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 James Madders of AZURE Luxury Pool

posted on 06.11.2010

With so many pools opening in Las Vegas, it’s hard to decide where to go; but if you want something a bit more sophisticated and a bit more kind of “St. Tropez,” I would definitely go to AZURE. I am here today with Mr. James Madders, the lead door host at AZURE, to talk about this luxurious pool in Las Vegas.  

Marc Jay: Tell us a bit more about AZURE and what goes on there.

James Madders: AZURE pool at The Palazzo appeals to the more sophisticated demographic in the 22 – 35 year old age range. We have a number of different days, each with a different theme. For example, Fridays are called “Femme Fridays” which appeals to the younger women, the classy sophisticated women who are familiar with places like Nikki Beach and St. Tropez. We have a lot of free giveaways; a couple of weeks ago we gave away free Jimmy Choos in conjunction with the Sex and the City 2 launch. On Saturday, we actually have a day called “Stereo Love Saturdays” which is basically the essence of the world-famous beach parties from St. Tropez, Mykonos, and Ibiza. We play more global house-style music with Latin and Moroccan vibes. Then on Sundays we have “Dolce Vita Sundays.” Basically we do a European brunch with a Wolfgang Puck menu. While enjoying brunch, guests can sit in the rotunda overlooking the views of The Strip and enjoy the day until the sun goes down.

Marc Jay: That all sounds incredible! I noticed that you have an incredible accent similar to mine. Where are you from?

James Madders: I was born in a little seaside town called Brighton, which is just south of London. It is extremely different from Las Vegas; when I lived there I was about ten minutes from the beach. Weather – can’t say it is as exotic as it is here, but it’s an interesting town probably compared a bit to San Francisco with its arty vibe. So that’s where I started, in a little town, and ended up in Vegas.

Marc Jay: What did you do back home in Brighton? Was it nightclub-related?

James Madders: Yes. I started working for a nightclub when I was 17 – I should have been 18 – and I started collecting glasses. Then I pushed my way to the front of this club. When the manager was leaving I said, “Look, let me be the manager.” Everyone thought I was mad, as I was 18 years old. I should have been given an award for the youngest person with a nightclub license in the south of England. So, I started running a nightclub which was a bit like Coyote Ugly, but for women. There were topless firemen behind the bar with about 300 women coming to watch us, so it was good fun.

Marc Jay: How did you end up coming here and running one of the most successful beach club/ nightclubs in all of Las Vegas?

James Madders: I was promoting nightclubs in Brighton, including a classy nightclub where I met someone who was affiliated with Las Vegas. He basically said, “Why don’t you give it a try?” So I tested the water a few times on holidays, staying in hotels, and then decided to buy a one-way ticket and come out here. I could have done London, but I have always been fascinated with the nightclub scene and the entertainment in Las Vegas. This city is the entertainment capitol of the world, so I guess I decided I might as well to go to the top and not mess with the middle man.

Marc Jay: Let’s talk about the crazier times at AZURE pool. I know you have lots of celebrities that come in and out of the place, but who has come most recently? Are there any special weekends when you’ve had crazy customers?

James Madders: We have really had an A-list crowd come through. Recently, we had the Sex and the City cast come through and they celebrated Memorial Weekend with us. Also recently we have had a lot of international soccer players come here. They actually had a Moët champagne spray-off and must have spent over $50,000 just simply spraying each other with champagne, which was truly epic to say the least.

Marc Jay: Did that ever happen in your seaside town in Brighton?

James Madders: I think the most I have seen is maybe a 30-year-old drunk man spraying a bottle of beer in an argument with his girlfriend. I think that’s the most luxurious thing I have seen.

Marc Jay: So if I wanted to come experience AZURE what are the days to come down? And what are your opening hours?

James Madders: Friday to Sunday. Our hours on Friday run from 11-6, hours on Saturday run from 11-6 and once again we’re open on Sunday from 11-6. I suggest you get there early as the cues can actually wrap around the whole pool deck. Also, you should make sure you don’t eat before because we have world famous chef Wolfgang Puck supplying our menu. And trust me, I have tried everything on there and the food is absolutely amazing.

Marc Jay: Does working the door ever get difficult, maybe because you might not know some of the celebrities? Do you ever find yourself asking for IDs or do you have any funny stories about that?

James Madders: A couple of weeks ago, a large gentleman came to the door and he must have been 6’5 weighing 400 pounds. I had to make sure that he had the correct ID on him and he explained to me that he didn’t have it and that he didn’t usually have this problem in this country. I was about to turn him down for not having his ID, when I was told that he was NFL legend, Warren Sapp, which I now understand that he is a massive deal. But being from England, I find that it is difficult to keep up with all the NFL players and the NBA players, but also it can work in my advantage. We have the best of both worlds: being from England, I am a big soccer fan, so only last week had Ronaldinho come to the door as well as Patrick Viera who a lot of people don’t know, but since I knew who they were, I gave them the five-star treatment and made sure they were looked after in one of our cabanas. They get welcomed by familiar accents as well by my being here.

Marc Jay: You have only been here for four months and you have quite an impressive resume so far. What lies in the future for James Madders in Las Vegas or in the USA?

James Madders: There is no limit to me, but basically there are two little roots. I come from an acting background and I have done stage school, drama school, and theater in England, so I may head towards LA at some point and dip my hand in acting. But also I still have a huge passion for the nightclub industry. At this time in 20 years I would like to see myself owning a few nightclubs, one in Las Vegas, one in Miami, and of course one in London.

