: Deanna Rilling
She’s been a fan, party promoter, an integral part in bringing electronic music to the West Coast while booking and DJing at Heaven in L.A., and nabbed spots spinning at Coachella, A State of Trance 550, and Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas. But even though she’s got an impressive resume, newbie EDM fans may still be unfamiliar with Kristina Sky. We chatted with Sky after her recent gig at Marquee Dayclub to learn more about her long career behind the decks, plus a bonus live recording of her set
For newbies who might not be familiar with your music, how would you describe it to them?
Emotional, melodic, dance music. So EMDM [laughs]? I’m not really genre specific even though I’m known to be a trance DJ, but as you can hear from my set, most of it was not traditional trance. Just something with melody; I like vocals.
What was your approach to your set when opening up for Cosmic Gate at the Marquee Dayclub gig?
I had a three-hour set—which is kind of a long set, especially for opening because the whole thing of opening is kind of taking it to the edge, but not over the edge. A three-hour set is hard to do that where you’re not going crazy, but you’re also keeping it interesting. The first hour I knew I just wanted to keep it—I think if I was [the crowd] because I used to be them, so I don’t want to show up to the pool at 12 [p.m.] and have banging music. I want to ease into it. So that’s kinda how my approach was: Beach-y, outdoor, summer-y. Then around 1 o’clock, I started to go a little more—not mainstream because that’s the thing, even when I play mainstream, it’s always a mix that isn’t quite as [commercial], but it’s a song that they know and I try to do my own thing with it. So I did that for a little while. I wanted to do some progressive trance because Cosmic Gate is trance for the most part. So it’s a little weird to do tech house, melodic tech house, or something like that the whole time leading up until then. So I did a little bit of that, and as we got closer [to Cosmic Gate going on], do a little more melodic like their style, pull back—I don’t know. You just start to know how to gear it, read the crowd and look and see what people are reacting to.
It was an interesting day in the desert with the weather and periodic rain showers. Did that affect the mood of the set?
Not really because luckily it didn’t get really bad. But again, I was trying to play tracks with subliminal messages—I like to play tracks that have vocals that are talking about the summer, or talking about daylight. I don’t like to play a track that’s talking about the nighttime. The only one I did was Late Night Alumni, “Empty Streets,” just because I wanted to drop it. But I tried to keep it really beach-y and pleasant. Cosmic Gate’s there to do their thing and I’m just trying to complement that a little.
[caption id="attachment_13816" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Kristina Sky at Marquee Dayclub on August 25, 2013"]
What do you feel people should know about your path to being a DJ/producer?
That I’ve been doing this since the ground up in L.A. I was part of the first trance club in America. I was resident DJ there and I did bookings; it was called Heaven. That club, we were the first ones to bring Cosmic Gate to the West Coast—it might have even been the first time they were in America, I’m not totally sure, but it was definitely the first time they were on the West Coast and it was only Bossi because we couldn’t afford to bring both guys. Of course Pasquale [Rotella of Insomniac Events] was first on the rave level, but I kind of came in when there was no club scene and we wanted to legitimize this music by putting it in clubs where it wasn’t non-permitted, you could buy alcohol there, normal people could go and attend. So I think that’s a pretty big part of my thing: I was a promoter turned DJ, then I was booking DJs and DJing at the same time and then I stopped booking DJs and was DJing full time, so it’s been kind of a slope.
In your opinion, what do you think are the most significant changes or milestones in the West Coast’s electronic scene in recent years?
Four years ago it wasn’t really that relevant. Most DJs dreaded playing [Vegas] because the people that ran the clubs wanted this really mainstream thing and we were still semi-underground. But now, especially since EDC came to Vegas, it’s opened up and now DJs can kind of do their thing. It’s always been a shade more mainstream than what they would play in other markets, but there’s a lot more freedom now, which I’m glad to see that because for a while it was like, “Ugh, is Vegas ever gonna get out of that?” thing, and now Vegas has—yeah, you hear “Clarity” three times, but aside from that, there are DJs like me and other DJs that come and play different stuff and it’s cool.
What accomplishment as a DJ are you most proud of?
Definitely for me was Coachella. That was a big deal for me personally. That was like an Oprah full-circle moment after going to every Coachella from the first one as a concert junkie. Then in 2006 playing on the same stage as Madonna and Daft Punk? Crazy. When I got that phone call, I thought it was a joke. … That was the biggest music festival at the time. But then ASOT [A State of Trance] 550 in Amsterdam last year and EDC even [were accomplishments]. I used to go to EDC as a promoter promoting my raves, so that was cool.
What are you currently working on in the studio?
I have a collaboration with Menno de Jong
, who I did “Signals” with. He’s a total sweetheart, he’s like my big little brother. He’s younger than me but he’s huge. We did that “Signals” track when I was in Amsterdam. I think we started in Miami at the conference that year and then ASOT 550 was like a month later and finished it when I was staying at his house. Then after that following this past Miami because we stay together every year—it’s been our tradition for like seven years—so we started that and we’ve been doing it remotely with him in Holland and me here. It’s 80 percent complete; it’s a vocal track and we’re having different vocalist write to it. It’s untitled now, but will hopefully be done in the next month or two.
Some fans were like, “We should start a group!” And I’m like “Cool, go for it.” But we made it a closed group so that there wasn’t a bunch of randoms in there. It’s a very small thing, we’re not in a rush to blow it up because I have another page, there’s so much social media I don’t want to bombard people. But it’s a place for them to go and post their own stuff or their thoughts. I like to check in and see what they’re talking about; it’s all centralized. Basically it’s a group for the hardest core KSky fans. And for me it’s like “Group hug! I love all you guys, you’re awesome!”
Your fans are pretty loyal. What’s the nicest thing a fan has done?
Signs that show up and T-shirts. For me, I’m not a Cosmic Gate, so when I see somebody did a T-shirt and drew on it—actually, I have a perfect example. Salt Lake City, I played there in June. It was my first time playing there. This really, really big fan who had never gotten to see me play, but was a fan of my radio shows, guest mixes and my live sets (there’s all these people in other places that don’t get to go to these clubs, so they download the set) and this guy’s been following me for years and was one of the big driving forces to why I got into Salt Lake, and I went to play this party. I’m on the decks and he had drawn a T-shirt design with some hearts and a KSky logo, it was his own thing. He posted it on my page and when I showed up to the gig, he had it screen printed on a T-shirt and I was like, “Oh, that’s really cute!” So I’m playing my set and maybe about half an hour before the end of my set, they came up and they handed me this poster had the design that he had on the T-shirt. They had taken it around the entire party while I was playing and everybody signed it like a yearbook. When I got back to my hotel room, I was with a DJ that opened for me and is on my agency roster, and we were kinda drunk and “Oh, let’s check out this poster!” and were trying to ready all these messages from people that were totally partying while they wrote these messages—there’s some of the funniest shit I’ve ever read. We were cracking up. That was just really cool and I have it at home and it’s this memory from random Salt Lake City—who knew?
Probably another thing that’s similar but not as detailed was when I went to Guatemala, they got a Guatemalan flag and all the big fans in the area signed it and I have that on my DJ booth at home because I love Guatemala and playing there. Those two stand out to me, but if anybody does anything
I’m grateful. —Deanna Rilling
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