I remember exactly when I met this month’s emerging artist, DJ Nice Rack. I was shooting a show at Three Keys at the Ace Hotel that she was DJ-ing. She waited approximately 16 seconds before walking right up to me and starting to speak about a mile a minute about different ways her and I could collaborate. Since her set that night – an opening set for a Valerie Sassyfras show during Mardi Gras – I have remained in awe of DJ Nice Rack’s complexity, confidence, work ethic, and hilarious rhetoric. Born in Baton Rouge and raised near Pensacola, Florida, her first influences included the DJs at her local skating rink that were playing Miami bass music in the 80s. But it wasn’t until she moved back home to Louisiana that DJ Nice Rack truly came into her own.
KS: How would you describe your music?
NR: I feel like I’m more of a dance party DJ so getting people on the floor shaking it is my main goal.
KS: Did you experiment privately before venturing into professional DJ work?
NR: Absolutely. I mixed my first record on New Year’s Eve 1999 at a friend’s house in Pensacola. After that I started collecting records and saving money so I could go somewhere with a more diverse DJ scene. I ended up in Los Angeles with a roommate that had two Technics so I had the opportunity to practice all the time on those. I worked at Baskin Robbins making ice cream cakes and then would dig through the $1 bins at all of the record shops across L.A. After a year, I left to go to college in Orlando where I continued collecting records and piecing together my DJ setup. I met some music producers that liked my stuff and they started getting me gigs at house parties and private events. I graduated in winter of 2006 and I made the move to New Orleans the following January. The scene was very different then. There weren’t as many little pockets of amazing parties as there are now. The city was very much in transition when I arrived.
KS: What was the transition like?
NR: Expensive. I took in the city, practiced a lot at home, and really needed to move to a digital format but I didn’t for years. I was committed to vinyl but the fact at the time was that people didn’t really seem to care what I was playing or how hard it was to find, they just wanted to hear good danceable music. Around 2011 I got a residency as DJ Nice Rack through my good friend Jordan Koppens at Pi on St. Peters Street next to Republic. I helped show the owners that the community needed a space for electronic music. They ended up renovating the area next door and turned it into a techno club. I also joined a parading crew, The Organ Grinders and we needed a DJ so I got a DJ controller that I could play on floats and on a DJ Tricycle. This fueled my transition to digital. I became friends with DJ Otto and he invited me to play at The Saint. It wasn’t until then that my career really started to take shape.
KS: What did you learn from both the professional and the personal practice?
NR: I learned that you need to absorb the city and its people to be able to play music they will enjoy. I tend to lean toward a more open format and learned how to make hard transitions to constantly explore music within my set.
KS: What has been your favorite performance experience in New Orleans?
NR: There’s so many. There’s a tie. The first Voodoo Fest at Tad Gormley Stadium was really rad. I ran into some of my besties from boarding school (shout out to Leigh Sledge and Nathan Stubbs for lending me the $20 to get in and Sasha Kopfler for finding me in the crowd) there. We saw Moby, Wyclef Jean, and George Clinton. And the one that hooked me on electronic music was Zoolu 5. I saw DJ Qbert, Rabbit in the Moon, Paul Van Dyke, Dieselboy, Richie Hawtin, and Adam Freeland. But thinking about it now, where were all the ladies? There wasn’t one on that entire bill!
KS: Which New Orleans musicians most inspire you?
NR: Johnny Vidacovich, Mia X, Frank Ocean, Irma Thomas, Professor Longhair, Beverly Skillz, Quickie Mart, The Meters, Allen Toussaint, Mannie Fresh, Lil Wayne, AF THE NAYSAYER, Nicky Da B, Delish da Goddess, Rusty Lazer, Madeleine Grace Kelly, Boyfriend, Soul Sister, Joey Buttons, LIL JODECI, DJ Pr_ck, Karem, Kromethsia.
KS: Favorite place to catch live music in the city?
NR: Three Keys or The Music Box Village.
KS: What do you love most about this city?
NR: It’s a place to flip a bad situation into a good one especially through the celebration of life—even after death.
KS: What is your favorite non-musical activity to do?
NR: Biking around checking out art or skating.
KS: Favorite food to eat in NOLA?
NR: That’s tough but I love the Vietnamese food here or gumbo with potato salad.
KS: Where would you like to see your career go in the future?
NR: I would like to gig more regularly on the international circuit.
KS: When is your next performance?
NR: I have a residency every second Friday at the Ace Hotel.