Marc Jay: Obviously Las Vegas is unique and different to anywhere else in the world, but certainly to England. How are you coping with the differences from driving, to food, to the 110 degree weather? How is your experience so far living in Vegas.

James Madders: Oh wow, where do I start? Well I will start with the weather: I think it must have been two weeks ago where I experienced something I have never experienced in my life. Where I am from in Brighton, the hottest I have never felt is 80 degrees, and that was a major beach day. Last week it was 110, and I honestly felt as though I was behind a car exhaust, as well as a hair dryer, as well as a sauna, all at the same time. A lot of my fellow American friends found it quite amusing, but I think they felt a bit sorry for me. I’m getting used to it, eventually I’ll be okay with it I think, if that’s possible. I love my food. There is such a wide range of food in America, and in Vegas especially. I could go have 50 chicken wings in Hooters for some ridiculous price or I could have the nicest food as if from Wolfgang Puck which is truly luxurious and decadent. I am getting used to the food and I am also getting used to the portions. I know not to order two main courses if I am really hungry, because a starter is enough for me here. And driving. Once again, the roads where I’m from are probably the size of one side of the road here. You can imagine scenic lanes and countryside views—it is slightly different here.

Marc Jay: I’m sure there are people that want to come down and experience AZURE, so what’s the best way for someone to contact you or find out more about this venue?

James Madders: Feel free to contact me on my cell (702-418-9769) or email me at james@azurepoollv.com. Also check out the website, www.azurepoollv.com. If you come down, ask for me and say that you’ve read Marc Jay’s blog on Clubplanet and I will actually give you a comped entry so that you can experience AZURE for yourself. 

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Interview with N9NE Group’s Sol Shafer

posted on 05.28.2010

Marc Jay: It’s Marc here, back with Clubplanet very early in the morning. I’m here with Mr. Sol Shafer, the man behind the Palms and the N9NE Group, the man that makes everything happen. I know you’ve got this huge Love Fest coming up, tell me a little more about what’s going on this weekend at the Palms.

Sol Shafer: Well, this weekend at the Palms we have a very diverse lineup with some of the biggest artists on the planet such as Armin van Buuren, Jason Derulo, Danny Tenaglia, Paul Oakenfold and people like Markus Schulz, Rev Run and MTV’s own Pauly D.

Marc Jay: That’s quite an impressive lineup. It kind of reminds me of Winter Music Conference all coming from one hotel. How did you come up with this concept and the name Love Fest? Is this the first time you’ve done this in Vegas?

Sol Shafer: This is actually our second year doing the Love Fest at the Palms and my good friend Reza Gerami is actually the owner of the brand who we reached out to about two years ago due to the fact that we really liked the whole style. We really felt that Vegas was a good home for it and that it could be well represented with such diversity and the way that it reaches out to people who just love music across America.

Marc Jay: So you are officially the talent booker for the N9NE Group. Tell us what venues the N9NE Group runs in Vegas, because I know there are quite a few of them.

Sol Shafer: Right now the N9NE Group is responsible for operating Rain, the Palms pool, Moon as well as Ghostbar and Playboy Club. We also operate two restaurants, Nove and N9NE Steakhouse.

Marc Jay: So you are one of the people kind of responsible for the Perfecto deal, and I know you’re there every week working with Paul Oakenfold and his guests. How did that deal come about and how is the show at Rain?

Sol Shafer: The deal was actually put in place by Michael Fuller before I came over to the Palms and I was lucky enough to join the N9NE Group team about a year and a half ago and things are going well with Perfecto, but things right now are just absolutely insane. We’re doing over 3,000 people every week and that’s just because we cycle through the freshest DJs on the planet as well as our promotions are just bar-none better than anyone else’s in town, especially from being a solo property on the other side of the strip. Sometimes I’m just amazed at the amount of people that come through that door.

Marc Jay: So going back to this Love Fest that’s going on now… how do you convince all these DJs to share the same stage together, all at the same time over the same weekend?

Sol Shafer: Most of these people are my friends and I never really got involved in the whole political side of things. I just want to do good events with good people who are drama-free and just do my thing. You know, the minute that you start getting politics involved and who is playing where and what and how, the fun just gets sucked right out of it.

Marc Jay: I think, honestly, what you guys are doing this weekend has got to be the biggest thing in Vegas. There are some other clubs and pools that may be booking three or four big DJs, but I don’t know how you’ve done it. You must have 10 – 15 different DJs.

Sol Shafer: Yeah, we have a lot more than that, actually. I think if you were to take all four venues and all four days, we’re probably looking at closer to 40 acts throughout the weekend.

Marc Jay: I know you have a rock star VIP pass for $475, and that’s an all-access, all-venue weekend pass. How can people purchase those?

Sol Shafer: Basically, if you go to wantickets.com, which is our ticketing partner and a company that has helped us really push this weekend, we’re offering these wristbands that are $475 that give you all access to all of the clubs as well as open bar all weekend long.

Marc Jay: That’s an amazing deal, considering it’s probably going to cost some people $200 to walk into some of these places.

Sol Shafer: Absolutely, and that’s what separates the Palms from some of these other places. We’re not in it to gauge people over a short period of time and we look for excellent customer service and repeat business.

Marc Jay: Let’s talk more about you. How did you come into dance music and booking DJs? How did you fall into this field?

Sol Shafer: Basically a long time ago I ended up bumping into a few people in LA and I really started to like dance music and the more that I listened to it, the more that I got involved and a few years later I ended up meeting Neil Moffitt who gave me a big break in just working with all the right people in the dance industry to where fast forward seven years later and here I am.

