DJ Love: Danny Tenaglia

Mike Boorman tells us how Danny Tenaglia blew his mind in Ibiza and completely changed his perception on DJs.

Becca Frankland

Date published: 21st Apr 2016

Danny Tenaglia changed everything. Before I saw him that fateful day at Space Ibiza, I was still dubious about DJing as an art form; I mean, what did a DJ do... really? 

Sure, my early clubbing escapades had sold me on the concept of losing it on a dance floor to house music, but there seemed to be this mystique of unexplained cool that separated the DJ from the rest of us, and I just didn’t get it. 

Apparently they could ‘beatmatch’. Can’t be too difficult, I thought. Stand in your bedroom for a few months with a couple of bits of vinyl and you’ve cracked it. It didn’t seem to warrant the thousands of pounds I’d heard some of these guys were getting paid anyway. There surely had to be more.

But then, up steps Tenaglia. And before he’s even mixed a record, he’s on the mic. 

What? Do ‘real’ DJs get on the mic? 

This is different. 

Having barely had time to digest this as a concept (I was too shocked to comprehend a word of what he said), he then produced two industrial-grade flashlights and started dancing around like a loon, pointing them at the crowd. 

The next eight hours were literally life changing. To see a DJ actually make the stage his stage was just mind blowing. All the other DJs I’d watched, all the bands, all that live sport I’d seen down the years... this pissed all over it.

Around about when he dropped Donna Summer's ‘I Feel Love’ for the third time, I knew the rest of my life would be dominated by the quest for more moments like this. Tenaglia made me understand what a DJ could make possible.

In one sense, you can pick apart what he did in that set and not be wowed by it. A few hours of tribal house (all the rage back then), some old classics, a bit of dancing up on the stage and chat on the mic, some ups, some downs... nothing that hadn’t been done before. But the brazen way he did it all - that was what made it so special. 

It really was a performance, not just a set. And that’s how he does it, every time. The dancing and the flashlight antics have been toned down a bit in recent years, but Tenaglia has never lost the ability to connect emotionally with his audience. When he gets the hammer down, the intensity he builds up is almost unrivalled in my opinion. 

But even if you can argue the toss with that, there should be absolutely no argument about his knack for tearing up the rule book and just doing something for a bit of a laugh. What other man would follow hours of the most intense, tribal filth, with Gloria Gaynor's ‘I Will Survive’? What other man would have the courage to do that on the Space Terrace? 

I was there. It happened. Then he followed it with Derek & The Dominoes ‘Leyla’, just for good measure. And just in case there was any doubt, he absolutely loves it. It is not just ‘performance’ to him, it is his whole life. 

The day after said-shenanigans with Gloria Gaynor etc. I stumbled in to Pacha, made my way to the first bar I could see, and who’s standing at the end of it? It’s Tenaglia. At the public bar, paying for his own drink. 

The look of shock on my face must have been so ridiculous that he felt the need to walk over to me and introduce himself!

“Hi, I’m Danny.”

“I know!  Err… great set last night… particularly enjoyed it when blah blah blah… what are you doing here anyway?”

“I just popped in to see Hernan Cattaneo. He’s one of my favourite DJs.”

“What, just to watch?”

“Yeah, I just love progressive house man!”

Then followed ten minutes of the most detailed musical chat you could imagine. There are many DJs out there where you just don’t bother getting in to full-on trainspotter mode - however good their set might have been, they probably wouldn’t remember half of it, but with Tenaglia I just knew that he would have that elephant brain for music.  

As soon as I engaged him, he was off. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know me from Adam, and it didn’t matter that some of what we were talking about was an obscure part of a set he’d played many years earlier. You could really tell how much prep work went into his sets - just how much he gave a damn. He remembered everything.

And as you would hope from a man who plays Eric Clapton on the Space Terrace, he was quite a funny guy. An all-round performer basically, but with a genuine love for his music, other people’s music, and his trainspotting fans. Top man!

In an era where a DJ can be paid $500,000 for an hour of pre-mixed dross that is basically background music for a light show, Danny Tenaglia is an important reminder of what a superstar DJ can be. He’s an entertainer way beyond the music, but his music will always move you.

Danny Tenaglia makes his Liverpool debut at The Garage on Friday 17th June with Dave Seaman. Tickets available from the box below.

Like this? Try Dave Seaman's recorded live mix from the Cream grand finale