NYC marathon man of the decks, Danny Tenaglia’s career spans over three decades. From the early days of progressive and tribal to his more recent techno-leaning house, he remains a treasure to fans and the definition of ‘a DJ’s DJ.’ After six years since his last compilation, DT now brings his classic house styles ands blends them with 4/4 diversity to Australian series, Balance. “I’ve been asked a lot of times to do compilations with other labels and I felt I didn’t fit in with their overall theme,” Danny reveals during his North American tour in September. He’s just spun a 15-hour set in Montreal. He’s 53.
“I wanted to feel like it was sort of a family thing, like Global Underground was or when I did Back To Basics,” he explains on opting for this particular series. “It was the roster of DJs I felt a relationship to, Nic Fanciulli, Timo Maas, just about everybody on there [are] like [the artists who] Space would have for the following summer, just really cool names.” Those names, along with DT’s embracement of Traktor, his inexplicably smooth method to mixing and what he refers to as “multiple DJ disorder” all create a perfect synergy on this two-disc gem.
“I just like to keep it less commercial,” he adds, the likes of Regis, one half of the British Murder Boys, and Cómeme's Cowboy Rhythmbox attesting to this in the tracklist, which also includes stripped remixes of Basement Jaxx and Hot Since 82. In fact, commercial doesn’t even belong in a sentence with the ambassador of “Be Yourself.” No matter how much cash the EDM cow tries to milk, Danny sticks to music he loves. He’s just lucky that way. And DJ Mag USA is lucky too. We got our paws on the tunes that make him cry, those he’s embarrassed to own and more influential records that have shaped the irreplaceable Danny Tenaglia.
What is the track that really sums up your childhood?
“As very young boy I was into dancing and I was already displaying to my family my love for music, rhythm, for instruments, for records themselves. ‘Soul Makossa’ by Manu Dibango came out when I was 10 or 11 and I already knew, having tried piano and guitar lessons, I didn’t grasp it. I was near the music and I wanted it to be something that moved me. I remember in school the controversy about the record, and on the radios.”
What’s the first record that you ever bought?
“There was a record shop on the block we lived off Metropolitan Ave. in Williamsburg. A dear aunt of mine that passed away was always into music and bought records. We would always go in the record store and I was fascinated. I remember buying ‘Grazing In The Grass’ by Hugh Masekela. It became a vocal record by Friends of Distinction in the ‘70s, but it was that original instrumental.”
What’s the most embarrassing record in your collection?
“Something as fluffy as Donna Summer’s ‘MacArthur Park’ comes to my mind. It’s the whole song, how she left the cake out in the rain and she doesn’t think she can take it… drag shows and stuff. I probably have much worse than that though.”
What’s the track that’s guaranteed to make you cry?
“I probably have to say its Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On.’ When he sings that we have to save our children and save the babies, it’s so meaningful. I can honestly recall it bringing me to tears many times.”
What’s an album that you’re currently into?
“I don’t really listen to albums anymore as I’ve become somewhat of a workaholic. When I’m into the music I’m just like, ‘click, click, yes, no, bring it into Traktor, do the mapping.’ But I will say Abbey Road. I have been listening to that. I have a passion for The Beatles and that era. I want to hear my youthful rock & roll songs because I think it’s an expression. All the best songs have already been written, all the meaningful songs have already been written.
What’s the most valuable record in your collection?
“One of the only records I have on a plaque is Giorgio Moroder's ‘E=MC2.’ I met him in the ‘90s and he signed it for me. That album has so much meaning, the first live to digital audio recording. He was there for me electronically before Kraftwerk, but both are so legendary. But Giorgio is the one that signed it for me and I have it hung up on a wall so I would consider that my most valuable record.”
What’s your all-time favorite track of all-time?
“This is an easy one, because it’d be foolish for me change it after so many years of being asked this one. It’s ‘Love Is the Message’ by MFSB. It just paved the way for me before disco was called disco. Then it went on to become an anthem in the clubs for voguing and even Madonna snatched that idea up and did ‘Vogue’ – I think they’re still trying to sue her. My first introduction to nightclubs, it became the number one anthem at Paradise Garage, one of the few records you didn’t get tired of hearing. When he played it, it’s like, all right Larry [Levan] is playing ‘Love Is The Message,’ and we’re feeling it, where it’s going. Also, it’s nice and long, about 11 minutes.”