Los Angeles-based DJ/producer Jim Saviano seems to be everywhere in Vegas these days. The man known on stage as Savi has risen through the ranks of turntable trailblazers from messing around on the decks at Hollywood parties to helming a new residency at Drai’s Las Vegas, plus gigs at Marquee and Foxtail Pool Club. We talked to the Strip regular about how he got noticed as a DJ, and which track is currently rocking his world.
You started out working in nightlife, right?
I was managing for sbe back in 2007. I was the bar manager of the original Hyde back in LA. [The scene was] super A-list every night. It was like, Jay-Z and Kanye at one table, Sharon Stone on a date, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen hanging out at another table. Every table was just celebrity after celebrity. At the time, we were bringing in Steve Aoki and DJ AM and Sam Ronson and all the cool, indie LA DJs. DJing hadn’t even touched the surface of what it has become today.
What made you want to hit the turntables?
I was working 80-hour weeks running the club. I had always had an interest in music. I grew up playing in bands, and I play the guitar and the drums. I was the social chair for my fraternity in college and I was always doing the music for our parties. A year after [the popular DJ software] Serato came out, we had these two girl DJs that let me basically DJ with them for the first hour before anyone showed up [at Hyde on Sundays]. I started learning while I was managing the club. I don’t think I’ve ever told anybody that before.
Tell me about your first show.
My first gig was the day I bought turntables. I threw my own party with these two promoters, Adam Franklin and Brett Gursky. I had never DJ’d for anyone except for messing around on Sunday at Hyde. I knew good music to play, I just didn’t really know how to mix, yet. So I was really just slamming record into record. And it wasn’t good. At the time, I thought it was great. No one else really noticed. It wasn’t like it is now where the [crowd] is there for the DJ.
What roadblocks did you hit along the way?
When I started playing dance music, everything I played was an edit. I played my own bootlegs or mashups. I just never released them because I never wanted other DJs to be able to sound like me, and I didn’t have my own records yet, so for me that was my way of standing out. I think it helped because I was able to build my career as just a DJ.
All of a sudden, I became this guy who came out of nowhere and everyone was saying ‘Jim from Hyde’ was now DJing these parties. It kinda got me in trouble with sbe to the point where they sat me down and said, “Look, you can’t be going and playing other [non-sbe] venues and saying ‘Jim from Hyde’ is playing.” I kind of branched out from there to the point where I could stop nightclub managing altogether and just start full-time DJing.
Brian Affronti, who’s the vice president for Drai’s, heard me play at Drai’s in LA. I just did a deal with him over a handshake and he said, ‘I really like what you do. I want you to DJ here every other Friday. And if you do, I’ll make sure you get a shot at Drai’s in Vegas.’ He kept his word and they gave me a shot.
I was able to keep it non-exclusive, so it still allows me to go play at Marquee. I also get to go have fun at Foxtail’s pool and Life Nightclub with sbe, which is crazy. For me, it comes back full-circle to the people that I started with.
Describe your musical sound.
I play a lot of high-energy, feel-good stuff but I also play really hard. So for me, like, the dance music sound that I’ve been able to put together is still very melodic and vocally driven. It just has more of a stronger progressive presence with more electro basslines where it hits harder in the club. And most of the records I made for dance are capable of being crossover records where they can play as-is on the radio and they also could be played in a live set. And to me that’s, like, when you hit a home run because you want to get as much support for your records as possible.
I have been working on my own music for the last year or so and have a lot of records that are finally going to start releasing, the first being with ATB and Lema. I am stoked for everyone to finally get to hear what I have been working on.
What’s your go-to track?
Right now it’s—what’s that Bruno Mars record? Uptown Funk! I got into this new genre that everyone’s calling future house, and I had gotten this Riggi and Piros future house remix of Uptown Funk and someone was like, “Oh, that’s real big right now,” and I put it on and the reaction was insane. I had no idea. So now that’s a big staple in my sets. Once you play that, it’s go time—everything has to be big high energy, you don’t wanna bring ’em back down after that. That’s like the “Let’s go” song.
See Savi at Foxtail Dayclub on April 3, Drai’s Beach Club/Nightclub on April 10 and 11, and Marquee Dayclub on April 26.