Some things are just meant to be. Like when Los Angeles-based DJ and producer Valentino Khan was added to the IleSoniq lineup at the very last second and went on to deliver one of the most energetic, memorable sets of the festival.
Starting his career as a hip-hop producer when he was just 16 years old, Khan eventually transitioned into the electronic scene while continuing to work as a producer for major artists, including Bruno Mars and 2 Chainz.
Even more impressive than his collaborations, however, are his own tracks, which fans and peers alike simply can’t get enough of. Last year’s ‘Deep Down Low’ is the perfect example: The single went on to earn the title of Most Played Track By DJs in 2015.
We caught up with Khan before he hit the stage in Montreal to talk about all of his accomplishments, his recent trip to Japan (which has us totally jealous!) and his dreams of teleportation.
Your set is in exactly 35 minutes — how do you feel?
I feel like I should probably end this interview, so I can go to the stage. No, I’m kidding! [laughs]
That’s so mean! [laughs]
With anybody but you! [laughs]
That’s fair! [laughs] So what’s really going through your mind right before a gig?
I stay really calm until like 10 minutes before my set, then I mentally rev myself up, then I’m ready to go!
I’m excited. I love this city — I love playing in Montreal. I’ve had some of the most insane shows out here. So yeah, I’ve very much looking forward to it.
Do you ever find yourself on stage, thinking ‘Holy sh*t, I can’t believe I’m here!’
Yeah, there are surreal moments. There’s a balance between being in the moment and taking a step back and appreciating exactly what’s going on in front of you. Sometimes you have those moments where you’re either like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people here’ or ‘This is pretty damn cool!’ Usually those are the two reactions I have.
Of all the amazing cities you’ve gotten to perform in, which has been your fave so far?
The coolest city to be in, which was very recent for me, is Tokyo. I got to spend a few days off in addition to playing my show. The people out there are so respectful and appreciative and humble and amazing! The city is like the least boring city in the world. You can do some really exciting activities pretty much at any time of day or night.
What’s a Japanese crowd like?
They’re very enthusiastic. When I played my show, they stayed out until I left the club at like 6 a.m. A gang of people just [waited] to talk to me and meet me and I was really appreciative of that. It’s really, really cool.
In addition to making your own music, you also work as a producer for other artists — is one more gratifying than the other? How do these two very distinct gigs compare?
I do have those two sides of my career where I produce records for artists and I also do my own artist thing, making music for myself and touring. They’re both rewarding in different ways. I always appreciate the challenge of taking on a song for another artist and making them come out and be the best that they can be. But at the same time, the freedom of being able to make whatever you want for yourself if really refreshing.
You had the most played track of 2015 with ‘Deep Down Low’ — that’s gotta be surreal?
Yeah, it was the most played tracked by DJs in the world. It’s crazy because I never thought that ‘Deep Down Low’ was going to be as big as it got. I thought it was going to be something cool that my friends would play. It was a bit surprising… in a good way. I think once guys like Axwell and Ingrosso played it, it crossed over into a whole new territory with guys like Avicii, Afrojack and Calvin Harris starting to play it.
What’s the best thing about making electronic music?
The freedom that you have musically to do whatever you want. If you look at the spectrum of stuff that I do, I’ll put out a crazy hard style song, whatever you wanna call it, then I’ll follow that up with something that’s house-y and minimal. That’s the best part to me — I don’t get too boxed in.
Is there anything you’d change about the way the scene is today?
I wish we could teleport instead of flying on planes! [laughs]
For more on Valentino Khan, be sure to follow him on Instagram!
Interview by Barbara Pavone.
Photo by Katherine Dydyk.