Close to 40 years in full effect have seen Danny Tenaglia among those rare US DJ’s having a name instantly speaking for itself. Sort of too much at some times whenever asked the man himself, who doesn’t hesitate to point out the excesses of a star system creating reputations mainly based on perceptions as opposed to real truth. Danny Tenaglia doesn’t believe the hype. And nor do we as a matter of fact!
Brooklyn-born Grammy nominated DJ/producer Danny Tenaglia got his first turntables and a little mixer back in 1973 at the early age of 12. He then would play 7 inch Funk/Soul grooves before the arrival of Disco and the maxi single as a format in the mid-70’s. Quoting Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage as his influences both musically as in terms of atmosphere.
He would leave the Big Apple to secure a residency at the Cheers Club in Miami in the mid-80’s. This before returning to his birthplace 5 years after. Then getting to a much bigger exposure when setting up a residency at NYC’s Twilo. Eventually seen as one of the ambassadors of the Hard House sound (along with Junior Vasquez). But also by some back then as someone who would have sold his soul while responding to the law of a globally standardized demand…
Danny Tenaglia: a label on his own?
“I feel like many people here (DJ’s or label managers) have labellized me withtout takin’ the time to listen to what I’m doin'”, he said to me back in 2001. “People who would come and spend an hour at some party of mine once every 2 years or so… “I wasn’t asking them to stay the whole nite. But I guess like they could have come more often to make themselves a clear idea as to what what I’m into. And who I deeply am, but no! I didn’t get the support of the record industry like others had. And even though I don’t really give a damn, I feel like there’s been a lot of jealousy behind. Coz’ I had my own things and my crowd.
Having lived all my life surrounded by music, it had become clear to me that we’d entered into a new era. As a kid, I used to love a whole bunch of things. Brazilian music, Afro-Latin stuff, Jazz… And those vibes are still up to date nowadays. Even though we don’t dance to them the way we did back in the days. Exit this Motown or that Philly sound that we used to have at the time. This is not anymore that Donna Summer’s Disco thing with all these melodies made by classically trained musicians. Today, it’s nothing but simple gimmicks, but I like this. Maybe because it’s not complicated the way it used to be as far as the rhythms are concerned”. Even though I could feel a sort of resignation in his voice…
“Let’s be realistic. A lot of things have occured since the early days which have drastically changed our environment…
A lot of artists have disappeared. Either because of their growing age if not passing. Either because they got into troubles with their respective labels. New faces have come to light. But the major labels have pushed them to stay away from Dance Music. Disco has disappeared, and the radio stations which have been progressively bought by the record companies have dropped Dance Music from of their programs. Eventually replacing it withy Hip-Hop which has ended up taking everything by storm. Not to mention R&B although ironically everything started from it. I mean R&B was already there when I was a kid.” Quoting Rufus & Chaka Khan as an example. “Then the tempos started to get quicker, and what had progressively become uptempo R&B turned into Disco then House.
New York is supposed to be the world mecca of the nightlife. With many big names living here although hardly making themselves a decent way of living unless going regularly abroad. I mean people like Louie Vega, Tony Humphries or Roger S among many others who are just like legends… Well, the kids just don’t give a single sh** about this! And let’s not forget how some actors in the scene have also contributed destroying the movement while acting for their sole owns!”
Danny Tenaglia: Opportunist or pragmatic?
Lack of investment because of an obvious lack of lyrics (to which people tend to identify themselves to). Or lack of lyrics and significant material being the cause of the obvious lack of investment which House Music and other alternative forms of Dance Music have been suffering from? This bringing us back to the famous question as to who/what appeared first from the hen and the egg…
“It’s as if we’d already written all the great love songs”, he continued. “For me, listening to someone reappropriating for him/herself inspirational themes such as ‘Lift Your Hands’ is nothing of an excitement. First and foremost because I’ve been able to listen to things like these from day 1!
An artist has to be really outstanding as everything’s gone so middle of the road. Besides, investments in technology, while becoming more affordable, have allowed a whole bunch of people to produce. Although not necessarily havin’ the preparation for that. Many of these new comers do not feel the need of being associated to an artist in order to release a track. And, should they do it, they quickly happen to be sort of aside in regards to the vocalists who, in their majority, are professionals.
All of those who’ve studied music and sung all their life long have practically nothing to do in the Dance Music circuit. Let’s take artists like Patti Labelle or Chaka Khan. They just go wherever the record companies tell them when releasing a new album. In other words: R&B or Hip-Hop/R&B. Dance music doesn’t sell: it’s just an accessory for makin’ remixes!
I eventually came to remix Jamiroquai or Daphne. And even though I received some support, I never got a massive buzz. Then I started makin’ tracks such as ‘Bottom Heavy’ and ‘Tribal’ and got myself at the top of the stairs from a day to another. Havin’ people startin’ callin’ me for spinnin’.”
And what a buzz Danny Tenaglia managed to create during his days at the Twilo… “I got to be doing whatever I liked. I play what I feel. The crowd comes to hear what I’m gonna play: see what I mean? And whenever I want to make a pause in the middle of the night and play some slower stuff, I can.
I’m gonna do whatever I can to play a tune in a way that has nothing to do with its originator. I’m gonna take some obscure track and get it on my computer. Not necessarily to sample it, but to sequence it into loops before reediting it.
I remember a conversation which I’ve had with Joe Claussell quite long ago. I asked him: “What’s happenin’ Joe? You don’t want to talk to me anymore? You feel like I’m a hard DJ???” And he instantly came to laugh, coz’ we have this kind of relation, made of jokes.
He laughed because he knows how my roots are strongly related to the Garage music. I mean, no one can get me with the classics coz’ I know them all… Coz’ I have them all.
I can tell you who’s published, written and produced them. And I would see all these new peeps sayin’ that I’m not playin’ anymore this music. Well, what I gotta say is that I’ve been into it for years and years. Then I’ve ended up feeling that I had to go for something different coz’ I wasn’t offered doin’ gigs allowing me to make myself a decent living.
After 40 years of activity, I’m up to believe that I’ve got enough substance to follow my way the way I intend to. I’ve heard many people saying about me that I’m into hard sounds. And me, I’m sayin’ that these are just assholes who’ve never taken the time to listen. They’ve been talking without trying to know the way I work. They just made themselves an idea about me on the sole basis of a track that they’ve heard me playing here or there…” Nothing here but once again the result of preconceived ideas.”
Still not convinced? Why don’t you make yourself an idea while havin’ a listen to Danny Tenaglia‘s repertoire on Youtube? You certainly would be surprised if not amazed…
Hard & Soul (TRIBAL United Kingdom) – Danny Tenaglia –
Tourism (Twisted America Records) – Danny Tenaglia
Danny Tenaglia’s Nervous Tracks (Nervous Records) – Danny Tenaglia
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