On The Record: DJ Superstar Nikki
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
You can literally count the number of female DJs in Hawaii on two hands. And when it comes to female DJs who exclusively spin underground EDM, one hand is all you’ll need.
Nikki Sword — aka Superstar Nikki — showed off her superstar tendencies and devotion to the scene long before she ever thought of becoming a DJ. Her story is a classic example of how good things happen when you pour your passion into something you truly love.
Shortly after attending her first rave at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in 1999, Sword became part of the promo team for dance music party promotion company Double-O-Spot. The unpaid position required her to pass out fliers outside of events and on car windshields in parking lots.
“I fell in love with the people and the music,” she said. “I basically threw myself into the scene.”
Before she knew it, the self-starter earned the trust of Double-O-Spot head honcho Greg “G-Spot” Dehnert. Soon she was designing fliers, which eventually led to booking DJs, planning parties and working the door at events. At no point did working into the wee hours of the morning bother her, she said.
“I don’t think that any of it was a sacrifice. I did everything over the years for the love of the scene and the music and I will keep doing whateve I can to keep it going.”
Her team attitude and willingness to learn translated well into learning how to DJ. It was a struggle initially, but Nikki is quick to credit Dehnert and DJs Tide and Scarrd for teaching her the basics, as well as providing encouragement and the push she needed.
That was four years ago. While she calls herself the “anti-superstar DJ,” she’s seized the moment every chance she gets.
“When I see people rocking out during my sets or shaking my hand during my sets that’s what really gets me going,” she said. “I am grateful for every single time I have had a chance to play and for all the people and promoters (who) have supported me throughout the years.
“I honestly feel like I am not the best DJ out there but what I have is the love for the scene. I think that if it wasn’t for all the people I have met and befriended over the years I wouldn’t have the support that I have as a DJ.”
Nikki said juggling tasks can be a chore at times, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, she was so consumed by her non-DJ responsibilities at this year’s Love Festival that she missed her set. She understands her door duties may go unappreciated by party revelers, but the feeling isn’t mutual.
“You are the banker, the promoter and the host,” she said. “I feel like some people who come out to events don’t realize how many people ask for the homey discount or kamaaina discount. It seems like people think that they shouldn’t have to pay to go out to a party.
“You have to have thick skin for the people who are constantly complaining about paying but at the same time delicate because you don’t want them to not come in. It’s a reading-the-person game, in my opinion.”
When the trendy nature of EDM fades, you can bet Nikki’s passion for partying will persist both behind the scenes and behind the decks, all while basking in the spotlight.
“I feel like the scene might go quiet soon because it’s saturated from so many events, but that is the path this scene takes,” she said. “It goes up and down. I think that there are a few of us strong enough to keep it going quietly and then bring it back again harder and better.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.