Marc Jay
ABOUT MARC JAY
Marc Jay is the man in the middle of the action - the guy with the best table, the most access - living the life that others only dream of. Here you will follow Marc behind the velvet ropes as he mingles and mixes with the most elite in Las Vegas. From nightlife to fashion, from music to events, this is where you'll meet the VIPs who shape Sin City.

Interview with Crossover Owner Nick Sakai

posted on 02.25.2011
Nick Sakai Interview

Marc Jay: It’s Saturday evening, it’s 7 o’clock and most stores are probably closing right now across America. I’m standing in Crossover and there’s a little line outside and the shop is busy. I’m here with the man that makes it all happen, Mr. Nick. How are you, sir?

Nick Sakai: I’m doing okay. Good to see you Marc Jay.

Marc Jay: I know nothing about this store; I know it’s yourself and Mr. DJ Vice but how long has this shop been here and how long you have been in the retail business.

Nick Sakai: Crossover has been around for about two years now. Our first store is based in Santa Barbara, California. We opened it, kind of on a whim; neither of us had ever done retail before. We kind of just jumped at a freak opportunity that was thrown at us and kind of learned to roll with the punches, as you will. It worked and two years into it we got offered to come to Vegas. So we opened in Vegas about seven weeks ago now and we’re pretty excited to be here at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Marc Jay: You are known for selling sneakers, but you don’t just sell sneakers. So who picks out your items and how do you decide what to sell and what not to sell?

Nick Sakai: Myself and DJ Vice do all the buying for the store. Basically we wanted a sneaker store, but we wanted a little more. We couldn’t find more than just sneakers in the sneaker stores that we'd go to. So what we wanted to do was complete the outfit. Complete the look. So we do have a lot of clothes ranging from casual t-shirts, tanks in the summer time to the more dressed up stuff you can wear out at night. It’s pretty much the look that both Vice and myself live our day to day lives in. It’s that casual dressed up look; dressed up enough to go out at night but definitely dressed down with that urban feel. You know the sneakers kind of being the star of the outfit I guess.

Marc Jay: Obviously everyone knows DJ Vice. He’s one of my favorite DJ’s and a fantastic entertainer. What was your background before you got into retail?

Nick Sakai: Well, not many people believe me, but my background was actually in wedding and event planning. For both of us, Vice and I, this is the first time ever doing retail. It’s been educational, it’s been fast, it’s been a lot but it’s been fun too. It’s been working and that’s the most exciting part. For me, I came from doing events and mainly weddings at a country club in Montecito California.

Marc Jay: How does a wedding coordinator and a famous DJ get together and come up with a sneaker store?

Nick Sakai: I guess they don’t. I mean the way we met was completely by chance. I was actually in Las Vegas and Vice was in Vegas working; I was just out here on vacation. I flew home to Santa Barbara and he was actually on the same flight flying to Santa Barbara for a gig. We didn’t know each other but we happened to sit right next to each other on that flight. During the 45 minute flight we struck up conversation based on the fact that we were wearing some similar sneakers. We kind of just hit it off and by the time we landed we exchanged information and decided we were going to pursue opening our own sneaker store. It was pretty crazy.

Marc Jay: What is it with DJ’s and sneakers? I talk to so many DJ’s that are fascinated by sneakers and have like 100 to 200 pairs. What is it about sneakers and DJ’s that they seem to go hand in hand?

Nick Sakai: Well fashion and music are already tied together hand in hand. I’d say within that, the DJ world and the sneakers are very tight knit. It’s because I’d say most DJ’s have a background of hip hop coming up and playing house parties. It was the fashion that’s been around since the 80s; as the vinyl thing kind of exploded that’s the same time the Jordan’s and the Nike’s and all those shoes were kind of exploding at the same time. Within those radio worlds, within those house party worlds, within the hip hop worlds, it was very common to find sneakers. So now a lot of those guys that are now pretty big main stream DJ’s playing all these big clubs in Vegas, they’re pretty lucky because they still get to rock the same style. And that’s kind of what we’re bringing here at Crossover.

Marc Jay: Some people name the store different names because it’s a bit complicated for the average English person, like myself. But where did the name come from and how did you come up with Crossover?

Nick Sakai: It’s got a few meanings. The name was really important to us. We wanted it to have meaning we didn’t want to just choose a name and hang a sign and that would be it. So the name Crossover kind of has multiple meanings. To me, it means mostly that the trend that we have in our store that we’re selling (the sneaker trend) it crosses over to so many different types of people. Age ranges, ethnicity, and race. You can have dads and kids looking at the same shoes in our store which is something, to me, I would have never gone to the store with my dad and shopped when I was younger. Also, it’s a sport reference. Crossover is a basketball move. We do a lot of retro sport apparel in here. The Nike stuff we sell is all the old school Jordan, Charles Barkley, Penny Hardoway type stuff. So it has a sport feel to it too. Third, it’s the name of one of Vice’s and my favorite hip hop songs; EPMD’s Crossover.

