Danny Tenaglia


The unofficial King of WMC has been known to play 16-hour sets while breaking out new beats.

WMC Danny Tenaglia
Danny Tenaglia

By Michael Hamersly

If there was any DJ you could call the King of WMC, it would be Danny Tenaglia, hands-down. The native New Yorker has been a fixture at the festival since just about the beginning, and his marathon Be Yourself parties evolved into the must-see event of each year, the one show even the other DJs make sure not to miss, if possible. Tenaglia has been known to perform for up to 16 hours nonstop, and is a true tastemaker, breaking out new music like no one else. Catch him Wednesday at downtown Miami's Park West, Friday night at Score and Sunday at his closing party at the Shelborne Hotel.
Have you attended all the WMCs?
This will be my 24th year - I missed the first year ever in 1985. I had moved to Miami, but later in the year in October. So they'll celebrate their 25th this year, and I'll celebrate mine next year.
What are some of your fondest memories?
Oh, wow. There's so many, because when I look back at the '80s when I first started, before it got really crazy on South Beach, when it was a lot of showcases at nightclubs and sanctioned Winter Music Conference events, I have memories of meeting a lot of famous artists. You know, back when it was like Taylor Dayne and Company B and Rick Astley - well, maybe not Rick Astley [laughs]. And after these shows were over I would go on, and that's pretty much how I got my recognition - I was a young DJ from New York, and moved to Miami when I was 24 years old. That pretty much reignited my music career and it took off from there.
Do you have a lot of new music to break out this year?
I always do - it's overwhelming. It'll always be impossible to keep up - even if I want to break out older stuff and bring it back in a modern way, it's like opening up a can of worms, because you only have so many hours to play. There's no way you can play it all, but I do my best. As far as my own productions ... out of nowhere, this was unplanned, so hopefully some of those studio sessions you don't plan turn out to be the best ones - you might be familiar with a Latino guy, a legendary flute player named Nestor Torres? I was at a recording session last week and a friend of mine introduced me, and he came back the next day and played flute on my track. I'll definitely have a rough mix to introduce it. And we talked about him possibly doing a little showcase at one of my events, just popping out onstage and performing live flute. We're talking about that now - where would be the best place for him, downtown or Score or The Shelborne.
You must be constantly bombarded by new DJs and producers giving you music. How much of it do you actually get to listen to?
It's really out of control. Downloads and downloads and digital downloads - there's really no keeping up. I think I probably get I'd say 50 to 100 titles every week or two weeks. It depends on if you count how many versions are there - you could have a good solid 50 and then a vocal dub or several mixes. It's a lot to filter through, because there's nothing that's gonna stop me from continually looking for new stuff from people who aren't familiar to me. I just turned 49 and to me it's like I'm 19 - it's exactly the same. I get so lit up about it.
How much of that music is actually good?
How do I diplomatically say this? [laughs] You know, it depends on my taste. I'm always looking for the newer, cutting-edge stuff. If it's radio or pop-oriented, it's probably not gonna be played by me. I'll appreciate it, and I'll respect it, but I'm more known for the underground. I don't want to say that I've heard it all before, but I'm pretty familiar with all the styles I hear. I think a lot of people are late jumping on bandwagons as opposed to being really original. That's what I look forward to - I wanna hear someone who sounds like, "Oh my God, what's this?" Shock value. That's hard to come by.
Do you have an opinion on the drug use and partying that surrounds the dance-music and nightclub scene?
I think it's tragic. It's a shame about how many people took it to a level that was so unnecessary, to the point where I just wanna ask some of these people: "What do you wanna feel?" A little crank, a little marijuana, maybe I'll say OK I understand - a half-pill and in an hour maybe take the other half. But when they start mixing it with GHB - which is the worst one of all - ketamine, crystal meth, cocaine, and all of the above, that's when it became to the point where it made me and all my peers and colleagues in this business - I'm speaking mainly of New York and the industry in itself - it got so out of control. As a resident DJ in New York at the biggest, top clubs - Twilo, Tunnel, Vinyl and then Sound Factory, Palladium - they're all closed. They're all gone. And the main reason was so many people abusing drugs to the point of the law coming in and busting them, and the worst-case scenario, death. So of course, I'm angry and against drugs.
You're known for your marathon sets. How long will you play at each of your events?
I think my set at the Shelborne is 4 -10 p.m. - we can't go that late there out of respect for the hotel. Downtown at Park West, I'll be pretty late - I'll go with the flow of the people. At 2 a.m. I'll go on, and we'll see how long that goes. I'm assuming the latest would be noon. And Friday night at Score, I'll play from 11 p.m. - 6 a.m.

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