Vago Talks Bass Station, Oksana Promotions, and Getting Started as a DJ [Mix+Interview]

We interviewed Chicago-based DJ/producer Vago about his beginnings in the scene, throwing shows with Oksana Promotions, and DJing at Bass Station in Waukegan.

First known as a resident DJ at Bass Station in the city’s north suburbs, Vago is now on his way to establishing himself as one of Chicago’s most exciting upcoming artists.

Evan Karigiannis started experimenting with Ableton in 2018. He soon found his calling as a DJ playing at Music Box, Sound-Bar, and more venues around the city. In addition to his work as an artist, he also throws shows with Oksana Promotions, a company he co-founded with his close friend AGVAS.

Vago is scheduled to play b2b with AGVAS at North Coast Music Festival at SeakGeek Stadium later this year, one of his biggest shows yet. A massive supporter of the Chicago scene and the local DJs that make it possible, Vago is a talented artist with a promising future. Check out his exclusive Premier EDM mix below and read about why he’s so passionate about house music and the city that started it all.

Tell us a little bit about your beginnings in the music industry. When did you start your music production journey, and how have you most notably improved since your first SoundCloud upload in 2018?

In early 2018 I asked for Ableton for my birthday, and let me tell you, it was really hard to get the hang of. Once I got a bit of a handle on it, I set an intention to make any type of music that came to mind. At that point, I was just having fun. I really had no concept of the music being “correct,” nor did I have any specific genre in mind. You can really hear this in all those songs…you can hear the innocence and love.

The big game-changer for me came in early/mid-2019. A friend of mine told me about this place running an open decks night called Bass Station. At the time, I really had nothing much to do, nor did I have a social life/any friends, so I started going to Bass Station for fun every Thursday. I hated dubstep back then, but I found myself going there mostly to socialize. Fast forward a bit, and on January 23rd, 2020, I played my first ever show there. I can’t even come close to expressing how much that place means to me. Not only did it kickstart my entire career, but I also met almost all my current friends there. Growing up was really tough for me – I really never fit in anywhere. Bass Station became my outlet, my safe place, and a home away from home. I feel comfortable there. I feel like I fit in. It’s somewhere I can be myself. I will never forget Marco Castellanos for building this community & giving me this opportunity and credit him for whatever success may come my way in the music industry. 

Around February 2021, I was offered a booking at a warehouse show out in Shorewood. This is where I met Nimit Desai. Nimit had a dream of running a music venue but found it difficult to land a good spot, so he decided to rent a warehouse and stack it full of professional audio/lighting equipment. This kid is the definition of walking the walk. Everyone likes to talk about what they want to do someday, but Nimit really put his money where his mouth is, which caused me to gain instant respect and admiration for him. I started offering my help there and did the same with the Bass Station events.

At the time, I was just happy to be involved. I thought it was really “cool” that I was a part of it all, but what I was really doing, unbeknownst to me, was learning. Learning and networking. People like Marco and Nimit taught me how to book a lineup, how to talk business with artists/managers, and how to work social media. I learned all the etiquette, the trade secrets, the do’s and dont’s. I learned what kind of music people wanted to hear and how to keep the crowd engaged. Watching how these two carried themselves and operated was like a free master class in the music industry, and it really set the stage for my future endeavors.

After a few early bookings, I set another goal for myself: really learn how to DJ, make a name for myself, and meet new people. After seeing I had a chance, music became an addiction for me. I don’t know when exactly it was, but one day I just woke up, looked around, and had the realization that “hey, this is actually working. I can do this.” Ever since then, I’ve been fully dedicated to my Vago project and laser focused on progressing. I took a break from producing in 2021 to focus on my live performances and to go out as much as possible. I haven’t missed a weekend out since I can remember, at least for the past 2 ½ years. I believe that it’s this consistency that has really propelled me forward. My next goal is to get back into producing, except this time with purpose. I’m going to be focusing on tech/bass house, and my aim is to get my first new track out this March.

You’ve played sets around Chicago at venues like Bass Station, Sound-Bar, and BabyATLAS. You’re also scheduled to play b2b with AGVAS at North Coast Music Festival. What do you love most about DJing, and what are some other festivals/venues you hope to perform at one day?

My favorite thing about DJing is being able to show off my favorite music. You know that feeling you get when you’ve got the aux in your buddy’s car, and you play that song you’ve been listening to all week and see that your friend is really feeling it? For me, that reaction is priceless. I just love sharing. I love seeing the crowd react, and I love being responsible for everyone’s good time.

Aside from that, I also really enjoy the lifestyle. I’m a very social person, so a lot of it comes naturally to me. I love the late nights, big crowds, meeting strangers, and letting loose with my friends. I am absolutely in love with the EDM scene. We are such a unique collection of individuals. I’ve met the most interesting, kindest, and craziest people at shows and festivals.