Marc Jay: I notice in your store we’re standing right near the DJ booth; a very important part of the store. How often do DJ’s come in and spin? What DJ’s do come in here?

Nick Sakai: All the time. You just missed one actually. Generally the weekends is when it makes the most sense to have the in here just because that’s when the hotel and the retail area is the busiest. But Vice, whenever he is in town, he’s in the store. What’s cool about his work schedule is that he doesn’t have to go to work until midnight so he gets to spend a lot of his time in the store, hanging out with the customers, and DJ-ing. Just giving them that experience. A lot of customers don’t get to experience the nightlife aspect of what he does but can see it here in the store. Also, having been in Vegas for 11 years, Vice has so many connections within the DJ and nightlife community so we have been getting a ton of support from various DJ’s. DJ Toma, DJ Gusto have all been coming in and just been playing when they’re free.

Marc Jay: It’s funny because I think I told you when I used to go to a record store called Black Market Records, years ago in London. They sold coffee and Danishes and it was like a meeting place for DJ’s and people interested in music. I think this place is turning into the same thing. People interested in fashion and music. It’s almost a hangout place where people come on the weekends.

Nick Sakai: You know one thing that excites the both of us the most about doing this and the concept that we kind of wanted to bring from the beginning was not just to sell shoes and clothes off the rack. We wanted to create an experience for the customers. That’s why we have the DJ booth in the store, that’s why we give away free music to everybody, not just paying customers. We want everyone to come into the store and have a good time regardless of whether or not they are buying. Ultimately at the end of the day, someone that leaves here happy is more prone to come back. It’s just the experience more than anything we’re really trying to share because it’s fun for us.

Marc Jay: I notice you sell other people’s lines but you do have your own line of t-shirt’s and some other stuff. Who designs and comes up with the creative for this stuff?

Nick Sakai: Like I said we’re playing catch up with this whole thing as we’re going. So right now we’re doing it all ourselves. We’re designing it, we’re printing it and we’re putting it on the shelves and selling it. That is an area of Crossover that we’re really looking to expand on is creating the Crossover brand so people can come in and take it home with them.

Marc Jay: If I had a sneaker store and record store and I could put it in any casino in Vegas I would actually pick the Cosmopolitan but you’ve picked it. How did you pick such a cool hotel? Because the demographic here is young, it’s a mixed crowd it’s a perfect location you got here. How did you come about finding this space?

Nick Sakai: There was definitely a lot of luck involved. But, again with Vice having been so connected in this town for so long and with the nightclub Marquee being built next door they were the ones actually reached out to us and let us know, not only that there was space available, but what this hotel was going to be about. So we got very lucky that we knew about it early and we are excited to be here. Relevance wise, timing wise and location wise one of the best spots we could have ended up at in the country.

Marc Jay: 20,000 people a day probably pass your shop window. That’s pretty impressive.

Nick Sakai: The foot traffic is pretty incredible. Sales at the end of the day are great. For me the most exciting thing that I have seen in the 6 or 7 week we have been here is just the foot traffic. People walking through the hotel, people walking through the store, people talking about the hotel and just the buzz about the hotel, that’s been the most exciting part for me.

Marc Jay: Looking at some of the prices, it’s very reasonable. We’re in a 5 start hotel but you can pick up a t-shirt for 20 bucks. Your sneakers start out quite low as well. Was that done on purpose?

Nick Sakai: No it wasn’t. We have a lot of limited edition product. Our Nike shoes are shoes Nike doesn’t even sell in their own store so they aren’t found in malls or major retailers. Our value is really in the product that we have. So the fact that we have this limited edition product I don’t have to bother marking it up or anything I just want to get it out like normal. To be honest, it was always hard for me to shop in Vegas. There are so many cool stores here and so many brands I wanted but everything was so pricey. Now being on the other end it’s one of my favorite things about being in the store. People come in all the time and comment how excited they are that our prices are actually affordable. That stuff is cheap and that it’s a lot less than they thought it would be. So it’s pretty cool to see.

Marc Jay: I do notice that there is a sneaker from PlayStation that you’re selling. What is it and how much is it?

Nick Sakai: The PlayStation sneaker is $3,000. The reason why that one is so much is because they’re only 150 made. The 150 that were made were given out to the Sony execs and the NBA players who were in the game. Some how some way we got out hands on one. Never been worn, brand new box. We have it more on display than anything, but if somebody wants it then that’s about the going rate.

Marc Jay: So 5 years down the line I want to see a lot more of these stores, is that the plan? If so, what cities will you be going next?

