Looking at Thom Svast—the yogi, rock climber and barefoot enthusiast—one wouldn’t guess that the Chicago native is a DJ with a past that included drug abuse who once led a deteriorating “rockstar lifestyle.” After learning the hard way he needed a change, he’s made a 180-degree turn. He put his DJ career on hold, and took on a position as brand manager of tobacco-free nightlife companies Sen5es and Coll3ctive. Everyday, Svast combines his experience in music, nightlife, and personal victories to produce Vegas’ hippest and healthiest parties.
You were a smoker almost all your life. How did you quit?
Cold turkey. I was tired of waking up smelling like a cat just shit in my mouth. I couldn’t breathe and I’m an active person. Its not sexy, it’s not cool.
The Sen5es campaign promotes “feeling your social life.” How do you prove that being smoke-free is sexy?
It’s showing both the DJ and people that go out that you can go to a great party and not smoke. People look up to certain people; Las Vegas is all about the industry, it makes this city go. Were trying to convey a message to the club owners and management that they can be smoke free and successful.
Our concerns are the employees, DJs, bartenders, the cocktail waitresses. Nightlife is their career. If they’re nonsmokers, being in a smoke-filled nightclub for one hour is like smoking 2-10 cigarettes. It’s not fair for non-smokers who get emphysema, cancer, all the side effects.
Why do you think Vegas hasn’t banned smoking in clubs like other cities have done?
There’s this myth that club owners and managers think that smokers spend more money. It’s not true. Nightlife is gonna thrive with or without. If it is smoke-free, maybe more people will go to the club. The revenue has been proven to go up in some of these cities because smokers take up bar space; cubic feet are priceless in a nightclub. Smokers stand at the bar and take up space. Nonsmokers don’t wanna stand there. But unfortunately, some people are blind to trying other things.
How have venues been reacting to the Sen5es and Coll3ctive campaign missions?
Sometimes we get laughed at. Or we get, “Wow, that’s a really cool idea.” Or “Yeah, let’s do this.” Sometimes we’ll have a little bit of each. Because everything we’re doing has a progressive change on society, you can never lose, you can never fail with that. But everything we’ve done so far has shown growth and profit at the bar.
Sen5es, Coll3ctive and the LGBT party Crush are part of the government-funded social enterprise Rescue Social Change Group. What does the 5 in Sen5es stand for?
Five senses are affected through smoking. Coll3ctive [the 18 and up party] has a three in it, standing for art, music and fashion. Keeping the lettering and numbering is a part of our concept.
Booking alternative DJs such as Le Castle Vania and DiDi of Brazilian Girls also sets your events apart.
I love that our DJs keep it underground, keep it real, keep it artistic. I appreciate what these mega-clubs are doing with these mega-DJs, but they come here and they’re playing commercial sets.
Where do you stand with your own DJ career?
Music is never gonna go away. I’m working on a solo album, two side projects and a handful of remixes that will all come out next year. I’m taking time off from playing to concentrate on what I’m doing here.
You are obviously very passionate about the project. What ignites it?
I’ve learned to care through the abuse of my own. I learned the hard way and that’s the greatest lesson in life. Life is the greatest teacher. We are all freethinking spirits, free-living spirits. We have a right to do what we want, but in the process, don’t harm the people around you, and that’s where the passion exists, I want to see society healthy and happy.
I’ve had so many great opportunities and taken so much from the universe in my life, and all I did was take and take and take. My life became really ego-based and it changed a lot in the past few years. I’ve realized things in life, and I want to give back to the universe.