Marc Jay: What jobs did you do before you got into promoting and booking DJs?

Sol Shafer: Everything. I mean, I was a dishwasher at one point; I actually cut and laid carpet for my father at one point, as well as a few things that I can’t even mention.

Marc Jay: Now, you’re Canadian, so tell me, how does living in Canada compare to living in Las Vegas?

Sol Shafer: That’s a tough one. If you take family and friends into consideration it’s a better place, but when it comes down to the economy and wanting to be in the world of entertainment, there’s no better place than Las Vegas.

Marc Jay: So I know you’re the king of parties and you go out for work and socialize, tell us about your most memorable party and who was performing that night.

Sol Shafer: That’s really easy. It’d have to be about five years ago at club Ice on Memorial Day weekend and there was Deep Dish playing, Tiesto was playing… I think you were there, Marc.

Marc Jay: I was in the booth with the huge flashlight, jumping up and down. It was one of the best nights ever in my life.

Sol Shafer: That right there basically tells it all. That night is still for me, unbeatable.

Marc Jay: Do you remember there was a guy who actually turned up in the DJ booth and paid him $10,000 cash to continue to play for one more hour?

Sol Shafer: Yeah, that was actually a guy from the San Francisco 49ers and I remember him actually pulling out $10,000 to keep the club open and keep going for a few more songs.

Marc Jay: Only in Las Vegas. So, back to the Love Fest. Who are you most excited to see?

Sol Shafer: I always like seeing my good friend Jordan Stevens. He’s a local resident in town who always likes throwing down music, but apart from that it’s hard. You know, everybody from Markus Schulz to Paul Oakenfold to Armin van Buuren, you know, trance is just really the sound that I dig.

Marc Jay: I know in this business you’re always working like six months ahead of yourselves. What other exciting events do you have coming up for the Palms?

Sol Shafer: July 4th we have a free pool party with a few of my favorites, Markus Schulz, Cosmic Gate, Jordan Stevens and Scotty Boy with a surprise special guest that I cannot mention just yet.

Marc Jay: When you say Free, do you mean everybody gets in for free?

Sol Shafer: Everybody and anybody are getting in for free that day. I’ve reached out to promoters in several different markets who are all going to be funneling people into town for that weekend. We also have Paul Oakenfold, Blake Jarrell and John Askew playing the night before, which is just really going to make for a great weekend for people to come out to Las Vegas and listen to good music.

Marc Jay: So I know you have great success with the mid-summer events that you do. Tell us about the one coming up shortly.

Sol Shafer: The one we’ve got coming up is going to be the best one yet. We’re spending more money on talent than ever as well as more money on production. This year is just the year to go bigger and better. I can’t really say who we have booked, but I can assure you that once we release who is performing, people are going to be jumping in line to get tickets. I think we are going to be releasing the lineup first on Clubplanet, so you should just keep up there for more information.

Marc Jay: What do you think about Vegas nightlife? We’ve both been here for a long time and where we used to have like three or four nightclubs, now we are bombarded by them and so many new pools are opening too. Where do you think it’s going? What’s the next level?

Sol Shafer: I think that there’s definitely more than enough people to go around, and you just have to stay ahead of the game and be on point, work nonstop and you will succeed in this crazy town. I also believe too that the more places that open, the more money that’s being spent and the more talent that’s coming through which ultimately means more people visiting Las Vegas. I mean, if we just had two clubs, with no talent, then we wouldn’t have any tourists because there’s nothing attracting people to come here and see. So, as much as people think there’s crazy competition, there is, but at the same time we are building something magical that is happening in the desert that more and more people from around the world come and visit.

Marc Jay: Do you think Vegas is ready for its own WMC?

Sol Shafer: I think it would work if everybody took their head out of their ass and came together and stopped trying to do things on their own. There are a few people in town who are very smart, who have very good relationships and who know what they’re doing and if everyone put their egos aside and came up with a proper plan I think that we could possibly produce something that is way better than Winter Music Conference.

Marc Jay: I mean when you look at all the acts coming this weekend – Erick Morillo, Benny Benassi, Deadmau5 – it’s kind of like Vegas’ own Winter Music Conference.

Sol Shafer: It is and I personally believe that if we plan things properly that we could do something in the fall that would really rival WMC. I think there are a lot bigger players here in Vegas than there are in Miami.

Marc Jay: So there are tons of DJs sitting at home who would dream of playing one of the N9NE Group venues. Do you ever give new people an opportunity to play or to send you tracks they’ve made?

Sol Shafer: We get CDs all the time. Our door is always open. We do listen to a lot of them and we are always looking for the next upcoming DJ to join our family, not only to play music but to learn with us and to actually be a part of producing things.

Marc Jay: So how does someone get in touch with you?

Sol Shafer: You can always find out more info or send your demos by going to N9NEGROUP.COM.

Marc Jay: Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers at Clubplanet?

Sol Shafer: Yes. There is a brand new radio station called The Vibe 94.5 that is playing nothing but non-stop dance music. They have acquired shows such as Carl Cox, Armin van Buuren, Roger Sanchez, Eddie Halliwell, Manufactured Superstars, Jordan Stevens and Markus Schulz and Paul Oakenfold. This is going on 24 hours per day on 94.5 The Vibe, so tune in.