Nick Sakai: It’s definitely one of the plans. This whole thing has been a whirlwind for us. This is so new and we’re really trying to figure this out now. But it is opening and has the potential to open so many doors for us. I would love to expand I would love to have more stores. I would love to have a brand I would love to have our website doing really well. I don’t know right now, it’s tough. Being in the Cosmopolitan, being in Las Vegas we’re on such a big stage it’s tricky as to which cities we can go to. I’m open to going anywhere; I’ve said that since day one. I’ll take this thing anywhere it needs to go. We’ll see, I’d love to have more, where exactly? I’m not sure yet.

Marc Jay: Last thing, tell people how they can find the website and any information on how they can get a hold of Crossover.

Nick Sakai: The website is www.crsvr.com. We do have an online store and we do have our music online as well available for free download. Again, if you’re in Las Vegas we’re in the Cosmopolitan hotel on the retail level. There are only 9 stores here. If you’re in California we’re right on State Street in the heart of downtown. That’s pretty much it. Who knows what’s going to come next.

Marc Jay: I’m telling you, if you’re in Vegas you have to check out the store because there is almost a club within a club within a store. Very unique to describe. There’s music, there’s DJ’s, there’s beautiful people so do come and check it out. Nick, thank you so much for joining us on Clubplanet, best of luck and I’ll see you very soon. 

Nick Sakai: Alright Marc Jay, I appreciate you coming out. Thank you very much!

Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter! Click here to become a fan of Inside Sin City with Marc Jay!

Interview with Vegas' DJ Quira

posted on 02.18.2011
DJ Quira Interview


Marc Jay: So as many of you know I love music and I love DJs and I’ve been going out for many years and joining me now is miss DJ Quira. Hello Quira!

DJ Quira:
Hello!

Marc Jay: So I want to talk about the future, but first I want to talk about the past. I’ve known you for eight years and going back eight years ago you were an incredible cocktail waitress. Tell us, how have you made this transition from being a cocktail waitress to becoming one of Vegas’ most popular DJs?

DJ Quira:
 When I decided I wanted to start DJ'n initially I started with Serato, but then I got serious and decided to go back to basics, so I called my friend Bad Boy Bill and he mailed me out a box full of about 50 vinyl records, so then I learned how to play on real vinyl. And I really think that its important to learn all the tricks of the trade. Along with that I'm taking it slowly cause there is a lot to learn, and I feel its important I put in my time.

Marc Jay: So tell us, you’re from Seattle. How did you end up working and living in Vegas?

DJ Quira:
 I was living in Seattle and I came to Vegas right before I was 21 for a vacation with my girlfriends and I ended up falling in love with the city and decided to come out here and attend UNLV.

Marc Jay: You still DJ, waitress, and study. How do you combine that into one week? It must be pretty crazy.

DJ Quira:
 Well for the last few months I have just been spinning & going to school full time at UNLV. I will be graduating this May with my BSBA Marketing Degree. Although I have actually decided to do doubles this summer and am officially going to be cocktailing at Wet Republic Pool on the weekends along with spinning during the week at different pools and clubs. This will be really good for me for cause I will be able to hear the most amazing talent in the world every week along with ill be able to pay off my debt and save some money.
 
Marc Jay: Going back years ago to Ice, I always saw you jumping around and dancing a lot and enjoying the music. I didn’t realize you were that into music. Has this been a passion from childhood or just since you got to Vegas?

DJ Quira:
Music has been a passion my whole life, but when I was 16 back in Washington my friends and I would go to all age Raves in Seattle. This is actually where I got my first true experiences with the house music scene, I saw Donald Glaude at NAF Studios when I was 17 yearrs old. So I have been in the music scene for quite some time and have always loved being in the DJ booth, that's usually where you'll find me.

Marc Jay: That’s funny because Vegas is known more for its commercial hip hop music and you’ve gone down the road of DJ-ing electronic and house music. How is that going and how did you fall into that area of music?

DJ Quira:
Well to tell you the truth my passion is truly with house music. Although I am trying to find my niche in the style of music I play, I want to be unique yet also keep people interested in whats coming next. I really feel like Vegas is known for its commercial hip-hop, yet I am loving all the amazing house DJ's that are getting monthly Vegas residencies. But even though I am a house head, I also do like hip-hop and am all about being versatile and playing what's going to make people dance. I do what I do for the reaction I get from people.

Marc Jay: So when did it start exploding for you in the DJ world? The last time I saw you you were working at Tao and all of a sudden you’re name is everywhere. When did that transition come and how did it come about?

