November 27, 2021

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Danny Tenaglia Answers 20 Questions Ahead Of His 60th Birthday

If anything points to the respect Tenaglia commands across dance artists of all generations, it’s the lineup for his 60th birthday party livestream fundraiser. Featuring sets by Carl Cox, Seth Troxler, Nicole Moudaber, Victor Calderone, Blond:ish and 25 other artists (including the birthday boy himself, of course) the event launches off today (March 6) via Beatport’s Twitch, YouTube and Facebook and continues into Sunday (which is Tenaglia’s actual birthday.) The party is free to stream, and all proceeds benefit UNICEF.

To commemorate the occasion, Tenaglia here answers 20 questions about falling love with dance music, the moment his parents really understood his success, the challenges of being off the road during the pandemic and how the dance world has changed (and stayed the same) since he got his start.

1. Where are you in the world right now, and what’s the setting like?

I am happy to say I’m in New Jersey. I’d never thought I’d live in this state, but it’s absolutely wonderful. I got a place here last December before COVID. I was in between Queens and Miami, but now I’m in this beautiful area of New Jersey that I’d never even heard of, Rainwood. It’s desolate. It’s in the woods and people come up for hiking trails. There’s no streetlights here. It’s private, there are amazing lakes nearby. I feel like I’m in a different state altogether, really.

2. What is the first album or piece of music you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?

It’s hard for me to know exactly which one. There was a record store that was on my black and my godmother used to take me there when I was a kid. I started absorbing this at so young an age, maybe six or seven. The one that comes to my mind is an instrumental called “Grazing In the Grass” by Hugh Masekela. It was a 45.

3. What’s distinctive about the place you grew up, and how did it shape you?

I was born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I lived there for the first 25 years of my life, and I think it was the diversity of the community. I’m Italian, and it was an Italian community, but there was also a large community of Puerto Rican and Black people as well, especially in school. As a child, loving music, I really related to this – people listening to salsa, the jukeboxes, people dancing. I gravitated towards the rhythms. That helped shape me as a DJ, those different cultures. It was very soulful.

4. What did your parents do for a living when you were a kid, and what do they think/did they think of what you do for a living now?

My mom used to work at Bergdorf Goodman, but she had five boys, so naturally that didn’t last very long. She was a housewife and my dad was in the military and a head mechanic at the National Guard for twenty-something years. As of last year my dad is gone. He was 91. My mom passed in 2008.

When I first told them that I wanted to leave high school to be a DJ, they didn’t understand. They were thinking like, Howard Stern and Cousin Brucie. And I was like, “No, I want to play nightclubs.” The great thing is that they saw I was never in trouble. Never arrested. Didn’t fall into drugs. I was just addicted to music. Those were the things that were important to them. But in 2002, when I was nominated for a Grammy [for best remixed recording], I think that elevated things for them, even though it didn’t mean as much to me as the DJ awards that I get from the dance music community.

5.What was the first song you ever made?

It was called “Waiting For a Call,” and I used the artist name Deep State, which wouldn’t be too good to use today. This was in 1988, so I just thought I was being deep. It got signed to Atlantic Records, so it was like “wow.” I think the connection is that back then I was a Billboard reporter for the dance charts, in the ’80s and top of the ’90s, so I had a connection with the people that would call from the promotion companies and the record labels. There was a guy named Joey Carvello who used to work at Atlantic. He heard my demo, and he signed it.

6. If you had to recommend one album for someone looking to get into electronic music, what would you give them?

I probably have to say Kraftwerk. They really took dance music into an electronic way, and I grew up with them as well. It was 1975 when they put out Trans-Europe Express. I was hearing that in straight clubs, gay clubs, Black clubs – people listening to Kraftwerk. Every album they did was just more advanced.

7. What’s the first non-music gear item that you bought for yourself when you started making money as an artist?

Besides being a DJ, I started loving collecting lamps and furniture. I bought a Warren Platner dining set from a store called Knoll. It’s from the ’60s, and it still sells today. It was probably about $16,000, and I still have it! Want to see it? [He carries the camera to the dining room to show me the table, which is beautiful.]

8. What was the first electronic music show that really blew your mind?

I would have to say a band called Orbital. It might have been while I was on the road at a festival. I was so impressed, because it was almost like seeing a Kraftwerk kind of show. I didn’t see Kraftwerk until a few years ago. Orbital was a great dance/electronic band from England.

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