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Interview with LAVO Host Sherri Martin

posted on 05.21.2010

Marc Jay: Hi it’s Marc, back with Clubplanet and today I’m joined by the wonderful Ms. Sherri Martin. Now, Sherri, I know you’re a VIP host, and this industry is more about male dominance but you’re one of the leaders in your field. Tell us, how did you become so successful in what you do? And tell us more about where you work here in Las Vegas.

Sherri Martin: I work at LAVO nightclub which is part of the Tao Group, located in the Palazzo Hotel and Casino. I think a lot of my success has to do with being confident and being able to work well with others, especially in a male-dominated field. Especially keeping a high clientele and keeping in touch with those clientele and making everyone feel like they’re VIP. Also, you just have to have a lot of confidence and great work ethic, because it is a lot of hard work.

Marc Jay: I see this host at work at night, but we know it’s more involved than just showing up at 10 o’clock before the doors open. Tell us about your schedule and what you do during the days as well.

Sherri Martin: If there were 10 days in a week, I’d work 10 days in a week. I absolutely work every day and night with probably one day off, but you know what, it’s very rewarding because you meet a lot of new people, you build a clientele, and you bring revenue to the venue you work for. During the day it’s either office hours, visiting hotels, keeping in touch with your clients and then at night it’s making sure that the people who support you are having a wonderful time.

Marc Jay: Now I know LAVO is open six days a week, which is quite a lot for a club here in Vegas. Tell us about the different nights and particularly, which one is your favorite?

Sherri Martin: At LAVO, Tuesday and Sunday are our industry evenings. Wednesday we have something called “Label Junkie” which is based around fashion. Thursday is Latin night and Friday and Saturday, like every other nightclub, are just busy and crazy and out of control. I’d have to say that my favorite nights are Tuesday and Sunday, being that it’s industry night, and Sunday we have the world famous DJ Vice. With the locals that come there it’s just something that you cannot duplicate anywhere else.

Marc Jay: How long have you been living in Vegas and how did you end up here?

Sherri Martin: I’ve lived in Las Vegas since I was six years old. I’m not going to tell you how old I am though, ha ha ha. I started working in the industry when I was 21, cocktailing and I have a degree in public relations. I enjoy the nightlife industry but I wanted to do something different and hosting just fit directly in that category and I’m happy I made the move.

Marc Jay: I know you went to UNLV, is that where you studied marketing?

Sherri Martin: Yes. My major was in Public Relations with a minor in Travel and Tourism.

Marc Jay: So, doing your day-to-day work as a VIP hostess, obviously you have office days. Tell us what you do during those office days and how you keep in touch with so many contacts from around the world.

Sherri Martin: During office hours we send thank you emails for taking the time, if you met someone new or just giving an update to your clientele, telling them about an upcoming event or just saying it was great to see you. It’s all about networking and keeping in constant contact, keeping everyone in the loop because even if they’re not coming, they may be sending their friends your way.

Marc Jay: I’ve known you for quite a while and seen you in various jobs within the Tao Group. How did you end up at Tao and what are the different roles you’ve worked at Tao Group?

Sherri Martin: I started working for Tao Group a little over three years ago. I was a cocktail waitress in the lounge and then I cocktailed in the nightclub, Tao nightclub, for two-and-a-half years and then I took a leave of absence. I came back as a host for Tao Beach last pool season, which I enjoyed greatly, and then after the pool season I moved over to LAVO nightclub.

Marc Jay: Is there a difference between hosting at Tao Beach and hosting at LAVO?

Sherri Martin: It’s different in the hours; there are definitely more hours when you work at night because you have a lot of stuff to do during the day. The clientele is a little different, being that people during the day are a little bit crazier, less inhibited. At nighttime you deal with more of a dinner crowd. They definitely know how to party, but I feel like it’s an older crowd at night. During the day it’s kind of young, a kind of college crowd.

Marc Jay: I know that secretly, on the DL, that you do like a few drinks now and then. Is it hard to say no to these guys when you’re working? How do you stop yourself from partying when you’re surrounded by it all the time? Where do you have to draw the line, basically?

Sherri Martin: Well, you draw the line when you become unprofessional. So, if you feel like you’ve had quite too many you have to explain to your customers, “Thank you, but I have a job to do and actually right now I’m working.” Your first priority is to make sure that they have a good time and if you’re falling over drunk then nobody is going to have a good time because you’re not there to take care of them.

Marc Jay: So I could probably count on one hand how many successful female hosts there are in Vegas, and there really aren’t that many but you are at the top of your field, what is it like doing the job that you do? Is it hard being a successful female entrepreneur in Las Vegas?

Sherri Martin: At times it’s a little difficult because most people are used to dealing with a male host, but I find nine out of 10 times, most customers really enjoy dealing with a female. Not because the men do any less of a job that I do, but I think it’s just such a difference that it’s almost intriguing to a lot of people. I also think that you kind of want to go with almost the odd person out, so me being a female, it’s something like, “She must be very good at what she does to be the only one in an industry dominated by males.” I find that you definitely have to stick to your guns because being a woman, male customers sometimes might not take you so seriously but once you stick to your guns, and stay professional, you realize you get even more respect than probably you ever thought you’d ever get.

Marc Jay: You seem to be very grounded and very good at what you do and maybe that has to do with the fact that you grew up in Las Vegas. How do you stay so grounded and what was it like living in a place where you were surrounded with casinos and this sort of lifestyle as a teenager?

Sherri Martin: I’ve been living here since I was six years old, growing up around casinos is like how someone grows up in the Midwest surrounded by trees and forests. It’s just kind of become my scenery and I’m sort of immune to it. But I’ve been blessed; I have an amazing family, I have amazing friends, and they’ve all kept me grounded and I’m just a good person. I have good morals and I believe that you should treat others the way that you want to be treated and I don’t believe the industry is above anybody, that you should change yourself for anybody. If you are a good person, you should stay that way and then you will be rewarded. Good karma.

