Phlava on Changes to the Scottsdale Nightlife Scene, Spinning in Strip Clubs, and Why Paris Hilton's DJ Set Was Horrible
If you miss out on Phlava's set tonight at Red Revolver Lounge in Scottsdale, don't fret. The renowned local hip-hop DJ will be cold kickin' it live at both Sevens Lounge in Glendale or Club Miami tomorrow, followed by his regular Sunday night slot at Amsterdam. Plus, he's one of two residents of the infamous Tits and Turntable night at Bottoms Up Gentleman's Club, where he and Felix Fresh mix beats and boobs every Monday.
Phlava (known to his mama and papa as Michael Johnson) is one busy cat, due entirely to his ample skills as a turntablist and rap selecta. It's also why he was a staple of Valley hip-hop radio for years -- including a longtime stint on 101.5 Jamz -- and a hit in local clubs.
Up until last weekend, he also pulled a weekly gig at Pussycat Lounge. Sadly, like neighboring joints Myst and Suede, the place recently shut it doors as the latest casualty of the ever-changing Old Town scene. Phlava dished on these recent club closures during a recent chat with Up on the Sun, as well as his opinion on Paris Hilton's notoriously execrable DJ set, and a few other topics.
AKA: Michael Johnson
What genres do you specialize in? Phoenix/Scottsdale are the only cities I've been that separate DJs into separate bubbles. I spin whatever's paying that night. I spin hip-hop, R&B, classics, dancehall/reggae, house, electro, Top 40, Baltimore/Jersey/Philly club music, and go-go.
Where do you perform? Thursdays at Bobby Qs (hip-hop), Fridays at Red Revolver Lounge (R&B, hip-hop); Saturdays at Club Miami (Top 40, house, electro) and Sevens Lounge (hip-hop, reggae, Latin); Sundays at Amsterdam (EDM); and Mondays at Bottom's Up. [My] travel schedule starts back up next month: House of Blues Las Vegas in September, Trump Plaza in Atlantic City in August or October.
How many miles do you rack up on your ride each week getting to all these gigs? I use a cab for every gig, but it's a lot. My gigs go from 80th Avenue and Glendale all the way to Scottsdale every week.
Bet that gets fairly expensive. Not really, and it allows me to drink responsibly. Also, I can sleep on the way there or back home.
So Monday at Bottoms Up is Tits and Turntables, right? Yes sir. Me and Felix Fresh.
Is spinning at a strip club as awesome as it sounds? It's still the strip club feel but with a DJ mixing [and] cutting. It's a job, somebody's gotta make the sacrifice. Seriously. It's a little different for me, not the half-naked women but the format.
Does your significant other mind that you're working in a strip club? [I'm] single. The baby mama laughs about it though.
So how is the format different? I never thought I'd ever DJ a strip club, but Felix and DJ Astonish laid out this format that's not too bad. I have to play slower, but I can trick out the songs a little. Gotta let songs play cause people are getting lap dances. That's different than how I play at clubs. The strip club allows me to let loose as a DJ a little bit, don't have to rotate a dance floor and worry about the club stuff. Just play, get the girls amped up and make dudes throw money and ladies throw money.
The last remnants of Myst (where you performed for years) were demolished this week, including its trademark spire out front. How do you feel about that? I miss working with that staff, hands down the best in Scottsdale that I've worked with. But, I'm always excited about something new. I wanna see if we are progressing forward or backwards, so I can't wait to see what the outcome will be.
Pussycat Lounge closed last weekend, which was another spot you performed at regularly. Well, I like change, so lets see what they have in store for the transformation of that location. Whatever transforms there I hope to be blessed with the opportunity to play there as well.
Is Scottsdale's nightlife scene in the midst of some major changes? Most definitely. At least five new clubs have opened in the past year and a half. That alone causes a heavy rotation. Scottsdale has always been about migrating to the new spot. But, now new spots are being built. All that growth in such a short period has also required a growth in diversity as well.
Phlava rocks a crowd at the now-defunct Myst.
Courtesy of Michael Johnson
Do you think that Old Town clubs will continue embracing hip-hop nights like they've been doing since the economic crash in 2009? I think the old school mentality is almost gone in Scottsdale, at least on the business side. There is a large income generated from these nights. And the stereotypical problems don't come with them, like [many are] lead to believe. So those business that have embraced these 100 percent hip-hop nights see the high-end celebrity value they bring. These nights sell nothing but high dollar liquor (Patron, Ciroc, Goose, Hennessy) and the drinks are specialty drinks. And they are providing bottles service. So, those that have embraced it will continue. Monetarily, there is no reason to stop. One-hundred percent hip-hop just means that. No Top 40 or house. EDM Nights mean no hip-hop. If that's what you enjoy, then come [out].
Stereotypical problems? Given the demographic it draws. There are assumptions that certain things occur or certain types of people attend.
If you could change anything in Scottsdale nightlife, what would it be? The overall demographic divide and mentality. When I moved to Arizona, everybody partied together.
What's your opinion of Paris Hilton's recent DJ...uh, performance? It really disgusts me. There's more to DJing than spinning records. It diminishes the whole craft. It takes the quality of the club experience away. Book someone like her to do what she does best, be in the VIP and drink. She does that well. Leave the DJing alone. Some celebrities, I'm cool with being DJs...they were before they were big, like Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri and Swizz were all DJs before. But Paris and Snoop? C'mon.
What do you have against snoop DJing? He basically kicked DJ Jam, Snoop's official DJ, in the nuts. Now it diminished his career. Now they will book Snoop, who can't spin, for thousands and not book his DJ, a veteran, at all or for chump change. It's ridiculous. It kills the craft, kills the pay scale, and it doesn't teach the new generation about what it really takes to be a successful DJ.
There wasn't much creativity on Hilton's part during her set, right? She did what these cosmetic DJs think it takes: Play a song, dance, fist pump and ramble on the mic. I'm sure someone told her what to play. I believe it was pre-recorded. Watch the video and she barely cued the song, she was scripted. She wouldn't know what to play in different cities, she's not a DJ. We live and breathe this. Wake up everyday and download, categorize, and organize our music. Spend endless hours on several sites downloading. Networking with DJs around the world for what's hot and exclusive.
What's your philosophy when it comes to DJing? There is no warm up. From the minute you get [in] command the tables, play like you want to party, whether its 50 or 5,000 people.
How do you craft an effective set? For me, every show/night is different. I'm a real DJ, I read the crowd. Reading the crowd is the most important aspect to being a good nightclub DJ. I never plan out what I'm gonna play. Walking in the door you can usually tell what direction your gonna be going. I like to keep my sets more current so that when I drop a throwback or classic record that I actual means something, No matter what format. I go for what we call the "Oooh" factor: You build up and then drop them records that make the crowd go "Oooh."
What's your favorite tracks of the moment? Hip-hop: "Function" by E-40. EDM: "Lick It" by Kaskade. R&B: "2 Reasons" by Trey Songz
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.