DJ Quira:
 I have actually been working with Omar Galiano, whom is the music director for TAO group. He has been mentoring me for about two years now and he has probably helped me more than anybody with my music. So I felt that last year it was just time for me to resign from cocktailing at Tao and time to pursue my deejay opportunities.  Thank goodness I made the right choice and everything is going great, I am spinning at Lavo three to four days a week and Omar gives advice along with 'DJ tests' and is really pushing me to be my best with that good ol' tough love. 

Marc Jay: So tell us a bit about the equipment that you prefer to work with. Because I know all DJs work with different CDs or turntables or laptops and so on. What is it that you’re working with right now?

DJ Quira:
The equipment I prefer to use would be a set of Technique 1200s and a Pioneer 800 mixer. When I go live I use Serato and a laptop of course; although I am learning Ableton as well because I want to be able to do the bridge and learn how to produce live. That’s really interesting to me. I’m also putting my music on SD cards because I want to be versatile and also learn the CDJ 2000's because I'm all about being prepared for whatever comes my way.

Marc Jay: One thing I love about Vegas is I think it gives young people multiple opportunities. Now, I think if you lived in Seattle, coming from a waitress that wants to be a DJ you would probably struggle a little bit. But in Vegas it seems that with so many clubs opening that it would seem being a DJ in this town could be very profitable and it could actually build your career from here. Is that one of the reasons you came to Vegas to begin with?

DJ Quira:
Your 100% correct! My choice to move to Las Vegas when I was 21 and get a cocktailing job at ICE was the best move I ever made. To Financially be able to put myself through school with only having to work three days a week really gave me enough time off to focus on school as well.

Marc Jay: I see that. I mean I was just in Chicago and saw your name on a flyer. Is it just that Vegas is such a huge market that people hear you and want to book you?

DJ Quira:
Yeah, I actually have not gone and looked for one gig. Every gig that I have gotten so far has come to me. How I feel about it is, when people want me they’re going to come get me. Just this weekend, I did a private party and I just got a call today from the modeling agency and they want to book me for another event. It’s word of mouth, people see you, they want to book you and that’s how it happens.

Marc Jay: So tell us, what can we see of DJ Quira in the next 10 years? Where would you like to be?

DJ Quira:
I want to be an international DJ and producer.

Marc Jay: I know you’ve been to Ibitha a couple of times. What was your experience with going to Europe and listening to dance music and big Ibithic style clubs?

DJ Quira:
My experience with clubs in Ibiza was such a different experience than the club scene in Vegas.  So I really payed attention to the programming and the reaction certain tracks got out of people, because people actually love to dance out there.  I must thank Queen of House Zee, Jackson and Rob for all taking me to Ibiza, it was a life changing trip for me.

Marc Jay: What kind of DJs inspires you right now?

DJ Quira:
One of my main inspirations and they are also friend's of mine is Tiesto and Erick Morillo.  I really admire look up to the whole performance aspect of it. They put the whole show together they do the music and they make it more of show and I feel like that’s important. Even when I did my gig at Blush I brought in my own performance. I had a mood director come in and they had a whole performance and I really feel like it’s about putting on a show and bringing energy and creating energy in a room.

Marc Jay: There’s now 30 clubs in Vegas and they’re all fighting for the same customer sometimes so you have to bring something more to the table than just your DJ-ing skills. You have to put on a show almost.

DJ Quira:
Back in the day a DJ could just be a DJ but now-a-days you need to be more versatile. Versatile is the key word. I’m even getting down to learning tricks; like scratch and hip-hop tricks. Which I am learning from DJ Frankie from Studio 54.  I’m working hard to be well rounded in my music and be able to tackle whatever comes my way.

Marc Jay: I know you mentioned that all this work you’re getting is from people phoning you directly. Do you have a book agent or a manager yet or are you doing this all yourself?

DJ Quira:
I do everything by myself. I built my website myself and also update it. I manage my facebook and twitter currently by myself. I had a part time assistant but right now I’m just solo and I have a lot of people approaching me for management but I’m just holding off for right now.

Marc Jay: So how do people follow you and find you. What your website and twitter pages?

DJ Quira:
My website is www.djquira.com and from there you can link straight to my facebook, my fan page and my twitter. I have a blog; everything’s on my website. I update my calendar and my photo’s too.

Marc Jay: Do you have any tours planned in March; will you be reaching out to the rest of America or will you be in Vegas?

DJ Quira:
Well, I’m planning to go to the Ultra Festival in Miami. Then on February 26th I’m doing a show in Chicago at the Roof in the WIT Hotel. Then pretty much until I graduate in May I’m not going to be going on any tours but once I graduate school I want to start going on tours around the world.

Marc Jay: Why do you think DJ-ing always seems to be a male dominated business and there are not many good female DJs? I can think of 2 or 3 but why is that? Girls can DJ just as well as guys do.