Marc Jay: Now let’s talk about the future. What does the future hold for you? Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

Sherri Martin: Anyone would want to grow in 10 years, I mean, you never want to limit yourself. I enjoy my profession. I know there are many other roles, you could grow as a host, become a director or a manager. So, God willing, as long as I can stay in this field and continue to work for the wonderful Tao Group, I’d be more than happy to do it.

Marc Jay: I know Tao operates a load of venues, not just in Las Vegas, but in other places like New York. If given the opportunity, would you go to another city to work for any of the Tao Group’s other venues?

Sherri Martin: Because I have such loyalty to the Tao Group, if they wanted me to, then yes, but my heart really is in Las Vegas and I think this is where I really know how to excel since I’ve been here for so long that there’s just a level of comfort and a level of confidence that I have here.

Marc Jay: I hear you tried to step away from the scene for six months and tried living in Miami. How was it? How does Miami compare to Las Vegas?

Sherri Martin: As they always say, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and sometimes you have to move away to realize all of that. I mean, Miami is a beautiful place but Las Vegas is my home. The industry out there is very different; out here it’s a lot more professional. Miami is very different; it’s very cultured out there. I enjoyed running on the beach, I enjoyed the ocean – that’s something we definitely don’t have here in Las Vegas, but I’m happy to be home and Las Vegas is where my heart is. I’m happy I did it though, I grew as a person and I grew professionally also.

Marc Jay: For people out there who want to further a career as a VIP host, what sort of qualities do you need to succeed in this industry?

Sherri Martin: You definitely have to have good time management because there are only 24 hours in a day, but being a host you need about 35. You also need to have a very good personality because you’re dealing with all different types of people and you have to be very level-headed because you’re also dealing with a lot of intoxicated people. And you also have to be very confident because there are always those people who try to take advantage of you. You have to be the face of your venue so you want to be respectful and an all-around people person… and look good.

You can get in touch with Sherri Martin by email at Sherri.Martin@lavolv.com or by phone at 702-274-5590. Visit the LAVO website at www.lavolv.com.

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Interview with Lil Jon

posted on 05.14.2010

Marc Jay: It’s not often that I get to hang out with superstar legends and some big name artists, but today I’m joined by Lil Jon. Tell us more about what you’re doing here in Vegas today.

Lil Jon: I’m DJing here in Vegas, about to go on stage at the SKAM party here at the Hard Rock. I’m playing the Rehab pool party for the grand opening of “Skam Saturdays.”

Marc Jay: A lot of people didn’t know you were a DJ, so this may be news to some people. How long have you been DJing and what kind of music do you play in your sets?

Lil Jon: I’ve been DJing since the ‘90s. I was a DJ before I was an artist. I was a big DJ in Atlanta in the early ‘90s and then I stopped to work at So So Def with Jermaine Dupri. Recently one time I was in the club and I heard my boy – I didn’t know this DJ at the time, but now he’s my boy, DJ Spider – and he was just killing it. He really inspired me to start DJing again. Ironically I saw him in the airport the next day when we were leaving and we just connected. We did some mix tapes together and he kind of got me back into the groove. So, you know, now I’m all over the world doing this. My set is basically everything – house, hip-hop, maybe a little reggae. I just give ‘em a little bit of everything. I just want everybody to party, so I play something for everybody.

Marc Jay: It’s funny because some people similar to you only do hip-hip, but you really cross over into all genres of music, from Roger Sanchez to all these other people, to a lot more dance music. Have you made it to Ibiza yet?

Lil Jon: I haven’t been to Ibiza but I’ve been to the South of France. We did St. Tropez and that was crazy because people thought that I was just going to come in and rap and I just blew them away with my set, especially when I played house. They were shocked that I could play house music like that and, I mean, I just really ripped the place apart.

Marc Jay: I’ve seen you DJ a few times and honestly I think you could create a party in the lobby of a hotel. People just seem to go ballistic and they drink probably more than they’ve ever drank before. Some DJs struggle to get the party started, but as soon as you get on, the party starts. How do you create such an amazing event?

Lil Jon: I’m kind of cheating because most DJs play a Lil Jon party break or use a Lil Jon drop, but since I’m Lil Jon, I can just do the shit myself. People associate me with a crazy party, so as soon as people hear my voice and as soon as they see me, yeah, it just turns from five to 25; the energy level just goes up so much. I’m blessed that people appreciate me and like me like that, so I just like to make a party.

Marc Jay: So now that you’re DJing and performing as well, your schedule must be crazy. What upcoming gigs have you got lined up?

Lil Jon: Well, we’re about to go to Brazil to perform in two weeks and we're going to Canada next week – just stuff all over the place. The new album is coming out June 8th, Crunk Rock, we’re dropping the video for “Out of Your Mind” next week (it’ll be premiering on Vevo) so there are a lot of things you’re about to see from me over the next few months.

Marc Jay: What tracks are on the new album? Who have you collaborated with?

Lil Jon: There are a bunch of songs on there, but I’ll tell you what I can remember. I guess we’ll start with me and Steve Aoki working on a joint right now. You got me and this guy named Clark Kelli, you got me and LMFAO on “Outta Ya Mind,” me, R. Kelly and Mario on “Ms. Chocolate,” you got Soulja Boy… so many people. Me and 303 and Dr. Loop did a joint called “Hey” which is crazy. I just got a lot of different kinds of stuff on the record from hardcore crunk stuff to pop, basically.

