Wax assassin Parker Hellman (a.k.a. DJ Spair) has been in the game for more than two decades. He’s lived through its evolution, having lugged crates of records to gigs in his native Bay Area in the ’90s and also rolled with the technological times, converting to the contemporary laptop setup. The lack of technical skill displayed by some of today’s biggest names, however, has had Hellman and his cohorts craving a return to basics. Enter White Label Thursdays, a new weekly party co-founded by Hellman at the Sayers Club in SLS that celebrates vinyl, old-school hip-hop, funk, soul and all the scratching, mixing and beat juggling that comes with it.
You moved to Las Vegas in 2008. How has the club scene changed in that time?
The clubs didn’t really book as many headlining DJs as they do now. Of course, the EDM scene wasn’t as huge. There were a lot more resident DJs getting shine. You could come to this city and have a little reputation and be DJing in a club and a booking agent from another club could see you and say, “You’re really good, let me book you over here.” That doesn’t happen any more for the local guys. [Today], it’s all about getting the bigger EDM acts.
So where does a DJ like yourself and White Label Thursdays fit in?
White Label Thursdays is a break from the norm. We’re not trying to do the turn-up. We don’t have a bunch of lasers and smoke machines. It’s a classic hip-hop party, but we’re also exploiting other genres as well. We could go into ’80s new wave or ’70s funk and soul. It’s not confined to what you would hear in a club. We’re really trying to put an emphasis on skill. There are a lot of DJs now that aren’t DJs. I even saw Chumlee was DJing.
In Chum’s defense, he learned to DJ at Las Vegas’ Blend Institute.
Did he? I didn’t know that. My friend owns Blend.
He might be a rare exception.
Right. But, yeah, it’s a lot easier now for people to get into DJing because of the digital age. DJs aren’t having to go to the store and buy records like we used to 10 years ago. I’ve met DJs in this town that started DJing last year and they’ve already got [gigs] four nights a week. A lot of DJs now, they kind of rush into it. It’s more image driven, especially in the club scene, where it’s all about the whole show—let’s have bottle service, let’s have go-go dancers. The music is secondary.
So who’s your target audience for White Label Thursdays?
25 and up. People who can appreciate the older music. Not saying the younger people can’t appreciate it, but that’s our main demographic.
Why did you choose the Sayers Club and not, say, somewhere Downtown that already has a built-in alternative audience?
There’s a Sayers Club in L.A., and they’ve been about doing things that are cutting edge. [Sayers Club founder] Jason Scoppa’s a hip-hop head, and [White Label Thursdays co-founder] Kozmoe [Alonzo] pitched a bunch of ideas to him. He wasn’t interested until Kozmoe said, “Let’s do a hip-hop night with vinyl.” I wanted to really showcase the turntablist side of DJing, because that’s something that’s really important, but doesn’t get its credit. The amount of time it takes to learn how to mix could take a couple of months, but to learn how to do certain scratches and beat juggle could take years. The first night, we had Presto One and the start of his set was him scratching over an instrumental for a minute and the crowd was going nuts. That’s what we want to show, that DJing is more than pumping your fists.