Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 | 11:44 a.m.
While the spotlight is on the galaxy of stars performing and presenting at the iHeart Radio Music Festival at MGM Grand Garden Arena today and Saturday, one man has a work schedule that eclipses the music and Hollywood VIPs.
Popular Miami DJ Obscene, aka 24-year-old Jonathan Garcia, will be everywhere during iHeart weekend. He’ll be in the sold-out crowd at MGM Grand, but he’s also DJ’ing at nearby Tabu Ultra Lounge from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. today and Saturday for the pre-parties; Liquid Pool Lounge at Aria for daytime revelers Saturday; and at nearby Haze in Aria for an after-party with hometown hero Ne-Yo on Saturday night.
I spoke with the refreshingly intelligent and articulate DJ Obscene via phone in Miami last week ahead of his jam-packed party weekend in Las Vegas.
Don Chareunsy: Is this your first time at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas? Are you excited? How did the gig come about?
DJ Obscene: Yessir! And, oh, yes, definitely! I was performing at a pool party in June with Maroon 5, Flo Rida and Calvin Harris in Miami. On the first night, I was approached about iHeart Radio, so it’s been on my schedule for two to three months. It’s an awesome opportunity.
D.C.: How did you come up with your name?
D.O.: I’ve been DJ’ing for 10 years now; I started in middle school. My name came from the Eminem song “Without Me” -- “It’s just me / I’m obscene.” It really stuck. I think the name is intriguing and interesting; people want to know what is obscene about me. My wild and crazy self!
D.C.: What’s the most obscene thing that’s happened to you in the past few months?
D.O.: Hmmm … about a month ago in a club, a champagne shower got a little too close to my computer. I was freaking out, so I had to shut my computer. They’re a lot of fun, but they’re also a hazard for DJs.
D.C.: Tell me about your radio show in Miami.
D.O.: It’s on Clear Channel Y100, a staple for 15 years in Miami. I’ve been hosting it for three years on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s from 10 to midnight, and I feature what’s hot in clubs, new songs in the club that aren’t on the radio yet.
D.C.: And then you do your DJ gigs after the shows? Do you enjoy this late-night lifestyle?
D.O.: Not at all! I don’t enjoy sleeping late into the day. I’m usually awake by 8 or 9 in the morning. I like to get things done, work on social media. I do nearly everything myself; I like to plan my week. I sleep about five to six hours a night.
D.C.: You’re Latino, right?
D.O.: Yes. I was born in the U.S., but my family is Cuban.
D.C.: The majority of DJs are white males. Has being Latino affected your career negatively?
D.O.: Not at all. In fact, I think it’s an advantage, as I represent and can reach another realm of people, Latin people. But I’m versatile in that I can perform at corporate events, I can DJ for a classic rock crowd. I can determine what sets off another demographic.
D.C.: What do you love about working in Miami?
D.O.: I love the diversity of the people. Obviously, Miami and Las Vegas have in common the tourists and the late-night partying. It’s a wide range of people, and I like the diversity of playing for the entire crowd.
I can read a crowd well. I think it’s one of my strengths. Promoters and club owners have told me that’s what they like about me. I carried vinyl crates before computers. I like to see how people react; I look at a crowd more than the computer to see what they like or don’t like.
D.C.: You’ve traveled worldwide -- what are some of your favorite places to perform?
D.O.: My No. 1 favorite place this year was Aura Nightclub at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas. The Caribbean atmosphere, it’s even more diverse than Miami, people are ready to party because they’re on vacation. It’s a melting pot of different cultures, and people there have great energy. Plus, staying at Atlantis is great with the pool and waterslides.
D.C.: Recent remixes in the studio?
D.O.: I just started working on the production aspect of my career and want to go full force remixing songs I play in the clubs. I take my own version, spread it to DJ friends; it’s still very new to me. I remixed Calvin Harris and Ne-Yo “Let’s Go” 1 1/2 months ago and had a great response. The reaction reaffirmed my confidence. Next up is Alex Clare’s “Too Close.” Feedback is awesome; it fuels my career.
D.C.: Which DJs do you like to listen to?
D.O.: DJ Craze out of Miami was my inspiration growing up; he’s really respected here, and I try to enjoy his set live any time I can. There are a lot of good local DJs in Miami, really talented DJs. DJ Chuckie popped up on my radar recently with his scratching, hip-hop backgrounds, cutting up vocals -- it’s unconventional for a house DJ, but people were paying attention.
D.C.: Who’s on your iPod right now?
D.O.: A lot of Old School hip-hop from the ’90s -- Notorious BIG, Jay-Z, Tupac, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan. It’s my favorite era of hip-hop. I also listen to DJ house mixes for running and working.
D.C.: Do you have time for fun in Las Vegas? What do you like to do when you’re in Las Vegas?
D.O.: I love gambling! It’s been 10, 11, 12 years, I was last there as a kid, so I know that Las Vegas is really different now. New buildings, hotels, cool parties. I want to listen to DJs, local DJs at the clubs and lounges, Las Vegas as a whole musically. I’d like to explore the local music scene.
D.C.: Any clubs in Las Vegas that you’d like to headline?
D.O.: All the big clubs, of course. Wet Republic, Tao, Marquee, XS, but I know that it takes time to move up the ranks in the DJ game and the DJ ladder. I’m happy to DJ at places big or small.
D.C.: Are you a Dolphins fan?
D.O.: It’s very tough to be a Dolphins fan right now. I’m more of a Miami Heat fan; I have been since I was a little kid. My uncle has had season tickets since the first season, and having LeBron James now has made it rewarding after all these years.
D.C.: Future plans?
D.O.: After iHeart, I head to the Dominican Republic to the club Pry in Santo Domingo. I played there about a month ago. Then New York, the Bahamas and Halloween weekend in Miami. I’ll be at Hyde Bellagio on Nov. 9; it’s a new booking. I’ll work on more remixes and stay busy. I’m always working hard.
Don Chareunsy is editor of VegasDeLuxe.com and senior editor, arts and entertainment, of LasVegasSun.com.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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