As We See It

DJ Tina T on beats, outreach and proving she’s not a nightclub prop

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DJ Tina T is spinning good music and good works in 2012.
Photo: Dustin Downing

Although the concept of a female DJ might confuse some newbies to the nightlife scene, that glass ceiling was shattered long ago. Marquee resident DJ Tina T is living proof, with more than 13 years of turning the tables under her belt. In between her busy touring schedule (which included spinning throughout last weekend’s Winter X Games in Aspen), the Washington native took the time to discuss her summer DJ camp, the female DJ debate and more.

So you’re the current resident DJ at Marquee’s Library. If you had your pick, would that be your choice room?

I think that there’s just different moods, sometimes I really would love to do the main room and have that crazy intensity and do a house set, but then there’s other times when I really enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the Library and being able to play stuff that I can never play anywhere else, you know? It’s a really unique room, so it goes both ways.

What do you get to play? What is your style?

I would say I get to show a little bit more of my musical diversity, as opposed to what I’m actually playing in the clubs. When it’s a dance floor and a club crowd, I definitely play a different set than I would in the Library, but the Library allows me to dig into ’90s rock and the grunge era and just a lot of the bands that I grew up listening to, like Nirvana and Offspring and Rage Against the Machine and Sublime and Pearl Jam ... I would say the set that I do at the Library, that’s probably the only place that I do a set like that anywhere right now. Everywhere else is more like a typical party rocking club set, I would say it’s 60 percent house music mixed in with hip-hop and ’80s and a little bit of rock.

You’ve been in the Vegas nightlife scene for quite some time. What’s been your most memorable Vegas moment outside the booth?

Probably seeing DJ AM at Rain, when he was doing his residency there on Friday night. That was incredible. The videos they put together and the intro and everything. Pretty sweet.

Did Las Vegas help your career?

I think so. Definitely. I think that big cities in general, coming from whether it be Los Angeles or Las Vegas, people like that, they use it for promotion. Las Vegas just rings a bell for any clubgoers, like when they see Las Vegas they just think “party,” so it’s not a bad look to be a DJ coming from Las Vegas, I feel like people are expecting a good time, a crazy time.

The DJ scene seems to be overwhelmingly dominated by males. What’s your take on that?

I think it’s all changing, I think right now is a really unique time where you’re going to start seeing a lot more females breaking through ... I think we’re ready for the next female Tiësto or Deadmau5 or any other huge, mainstream artist ... I’ve always been a big advocate of seeing women and men just on the same playing field, so I feel like it’s starting to go in that direction and I’m excited, you know? Just to see more women break through and show people that it’s not just the boys anymore.

Do you have anybody in mind who you see as that next Tiësto or Deadmau5?

I don’t have anyone specific in mind.

Do you get that question all the time? About female DJs?

I get a lot of people that will tell me I’m the first female DJ they’ve ever seen, and I just tell them that they should probably get out more. Because if I’m the first female DJ that you’ve ever seen, then you must be living under a rock. These are middle-aged men telling me this, you know what I mean? Which is understandable, like, I get it. It’s a new concept, it throws people off when they see a girl behind the turntables.] A lot of the time they think I’m just there as a prop, they literally think that I’m faking it and that the turntables are not real and the music is coming from another source in the club. It sounds crazy, right? I know, it’s really insulting! This happens at the Library! Drunk guys come up to me ... they say the funniest things like, “So, is all this music pre-programmed from a computer somewhere in the club?” Sometimes I’m just a smartass with people and I say, “Yep, I just stand here. You want me to check your coat?” When people say that I can’t help to think that if I was a man back there, I just don’t think they would think the same thing. You know what I mean? When people see a girl they just assume you’re just there to look good or whatever, but you know, this is 13 years in now. It’s definitely insulting when people think I’m faking it or not really doing anything. I like to educate people, I don’t really think it’s their fault that they don’t know.

You started a summer camp for kids to learn to DJ, Camp Spin-Off. What was your inspiration?

I went to summer camp growing up; every summer I picked a different camp to go to. Most of them ended up being Christian camps because those were the ones that did the coolest stuff, but I just have so many fond memories of summer camp that stayed with me and ... how did I come up with it? (laughs) Let’s see, there’s DJ conventions that the record labels do where they bring all the DJs together, in like Jamaica, and ... They throw money at them and spoil them to try and get them to play their records. So I was thinking, “That would be so cool to get all the DJs together in a summer camp,” and then I took it a step further. ... That would just be like belligerent party drunk whatever, so I was like maybe it would be cool to do a summer camp where kids can learn to DJ. And it just kind of started evolving from there [consider cutting for space: and I started to think about liabilities and insurance and you know, I just started to take it seriously.

What sort of logistics were involved?

It really started out in my friend’s living room as a whatever conversation that evolved and then I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and thinking about it. I come from an event planning and entertainment background, so I really enjoy putting together things like that. And I got a degree in marketing, so all of those things combined really made me want to launch this project. Just knowing that these kids are going to have those kinds of memories for the rest of their life and that I would be a part of it is just a nice feeling.

Well it sounds like a really fantastic service that you’re providing to those kids.

I think I get more out of it ... sometimes I wonder who’s having more fun, you know what I mean? ... That’s the best week of the year for me.

As it’s coming up, can you say anything about this year’s camp?

This is the third year already that the camp’s going to happen and we’re going to increase it to 100 people. We have Samantha Ronson coming back to speak because she was awesome last year and she told really good stories and everyone loved her. It’s so hard, because I have things on the tip of my tongue that are yet to be confirmed, but they’re 90 percent there, so I can’t. All I can say is that it’s going to be bigger, better and hands down squash all the other years. The best part is that we get a lot of return kids, so everyone knows each other, the counselors, the kids. We’ve already got a waiting list and we’re really excited.

How involved are you in the camp while it’s in operation?

I am the camp director, so I’m kind of like coordinating all of the pieces. I guess almost like a host? When the kids get there there’s a lot of announcements and things that go on, and getting them registered and together with their cabins, and then we do a ton of icebreakers and group activities. I’ll lead nature hikes or campfires, it’s almost like if you were on a cruise; you have a cruise director that’s constantly telling you what’s going on and the next thing and the schedule for the day. That’s kind of my role throughout the week.

Are any past campers out there trying to land a show?

Yeah, we have kids that are doing gigs. We have a lot of kids from the Boys and Girls Club in Las Vegas that came to camp and are now doing their school dances and things like that. It’s really fun to keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter, because they’ll talk about, like, “Tonight’s my first DJ gig and I’m really nervous,” and then you’ll see all the other kids from camp, like, “Good luck!” A lot of them have continued on to do things, and I keep in touch with their parents and recommend equipment and things like that. And they come from all over the world, last year we had a ton of kids from Vegas, California, Chicago, Iowa, and then we had a kid from Barcelona, too, so it’s starting to go international, which is great. My goal long-term is to be able to do one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast.

Do you have any other projects that you’re working on for 2012?

I do, and once again it’s one of those “until it’s for sure confirmed.” I’m working on a new mix tape … my style kind of has changed over the last few years into more electronic music, so it’s going to reflect that. I’m doing a lot of stuff with Red Bull, we have a lot of projects in the works. A lot of community-based outreach things, I think, is my goal for 2012—getting out and doing positive things.

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