aren’t making the money that some of them deserve. A lot of these local guys can put on just as good a show as some of these people who are getting a huge amount of money. So, I think that’s a battle for a lot of the local guys, who really have to do a lot of our own work and make our own opportunities, throwing our own events in warehouses and in the desert. But it brings us together a lot more too.

What was your path to the DJ booth?

I started DJing in the late ’90s, and I threw a rave in Tucson. It was my first event that I promoted and organized. After that, I really had the itch to learn how to do what these guys were doing. I was 19 years old in 1999, and I bought a set of turntables, a mixer and some speakers from someone with some crates of records that came with it—mostly hip-hop—and started going to the record store and digging for vinyl and kind of developing my sound. At the time it was dark trance, I think by today’s standards would be considered more progressive.

How did you end up in Las Vegas?

After college, I picked up my first residency in Chicago in 2002, and played for a couple of years there. I then took some time off from spinning before I moved to Vegas at the end of 2005, and worked in marketing for the Light Group and eventually for Vegas Group Entertainment, doing some hosting and throwing events at places such as Tao and Privé. But after about a year in Vegas, after I left Light Group, I really had the itch to get back to DJing. I would sit at my desk at work, and all I wanted to do was download music. Eventually, I bought some new equipment and messed around again, and Empire Ballroom was the first place to let me play. The rest is kind of history. Every day you wake up and do what you love to do, it’s a good day.

Now that you’re starting to focus on production more, what vibe or sound are you going for?

My style of production is in tune with what I play, a lot of tech house, techno and deep house—very groovy. I’ve definitely slowed my BPMs down quite a bit over the years. Going to desert parties such as Burning Man and other festivals is where I get my inspiration from, so my music in the studio tends to gravitate toward that direction.

What do you enjoy about the culture of those desert festivals and parties as opposed to the nightclub world?

With the clubs it all revolves around money and being seen, and there’s a lot of unoriginality in the music in the clubs. A lot of these DJs—granted they made some of the music—but you know they’re all playing the same set and they’re all playing the same tracks. The stuff that we [underground DJs] do isn’t about the money or the fame; it’s about the music and it’s about having a good time and coming together. Musically, the stuff that we play at after-hours and out in the desert is more of a story. It has more creativity. If you really understand the music, then it’s a lot more meaningful than regurgitating the Top 10 Beatport tracks over and over.

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