Omi

Have to say, did not expect you to be a mojito kind of guy.

Really? What did you think I was gonna get?

Jameson on the rocks?

Oh no, I learned I can’t drink Jameson so I just stopped drinking Jameson. I never have mojitos but this is a mojito type of place.

You’re from Chicago and have a fan base not only here but in other cities where you’re a resident DJ like Vegas and L.A. What makes you want to keep Chicago as home?

I’m a really big family person. I have a nephew that’s 11 and a niece that is five, I’m their only uncle so I want to see them grow up. I’m really close with my parents and my friends are here. I’ve been asked many times to move to L.A. or Vegas but besides for the winters, I love Chicago and I’m a Chicago person. I can’t see myself anywhere else. I’ve thought about moving for just a few months out of the year to get a different vibe. As an artist, whatever you surround yourself with is a big influence so I thought that could help but I like Chicago too much. I don’t think I’m going anywhere.

When did you decide to give this career your all?

Growing up my dad always listened to dance music. My parents got divorced when I was pretty young but when I was staying with him or my mom they were always listening to dance music. Right out of high school they got me some equipment and I got into it as just a hobby but then it went away for a little while. When I got back into it I really put my mind into it. I’d say that was about 10 years ago and since then things just started to fall into place for me. I had the Moda nightclub thing, I had Crobar and I was on XM Radio for four years. Then when Vegas started to happen for me that’s when I really started to take it seriously.

How did you get picked up by SKAM Artist?

SKAM was all an open format hip-house mash-up agency, that was mainly what they had. They had a couple of celebrities like Lil Jon and Nick Cannon and they had wanted to start an electronic dance division. I think they saw it was starting to get bigger. They felt that Tony Arzadon, Chris Garcia and I were the guys that were really doing something in Vegas for house music so that’s how they picked us up.

Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

I would say Michael Jackson. I’ve always read up on him from way back when and how much he was into music. People like Kaskade I’ve always been a big fan of and now he’s huge and I’ve become really good friends with him. Bad Boy Bill, Felix Da Housecat, a lot of the Chicago pioneers I would say.

Now you regularly open for the artists you’ve looked up to, what has that been like?

Last Halloween I opened for Swedish House Mafia and it was hard to take in. Once I got there and saw the production—you’re in front of 8,000 people—you kind of take a step back and think, “Wow.” With Kaskade it was pretty surreal the first couple of times. It’s a pretty big honor that a lot of these guys are starting to request me. Between XS and Wet Republic in Vegas and the MID in Chicago they see me sometimes three times in the same week but in different cities and are like, “What the hell! Where are you from?” [Laughs] But I don’t take it for granted. I’ve become friends with these guys.

How do you prepare for the audiences that come with acts like Swedish House Mafia, David Guetta and Deadmau5?

Obviously when you’re opening for them you’re not going to play any of their music. Every guy is different. With Kaskade, who I’ve become really cool with, he doesn’t really care how I play or how energetic I am or how much I ‘kill it’ as you would say. Other guys want you to play pretty chill, pretty normal because they don’t want you to tire out the crowd. You start to learn and know each guy and how to play before them so it just depends on the artist.

If you could work with any artist, who would it be?

I’ve always been a big fan of Stuart Price [Thin White Duke], he did a couple of Madonna’s albums and Daft Punk. Who doesn’t want to work with someone like Daft Punk?

What do you hope people get from listening to your music?

The way I see it is when people come out they’re coming out to have a good time, to have a drink and to party with their friends. I like to take people on a journey. When people come out to listen to me I want them to forget about their worries, their problems at home, their stress, their bills and their work. People say, “I came out just to see you,” or, “I listen to your CD through the day,” and, “I listen to your podcasts to workout.” All of that stuff means a lot to me. Four years ago a girl wrote to me saying she lost 70 pounds just because of my podcast. Things like that mean a lot to me.

Do you have any equipment you use that you think has made your sound and sets better?

My basic setup everywhere I go is three Pioneer CDJ-2000s. It’s pretty much just Pioneer and the DJM-900 mixer. The equipment does make a difference. I started off making records then I went to CDs and now I just travel with a little SD card. It’s crazy! What’s next? I have thousands and thousands of songs on just this little card so that’s all I have to travel with. The new CD players allow you to just plug in your memory stick and everything shows up right there.