Marc Jay: There are a lot of people, as I’m sure you know, who’d like to be half as successful as you are. How did you start out and when did you get your big break? Was it going back with the East Side Boyz?

Lil Jon: Basically it was a slow grind building process. We started off in the city [of Atlanta]. We started off with a hot record in the city, that hot record spread to other towns and shit, and so on and so forth. We just built from album to album and built a fan base; it just took off. Nationally, “Bia Bia” was my first commercial single, but it really took off when we dropped “Get Low.” That’s when everything started to really blow up for me.

Marc Jay: Did you ever actually have a “normal” job, or were you always into your music, rapping and that kind of stuff?

Lil Jon: Nah, I stumbled onto this music shit [laughs]. I used to live in my momma’s basement and I used to skate. So all skaters, they kind of want to work at the skate shop, so they can get free shit or discounts on their skateboards and shit. I worked at the skate shop and that was basically the only job I really had. Then I went to So So Def and that began my career as an executive.

Marc Jay: Tell me a little bit more about the East Side Boyz, because it was before my time, I wasn’t in America then, so I’m not too familiar with it. How did the three of you guys get together?

Lil Jon: When I was at So So Def, one of the artist’s names was Playa Poncho and the East Side Boyz used to hang out with him. The artist was always with us because I was the A&R guy, so we all kind of ended up hanging out. I wanted to do a record for Atlanta clubs, so we ended up doing this record and that’s how I started. We did a couple of albums together but when you start to grow, sometimes you start to move in different directions. So they went one way and I went one way; I’m doing my thing, they doing they thing.

Marc Jay: Where are the other two guys now? Are they still in the business?

Lil Jon: I think they’re trying to put an album out, but I don’t really know. They trying to do they thing, I’m trying to do my thing.

Marc Jay: Some artists, like Ice T, have crossed over into acting. Do you see yourself going into movies, or have you done any?

Lil Jon: Later on I want to do animated films and stuff. I did some voice-overs for some animated cartoons already, which will be coming out on Cartoon Network later this year, but that’s what I want to do – no acting, but animated.

Marc Jay: So now you live back in Atlanta and LA pretty much. When you’re back at home, do you have somewhat of a “real life” or is it all crazy parties all the time? When people see you on TV, you’re just going crazy with Patron bottles – is that what you do at home?

Lil Jon: At home I don’t even really drink, maybe some wine here and there. I’m always de-toxing at the house. I drink a lot of green tea and I chill out with my son and my wife.

Marc Jay: Now I heard it drove you crazy when people would come up to you in the streets shouting out the slogan you’re most famous for. Did it drive you crazy? How often did that actually happen?

Lil Jon: It happens so much that people who are with me get tired of motherfuckers saying the shit [laughs]. So that shows you how much they say it – even the motherfuckers just hanging out with me get tired of it. I can’t go nowhere without nobody saying one of the catch phrases.

Marc Jay: Where did the catchphrases come from and when did you actually come out with those phrases?

Lil Jon: They’re all basically adlibs, you know, I do little adlibs to hype up a record. It just got crazy when Dave Chappelle put it on TV, and just made the “what?!” a part of hip-hop culture in the world now. I mean, everybody knows it from him. With him putting it on the show, it’s going to be forever. TV is forever. I thank him for doing the sketch on me, but you get tired of people screaming at you.

Marc Jay: Did you know that he was going to do it? Did he call you and tell you or was it a surprise to you?

Lil Jon: No, he didn't tell me, but one of my boys was a DJ on the show and he called me and said, “Yo man, Dave Chappelle is doing a sketch on you.” I was like. “Man, you fucking lying.” So, I didn’t believe it and then we turned on the show and sure enough he did the fucking sketch. I was like “Wow, that’s amazing” because I’m just a regular dude and he’s the biggest comedian ever – I mean, not ever, but he’s one of the biggest comedians of our time. I was like WOW. I went to the show to show some love and thank him for doing the sketch and he told me to hang out and I ended up getting in the sketch. It’s a famous sketch from the end of the season where me and him are going back and forth and that was amazing to me too because for him, being the legend that he is, to be able to sit and improv with him, that was amazing. People don’t get that kind of opportunity. It made the episode and it got on the show that was amazing. I’m blessed.

Marc Jay: You filmed the music video for “Shots” with LMFAO at Tao Beach last year. That was a fantastic song. I go around the world and I hear that song everywhere. How did you get involved in that song? Did they call you or how did that come about?

Lil Jon: They had the track and they had their verses done and they called and were like, “Yo, we want you to get on this.” As soon as I downloaded the track and listened to it, I was like, “Oh my God, this is fucking amazing” and basically knocked it out in like 20 or 30 minutes and sent it back. I knew it was quick because when I called them and said, “Yo, I just sent you the song back,” they were like “What? You finished already?” But it was just like an immediate thing. I instantly caught the vibe when I heard the track.

Marc Jay: I know you’ve worked with many artists before, but is there any artist that you haven’t worked with who you want to? And who is the best person that you’ve worked with so far?

Lil Jon: I mean everybody is cool, you know what I mean? Probably the person I want to work with the most right now, who I’m a big fan of, is Dr. Dre. I met him once, but that was before I was even an artist, but I grew up on NWA, I’ve worked with Ice Cube, and it would be great to work with Dre.

Marc Jay: What projects have you got coming up in the future?

