Can Tenaglia, Rivera & All Star DJs Empower Your Set?

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DJ Danny Tenaglia black and white shot from the nose up with hat
Tenaglia: “One foot on the dancefloor…”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from a world-famous, money-earning DJ?

Don’t step on the headlining DJ’s set, or don’t play more uptempo than the headlining DJ will play—sure, good advice.

Or how about Danny Tenaglia, at a recent WMC seminar: “If you want it, you can’t be lazy,” he said.  “If you want it, take it. But you need to have roots in your heart, earn your respect.”

Such was the respectful tenor established at the “Architecture of the DJ Set” seminar at WMC 2011, where Derrick Carter resorted to the very basics when dispensing wisdom to the gathered room. “If you make tracks,” he said, “make sure you have the skills to play them out.”

Fair enough. Valuable advice to keep the train wrecks at bay, we suppose, but we were more impressed when Robbie Rivera related his experience as an up and coming DJ. “I learned how to read a room doing mobiles,” he said. “When I moved to clubs, I understood that the bar had to make money. It took a lotta work, a lotta paying attention.”

And crucial to a DJ’s understanding of what his primary job is, especially now that there are no secrets, in terms of music and in terms of production. “DJs all have the same tunes now,” said Tenaglia. “So it’s up to you to get into Ableton, edit it, loop up what you like, put something on top of it and make it your own. Make your personality come out in the music.”

At that, Quentin Harris chimed in: “DJing helps you produce, but producing doesn’t help you DJ.”

It’s one thing to express your personality through your music, but how can DJs express their personality in the booth?

“If it’s a natural thing for you to dance around in the booth, cool,” said Oscar G. “But if I did it, I’d feel ridiculous.”

“Some DJs rock the party and never look away from the mixer,” said Cedric Ceballos. “It’s up to you, but it should be natural.”

Quoting legendary DJ David Mancuso, Danny Tenaglia said: “A great DJ must have one foot on the dancefloor, the other on the dancefloor.”

Tenaglia continued riffing when asked by an audience member, “If your rider isn’t right at a gig and you got the wrong equipment, would you consider not playing?”

“No,” replied Tenaglia. “Never let the people down—by any means necessary (cue big applause here). Then you go home and yell at your manager.” (cue big laugh).

In closing, an audience member asked the panel about the most embarrassing thing that ever happened at a gig.

Robbie Rivera had a ready reply. “A couple years ago, I was playing at Space. A couple hours into the set, I got diarrhea. I was frantically texting my DJ friends in the club, ‘Yo! I need you to get up to the booth ASAP! I gotta go!’”

We imagine in the Rivera camp, that story’s a “running” joke (cue laughter).