lucas rodenbush

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Mixer

June 2000 Issue

Clash Of The Titans

By Darren Ressler
Danny Tenaglia, the DJ's DJ, is the king of hard & soul. John Digweed is equally renowned and has just dipped his foot into the acting world with his role in Groove. In January the two met a Tenaglia's New York home for an informal chat. Mixer was there to exclusively document this meeting of these two superstar DJs.

Style, Collaborations and Exclusive Tracks

Danny Tenaglia: I first became aware of you mostly through reading about you in all of the English magazines. I was curious as to who exacltly this John Digweed guy was.
John Digweed: That was about the time we started playing Twilo.
Tenaglia: Oh, but I had heard of you long before that.
Digweed: I love the dark, errie sounds on your records.
Tenaglia: [laughs] Well, being the good Christian boy that I am, it just comes to me. To use the term hard and soul is a bit of a cliche now, but I do love a lot of the soulful stuff and it's a big part of my background and I like where it's gone. Twenty years later, modern technology has developed and I've been open minded. For me, the borderline is a tempo thing. I can appreciate all fo the trance labels like Hooj Choons and it's perfect at 130 and under. It's perfect and soulful without being an R&B artist.
Digweed: The first track of yours I discovered was the track you did with the Daou, "Surrender Yourself." I've liked house music from the very start, so when you have a record that stands out, you think that the mood and edge works. It's so hard to describe music — that's why I hardly ever do reviews!
Tenaglia: Even though I had done songs before that, that song was a tuning point for me. Working with [producer/keyboardist] Peter Daou made sense. I was limited with my keyboard talent. There was a bit of marriage going on there.
Digweed: Nick Muir, the guy who I work with, has been playing the piano since he was five. He's an amazing keyboard player and on the dancefloor, he's the maddest clubber as well!
Tenaglia: See, I can't get Peter to stay out past midnight!
Digweed: What works for us is that I can be in the DJ booth getting my vibe and at the same time he's on the dancefloor picking up stuff as well. I think that's why our partnership is so strong.
Tengalia: For Peter, part of the mystique is him not knowing about what's on the charts or what we're playing. He's coming from a whole other place and he happened to stumble into dance. I mean, this guy worked on [Bobby Konders'] "The Poem." Take away what he did on that record and what do you have? A kick and a hi-hat. How did you meet Nick?
Digweed: We met when I was DJing at a night called Rage at Heaven in London and a friend who I had been on a skiing holiday with brought him to the club. He gave me a track he did and I gave it a listen. The next week he came back and asked me what I thought. [crunches up his face] I was like, "Naaah." He invited me to the studio to mess around and the first track we did was "For What You Dream Of" and we've been working together since '91. Up until last year, we were lucky if we did one mix a year. We haven't done a single until "Heaven Scent" for three years. Suddenly, last year we got into it and started off remixing Danny's "Turn Me On" and did the Fire Island and this band Terminal Head.
Tenaglia: I loved what you did with your remix of "Turn Me On." I was DJing at the Tunnel at the time and I had a wish list of people who I wanted to remix it. Just how [Tourism] came together with Liz Torrez and Teena Marie, so did most of the remixes. I wanted John Ciafone, Deep Dish and Farley & Heller. Unfortunately, some of the songs didn't get remixed. I wanted Tilt to remix "Baby Do You Feel Me" and I was overwhelmed by your mix, John. It made me appreciate your style even more. It was inspirational. I think that we're similar and different in so many ways. We could probably both do a three-hour set starting off at the same tempo and build up to an energy and it would all be completely different but still be a similar journey. The only bad thing is when he's here in New York on Fridays. I'm playing at Vinyl.
Digweed: When you played at my Bedrock night in Brighton, a small club that holds maybe 500 people, I think I knew maybe two records that you played!
Tenaglia: Same for me, especially judging by your Global Underground and Bedrock CDs. I don't know any of the tracks, but I love them all.
Digweed: For the Global Hong Kong CD, everything just fell in my lap and came together. The Bedrock CD was great, but for the Global CD there was such an influx of great new material.

Life Inside And Outside The Booth

Digweed: Danny, you're one of the leading American DJs. You are the DJ's DJ. When you do your party in Miami during the Conference, your party is the one everyone wants to go to because it's going to be a special night.
Tenaglia: [smiles] Thank you, John. I'm flattered.
Digweed: You're also very selective about where you play and that helps to build a sense of excitement. When there's a Tenaglia mix in the pipeline, lots of DJs start scrambling to get it.
Tenaglia: I'm so influenced by so many things that it helps me. Having gone from Cher to Byron Stingily to Green Velvet, I'm selective and am not transforming R&B records into house records anymore. I am flattered by your comment and one of the main reason I've taken off from traveling from January to the conference is to prepare for the event to make it special. This year is my 25th anniversary as a DJ and there will be special edits and things I'm going to do in the studio that can't be done on two turntables.
Digweed: I don't mind traveling, though the flight delays aren't fun. However, there are delays in every form of work. When I get to the gigs and the kids are there, that's what I get the buzz from. I have so many friends here in America now and there are so many people. I really like America, the scene and the energy.
Tenaglia: [laughs] Why don't you move here for a couple of years?
Digweed: The last three years at Twilo have been amazing for me and Sasha, and our careers have blossomed. I played in '89 in Chicago with people like Derrick Carter and Mark Farina. Actually, Wade, the guy who got me the role in Groove, was the guy who first brought me over. I haven't seen the movie yet, but so far everyone says that they like it. I don't know if I can watch myself.

