Spin Meister

By day, you’ll find him on the quiet streets of Toluca Lake. But at night, DJ Vice, one of the most popular disc jockeys in the biz, can be found where the action is.

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    Kirk Silsbee

Thirty-four-year-old DJ Vice lives a life of stark contrasts. At night, he mans the turntables at some of the loudest and most intense venues anywhere: TAO and Lavo in Las Vegas, Greystone Manor in West Hollywood, AVENUE in New York City, LIV in Miami, and mur.mur and MIXX in Atlantic City. In these nightspots, the blinding lights strafe the rooms, bodies move in sweat-soaked waves, and the sound levels often pulsate at 128 vibrations per minute.

Just “Vice” to his friends, he controls the atmosphere with his audio choices and improvised manipulations. Like a savvy performer, he senses the mood of the crowd and whips up sonic cocktails that surprise but never jolt. Known for his smooth programming transitions, Vice eschews the jarring East Coast practice of sound segues that rain down like drone attacks.

His nights often go until four in the morning. His days are distinctly mellower. They’re often spent in a windowless room a stone’s throw from the Los Angeles River. On a deserted street, the only sounds to be heard are the distant roar of the 10 freeway and a band rehearsing in a converted warehouse.

In a little, one-story building with vinyl-encased LP covers paving the floor like linoleum, Vice does his real work. With almost no visual stimuli, he assembles sounds on his computer and keyboard, sometimes for 13 solitary hours a day. He lives for accolades like: “I don’t really dance, but you got me sweating tonight!”

Vice, born Eric Aguirre, was 12 when he first mixed two turntables for a junior high dance at St. Dominic’s in Eagle Rock. “Back then,” says the baby-faced musician, “I’d never seen a deejay work. I heard the Mix Masters on KDAY and tried to figure out how they were creating those sounds. It wasn’t until I saw guys like Jazzy J on Yo! MTV Raps that I got a sense of how the New York deejays worked the tables. Actually, I liked it better when I just had my imagination to go on!”

You might have heard his work on TV. That’s Vice’s sound design on the Xenith helmet commercial with Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.  

Currently tweaking his first commercial single, music is not enough for Vice. He owns the CRSVR Sneaker Boutiques in Santa Barbara and Las Vegas. “I collect tennis shoes,” he confesses, “and the stores just came out of my passion.” He’s also designed a line of luggage for Tumi, stemming from his dissatisfaction with his laptop case.   

Gracious and polite, Vice is no my-way-or-the-highway programmer. “People find out where I’m working,” he says, “and they’ll contact me on Facebook and ask me to play something for them.  I’ll also do web searches to find out what people listen to in other markets before I play those cities.  I don’t cater to myself—I cater to them. I want to leave them wanting more and to come back.”