Stellar—known offstage as Dave Garcia—is something of a hometown success story. The Light resident has provided support for such turntable luminaries as Alesso, Krewella, and A-Trak, and also headlines his own nights at the visually stunning nightclub. But Stellar doesn’t just orbit Las Vegas. This local DJ has also had five international tours, and has played Ultra Korea and Space Ibiza with Carl Cox. He attributes much of his success to help from Las Vegas industry heavyweights Josh Donaldson, Zee Zandi, Amy Thompson and Sol Shafer, who all played roles in the growth of Stellar’s career. Stellar recently recounted his takeoff for us. Catch him headlining Light January 28 and celebrating his label’s 100th release February 25.
What brought you to Las Vegas nine years ago?
I was throwing raves in L.A. and Southern California, and when I got out here it was the days of Empire Ballroom and Utopia. I was just kind of in a limbo position in L.A.; I had nothing really holding me there. A buddy of mine was engaged and had a house out here. He called me up—I remember sitting at a bar in Venice Beach just chilling, doing nothing like in the middle of a Tuesday. And he was like, “Hey, man, I just kicked my fiancé out. I have a three-bedroom house. Wanna move to Vegas?” A week later, I moved. But beyond that, I was coming out here for Utopia parties and stuff like that about once or twice a month, so it made sense.
How has living in Las Vegas impacted your career?
It keeps all the artists in your backyard. You’re constantly being able to shake hands with people within the industry. When I decided to become a DJ myself, having all of those relationships that I built really helped me out. Being able to have all of the top people in the industry at your disposal is a great thing.
When you made that decision to become a DJ, how did you get your start?
I was the starving musician/promoter for N9NE Group and Angel Management Group here and there, and Sol Shafer [former Palms talent buyer, now Marquee music director and an Insomniac talent buyer] gave me a shot. That was in the Perfecto days at Rain; [I] played closing sets there. Then I went to Artisan. I had a weekly residency playing after-hours.
How did you end up at Light?
I bugged Josh Donaldson [then Light Group’s VP of strategic relationships] for probably three or four years, because I respected him. One day we finally exchanged info; I would send him stuff all the time. I got a random phone call one day, and he was like, “Hey, here’s your shot. You have an audition. We’re gonna start a house night at Haze. The owners are gonna be there at this time and this date. Don’t fuck up.” I [became] a resident there for two years, and became part of the Light Group family. And then when Light opened, they brought me over there. It was definitely a pivotal point in my career that I’m super grateful for.
Do you see yourself as more of a DJ or producer?
I’m definitely a DJ before a producer. I love doing both, but I love performing. And then when it all comes together, there’s no better feeling. Holding a crowd and watching a reaction to a track that you produced is an amazing thing.
You’re a partner in Lucky Foo’s restaurant, which opened late last year. How did you get into that?
What’s cool about that is that it ties in with the music and the relationships in Vegas as well. Mike Fuller who was at N9NE Group back in the day, we became good friends. He had this restaurant venture and asked me to come aboard.
What are your favorite dishes there?
Chicken fried rice and ahi poke salad.
Did you have any influence on the menu?
I definitely got to be really close with the chef, and I’ve messed around in the kitchen with him. There’s actually an appetizer called the Stellar Chips on the menu! They’re basically wonton chips with ginger salt and a little [house-made] sauce.
I hear Lucky Foo’s has entertained some pretty exciting guests there.
Tiësto, Martin Garrix, Aoki, Borgeous, Carmen Electra, Pauly D …
You’ve had quite a ride—from rave promoter to DJ and producer to restaurant owner. What are your thoughts on Las Vegas after all of these years and careers?
I don’t think people talk as [positively] as they should about how great it is to be involved in this industry. There’s not a day where I’m bummed that I’m in Vegas, because there are always people around you that are moving forward. When you look at it like that, it’s like mad inspiration.