Known for his sets at Bass Station and all around Chicago, we interviewed DJ/producer AGVAS about Oksana Promotions and working with record labels.
If you’ve been to one of the endless number of EDM shows in Chicago recently, you might be familiar with AGVAS. A passionate supporter of the scene and a talented upcoming artist, AGVAS has found success both DJing and producing original tracks.
Oscar Hernandez started the AGVAS project in 2018 and has since become known for his DJ sets around Chicago. First establishing himself as a resident at Bass Station in Waukegan, he has since gone on to play at Sound-Bar, Debonair Social Club, and more. AGVAS is also known for his work with Oksana Promotions, a new promotion company he started alongside DJ/producer Vago.
AGVAS worked with several established record labels in 2021. His tracks “Chemical Weapons” and “Mr. Sweet N Sour” both have tens of thousands of plays on SoundCloud, and he also released his debut EP Sombre Thoughts the same year. With a massive 2022 ahead of him, we interviewed AGVAS about his experience as a Chicago artist and what he has planned for the future.
In 2021, you released “Chemical Weapons” on Mustache Crew Records and “Mr. Sweet N Sour” on G-Mafia Records. Tell us a little bit about these tracks and your experience working with these record labels.
“Chemical Weapons” actually started off as a joke track. I started writing it back in the fall of 2020 when everything was shut down. It was based on some funny workout video I saw, so I cut out some samples and started modifying those sounds to use for the track. I took a couple snaps of my progress, and a fellow producer and friend of mine, Djorgiou, liked the idea and wanted to work on it with me as well. He stripped a lot of the earlier stuff I wrote, kept the main melody, and added more to the rest of the composition. That second version is really where it started sounding like it does now. I saw the direction he was going with it, kept his flow, added a few more effects, grooving synths, built a second drop, and shot it back. We showed it to a couple homies, teased it at Bass Station, and just stood in the crowd at each other’s sets to make sure the mix/master was good and to get crowd feedback. We sent it to a some labels, and Mustache Crew was the first to get back to us.
“Mr. Sweet N’ Sour” started at a small get-together with some DJs/friends from Bass Station. One of our friends arrived mid-gathering and just started listing out random, weird science facts. I immediately thought of a joke, blurted it out, and everyone just started laughing. I told my friend I’d write a song inspired by that moment, and sure enough, the next morning, I wrote all of it in one go. Unlike “Chemical Weapons” though, by this time, I had spent enough time at shows and with producer friends that I had a good understanding of how to make a decent mix/master by myself. I was able to get something that I was proud of, and I felt it really started shaping my sound for the future.
Record-label wise, Mustache Crew and G-Mafia have been fun to work with. Sending out demos to labels made me so anxious at first, but as time has gone on and through interacting with them more, I’ve become more acquainted and calm. I’m just happy with the level of support they’ve given me and their hands-off approach, allowing me to play around and see what I can make. They’ve also taught me a lot about how to properly market myself and my music.
Sombre Thoughts, your first EP, was also released last year. What does it mean to you to have released your debut EP, and how would you describe the music featured on Sombre Thoughts?
I was both quite excited and nervous. It was my first major solo venture where I was in complete control of pretty much everything. I wanted everything to be perfect and do well but was scared about the reception it’d get. At its core, I find music to be a very personal thing, especially when you make it yourself. Thus, you obviously want everyone to love it if possible. And if not, at least learn to recognize valid criticism, accept it, and learn from it. Overall, I was really happy with the reception it received.
Music-wise, I would describe Sombre Thoughts as being much more melodic and thoughtful than what people had come to recognize me for. It was actually part of why I made it. I felt people had gotten to know me for making and playing very hard-hitting, bass house music, almost to the point I felt people felt that I couldn’t make anything else. The EP was kind of an opportunity to step away from that and give myself the ability to make music that I really just vibed with. All the tracks were made at meaningful times in my life and I feel they really encompass that energy, but still just want to make you move a bit. I can’t help but dance even when sad. I think it’s very therapeutic.
You’ve played at Chicago venues like Bass Station, Debonair Social Club, and Sound-Bar. What do you enjoy most about playing DJ sets, and what was a set that was particularly special to you?
When playing a set, I really just want people to have a good time, showcase some of the new stuff I’m working on, and have people cut up the dance floor a bit (sorry, I’m a shuffler so I can’t help myself). I actually used to get very nervous playing sets and plan them out religiously, but nowadays, I just keep a close eye on my crowd, see what they react well to, play more of that, and work on maintaining stage presence and crowd interaction. Nothing beats having a crowd get rowdy to your set.
As for special sets, if there’s one that really has had to be most special to me, it’d be my techno back-to-back set at Bass Station with Vago. We were decent homies before then, but in preparation for that set, we met several times, chilling at his place, bouncing ideas off one another, cracking jokes, talking about life, and planning out something that worked well together that we were both happy with.
The reception we got from that set was ridiculous (in a good way)! I think we were both surprised at just how much people loved that set – we still get compliments on it even a year later. I think that really set the stage for the joint creation of Oksana Promotions and our upcoming back-to-back at this year’s 2022 North Coast Music Festival.
You also manage your promotion company Oksana Promotions. What kind of shows are Oksana known for, and what do you think are the most important qualities of a successful event?
It took a while for Vago and I to envision what Oksana would be. It started when we were offered the opportunity to curate a show, and we didn’t know if it was gonna be a one-and-done or a recurring thing. Once we decided on a date, the pandemic had really taken a toll on all of us by that time and we really just wanted to throw a memorable rager. So we reached out to our contacts and got a little Night Bass x Dirtybird event together with Qlank, Jynx, and several other dope homies – Ashton, Olektronyx, Rocky, and Seabass.
Now, since we’ve moved over to running shows in Chicago, we’re really focused on making events highlighting local, rising talent. There are a lot of talented Chicagoland locals constantly slept on and we want to show that it’s possible to run a successful event series with them despite what others may think.
In terms of a successful event, Vago and I are always thinking about what each artist we book brings to the table and what we can do for them. It’s not just a numbers game. We’re out and about, meeting new people, sourcing contacts from friends and social media, and watching for new releases from the local scene. Sure, numbers help ticket sales and bar tabs, but rarely does it leave people talking about that night months from now. Those memories and that social capital? It leads to a more committed, stronger fan base who come out to support you because you supported them. Bass Station is a prime example of this strategy in play. I still don’t know many venues where the promoters have a stronger pull than the acts themselves.
Lastly, what do you think is the most unique quality of the Chicago EDM scene?
Audience-wise, it’s just the energy I get from all the people here. Only in Chicago have I seen people DnB step with mannequins to hardcore music or paisas square dance to riddim. It’s those characters who are willing to joke around a bit but always have your best interests at heart that really stand out in the scene to me. I’ve met many of them and they’ve definitely kept an otherwise mundane life very interesting.
On a more serious note, I think the most unique quality of the Chicago EDM scene from the business side is the willingness between promoters to collaborate on shows. Many times, those collaborative events were the best events of the year. I hope it continues on.