Skyler Mendoza, True Villain
DJ Skyler Mendoza (aka True Villain) has captured the attention of Chicago locals and big-name music authorities alike — with a work ethic like his, I swear this vampire never sleeps. He’s a triple threat with an ability to get bodies moving, promote the hell out of events, and produce a unique blend of electro, house, and indie sounds, all at the same time. Though he’s still relatively new to the music industry, he’s already been included in Urb Magazine’s “Best American DJs” list, not to mention, he’s shared stages with the likes of Deadmau5, A-track, Flosstradamus, Kid Color, Justice, and Mike Posner, to name a few. His Chicago style keeps him in high demand, and is the reason he’s performed at both Lollapalooza and SXSW, among other major venues in the U.S. and overseas.
Skyler’s work and performances have become so prolific in Chicago that chances are, you may have heard a mix of his or been to one of his sets. I first met Skyler three years ago, in the summer of 2009. My friend Steve had his birthday party out on his family’s boat in the middle of Lake Michigan. It was citywide Boat Party Day (honest, it’s an actual day here), and Skyler was DJing up a storm.
The whole day and night of that boat party was such a blur, with only photos and hilarious morning after stories left to piece together the event details, but I distinctly remember how awesome Skyler’s set had been. He had been working with Mike Posner before his rise to fame, and we were all privileged that day to get a sneak peak at the music sensation’s whole album before he got big. The copy of Mike Posner’s music that I got has the original, slightly bluesier “Cooler Than Me” track on it, sans additional synth-y, pop beat that was added for radio playing. While both versions are amazing, I think I’ll always prefer the original one. Even then, I was unwittingly being influenced by Skyler’s musical expertise.
Skyler has such a vast knowledge of music, from old House hits made before we were born to up-and-coming artists no one’s heard of yet, that he generously shares. His versatility as a DJ was evident at my first party with him, but it has become a signature feature of his work. He’s the kind of guy who is not concerned with letting the crowd control him, or the music he plays. In a previous interview with Chicagoist, he stated, “I’m not afraid of the sorority party girls or the old bachelorette party telling me I’m doing a bad job because I’m not playing enough Katy Perry or enough hip-hop. What I’ve been doing is making those kinds of people forget about their favorite radio songs while they are on the dance floor and fall in love with the music I’m playing.”
Aside from his incredible music, the most stand-out thing about Skyler is his personality, which in my opinion, is always what really makes a DJ great. He’s got a particular talent for making friends easily, and is honestly one of the most genuine guys I know. I’ve had the privilege to chill during Skyler’s sets at Chicago’s own Underground and Boardroom, two of the best clubs in the city (I highly recommend a trip to both). Despite being a self-proclaimed “bar girl,” I do enjoy spending a night dancing, and the best experiences have always been when Skyler was DJing. He’s got an uncanny ability to connect with a crowd — a quality that’s hard to find in the DJing world.
I had the privilege of interviewing Skyler the other day. Get to know the man behind the turntables:
How long have you lived in Chicago?
I was born and raised in Chicago. I’ve lived elsewhere temporarily but Chicago has always been my home.
Favorite/least favorite thing about Chicago?
I love all of the diversity and culture that Chicago offers. The neighborhoods in this city are full of history and personality. Plus, nothing out there compares to Chicago’s energy in the summer: beaches, rooftops, patios, and millions of people who are ready to party after a long winter. My least favorite thing would have to be Wrigleyville.
If you had a friend visiting you for one day, where in Chicago would you take them to give them a flavor for the city?
First, we’d drive up Lake Shore Drive to the skatepark on Wilson Avenue, right by the beach. Our next stop would most definitely be a trip to Hot Doug’s for lunch, followed by a few hours of record shopping at the legendary Gramaphone Records. From there we would take a trip to Gold Coast for some sight-seeing/shopping, and then we’d head over to Wicker Park for more shopping, happy hour, and a pre-dinner taco at La Pasadita. After dinner, we’d get our night started by club hopping at spots like Ybar, Spy Bar, Sound Bar, Underground, Evil Olive, The Bedford, and Bevy. Chicago is famous for its amazing after hours parties, so there is no doubt that we’d end up partying at Loft 660 until around 9:00 a.m.
Your Facebook bio describes you as a “Tech House & Techno DJ/Producer.” How exactly would you define techno/tech house/house music in your own words?
I really like the sounds that techno producers use when making music, combined with the more soulful and groovy elements commonly heard in house. Techno is commonly confused with generalized descriptors, such as EDM or trance. For me, it’s repetitive, driving, dark, and deep. There are countless forms of this Detroit-born genre, but over the last few years I’ve been really into the music that Drumcode Recordings has been releasing. It’s hard to avoid Chicago’s rich history of house music, distinctly characterized off beat hi-hats, synthesized bass lines, and funky, jacking vibes.
When did you first get interested in music? Did you always have ambitions to DJ, or is it a relatively new career path you’ve chosen?
I’ve been into music for as long as I can remember. My family was really into 80s and 90s dance music, so I was exposed to djing at a very young age. When I was a kid I watched my uncle play records without actually understanding what he was doing, but I knew he was responsible for making everyone dance. One thing lead to another, and I’ve been djing full time for the last seven years.
What is the best concert you’ve ever been to?
Depeche Mode at Lollapalooza 2009
What is the best live performance experience you’ve ever given? Coolest venue you’ve ever played at?
I like to think that my performance improves with every show. The coolest venue I’ve played so far is The Avalon in L.A.
Name some music artists you admire.
Green Velvet, Joris Voorn, Adam Beyer, Prince, Derrick Carter, Mr. C, Maceo Plex, Motor City Drum Ensemble, Aquarias Heaven. This list could go on for days…
Name some fellow DJs you admire.
Gene Farris, Derrick Carter, Justin Long, Greg Corner.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your music? Other artists? Personal life? Places you’ve traveled? Etc.?
Places I travel to always inspire me, but my main inspiration comes from personal life and the other music I listen to.
Put your iPod on shuffle and tell me the first song that comes on, no matter how embarrassing or weird it may be.
Noho – Q&A . It’s an amazing song, you should download it!
Because this is primarily a fashion blog, I have to ask… Describe your style.
Simple, dark and fitted.
What are your favorite stores to shop at?
TopMan, Zara, Una Mae’s, Vintage Heaven, Giltgroup.
What is your favorite style that girls are wearing currently?
I really like those long rings and anything tight and black.
[And here I have to interject -- true RR style. Hardware and black is the quintessential RR girl style foundation.]
For more on Skyler and his work, follow his social media pages:
Check out some of Skyler’s amazing music. This is the kind of stuff that gets me through a brutal day at the office, and also pumped for a Saturday night out.
And saving the best for last… Skyler’s BRAND NEW Mix, literally sent to me about five seconds before I published this post. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING.
Download Skyler’s March “Playing Favorites” Mix
Happy listening, and I better see you all at one of Skyler’s sets soon!