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A Sit Down With DJ Danny Tenaglia

15:35 May/17/2018

There are not many DJs who can look back on such a long and successful career as the 54 year old New Yorker Danny Tenaglia. His enduring popularity can certainly be attributed to his often several hours long sets which still are packed with the most relevant new records of the current day. After all these years, Tenaglia still has his eyes on the future instead of the past.


"The DJs are not just DJs anymore; we're artists, we replaced the live acts, we're in spotlights as producers."


What are your views on the scene in America?

I’m so grateful that I was able to experience all that I have from the seventies up until now. I’ve now traveled around the world, to thirty-nine countries, and I don’t see how it could ever go back to being that way on a large scale, because of the cost – a club owner wanting to create an environment like the seventies would have to not worry about the cost, think like a DJ; it’s got to be because you love music that much and really want to watch people have a great time and listen to great music. Now that all the festivals have started, now that clubs have gotten smaller, everything became more intimate and everything became so much more costly – to rent a nightclub that would hold two or three thousand people? Those days are gone – to try and accomplish that again, in Manhattan, would be unrealistic. To find club owners willing to, in effect, piss their money away to recreate the atmosphere of the Garage would be impossible.

When you were still a kid, you got to know the prolific DJ Paul Casella, who played a part in turning you onto the profession. Can you tell how that shaped your decision to pursue a career in DJing?

Well, this is where I had then realized instantly at the mere age of twelve years old upon hearing an eight-track tape mixed continuously by Paul that I was somewhat mesmerized by because when I expected a song would end, then another would blend in. Sometimes harmonically on key and sometimes so perfectly that I kept asking my cousin who made this tape and how did he do this and how did he do that? Long story short, I called the telephone number on the 8-Track tape and Paul Casella happened to be nearby and came to our families grocery store and he brought us more 8-Track tapes. He wanted to meet me as he was amazed some little “little kid” was so impressed with him and the art of DJing. I guess it was right around then in 1973 that I never showed much interest in anything else, including sports. I was not interested in any subjects in school, I was only interested in music, becoming a DJ, getting professional DJ equipment and getting gigs in big nightclubs and eventually this obviously led to my second career by nature which was producing music of my own, collecting synths, drum machines and various studio gear.

You mentioned playing in warehouse spaces with rented systems, how does that compare to your resident DJ days?

Residencies were great you know the club like you know your bedroom. When it's your first time playing somewhere, you have to adjust to everything: the environment, the sound, the monitors, the height of the console, where the light person is. At least you don't have to worry about where you're going to put your records anymore. But it's adapting to everything. And if you're not the DJ starting the night, you can imagine going in while the other guy's on before you, and maybe he's got friends in the booth, and you've got to set up around them, people staring and watching it's not always comfortable. But you get used to it. I can't say I love it like I used to love the clubs and the consistency. Warehouses and festivals will also never compare to those four stacks in a room where you feel that thunder. A lot of places you play, warehouse or festival, when you're on the stage, they usually have speakers only facing out these days.

One of your most famous pieces of work was your second Global Underground compilation, which you chose to base on your experiences of playing in London. Why did you choose London as your inspiration, and what was it about playing in London that you wanted to express in your mix?

It wasn’t totally my idea, and I really can’t say exactly at what point that compilation, became about London, but it was at the right time and the right place. All the compilations that I make are a reflection of how I feel in the moment and also trying to give a reflection of my heart and soul. You also always want to take into consideration artists that you think could use the hype, and who have inspired you. It’s so hard to make compilations – picking out all the songs, finding out which ones can be approved, being disappointed about which ones can’t. I have really strong memories about playing with Carl Cox in London and sweat dripping from the walls – it’s all about moments, not about the money or anything else, and to me it’s like I’m in the same frame of mind as everyone on the dance floor – even now I’m 55 years old!

As you were already determined to be a DJ yourself, what tricks of the trade did you learn at that time and maybe still use?

Well, it’s definitely a whole new ball game since way back in the early days I was playing and learning on turntables that weren’t even Technics. Playing with 45s and LP cuts that were mainly all live bands with extremely short intros and sloppy drummers. This in itself trained my ear to pay close attention to the beats and where to catch them in order to not train wreck. Precision, like professional dancing was key and the most important thing to focus on as people will notice when you’re out of sync.


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