Life On The Road

Tenaglia: How long have you been traveling?
Digweed: Over ten years, but it's been more intense in the past eight. That's when we started doing gigs in America and Australia. Where was your first European gig?
Tenaglia: Italy, 1993. Over the past three or four years, I started doing a lot of U.K. gigs at Ministry of Sound and other clubs.
Digweed: What would you say your favorite U.K. club is?
Tenaglia: I remember liking Ministry when it had just opened and I felt comfortable in the booth. I've had an equally as good time at Full Circle and I did Back 2 Basics before they closed their venue. I enjoy the smaller parties, such as Carl Cox's Ultimate B.A.S.E. I've had great times in Glasgow and all over the north.
Digweed: How about Europe?
Tenaglia: I can't say that I have a favorite club. Some are just so overwhelming in places like Ibiza, Tel Aviv, and cities in Greece. I played Moscow this past year and that was incredible. I've also had great times in Montreal and Toronto. Tokyo was also great. It's all fun.
Digweed: And it really shows how global the whole scene is now.
Tenaglia: I don't listen to much outside the realm of dance music because of time, but I've lately found an appreciation for classical music. I find myself only listening to it in the car and when I go to sleep at night. That started with me on the plane, especially with bad weather when I'd get really nervous. It helped me and after a while I thought how genius it was.
Digweed: Was that the reason why you didn't do many gigs in England?
Tenaglia: I don't think that flying has ever stopped me from taking a gig. When I was in Florida, I did have a couple of scary incidents like the TWA crash at Newark where we had to be bussed to another airport. At this point, I just put it all into God's hands. I even want to go in a helicopter now.

Music Is The Answer

Digweed: There is so much good music out there, why would I want to play six or seven hours of the same style? There are so many amazing records at my disposal that I'd rather start my set off with moodier records and let people have the anticipation of when you're going to up the tempo. I've said this a million times, but there's nothing like walking into club, seeing the lights that are turned down low and the system isn't even turned up full. As the tempo builds and the lights come up, that's when the excitement builds.
Tenaglia: There's a whole misconception of the word trance in 2000. Three years ago, I wouldn't consider playing it because it was 140BPM with lots on sixteenth-note synth lines going on. A lot of it was cheesy. And a lot what John plays I don't consider trance, like the Medway record on Hooj. Guys like Tilt and Tarantella are trance-related, but it's coming from darker rhythmic vibes.
Digweed: Even EBE.
Tenaglia: Exactly.
Digweed: He's taken British influences and mixed 'em with America sounds.
Tenaglia: There are all of these guys like Cari Lekebusch and Oliver Lieb—everyone is intertwined and inspiring each other. How can you just play one style? I've never been a Garage DJ. I place dance music and what appeals to me on the night that I'm playing. Just because I like a Faithless record doesn't mean that I'm a trance DJ. I have respect for good music.
Digweed: I've liked house from the word go, but when I was playing gigs a few years ago where I only had two hours, you can't come on after someone's been playing at 135bpm and bring it down to 125 in two hours. It just doesn't work. The whole beauty of running my own night and doing the Northern Exposure tours is that we've had a lot more control over how the night develops as opposed to short guest spots in England.

Bootlegging

Tenaglia: One of my biggest fears is being recorded without my permission, especially when I'm doing something special like dropping a Vincent Price vocal.
Digweed: There was a case where there was a bootleg of myself and Sasha recorded at Simon's.
Tenaglia: It happened to me at Simon's and I found out about it when someone went to my friend Todd's store in Miami with a cassette of a song I played that they were trying to ID.
Digweed: It can also be great in the respect that the bootleg pushed our names acress America long before we had CDs out here. But it isn't fair for the artists who lose out. It is flattering to think that someone thinks you're worth enough to go to the trouble of bootlegging.
Tenaglia: What is stressful is the anguish and preparing for a set. You want to bring four record boxes, but can only bring two.
Digweed: But I wouldn't change it for the world.
Tenaglia: [laughs] Me neither. Who knew that a kid with a $10 record player hanging out by a juke box would become a juke box?
Danny Tenaglia's Back To Mine is out now on Ultra. Sasha & Digweed's next Northern Exposure CD will be released domestically on Kinetic. Tenaglia spins Fridays at Vinyl in New York City. Digweed apprears with Sasha on the last Friday of the month a Twilo.