Lil Jon: Mainly the album, Crunk Rock, which comes out June 8th. Also, me and Steve Aoki and Laidback Luke just did a song, which is crazy, called “Turbulence.” I’ve just been collaborating with a lot of people – Afrojack and I are going to hook up and do some stuff, me and Roger Sanchez, a bunch of people. I’m just collaborating with all kinds of people. I just love music.

Click here to check out the pictures from Lil Jon's DJ set at Hard Rock.

You can follow Lil Jon on Twitter at twitter.com/liljon or on Facebook at facebook.com/liljon. For booking information, please visit SkamArtist.com.

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

Interview with Designer James Gundy

posted on 05.07.2010

Marc Jay: I’m going to call you the king of all designers because I’ve known you for like 10 years now, I’d like to say. We were at Mandalay Bay together where you’ve created some amazing stuff. Tell us about the latest space that you’ve designed.

James Gundy: The name of the venue is called King Ink and my client is world renowned tattoo artist Mario Barth. It’s a tattoo lounge which includes three tattoo studios, a large retail area and a bar which also opens up to the exterior patio space.

Marc Jay: I remember I came here six months ago, or maybe a year ago, and they were selling candy and sodas, and today it’s totally different. Where did this concept come in? How did you come up with the idea of a tattoo lounge?

James Gundy: Well, really it all started with Mario Barth who is probably the most well-known tattoo artist, certainly in America, probably in the world. He currently has Starlight Tattoo at Mandalay Bay. When he opened the store at Mandalay Bay, he really wanted to get his feet into the Vegas nightlife scene and then he found the space over here at the Mirage, previously the Roasted Bean. It had this old castle, European vibe about it, with the architecture and the big, vaulted ceilings and the decorative corbels and columns. That’s what really drew Mario to the space. He wanted to create a tattoo studio, not a tattoo shop. Tattoo shops are usually on the outskirts with the big neon tattoo sign, dark and seedy, and we wanted to create the high-end, comfortable, inviting tattoo studio. The focus of the project was not to grab the people that want to get tattoos that follow Mario, but to get the people who don’t have any ink at all. You can set up a tattoo studio and grab anybody who really wants to get a tattoo, but how do we create an environment where we can grab the people who don’t have ink at all? Especially in an environment like the Mirage, in one of the best locations in the Mirage, right in front of the north valet, which is right next to the president of the hotel’s office. He’s here a lot, so it’s very important for us to create an environment that was inviting for the hotel's entire demographic. So we created three tattoo suites, which have polished white floors, white ceilings, and a very clean, white light, so it doesn’t interfere with the actual act of tattooing. So, when you ask for a certain type of ink or color, you actually can see the true colors. We’ve then created retail integrated into the walls that surround the tattoo studios, along with retail casework within the middle of the space, which also functions as furniture and table tops for people to stand around at night when it turns into a lounge. Within all of that, the common thread is the retail. You can have the tattoo on one side, the liquor on the other side, but what really holds that all together into the early evening is the retail. The retail and the large oval-shaped banquettes in the middle of the room, which act as your closet, sort of like the big chaise lounges women have in their closets. These are the in-between elements. During the day, we lay out the retail over the lounge, but at night we take those off and these become bottle service tables, so you can sit and hang out.

Marc Jay: I’ve always remembered tattoo shops being small, seedy private-like members clubs that would mist the windows. You couldn’t even see through the windows and now you’ve made this look like a beautiful clothing store, a high end bar, and a tattoo place. Are there any other places in Vegas similar to this one or is this the first of its kind?

James Gundy: No and yes. There’s nothing in Vegas like this. There are a few places in Vegas that call themselves “tattoo lounges,” but they’re not. This is truly a tattoo lounge. It’s 4,000 square ft. (approximately) of retail, bar, tattooing and lounge, and we have a 2,000 sq ft. patio on the outside. So, just by putting a bar in your tattoo studio doesn’t mean that it’s a tattoo lounge. We’re not trying to divide the program. The program is tattoo, retail and liquor. We’re trying to integrate that. What really holds it together is Mario and this idea of “lifestyle” – that’s what this really represents. It’s about the lifestyle Mario’s involved in everyday of his life and bringing that mainstream. By creating the space that we did, when you come in here on the weekends and you see how busy it is and you see the type of people that we have, I mean we’ll have 60 year old people come in here on their way to the hotel, they’re checking out the hotel, they’ll walk in here and walk into the whole space and go “wow, this is great.” Ask them if they walk down the street or walk into their local tattoo shop and ask them if they do that, they wouldn’t, they don’t, so we’re trying to respond to that demographic and of course we get the people in here that know who Mario is – “Oh, we know about King Ink” they walk in here expecting to see a tattoo studio and they’re like “are you kidding me.” This place is amazing. We even get people who come in here in the afternoon who just sit at the bar and drink.

Marc Jay: So I know this is like a small part of your portfolio of what you’ve done in Vegas. I know you have a company here. What other projects have you worked on in the past?

