DJ Duo Nickel & Dime open for Steve Aoki on October 9th at The Great Saltair. Photo: Dave Brewer
Nickel & Dime are Salt Lake’s up-and-coming hard electro DJs, playing massive sets in bars and parties all over the city, satisfying the craving in the party scene for nasty, hard-as-shit electronic dance music (EDM). What stands out about this DJ group is their ability to diversify, and their complete determination to be the best DJs possible, constantly finding fresh and unique material to use in their live shows and recorded mixes.
Since spring 2009, Nickel & Dime—Salt Lake DJs Aaron Holland and Jon Rappaport—have been killing dance floors all over SLC, from their monthly W Lounge gig (usually the third Friday of the month), to house parties, to sponsored blowouts like the Loft events and the Winter Dew Tour afterparty. Their sets are designed for face-melting, and whether you’re wasted or sober, you’ll want to dance as if your life depends on it.
They recently landed a huge slot opening for Steve Aoki on Oct. 9 at The Great Saltair. “We are hyped!” say Holland and Rappaport in an email interview. “It will be one of the biggest shows of our career thus far. We’re planning on bringing some big vibes.” Holland met one of the producers for the show, Drew Douroux, in a film editing class at the U a couple of years ago, and actually introduced him to Aoki and Dim Mak (Aoki’s record label). He gave Douroux some mixes and did a radio appearance with him, and has worked with him a couple of times since then. The boys have big plans for the show. “We’re going to bring massive blenders [long, smooth transitions], exclusives and Nickel & Dime production,” say Holland and Rappaport.
The Nickel & Dime sound is like an extensive mathematical equation, intricate and original: part hard electro, part disco, part heavy dubstep and part house, with bits and pieces of hip hop, big bass and dub. The mood of their sets range from uplifting, fist-pumping shit to darker, dirtier and glitchier, all the while keeping a pretty nasty groove with their stylish transitions, heavy bass lines and a unique and fresh choice of songs.
“Our sound is ever-changing and evolving—fun styles of music that can bring people together for a good time. We aim to play music that is easy to move to and complements the wide world of electronic music,” say Holland and Rappaport. The key is diversity, and as Holland says, “We take pride in the originality of our sets. When we began spinning together we agreed to never play the same set twice.” In terms of influences, both Holland and Rappaport cite record labels like Night Slugs, HyperDub, Untold and Mad Decent, and radio stations like RinseFM, Red Bull Music Academy, Scion Radio and BBC Radio 1 as taking electronic music to the next level.
Nickel & Dime met in the spring of 2009 in an internet marketing class and bonded over electronic music. “Eventually it was like, you DJ? I DJ too. We should spin together.” Says Holland, “We were both very focused on doing something new rather than the typical laptop electro DJ. We were dropping samples over each other’s tracks. Spinning with four decks was like a whole new world to both of us.”
Holland began DJing in 2008. “I have always been interested in music.” he says, “The more and more shows I went to, the more and more I began to idolize DJs. I traded a snowboard for my first set of turntables. Once I began spinning, I could not stop.” He spent the summer of 2008 locked up in an apartment, creating live mixes on his M-Audio Torq with Xponent turntables, getting a feel for his equipment.
Rappaport grew up in LA, big into the underground hip hop scene. “I would watch DMC videos and I wanted to rock the same shit and get down like they did, so I made some moves after my bar mitzvah and bought my setup and was rocking FruityLoops making beats as well—same setup I use today minus FruityLoops [Serato Scratch Live with Technics tables and Logic 9, Ableton Live and Audacity for production].” says Rappaport, “Hip hop has unfortunately lost some mojo for me, so I began getting into party music, which has developed into a passion for dubstep and house these days.”
The group’s first gig was at a house party just off 1300 East in April 2009. The house was jam packed with people getting down to this music that no one had really heard before. Nickel & Dime rocked the party for a couple of hours before the cops came on a noise complaint. Holland says, “I could not believe how much more fun it was spinning with someone else.” Rappaport, however, was only thinking, “How the hell are we going to get out of here without being arrested?”—an occupational hazard for anyone playing house parties in SLC.
Regardless, after that one show together, they knew they had something good, and began playing more parties around Salt Lake throughout spring 2009 until they landed a gig at a party at the Loft in May 2009, one of the first legit gigs they played. “Big up to the Loft crew for bringing the dopest parties to SLC last summer and supporting us,” say Holland and Rappaport. Through the Loft parties, they met local DJ and promoter Flash & Flare who would bring them into the W Lounge, and were also put in touch with Red Bull, who has since sponsored many of their events.
The energy of their sets has defined the style of Nickel & Dime since the beginning. “We know that if people are having half as much fun as we are having, they will be back.” says Holland. That mentality behind their music is evident even in their recorded mixes that are huge and energetic, which is partly because they always mix live. “I feel like we bring some crazy energy when we are up there, and I always try to get the crowd more involved when I am DJing,” says Rappaport. “We always bring music nobody has heard to create diverse vibes and styles.”
There are two of them, after all, and that works to their advantage in a place where most DJs spin solo. “We can do twice the homework and bounce ideas off one another.” they say, “Practicing, producing and shows are more fun with two people. The ability we have to be critical of each other’s work has helped our sound grow and evolve in an effort to stay ahead of the curve.” In an area where electronic music is growing, but not hugely popular, they have managed to produce mixes and live sets that are on the cutting edge of the EDM scene, matching and exceeding anything being released out of the large scenes in LA, NYC and Europe.
Their plans for the rest of the year are to DJ as much as possible and finish work on their first EP, featuring original production and remixes, due in late 2010 on Vybe Tribe Records. Come see them open for Steve Aoki at Night of the Pharoahs on Oct. 9 at Saltair, and keep an eye out for other upcoming Nickel & Dime events.