There is no other DJ quite like Danny Tenaglia. A man who celebrated his 50th Birthday by throwing a wild 2000 capacity party in New York and shows no signs of slowing up. He is without doubt one of us, it’s not uncommon to see this legendary spinner leaving the decks and jumping around on the dancefloor with the crowd, a massive energy that has made WMC his own with his legendary events. DMC speaks exclusively to the big man live on film about his life in music…
It’s another balmy summer’s night in Brooklyn in 1972 as an 11 year old kid hangs out of his bedroom window taking in the evening’s sights and sounds below. The relentless sirens of police cars can be heard in the distance, couples are walking hand in hand on the sidewalk on their way to dinner, steam is pouring out of manhole covers as yellow cabs thunder past heading towards the Williamsburg Bridge whilst all around there is music. Sexy, latin music. There’s a social club in the basement over the street and the sounds of tumbling rhythms and the brassy stabs of salsa filter out into the night air. It’s the sweetest sound in the world. “I have loved music since birth” admits Danny. “Whether it was a radio in a restaurant, a car stereo, listening to a jukebox – I was always attracted to music. I knew from an early age, that I was different. As a little boy I knew I possessed this gift that I loved music. In the summer time the streets would be filled with people on the streets, proper latin block parties and Italian street festivals with people gorging on food and music. I would be the one though always looking at the band.” There was never any trouble finding Christmas presents for Danny. Get him something musical: a tape deck, a guitar. He played some sax, struggled with piano lessons, knew music was to be his life, knew he had a great ear for pitch and rhythm, but could never find the discipline to really master an instrument. Finally, when his cousin Kelly played him an 8-track cartridge of a local DJ named Paul Kasella, the first time he’d heard records sewn together, Danny knew what it was he would devote his life to. “I heard it go from one record to the next, mixed, and I was like, ‘Oh shit, what was that? How did they do that?’ I already had this passion for vinyl, I loved collecting records and playing records, but never even knew there was this concept of continuous beat-matching – the art of DJing.” His cousin explained it to him. “He told me about the DJ, the nightclub, and all that. I was like, from that moment – ‘This is it!’” Enthralled by the music of artists like Philly Soul’s The Trammps, Motown’s Marvin Gaye, African trumpeter Hugh Maskela and disco producer Giorgio Moroder, Danny’s collection grew, collecting more and more records, plumbing the depths of each one and frequently discovering he preferred the B-side to the A. It was 1979 when he discovered legendary nightclub Paradise Garage where DJ Larry Levan’s rich, genre-less blend of music seemed to mirror his own “no boundaries” policy. It was the night that changed his life.
Skip forward to March 1997 and it’s another beautiful dawn in Miami South Beach. Hotel workers are throwing buckets of cold water onto sticky sidewalks erasing the memories of another party night at WMC. Early morning joggers are pounding the boardwalk easing past weary clubbers on their way home to bed, the staff at the News Cafe are turning on the coffee machines for the arrival of businessmen on their way downtown to the office. Over at Groovjet however things are slightly different. 2000 people from all over the world are chanting the name of the DJ as he slips in another massive tribal beat whilst wearing oversized sunglasses and a purple wig. If ever there was a party in Miami week that defined the Conference, it was Tenaglia’s extended set extravaganza at the Jet.
“It was one specific club, one venue and one party where I connected, not only with the Conference, but also with all my peers, record industry, colleagues, DJs, producers that I’ve equally admired all these years. I probably have pictures somewhere, but they’re all in my mind — all the top DJs like Sasha, Paul Oakenfold and Carl Cox, names and faces that are implanted in my mind. It felt like everybody was all under one roof.
Fast forward to Miami 2012. The Conference has begun and the conversation is all about one thing. The return of the marathon Tenaglia set at Karu & Y on Saturday night, something he feels is so important once in a while. “What makes a DJ knowledgeable is to know all the different genres. Nowadays kids are doing two-hour sets, and that’s not just enough to develop a foundation. Back in the day, we used to do eight-hour shifts at the nightclubs — you had to work”