Valentino Khan doesn’t play poker. In fact, he doesn’t even know how he got roped into hosting the Texas Hold Em’ Tournament happening on February’s Holy Ship sailing. His friends may be out exploring the sunny streets of Nassau, enjoying lunch on the water, and practicing the Australian art of taking Shoey’s with Cut Snake (another artist-led event happening that same afternoon) but now that Khan’s committed to the game, he wants to win.
The tournament participants who playfully interrupt our interview to remind him that they are after the $100 bounty on his head aren’t enough to shake him either. “I’ve been suckering them into being a little more aggressive. I convince them that I have a good hand, you know, just baiting them so they’ll throw more fucking money down, and that’s my strategy,” Khan says. “The only reason I’m in this now is for the human psychology part of the game.” Khans label-mate and homie AC Slater comes by to give him a high five, and the two have a good laugh when he reveals he’s knocked three guys out of the table despite his minimal experience playing Texas Hold Em’.
“If I take any bets in life, they’re usually smart and well thought out bets,” Khan says. “I’m a risk taker, but I’m not a gambler.” And this LA-based DJ/Producer/unsuspecting high roller has made some pretty good bets so far. For one, he made the decision to ditch a stage name and stick with the real thing (Valentino Khan is a hella dope name that sticks), and he recently signed with Owsla, a label associated with major names like Skrillex, Boys Noize and numerous others who have made incredible contributions to dance music over the last several years.
“Owsla is a great collection of artists who are not just making cool music, but [they’re pushing] music forward, and I always tend to gravitate toward people who are doing that,” Khan says. “It’s a kind of shapeless, formless label which is why it made sense for me to get on board.”
Khan’s musical stye is anything but ordinary, and his take on beats is heavy, booming and gritty. His 8-track debut EP, In Khan We Trust, runs the gamut of subgenres, spanning from A Little Longer, a song that errs on the side of progressive house (until the bass drops anyway) to driving moombah-inspired tracks like Make Some Noise (featuring DJ Kool, the legendary voice of Let Me Clear My Throat). Listen further, and by the time you hit Bloodsucker you’ll realize that Khan isn’t afraid to flirt with heavier Hardstyle sounds. The EP is a game changer, one that always keeps you guessing what’s next, which come to think of it is a fine skill to have when sitting at the Texas Hold Em’ table – and the story starts to unfold. When I ask Khan if he gets to keep the cash if he wins, he bursts out laughing. “I guess! On top of my booking fee too,” Khan says. “Oh man, they’ll be so pissed. I really want to win now!”
Leading up to Miami Music Week and his appearance at Ultra, expect some big releases from Khan including collaboration tracks with GTA and remixes of Flosstradamus and Zeds Dead, on top of a stacked tour schedule. “I’m doing some festivals [this summer], but not any I can announce right now,” Khan says, before another competitor swings by our table to catch him off guard. “See this guy is gunning for me! He just gave me the gun motion!”
Just speaking with Khan, one might take him for a shy, smart and observant type with a humorous, sarcastic side (that could just be the fu-manchu mustache talking). He seems calculating and quiet, two things I would not associate with his releases up to this point. The moment he takes the stage, however, he pulls out a whole new attitude – one that’s big, bawdy and frankly, unexpected. Watching him bring the bass later that night, I’d never guess he’s produced for Top 40 acts like Tyga and Bruno Mars, but as I’ve learned, dude has one hell of a pokerface. And for that reason, I think it’s safe to say he’ll find a way to stay in the game.
Listen to In Khan We Trust HERE:
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