After-dark inquiry: Danny Tenaglia
The revered spinner celebrates his 50th birthday with a big-ass blowout at Best Buy Theater on Saturday 5.
Wed Feb 23 2011
You're proudly billing your next gig as a 50th-birthday party You're not shy about telling people your age, are you?
No. I love to, actually!
Are people surprised to find out that you are 50?
Yeah. A lot of people seem to have no idea. It's the nature of being a DJ; the ones that are most active are generally in their twenties or thirties. If you think about it, there's only a handful of DJs my age who are still doing it.
And a lot probably play the same exact music they did years ago.
They tend to stay in their realm. I try not to do that too much, though.
So how many of those 50 years been spent behind the decks? Professionally, I would say 30. I really started to take it seriously when I was just getting out of teenagehood, and around 1980 I started working in a roller disco in Brooklyn. Back then, you either deejayed at a nightclub or you deejayed at a roller disco. I was there four or five days a week. I took it really seriously. I think that working there gave me the credibility and credentials to do everything I've done since then, really. It was the foundation of me becoming a DJ. I would go to all these Manhattan clubs—the Garage, the Saint, the Loft, everywhere—absorb everything like a sponge, and then go back to the roller disco and practice what I had learned.
Roller-disco crowds could be tough back then. They would let you know if they didn't like what you were playing.
Yeah, but I really loved it. They loved really soulful music, the bouncier end of soul that wasn't too fast. Plus, I loved to skate! That job gave me the confidence to do it, but even before that, I knew deejaying was my calling.
And it's worked out well. You still seem to have a lot of enthusiasm for the job, not to mention a lot of energy—this party starts at 11pm and goes till noon the next day! How do you do it?
To tell you the truth, if my daily routine was just me waking up, going into the living room and sitting in front of my computer or whatever, I wouldn't have that enthusiasm. But I have this loft here in Queens that's like a Disney World for DJs. Well, maybe a heaven for DJs. A little of both, I guess! Anyway, there's a wonderful studio in one room, nice office in another room, the sound system from [revered defunct club] Vinyl in another room... The place gives me something to look forward to. I have plenty of days when I'm not motivated, but when I get here, I feel like a kid all over again.
Just having that Vinyl system must be inspiring.
Yeah! I don't even turn it on a lot of the time; just knowing that I can is a wonderful thing. Whenever I'm away from it, I'm like, I wish I had it with me.
This is a birthday party, and you have Crystal Waters performing. Should people expect this to be a kind of nostalgiafest?
All I can say is there will be a lot of surprises. I'm kind of known for that element of surprise, anyway. But I can say that I've been digging through my personal files and finding a lot of edits and remixes and mash-ups.... It's like, Oh, I forgot I had this; oh, I forgot I had that. I will probably end up playing a lot of those. I've also been doing a lot of exclusive remixes lately; nowadays, you need to have material that nobody else has. I'm not trying to be stingy or anything, but you need something that keeps your sets different. Plus, now that we live in an age of instant gratification, people want their buildups and nitro-blast foghorns and whatever, and I might give them a bit of that. What else do you want—should I blow some fireworks out of my ass? Okay, we're on Broadway. Let's do it!