It’s NGHTMRE before Christmas at Belly Up Aspen
IF YOU GO …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Wednesday, Dec. 18, 9:30 p.m.
How much: $38-$55
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
“Overnight success” rarely comes literally overnight.
But for Tyler Marenyi, the Los Angeles-based DJ who performs as NGHTMRE, it did. He can pinpoint the moment it happened at the 2015 Ultra Music Festival in Miami.
He wasn’t on the bill at this global electronic festival. Instead, the 24-year-old was one of the 70,000 fans in the Bayfront Park crowd. He’d been living in Los Angeles for about a year, releasing a ton of bass music and trying to get traction with the industry and with listeners.
As Marenyi was walking over to watch Skrillex’s main stage set, he received a text from the DJ and producer Snails, saying he’d shared the NGHTMRE unreleased track “Street” with Skrillex shortly before the world’s most famous DJ went on.
“As soon as we get settled where we’re watching the show, he plays it,” Marenyi recalled in a recent phone interview from Las Vegas. “It was this moment where we were at the main stage at Ultra during the biggest set of the whole weekend.”
He later learned that in the livestream of Skrillex’s set — seen by tens of millions of viewers worldwide — had started a few minutes late and had actually kicked off with Skrillex remixing “Street.”
Within a half-hour, Marenyi got a call from Diplo’s taste-making Mad Decent label looking to sign him to release “Street” and more.
“That was the moment of ‘Oh, wow, people have found this music already,’” he recalled.
Marenyi — who brings his second annual “NGHTMRE Before X Mas” tour to Belly Up Aspen on Wednesday — has hustled hard in the three years since then, following “Street” with massive hits like “Gud Vibrations” and “Limelight.” He’s held on to DJ stardom with a steady stream of releases and bass-heavy remixes, becoming a prized collaborator with pop stars, rappers and fellow DJs.
The Aspen show comes on the heels of NGHTMRE’s release of “Like That,” a new collaboration with Colorado livetronica innovators Big Gigantic. Dropped in early December, “Like That” matches a brassy Big Gigantic groove with vocal samples and some monstrous head-banging NGHTMRE production.
“Big Gigantic is one of my favorite acts,” Marenyi said a few days before the song’s release. “I’m really excited for that one.”
This fall he teamed up with The Chainsmokers on “Save Yourself,” which tugs the pop/EDM duo into a rougher NGHTMRE sonic landscape. It was his first time working with the Chainsmokers members Drew Taggart and Alex Pall, though they’ve known one another since both The Chainsmokers and NGHTMRE were unknowns.
“We had always talked about making music together early on in the pre-‘Selfie’ days,” he recalled. “Drew had expressed that he wanted to do a crazy banger song together.”
After years of talking about it, Marenyi sent the pair a pack of three or four song sketches via email, he recalled. They turned around a vocal track to match one of them in a few days, and “Save Yourself” was born.
That’s often how it goes for Marenyi: producing on his laptop while he’s on the road, collaborating remotely with the biggest names in pop music and fine-tuning tracks in his home studio in Vegas, where he has a residency at Hakkasan Nightclub.
“For me, collaborating is one of those things that pushes me to keep learning,” he said. “Every time I work with someone new, I learn something new.”
Now he’s also trying to help undiscovered talents find listeners. In September, NGHTMRE launched the Gud Vibrations record label with the DJ duo Slander, building upon their already established brand of Gud Vibrations boat parties, radio shows and merchandise.
“We’re just trying to build it into this brand and social platform for what we think is cool,” Marenyi said. “The label is about trying to find artists who we think are cool and who we think deserve to be heard.”
Clearly, Marenyi is mind-bogglingly prolific and pretty much hasn’t slowed down since his big break at Ultra three years ago. But after the New Year, he’s taking two months off from the road to focus on writing and producing.
“That’s the first time I’ve taken more than a weekend off in a very long time,” he said. “I’m excited to sit down and really finish up some things. I have a good 40 or 50 songs started that I need to work on.”
He’s coming to Aspen as he winds down the “NGHTMRE Before X Mas” tour, which will culminate with a New Year’s Eve concert in Minneapolis. He’s stepped up the production and special effects on the tour’s second outing.
“I got a lot more time to sit down with my lighting guys and people designing our visuals to get the aesthetic I want,” he explained. “A lot of people put a lot of time into making it a really specific vibe and it’s been getting better and better every show.”
Marenyi is staying in town a few extra days to snowboard, he said, and always looks forward to playing to Colorado’s open-minded and hard-partying crowds.
“In Colorado, I always know that I can play something that’s a little funkier and people are down with it,” he said. “But it also has people who only want to hear the absolute heaviest stuff, which I love. It’s a nice mixture. They’re always willing to get down to whatever I want to play. Some places aren’t.”
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The octogenarian debutante’s 14 paintings were hung in March but went unseen until last month when the Aspen Art Museum opened to visitors following a closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The works date from the 1990s to 2019.