I really don’t know what the future holds as far as bookings are concerned, but what I do know is that I’m not stopping any time soon. This whole time, I’ve had the mentality of “I’m just gonna do my best, develop my skills, and put myself out there.” Whatever happens, happens. So far, it’s really been working out for me, so I know that as long as I stay consistent and keep my vibes right, I can do anything. The North Coast booking was a huge surprise for me. When I got the news, it was one of the most surreal feelings I’ve ever experienced. I remember attending festivals when I was younger and thinking to myself  “wow, I’d love to be a DJ and play one of these things” but back then, it felt like one of those dreams that was just too outlandish to ever expect to materialize. Like a kid saying they want to be an astronaut when they grow up. And yet here I am.

I really want to thank the team at EDM Chicago for believing in me and giving me the chance to live out this dream and show everyone what I’m capable of. I remember asking Lee, “why me? There are so many other people you could have chosen”. His response made it all that much better, he told me he gave Oscar and me the shot because he’s seen us working extremely hard this year, and he thinks we deserve the recognition. This just tied it all together for me. It truly was a really special moment, seeing the fruits of my labor begin to materialize. It’s really reassuring to be recognized for your hard work. I think everyone needs that. 

While you mostly play bass and tech house, you’re also influenced by other genres like drum n bass and techno. Who are some artists you’re most influenced by and how would you describe the overall vibe of your music?

I’d consider myself a dark artist. No matter the genre, I tend to prefer darker music. I’m also a big fan of psychedelic sounds. Weird, wonky, off-kilter. I like ear candy. Listing my influences is so difficult because I’m influenced by almost everything I hear.

But the big ones are Daft Punk, Pink Floyd, Charlotte De Witte, G Jones, Flume, Walker & Royce, Eric Prydz, Chris Lake. And a huge one is Dirtybird. The sounds you hear in Dirtybird tracks are some of the most unique and iconic sounds I’ve heard in any genre of music. You can just tell a song is signed to Dirtybird when you hear it. They’re really doing great work.

How did you get the idea to start your promotion company Oksana Promotions, and what do you think is the most important quality of a successful event?

Oksana Promotions started very organically. I had been wanting to throw a one-off show and was originally going to do it at Nimit’s warehouse, but it was the wrong place and wrong time. About a month later, I was given the opportunity to throw a show at this place called Music Box, thanks to my friend Andrii Volodumurovich. I was given the whole downstairs to book and was honestly feeling a little overwhelmed, so I reached out to my good friend AGVAS for some advice.

Before you know it we threw together a whole lineup and decided to get Qlank as our headliner. I reached out to his manager, handled the booking, booked some local support, and even partnered with Tony Lazzara who was scheduled to run his own show upstairs. We figured we would just combine the two and make it one huge show. The show was a great success. It was packed all night and everybody had a fantastic time, including us. After this, some time went by and we began toying with the idea of a monthly event series somewhere. At first, I was a little hesitant because I thought it would interfere with my Vago project, but looking back now, I don’t know where my Vago project would be without Oksana.

As far as having a successful event, I think it’s important to not be selfish as a promoter. You need to think about what the crowd wants to hear. You need to consider the location, and the type of crowd you want to attract. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that your guests have fun. That’s the hallmark of a successful event. That also translates into who you’re booking. You can’t just give out bookings to your friends, you need to book people that you think will play a good set. You need to book people that will entertain your crowd.

What are some of the accomplishments you’re most proud of so far, and what are some of your goals for both Vago and Oksana for the next 3-5 years?

I think I’m most proud of the speed at which this all has happened. Going from my first booking ever at Bass Station to getting booked on a major festival within a year and a half is massive to me. At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to my work ethic and the amazing people I’ve chosen to surround myself with. I don’t take breaks. I don’t take weekends off. Going out on the weekend is mandatory for me. Practicing is mandatory. Supporting my friends is mandatory. Staying true to my word is mandatory.

While I was doing all this, I was also working 65+ hours a week at a day job. I’ve made tremendous sacrifices this past year & a half. I’ve been exhausted and discouraged at times, and often left very little time for myself, but I’m finally seeing the results of this madness. Moving forward, my main goal is to continue to be consistent and maintain an uncompromising work ethic. 

With my Vago project, I want to get back into producing and fall into a regular release cycle. Oscar has been a big role model in this regard. I also want to get into new venues and start headlining shows one day. With Oksana, I do want to see how big we can go, but what I’m most proud of is giving other people like me the opportunity that I was once given by Marco in 2020.

I get tremendous joy from supporting the local scene and booking people who I think deserve it. We don’t just look at clout, or what we can gain from bookings. It’s all about supporting the underdogs and giving people a chance to prove themselves. If we see that your heart is in the right place, and you can play an acceptable set, we’ll give you a shot, no matter who you are or what the numbers say.

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