DJ Quira:
I think that it’s because it’s a lot more work than people think it is. It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of time. I’m not trying to just be sexist; you just have to have the right mind set for it. You can’t think it’s just all going to come together you really have to do your homework and I spend hours and hours downloading music, tracking it, practicing it and there’s so much more to it and I’m willing to dedicate myself to the art of it and I immerse myself around other DJ's to help bring good creative energy.

Marc Jay: Now do you have a studio set up in your house at all where you practice all the time?

DJ Quira:
 Oh yeah! 

Marc Jay: How many tracks do you have at home?

DJ Quira:
I have about 7,000 songs or so on my laptop, along with a few hard drives at home full of music as well.

Marc Jay: Well I know you have to rush off because we’ve caught you just before your gig. You’re off to Lavo tonight, is that right?

DJ Quira:
Yeah, I’ll be at Lavo tonight and tomorrow night as well.

Marc Jay: Lavo Vegas has become a hugely popular club. They have a great line up of DJs there every week. Do you enjoy playing the venue?

DJ Quira:
I really do. It’s been great practice and exposure for me. It’s got me in the door and they’ve already talked to me about doing Tao Beach this summer for them. They want me to do Marquee Day Club. I already got calls for other venues; it’s going to be a really busy summer. I have a lot of fun stuff coming up.

Marc Jay: Do you think you going to make it to New York any time soon?

DJ Quira:
I do. Probably the summer.

Marc Jay: Wonderful. Anything else you’d like to tell the reader’s of clubplanet?

DJ Quira:
 Please stay tuned for more! By the end of this year I plan to produce my first track and to get in the studio with some amazing producers to collaborate with.

Marc Jay: And you can’t miss her. Her name is DJ Quira she’s beautiful and she’ll be coming to a town near you!

Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter! Click here to become a fan of Inside Sin City with Marc Jay!



Interview with DJ Twisted

posted on 10.29.2010

Marc Jay: I’m going to take it a bit underground now and introduce you to a very new DJ to America. He’s racking up a big storm back in London town and his name is DJ Twisted. So, I know you’ve recently moved to Vegas and you’ve been playing on the West Coast, but let’s go back a bit. I know you’re kind of young, tell us how you got started in the DJ world.

DJ Twisted: I started off in my friend’s bedroom when I was 14. We used to play garage—that’s what we used to call it in London—house and garage and a bit of drum ‘n bass. Now I’ve stepped up from there, moved to America, and I’m trying to make it big out here. It’s working at the minute, but I need to get out there a bit more, I reckon.

Marc Jay: So Vegas, to me, always seemed to be more of a hip-hop town, and obviously you play house music and vocal house music. How have you come to find it so far?

DJ Twisted: It’s going well. A lot of people like house music. The energy and the vibe is a bit different from hip-hop. We need more of the people coming to Vegas to listen to house… and all around the world. Hopefully soon it’ll be big in Vegas.

Marc Jay: I know you picked up a gig at Azure Pool this summer. I saw you there and you were kicking up a storm every Saturday and Sunday. How was that residency for you?

DJ Twisted: Azure Pool was really good—the vibe was really good, the people… You get people coming from all over America to hear you play and you meet different people. The energy was really good and the people—fantastic.

Marc Jay: How does playing in Ibiza or London compare to playing in Vegas?

DJ Twisted: Las Vegas is a party city. Everybody comes here to have a party, get wasted and just meet new people and have fun.

Marc Jay: What DJs do you like at the moment? What guys are you listening to, playing their tracks?

DJ Twisted: Erick Morillo is really good… Swedish House Mafia… Tiesto’s bringing some stuff out… Paul Van Dyk is one of them… DJ Vice is a good DJ as well.

Marc Jay: So you say you started when you were 14. How old are you now?

DJ Twisted: I’m 26.

Marc Jay: So you’ve been DJing for a little over 10 years. How has the craft changed? Were you always using Serato? Were you using records before? In what way has DJing moved forward in the last 10 years?

DJ Twisted: Back in the day I used to carry records over my shoulder in backpacks to gigs with my friends. Now it is all a computer, Serato and two blank vinyls. Basically just carry your laptop, two needles, two vinyls and you’re ready to go.

Marc Jay: What advice would you give to a 14 or 15-year-old who is interested in becoming a successful DJ like yourself?

DJ Twisted: I would just say get your head down, start producing while you’re young, and just keep rocking out.

Marc Jay: So, I’m in the back of the car with you now on the way to a photo shoot for your new CD, DJ Twisted: Funky House Mix. We’re going to the middle of the desert, and it’s like 110 degrees--it’s kind of an unusual location.

DJ Twisted: Yeah, it’s very crazy, different from London, very hot out here.

