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Every Friday night for the past four years, Danny Tenaglia has taken a 12-hour musical journey he calls Be Yourself, his party at Arc. A New York figurehead in the DJ universe, Tenaglia has fans who worship him with a near religious fervor—they follow his diet plans and voraciously read his lengthy posts on Dtourism.com, a fan site run by someone he’s never even met. The amiable Queens boy typed out a 3,000-word manifesto for Fly Life, answering some silly questions and the big one about that other guy, Junior. Here’s what we could fit.
How long have you been a DJ? I discovered the “art” of mixing at age 11 and was overwhelmed. By age 15 I had a DJ setup and never turned back, so I would say about 30 years and “professionally” for about 20.
What made you want to be a DJ? I always had an incredible passion for music—especially Motown and the Philly sounds of the MFSB orchestra. I also loved all instruments, mainly the piano and guitar, as well as tape recorders, and was extremely amazed by jukeboxes.
If you weren’t a DJ, what would you be? I would definitely aspire to be an actor. If not, then something for certain in the entertainment business.
What is your favorite record ever? “Love Is the Message” by MFSB. It’s a mini Broadway play to me. It is the mother of all House music. It can be heard in Madonna’s “Vogue” and countless other spin-offs.
How many rooms do your records take up? Do you have an organizational system for them? I have about 20,000 records that are now at my loft [in Long Island City]. I catalog the classics according to their labels. The newer stuff is according to its style.
Tell me about your loft space. My loft is 6,500 square feet of pure bliss! The roof is also incredible, with its breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. I consider it my second home since it also houses the original Shelter/Body & Soul/Vinyl sound system, which I had redone 100 percent.
What accomplishment are you most proud of? Although I was nominated for a Grammy last year, being voted by my peers for the 2000 “DJ’s DJ” award in Ibiza meant more to me than a Grammy nomination. I was also given a Lifetime Achievement award in the U.K. at the DanceStar Awards, but I still humbly feel too young for that one!
Why was there a “feud” between you and Junior? When the original Sound Factory closed and then reopened as Twilo, Junior was not asked to DJ there. I am certain that this offended him, as his emotional ties with that room were obvious, since he helped originally build it from scratch. I was asked to play there along with many other DJs. As he was then the resident at the Tunnel, he was obviously not happy that I/we were right up the block at what he considered “his home.” So, he once asked security to kindly ask me to leave the Tunnel when I visited his after-hours party there in ’96. It was the media then that turned it upside down by asking: “Is it true that Junior threw you out of the Tunnel?” I had to set the record straight. So, for the record, no, there was never a verbal argument between us. After knowing Junior since the early ’80s, I do hope to one day sit down and laugh at the past.
Justin or Christina? I would not know either one if they passed me on the street. I can’t even say I know one song by either artist! I do not watch MTV, I do not listen to radio, and I simply do not like bubblegum pop music. Let me know when a true new Stevie Wonder hits the airwaves again, then I’ll turn on my radio.
A reader wrote in and criticized you for banning cell phones and other gadgets, calling you a hypocrite since your party is named Be Yourself. Finally, he called you a “diva.” Cell phones are brightly lit; people hold them up to the booth with messages of request to me, or take my photo without me even realizing it’s a camera. It’s rare, but I finally made an announcement saying that it was inconsiderate and disrespectful to me and the people dancing next to them. I’m now a target of “diva-ism”? (LOL) Well, I am not about that. All I want is what is respectable, considerate, and appropriate behavior.
Last but not least: How the hell do you play for 12 hours straight? Are you mad?! It’s easy when you’re doing what you love the most. It’s only once a week, although we are awake 16 hours per day, aren’t we? And yes, I am mad—madly in love with the sound of the drums.