By Dennis Romero
Danny Tenaglia is the guy every other superstar DJ goes to hear when they have a night off. In an age of instant blog-house stars and spiky-haired douche jockeys, he can seem like the last true mixman standing – the gold standard of club DJing. Just being compared to Tenaglia – ask John Digweed, Steve Lawler or Paolo Mojo – elevates your cred in the dance industry. He's known for his 8-hour-plus marathon sessions and deep-crate selection that goes from diva house to Miami tribal to Berlin techno
But the unseen factors give him unparalleled veracity: Tenaglia's not one of those spinners you hear from every other year because he has a mix-CD to hawk and a tour to promote. He's omnipresent in the after-hours, particularly in New York, his base, and in Miami and Ibiza, Spain. And he's got the body and soul of house music in his blood. He was there at the Paradise Garage, and at the dawn of raving, and at Twilo, the Winter Music Conference and Coachella. Now, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Liquified's post-rave parties in Los Angeles, he's here again. In honor of this rare appearance at Avalon Hollywood, which is scheduled to go until 8 a.m., we lobbed him a few.
LA Weekly: Earlier this year you hinted at different plans for Ibiza this summer. Any details?
Tenaglia: I have decided to do more touring in the United States and other regions. As great of a time as it was, a 14-week residency [in Ibiza] was too demanding of me in 2008. However, I do plan to return to the island for some guest spots.
The times we've seen you play in Los Angeles and at the Ultra party in Central Park a few years ago, we were surprised by how hard and fast you were playing. Is it harder to go deep and build things up for contemporary audiences?
If I am at a smaller, more intimate venue I have the opportunity to play a bit deeper than at a big venue. When I perform at festivals, I usually have a short set time, and I do not really have the time to build the set up as subtly as when I am playing for longer. Essentially, I like to give them the kind of energy that they came for.
While we all miss vinyl, digital DJ tools are becoming more musician-like, with programs and sound-part tracks that can let you deconstruct, remix on- the-fly and build entirely new songs during sets. Is this a good thing? Do you partake?
It is a great thing that this technology exists, but the most important thing is how people use it. Many artists have used the technology to do some amazing things. But if it is being used to just mix without the use of the effects, loops and other capabilities it is not as exciting. It can make mixes sound too sterile at times, as if the human element is gone. If the DJ spends more time looking at a computer screen than facing the crowd it can also be easy to lose the connection with that crowd. I have looked into using Traktor but have yet to make the jump. When I perform I usually use a couple of effects units – and I manipulate various accapelas and sound effects throughout the set. Oftentimes I will make my own edits of tracks in the studio prior to the gigs as well. To be honest I actually enjoy the physical aspect of using CDs. However, I also see the benefit of being able to have most of your music at your fingertips on a hard drive. Traveling without so many CD books would be nice too.
Despite the loss of vinyl, DJing is more accessible than ever through software and even video games (Scratch: The Ultimate DJ, DJ Hero). Do you think DJ culture will endure in the future as well as rock 'n' roll has in the past?
Without a doubt. People will always have the need to congregate for the sake of having a good time and dancing. DJ sets allow people to hear music from more than one artist so it provides a different way of listening to music [compared to] a live concert. It serves a purpose that people have gotten used to throughout the years and I do not see it ever going away. It's more of a tradition now than ever.
Dance music seems to be back in the mainstream (Lady Gaga, et. al.). Is this good for the dance community?
Yes and no. It's good when people hear those mainstream tracks and open their mind to stuff, such as techno, deep house, and tribal, that is a bit more underground. But if they just stay closed-minded and only listen to the fluffy bubblegum-pop dance music that is played on the radio, it does me no good. They are most definitely not going to hear any of that when they come see me play.
You've been through a few economic slumps, including the club heyday of the late '70s and early '80s in New York. Are there parallels between down times and dance music's popularity?
Well it does seem that in times of turmoil there is more of an escapist attitude in society. People have the need to get away and forget about their problems. They want to have a good time with their friends and not hear about the economy, wars or whatever negativity may be affecting our world. So naturally the music that people are attracted to is going to be more upbeat and, as far as the subject matter goes, less dark. Music and dancing are the ultimate tools with which to escape. I know they work for me.
Denny Tenaglia DJs with Kazell at Liquified's 10-year anniversary party at Avalon Hollywood, 1735 N. Vine St., Hollywood. 21+. Doors at 10 p.m. Tickets $20 presale. Info: avalonhollywood.com.