Marc Jay: And you’re making a music video as well, at Azure?

DJ Twisted: Yep. It should be good fun.

Marc Jay: What’s going to happen in 2011 for DJ Twisted? Where do you see yourself? What gigs do you have lined up? Where would you like to be spinning?

DJ Twisted: Hopefully a lot around America. I’ve got some more work lined up, but I’m not going to tell you at this minute; I don’t want to get your hopes up, but soon to be taking over.

Marc Jay: And will you be back at Azure Pool?

DJ Twisted: Hopefully, I sure will be.

Marc Jay: So you’re here for another month and then you’re flying back to London. Where will you be for the New Year?

DJ Twisted: I think I’ll be in the West End or near the Waldorf Hotel, or maybe the Dorchester—it’s in Park Lane. My friend and I are doing a special there.

Marc Jay: What’s your next stop after London?

DJ Twisted: I’m going to try and make it to Europe. I’ve got some plans, but I have to see what’s going on.

Marc Jay: What is your most memorable experience in DJing in any city around the world?

DJ Twisted: Well, I played in festivals with my friend—I played a couple of tracks and he was headlining the main stage. That was quite amazing–seeing 50,000 people dancing to his music, all having fun, feeling the energy.

Marc Jay: So when you’re up in the DJ booth in front of 50,000 people, what does that feel like? That must feel kind of crazy.

DJ Twisted: Oh, it’s definitely really nice. People jumping up and down… you feel the vibe of the different people, and it’s a great time.

Marc Jay: Is there anything else that you want to tell Clubplanet readers?

DJ Twisted: Watch out: DJ Twisted is coming back in 2011 and you all better be ready.

Click here to visit DJ Twisted’s Website. Click here to follow DJ Twisted on Twitter.

On a quick personal note, I would very much like to thank the whole of the Tao Group for organizing my birthday party last week in Las Vegas. If you didn’t make it, you missed a good one. Here is the video from the night...



Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter! Click here to become a fan of Inside Sin City with Marc Jay!

Interview with Las Vegas Theater Star Kristen Hertzenberg

posted on 10.08.2010

Marc Jay: So, I don’t often start these interviews with “wow,” but, WOW—this theater is amazing! I’m sitting in the Venetian Hotel at the beautiful Phantom—The Las Vegas Spectacular theatre, with one of the leading cast members, Kristen Hertzenberg. So tell us, for people who don’t know about Phantom of the Opera, and I’m sure there aren’t that many because the show is a phenomenon, tell us a bit about the show.

Kristen Hertzenberg: Well it’s been around for a little over 20 years now, so it’s the longest running show in Broadway history. It’s still running on Broadway, but there are other companies around the world that put on the show too. Because it opened in the late eighties it hasn’t changed since then. When we opened our production here in Vegas they were able to bring the original creative team back together including Andrew Lloyd Webber to bring it into this millennium, so it makes our show in Las Vegas really special.

Marc Jay: Now when you perform in Las Vegas, do you perform in other cities? And if so, how does the show change and does your role change in the show?

Kristen Hertzenberg: We are a sit-down company here in Las Vegas. We don’t move anywhere else, they built a special theatre here for us here. But there is a national tour that travels around the country and there is a Broadway company as well.

Marc Jay: Cool. Now, I remember as a kid, we would have school outings to the West End – I’m from London as you can tell – and we’d go to the West End and they’d take us to see shows and I think I went two or three times to see Phantom, this must have been 15 years ago when you probably first started. I think it’s a fantastic show and I’ve seen it here a few times. Tell us, what is your character and your role in the show here.

Kristen Hertzenberg: I play Christine Daae and she is the love interest, if not obsession, of the Phantom. So he chooses her out of the ballet chorus, becomes rather interested in her, begins writing music for her and becomes her voice teacher. And she isn’t sure all along if she is studying with a real person or if it’s a ghost or an angel that her father told her he would send her one day when he passed away. So she’s just kind of mesmerized by this otherworldly experience that she’s having. And then she has another love interest, Raoul, so it becomes a triangle and the whole show is kind of “what choice is she going to make?”

Marc Jay: Now you perform in the show almost every night. How often are you in it exactly?

Kristen Hertzenberg: Well, I’m here Wednesdays and Thursdays, that’s my usual schedule every week. And every once in a while if the other Christine goes on vacation – there are two of us that split the role – then I do her shows. But for the most part, I’m here every week, two nights and we don’t have dark periods at Phantom, we’ve been going non-stop since June of 2006.

Marc Jay: Now I do have a question and it’s kind of a bizarre one. Everywhere else you have intermissions and breaks where you go to the bar, you have a cocktail and you come back to your seat. You don’t get that in Vegas, is that because they’re scared that people are going to run into the casino?

