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Electric Daisy Carnival

[EDC 2014]

EDC’s Pasquale Rotella is building the greatest EDM show on Earth

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Pasquale Rotella is the man behind EDC’s astounding spectacle.
Photo: Erik Kabik / Retna / ErikKabik.com

He doesn’t wear a top hat or carry a cane, but when the sun sets over the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday night, Insomniac founder Pasquale Rotella will be the man at the center of a technicolor circus of light, sound and humanity. Electric Daisy Carnival is his baby—reaching adulthood this June with its 18th edition.

We caught up with the Valley resident over the phone as he prepped for the three-night festival and hung out with his other baby, 15-month-old Rainbow Aurora.

You talk a lot about the overall experience of the festival being more vital than the lineup. How important is it to still book the biggest names? It’s really important. When I say the experience, to get to 100 percent for one of our events—20 percent of it’s talent, 20 percent of it’s art, 20 percent of it is venue, what brand is it. ... You need everything aligned. Where traditional festivals or concerts are really about who’s playing and only that, dance music is very different, where it’s much more of a party than it is a viewing event.

Do you see more music festivals embracing the idea of the overall experience as opposed to a concert? We’ve been seeing that for a long time. I’m not going to take all the credit, where it’s our events, but more dance culture. Paul [Tollett] from Goldenvoice was inspired by the rave scene and he brought his own roots into play. Festivals in general have been influenced by rave culture. There were no festivals really, it was all raves.

We’ve seen the Vegas event getting bigger and more elaborate every year. Is there pressure to keep one-upping yourself? I feel really good about the size and the level. There’s pressure to make it different, but I love that part of it. That’s enjoyable to me. Changing the art, changing the stage designs, getting different artists involved who’ve never been involved before and finding guys who’ve never played before—all those things together, it’s a totally different party.

Where do you go for inspiration? I go to Burning Man all the time and I always see new artists there. I’m trying not to get artists from Burning Man and then bring the same art. We’ll actually pick artists that we think do amazing things at Burning Man and then we will do a sponsorship and pay them to do a piece at our show. There’s a lot of art that will be seen for the first time at our event.

I counted about five female artists or groups in the lineup, and I think that’s more than last year. Is there a conscious effort made to book women? Are there many female DJs to choose from? There are a lot of women who run the business behind the scenes, but not a lot who are onstage. I don’t know why that is. There’s been discussions about this, and I don’t know if it’s because boys when they’re kids like twisting knobs … I don’t know why. There are some great women who are talented who are playing the show, and we’re always looking to make things diverse—not for the sake of doing it, they have to be good as well.

Pasquale Rotella and Holly Madison at the 2013 Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Pasquale Rotella and Holly Madison at the 2013 Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, June 23, 2013.

Now that electronic dance music has become so popular, do you think we’ll see more female DJs emerging? I hope so. It’s always been that way. Dance music has exploded in the past four to five years, but for 20 years it’s been that case and the percentage of male DJs versus female has always been out of whack. Obviously, there are a lot of females who sing on the tracks, and I definitely hope that more female DJs come out of the woodwork.

You posted some fake EDC lineups with DaVincii from Saturday Night Live listed. What do you think of the backlash against DJs and dance music? Are there people who are talented making the music? The answer’s absolutely yes. There are people who are musicians and talented and there are some who aren’t, but I would say the same about bands. … Some people choose computers to make music and some people choose instruments—well, these computers are instruments. It’s just a different style.

Have we reached an apex with the popularity of electronic music? Do you think we’ll see it pull back a bit? It’s still growing. It’s still getting bigger. I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon. The hardest part was getting people to actually hear the music. … Of course, things go in phases, but dance music is on fire right now. EDC is selling out faster than it was last year. A lot of people don’t have tickets, and I would expect that next year they’ll go even faster.

Are you still thinking about expanding EDC Vegas to two weekends? Absolutely I would think about that. I go back and forth about it. I’m going to reconsider it after this year and see how it goes. But it’s something that makes a lot of sense in regards to doing a crazy production, because you can spread the production costs over two weekends and really make things make sense. It’s hard to make these budgets make sense. People think that everyone’s getting rich off it, but it’s very difficult; it’s very expensive. Two weekends would help us to do even maybe a little more. I think it’s good enough, but there are people who want to go who can’t go. I don’t know if two weekends is too big, but I’m going to feel it out coming out of this year.

You talked about bringing Nocturnal Wonderland and Escape from Wonderland to Vegas. Are those still in the works? Definitely still doing that. I’m excited about that.

Will they be at the Speedway? I’m not going to say never, but I feel like the Speedway should be for EDC and be something special there. There are other areas of the Speedway that could be used; they have some other kind of setups out there for other kinds of racing, and I’ve considered that. But I’ve also looked at some other spaces on the Strip, because there are some nice spaces that people are talking about developing, and I’ve been looking at those, as well.

Did you ever DJ? I did. I used to go by the name Mindbender. I think it was a cool name back then. I’m not sure.

You’re writing your memoir with James Frey, and it potentially could become a movie. If it gets made, who should play you? Wow, that’s really tough. I really like … they’re not the right age … but I like Johnny Depp and Mark Wahlberg, but those guys wouldn’t be right … I don’t know. It has to be someone who’s younger than me ’cause it’s my early life. I’m not up on the young actors.

We’re listing our do's and don’ts in this issue. What are yours? Definitely being hydrated is No. 1. Unless you’re flying in a helicopter and then being whisked from the helicopter to the VIP or Cabana Deck and that’s where you’re staying all night, I wouldn’t recommend wearing high heels. I would recommend wearing something that glows. You get back what you put out. I truly believe that. If you put energy into costuming, you’ll get even better vibes out of the festival from others, which will bring more goodness to your experience.

Do you ever wear a costume to your events? (Laughs) I’m the biggest hypocrite when it comes to that. I have to admit that. I’m so busy leading up to it. … I also have to be ready, like for instance, when the wind kicked up two years ago, I had to deal with the police chief, fire, people from the city, and if I’m dressed like Batman or something and I get called into duty, it’s going to be strange.

What set do you think will have the most impact this weekend? I’m dying to see Above & Beyond. … I think people are going to start crying when they start playing some of the tracks that were in the movie [Under the Electric Sky] that just came out. [During] one of the emotional parts of the movie, an Above & Beyond track is playing, and they’re part of this moment. When they play that track on the Kinetic Field [stage], I feel there’s going to be a lot of tears. I think it’s going to be an emotional moment.

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Sarah Feldberg is the editor of Las Vegas Weekly magazine. A veteran journalist, Feldberg previously worked as the Weekly's web ...

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