Who is an artist you like that might surprise people?

Foster the People. They are kind of an indie band and they’re not huge yet.

How do you choose the artists you put in your mixes?

There’s always the big artist that everyone’s playing but honestly I just play what I like. I do incorporate what I think the crowd is going to like for the most part. I’m grateful I haven’t fell into a rut where I have to play a Britney Spears song or a hip-hop song or anything like that but if I like a LMFAO remix, yeah, they’re a little commercial but if I like it I’ll play it. I’m pretty fortunate to say everything I’m playing right now I’m playing because I like it. I used to have to burn music just in case, to make CDs for the commercial crowd. Now for the past two and a half years I don’t get one single request because electronic music is blowing up. Maybe another reason now is that people are liking me for me and they know what they are going to hear and that they’re going to hear what they like because I’m not too underground.

How do you think house music has evolved?

Electronic music is getting so big it’s almost becoming commercial. The other day I put on the radio and Save the World [by Swedish House Mafia] was on B96. So it’s not that I have to adapt anymore. I feel like even hip-hop artists are moving more towards dance and electronic music.

When you’re on stage do you drink and relax or are you more focused?

A lot of nights there’s a lot of traveling and when I get to the next gig I don’t want to drink because I’m tired. Sometimes there’s a promoter, friend or fan and they want to have a drink. Once I have one or two drinks I get into it more. Just like anyone, when you’re on a first date or when you’re nervous you have a few drinks to loosen up. I still get nervous here and there because I know there’s a hundred DJs in the crowd gunning for me or just waiting for me to mess up. Those things are always in the back of my head. As comfortable as I am, no matter where I am, there could be 100 people or 100,000 people in the crowd as crazy as that sounds, there are still nerves. So yeah, I have a drink to loosen up and feel good.

And it’s always a mojito?

No! It’s not a mojito! I usually drink vanilla vodka and diet. It sounds weird but it’s good. Why I got a mojito here, I don’t know.

Is it hard to keep your friendships and relationships intact on the road?

In the beginning it’s easy. I’ve learned from my past relationships that you have to always keep them knowing that they’re your girlfriend, that you love them and that’s all. I’m 30 years old, I’m not 21 anymore. I don’t care to sleep around and all of that. As long as they know that you’re with them and you call them after the gig, it’s easy. It’s not so much checking in, it’s just if my girlfriend is across the country the least I can do is call when I get to the hotel room. If the tables were turned, it’s just a good feeling. Traveling has its ups and downs. It’s cool to get away for a few nights but it can be lonely.

What do you like about Chicago girls compared to girls in other cities?

You know what, I read one of your interviews [A Drink With Ed Swiderskiand I would definitely say Chicago girls are over a seven! I think as I travel I realize more how Chicago girls are very friendly. They have a good upbringing, good morals. A lot of Chicago girls have natural beauty. Some might disagree with me but from traveling you see a lot of fake boobs, fake lips or fake this and that. Chicago has a more naturally beautiful girl.

Favorite restaurant?

I just ate at Roka Akor, I really liked it there. It was really good and not too expensive.

What was your biggest standout moment from 2011? And what can we expect from you in 2012?

2011 has been my biggest year to date. This past Halloween was pretty big, I was with Avicii Friday and Axwell Saturday. I mean, it’s Halloween weekend in Vegas at XS, one of the number one clubs in the world! Also when I opened for David Guetta at the Congress Theater, it was just me and him which was pretty big to me. For 2012, I’m going to focus mainly on working on my own original music. I’ve become pretty addicted to it. I’m not going to get to that next level unless I’m working on my own music so I’m definitely going to be in the studio releasing my own tracks. In my eyes I still have a lot of work to do. I know that I’m lucky, I know that I’m doing amazing shows every single week. I know that I’m on the road 200 days out of the year but I know that I’m not where I want to be. I’m always striving for more.

If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?

I would have to say Denzel Washington. Growing up I’ve always liked all of his movies and his characters. He’s just an amazing actor, seems like an amazing person and he’s very successful in what he’s done. He doesn’t seem like one to be out and about and all of that. I’ve met tons and tons of famous people and I’d probably still say him. He’s not someone I would typically get to run into or see or hang out with so I feel pretty solid with that choice

Photography by Natalie Probst

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Omi