Kristen Hertzenberg: I’m not sure why. You know the precedent was just kind of set at one point that it worked best to have the Broadway shows in Vegas brought down to 90 minutes. It’s worked well for us. When you go to see a Broadway show and you have your cocktail at intermission, you can’t bring it in the theatre with you afterwards, you’ve got to dump it if you’re not finished with it. Not the case in Las Vegas. Just like, buy three or four and bring them into the theatre with you to last throughout the whole show [laughs].

Marc Jay: Now we’ve actually just made it down to your dressing room and I see an array of wonderful outfits. Tell us, you obviously have different costume changes. How many do you have? Who made these costumes?

Kristen Hertzenberg: I can’t remember exactly how many changes there are, but I think it’s 11 or 12 total. Sometimes it’s just a skirt or something that changes, but this is my favorite part of anytime that I give a tour to somebody because the costumes are absolutely amazing in this show and they stay very true to the way that they would have been made in the late 1800s when the show takes place. So it’s a lot of labor and a lot of cost and they’re all made at the same house – they call it a house – in New York. So they flew all of us there to have our fittings, you know, multiple times to make sure everything was fit to us just right. They’ve got scouts that go all over the world scouting out specific fabrics if something’s discontinued or something. It’s really fascinating.

Marc Jay: Now tell us a bit about your background, because obviously you’re theatrically trained. Did you do drama at school, how did you fall into this profession?

Kristen Hertzenberg: Actually, I studied opera in school. I was a classical singer in my undergraduate work and then studied opera in grad school. And then, as soon as I finished graduate school, planning on being an opera singer, I got cast in a play called Master Class, which is all about Maria Callas, the famous Greek opera singer. And so I played one of her students and I got my union card when I did that show. That just kind of opens up a whole new world for you in terms of theater, especially auditioning, so I started doing more theater and realized I liked the people a lot better. Nothing against opera people, but it’s definitely a more uptight world.

Marc Jay: Now we don’t have much – like there’s not many operas in Vegas or like a ballet season here, why is that you think, people don’t understand or because it’s such a tourist market?

Kristen Hertzenberg: Well I think for one thing, there hasn’t really been a proper venue for them to perform. There is a ballet here, and there is an opera company, but they’re not as big as they are in other major cities. But they’re building a new performance art center, the Smith Center, downtown that already is – you know, quite a bit of accomplishment has been made on that. And they’re opening in Spring of 2012. So that’ll be the new home for the ballet and the opera and hopefully things will become more prevalent.

Marc Jay: Now being an opera singer – I like to sing in the shower myself, but I’m probably not as good as you – how do you keep your voice trained to be, because obviously you have to perform twice a week, how do you make sure your voice is as good as it can always be?

Kristen Hertzenberg: Well, I used to practice a lot more often than I do now. But, I have a two year old, so she takes a lot of my time. And I’ve also found because of how dry it is in Las Vegas, in the desert, resting my voice in between shows does a lot more good than doing a lot of singing. That’s what I’ve found, I always feel better - I do the Wednesday and Thursday and Wednesdays always feel better than Thursday because I’ve just had a week off. But, you know, a lot of us in Phantom do other projects outside of this show, whether it’s a reading or a benefit concert or something like that. So, you know, I usually have something else that I’m singing during the week.

Marc Jay: Now I’m sure you know about this but, Phantom of the Opera almost ‘two’ or whatever it’s called at the moment is an almost remodel of a new Phantom, I think it’s called “Love Never Dies.” What do you know about that show? Is it coming to Las Vegas?

Kristen Hertzenberg: I don’t know what their plans are for it. It’s been open in London for a while now and actually, one of our original “Christines” in this production is playing Christine in that production now. And this was definitely a stepping stone for her to get there. So that’s the most exciting thing about it to me, is that I’ve got a friend that’s a part of it and she’s lovely. I think it’ll come to the United States at some point.

Marc Jay: Now Andrew’s company – and it always makes me laugh, he’s cool – it’s The Really Useful Group, if I’m not mistaken. I mean in London, he’s our God when it comes to theatre, he has so many shows. Have you performed in any of them, or have you seen them at all?

Kristen Hertzenberg: I’ve seen other productions of his, but this is my first Andrew Lloyd Webber show, yeah. But I’ve been familiar with it my whole life, you know.

Marc Jay: Cool. So I do hear, if you’re a Las Vegas local, you do get some incredible offers here, so tell us a bit about what you’re doing here at Phantom.

Kristen Hertzenberg: Yeah, we love our locals. So we have a couple specials going on right now, one is that the Golden Circle seats, which are the best seats in the house, are $65 off and the other orchestra seats are Two-for-One, which is a huge deal. You can go to phantomlocalsoffer.com for all the details.