James Gundy: The company is 1027 design management. When I was working for Mandalay Resort Group in Corporate Development, I designed a few projects; one was Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay Bay – the original Moorea Beach Club, not the recent remodel, the original. I also designed 55 Degrees Wine + Design, which was a wine store at the Mandalay Place. I did 3950 which was a restaurant in Mandalay Bay – that was my baby, my first project in Vegas. I also did Bare Pool here at the Mirage which is actually part of the reason why Mario brought me in to this project. The hotel had a relationship with me through Bare Pool and then another client of mine knew Mario and introduced me to him as s I was doing the remodel of the old Forty Deuce at Mandalay Bay, it’s now called The Rose, which opening is pending, but it turned out amazing. I’m very excited about The Rose! It’s truly the first cocktail lounge in Vegas, as opposed to the oversized bottle service nightclub with a five-bottle minimum. People are tired of that shit, you know? People want to go to dinner and have they can go to with their girl or guy and talk, drink and still feel like they are part of the scene without being dominated by people, annoying hosts and overpriced tables. I also recently designed the Bambu Bar at the Mandalay pool which opened last summer as well. I did the Leor jewelry store at the Palms, LBS Burger out at the Red Rock, and Venus Beach Club at Caesar’s Palace.

Marc Jay: You were born in California. How did you end up in Vegas and how did you fall into the design business?

James Gundy: Well, my parents were in the military. I was a military brat, so I traveled a lot. When it was finally all said and done, I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona, where I went to college, went to Arizona State. When I graduated from architecture school I moved to Las Vegas and then I went to work for Circus Circus Enterprises for corporate development and we were in charge of all development of all properties within the corporation. I worked for the vice chairman of the company, Bill Richardson. We built Mandalay Bay, subsequently we changed our name to Mandalay Resort Group. When I first worked for Circus Circus Enterprises I was an architecture intern for the in-house architecture staff and then the company decided to basically outsource architecture and design so they closed that department. Bill Richardson asked me to work in development with him as a corporate project manager of development and I jumped at that opportunity. Even though I was in corporate development, I wasn’t designing – I was managing designers and contractors and helping manage development for the company. But my design background really enabled me to communicate with the designers we hired and this was helpful in development many of the projects we built over the years. At some point, the right move for me was to resign from Mandalay Development and I opened my own design firm and I’ve been working ever since. I have always been a hard worker, a serious person and I take a lot of pride in what I do. I have been very fortunate with the opportunities that have been given. If it wasn’t for Mandalay Resort Group and Bill Richardson (someone who I have great respect for) in particular, opportunities would’ve been hard to come by and I would not be where I am today.

Marc Jay: I can only imagine that in Vegas, with its ever-changing casinos and buildings, that being a designer here must keep you incredibly busy. Plus I hear the budgets are quite big. Is this one of the best places to work?

James Gundy: If you’re in hospitality design there’s only one place to be and it’s Las Vegas. There are other cities in Asia, there’s Dubai, Miami, LA, New York – but for hospitality it’s really about Vegas… and Asia, those are the hot spots. But, you know, the economy has really got a strangle hold on everybody, so you don’t see the huge projects like there were here – the $30 million nightclubs or the $15 million restaurants. What you see now are more refined projects, more boutique projects, places like King Ink. You have somebody like Mario, who is very well known in his industry and who is appealing to people here, and we bring him in, build this space for a reasonable amount of money. We didn’t spend $30 million, but we didn’t spend $200 thousand either. We spent the right amount of money for the market and for our expanding demographic!

Marc Jay: When you get a project, what is the most enjoyable part?

James Gundy: That’s a difficult question because the things that I like are also the things that I hate. It’s like a new girlfriend – you’re excited in the beginning, but after two or three dates you’re over it. We all know how that is (laughs). When you don’t see her for two months, you’re like “Oh, I’ve got to call her back up again” (laughs). It’s the same thing with design. At the beginning you’re excited, you meet a client, they have so much energy, and then you get started. All of a sudden you hit the roadblock, whether it’s personality issues, or design issues, or money issues, you always end up with roadblocks along the way. No matter how long you practice, those roadblocks are still difficult to get by. But at the end of the day, when the project is over, you look back and it’s every moment, every argument, every design change, the good and the bad that make up the total journey or experience. In the end, that’s what you I come to appreciate and cherish about my work.

Marc Jay: Have you ever had any crazy situations where you’ve underestimated your budget and halfway through realize you need a bigger budget or does that never happen?

James Gundy: It can happen. First of all, every project goes over budget. Period. It’s inevitable. I learned a long time ago working at Mandalay Development that it’s just about minimizing the damage. I learned this on the development side, because not only do I design the projects, but I’m also the owner’s rep on all of my projects. That means that the client hires me to be in charge of construction, purchasing, and managing the general contractor. So, when you do that as the designer, if I’m in charge of the budgeting and I’m the designer, I have complete control over the process. I can give the client the best product, in the shortest amount of time, for the price that they want. Sometimes clients becomes the middle man between the designer and the contractor and then budgeting problems arise, they start finger pointing, but that doesn’t happen on my projects because the owner hires me to manage this process as well as design.

Marc Jay: What is the biggest budget you’ve ever worked on?

James Gundy: Not including major hotel/casino development. Mix restaurant at the top of The Hotel was in excess of $20 million. It turned out beautiful. Those numbers were more of a product of square footage than the design. That’s not the most expensive per square foot. The most expensive space I’ve designed, per square foot, was 55 Degrees at Mandalay Bay. That project was very expensive and it was only about 2,000 square feet. I think we spent about $1.5 million on that space.

Marc Jay: Have you ever done residential design?

James Gundy: I have done residential design in Las Vegas. They have been large-scale condo-type projects, loft-type projects and they’re usually for clients of mine in the hospitality industry. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t do residential work, but it’s very involved, it’s personal, it’s where somebody lives and this type of project can be very time consuming but I am always up to the challenge.

Marc Jay: If people want to get in contact with you, how would they track you down?

James Gundy: They can email me at jgundy@1027dm.com.

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