Marc Jay: Now is this anytime, or just certain days of the week?

Kristen Hertzenberg: Any day, through the winter.

Marc Jay: Through the winter, wonderful. So locals, bring your ID down, and come and see Phantom.

Kristen Hertzenberg: Yeah, absolutely, it’s a great date night.

Marc Jay: You’re living in Vegas but your job could almost take you anywhere in the world. When your contract runs out, do you look for other jobs in other cities? And if you do, how do you get them and where do you decide where you go? Because you’re originally from New York, is that correct?

Kristen Hertzenberg: I moved here from New York. I’m originally a Houston girl. Before I booked Phantom I was on a European tour for almost two years and I was married at the time, so it’s really taxing on a marriage. So when this came up and the chance to sit down and be together came along, we jumped on it. So now, I have a two year old as well, so you know, things have changed. I would consider you know, going around the country to different places, if I could bring them along, but I think my days of touring have passed.

Marc Jay: Now is that touring with Phantom? Or was it another show?

Kristen Hertzenberg: No, it was a production of Hair. So, totally different, rock ‘n’ roll –

Marc Jay: That’s not really opera.

Kristen Hertzenberg: No, not at all. Actually, it was a lot of fun for me to step outside the box and just do something crazy and different, I loved it. 

Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter! Click here to become a fan of Inside Sin City with Marc Jay!

Interview with Celebrity Guitar Maker Gary Hutchins

posted on 10.01.2010

Marc Jay: Since the weather is so nice today, I’ve decided to work outside from my poolside cabana office. Now, it's not every day you get to talk to a world renowned guitar maker, but today I am with Gary Hutchins, entrepreneur, radio DJ and guitar maker to the stars. Hi, Gary.

Gary Hutchins: Hi, Marc. Thanks for that rousing intro and thanks for having me. I have to say you have an amazing office! The pool view is fantastic!

Marc Jay: Thank you. I manage [laughs]. Now then, Gary... Snow Patrol, Oasis, Kasabian, Fyfe Dangerfield—to name but a few. You supply guitars to some pretty impressive bands. How did it all begin ?

Gary Hutchins: About five years ago I was in one of those places where you know that you have to do something... but I didn`t know what. I had always had a love of guitars as objects and I could play a bit, but I just had the idea that I wanted to make them, create a brand with my name. My father had recently passed away and I had a young son, Edward, so I wanted to do something that I could pass down. That meant something. So, I began to learn how to make guitars. I bought some old second-hand guitars, stripped them down, put them back together again mixing up the bits... and so it began.

Marc Jay: Who did you sell your first guitar to?

Gary Hutchins: Well the first few attempts were less than perfect , but I met up with a guitar guru named Alan Entwistle in Germany and we collaborated on a couple of designs. One of these models was the Memphis and one of the first ones went to Luke Pritchard of The Kooks. Another went to Chris McCormack of Three Colours Red. Chris also now tours with '80s icon Gary Numan. Another went to Carl Barret of The Libertines. A lot of these guys know each other so the phone began to ring!

Marc Jay: How did you get involved with Snow Patrol?

Gary Hutchins: I met Gary and Nathan back stage at thier Camden Roundhouse gig. We chatted and Nathan asked to try out a guitar at their next rehearsal. We met again, Nathan tried the Memphis, liked it, and now plays it. He used it quite a bit on the last album. I have just made a signature series guitar for him and we are meeting up in the next few days, so good stuff.

Marc Jay: Sounds great! Now do you only make guitars for celebrities or can anyone buy a Hutchins guitar?

Gary Hutchins: Anyone can buy one. I don't actually make bespoke guitars for the bands; they just buy a standard guitar and get their techs to set them up how they like them. I have shop outlets throughout the UK, Germany, Belgium and France and the guitars have just become available in the USA, so hopefully there will be some U.S. shops soon. Anyone can see the range on hutchinsguitars.com.

Marc Jay: Now enough of guitars... what about this radio show?

Gary Hutchins: That came about after I got involved with the Brighton Music Awards. I compered the launch party of the BMA and Radio Reverd offered me a show. Then Juice Radio did the same. All a bit luck really. But Marc, sir, I want to get you involved in the radio shows! You can be my man in Las Vegas—it'll be a hit! Look at how well Piers Morgan has done!

Marc Jay: Well, we can talk about that one, Gary, but it sounds fun. Can the show be heard over the internet?

Gary Hutchins: Yes sir. There is a podcast at garyhutchinsshow.com.

Marc Jay: It all sounds like things are going well, Gary. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

Gary Hutchins: Thank you for asking me, it's been a pleasure. And I must say... love the pool side office!


Click here to follow Marc Jay on Twitter! Click here to become a fan of Inside Sin City with Marc Jay!

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