In an exclusive tour, the New York nightlife legend walks us through the mementos of the past amid the trappings of his future.
It looms large in New York City's clubland mythology, standing as a kind of Valhalla—or perhaps, Superman's secret citadel—in the minds of many of the city's nightlifers. Yet only a chosen few have actually entered the exalted sanctuary to experience its wonders, to gaze upon its glory. At least, that's probably the way Danny Tenaglia's most rabid fans feel about his fabled Queens loft, located in an industrial quarter of Long Island City just south of the imposing Queensboro Bridge. The space, which serves as the veteran DJ's base of business operations and studio (his actual living quarters are nearby), is gorgeous, resembling nothing so much as the most immaculate, snowy-toned nightclub you've ever been to—and THUMP, along with a gaggle of music-industry types, after-dark insiders and friends of Danny, was lucky enough to experience the loft in person on Friday, June 27 at an affair sponsored by Native Instruments.
Tenaglia, once an avowed vinyl jock and still prone to dropping wax now and then, now sings the praises of Native Instruments' Traktor DJing software; the event featured an onstage conversation about Traktor with his friend, the longtime journalist Kerri Mason (now a bigwig at SFX), followed by a Tenaglia DJ set streamed on Beatport Live. We grabbed a few minutes with the legend himself as the party was just beginning—and given the nature of the get-together, it wasn't surprising that Tenaglia was eager to soliloquize on the virtues of digital spinning.
"I've always been a studio person, but I think of myself as more of a producer-slash–frustrated musician; I would hire somebody to handle the actual programming into Pro Tools or Ableton or Logic, whatever it was at the time," he admits. "I never took the time to actually learn the programs myself. And that's what I would be thinking about when I would see DJs in the booth with laptops. I'd be like, nah.… It just looked like too much to learn. But when I took some time off from touring overseas a few years ago, I used that time to learn Traktor. And it's awesome; it's revived my excitement about DJing. I'm working harder than ever, and I can do mixes that I could never have done before. I can do live remixing! And it's so much fun. I finally realized why everybody is using it."
But while we're as fascinated as anyone by superstar-DJ-methodology chitchat, what we really wanted to know was what about this mind-blowing space? "I consider this to be the perfect spot for me," Tenaglia says with obvious pride. "It's like DJ heaven. If you are successful at what you do, you want your own space. If you are a golfer, you want your own course; if you are a basketball player, you want your own court; if you are a successful Hollywood person, you want your own mini-theater at home. And if I was a bowler, I'd have a bowling alley! Although," he continues, looking around at the spacious room, "I think I actually have enough room for one here."
There are no lanes (yet), but there is plenty more to boggle the mind. Aside from the general dreamland-nightlife ambience—it's painted all in pure white, glowing from the radiance supplied by numerous skylights—it boasts a gussied-up rooftop, with one of the most stunning views of Manhattan to be had. It's full of Tenaglia-collected curios: a full-scale replica of a horse, named Roofus; a life-size fake elephant head; an original Scully lathe, a half-ton monster used for forging dubplates; a shelf of prized records (a Peech Boys single here, something from the 4th & Broadway discography there, and his own debut album, '95's Hard & Soul, in the middle); a replica suit of armor; and a set of enormous mirror balls, the largest two resting on the pristine dance floor and another dangling mid-room, sending shards of light cutting through the room.
"We used to have the biggest one hanging there," Tenaglia says, "but once we had it up, I thought that it was maybe too big. My desk is usually placed right underneath where we had it, and I started thinking, well, if it's my time to go and I get hit by a mirror ball, that would be kind of fitting. But then I changed my mind. That would have been a bit much!"
Then there's the neon sign that's one of the first things you see when you walk into the loft—made by Tenaglia's friend Pons (of Antranig & Pons semi-fame), it's a replica of the one that graced the entranceway of the Paradise Garage. "I think of this space as my personal version of the Garage," Tenaglia claims. "The Garage was my church; it was where I healed my hurt."
Danny owns the original signage from Vinyl, the much-missed 6 Hubert Street club where Danny served as resident of his Be Yourself bash, a party so beloved that it resides in the memory of many younger clubbers as their own Paradise Garage. (Note to nightlife-history buffs: Starting in the late '70s, the same address also played host to a slew of other iconic Gotham clubs and parties, including Shelter, NASA, Area and Body & Soul. It ended its run (as Arc) in 2004, to become—what else?—luxury condos.)
"You know, I had residencies at the Roxy and Limelight and Twilo and Tunnel—I bounced around a lot—but when I got asked to do Vinyl, that really was the peak for me," Tenaglia recalls. "It's a DJ's dream to have a venue where it's all about the music, and the fact that there was no liquor there made sure that was the case. It's now been ten years since it's closed, and there's been nothing like it since then."
Tenaglia loved Vinyl so much that he moved the club's sound system into the loft. "When I first started looking for a spot, it was mainly to house that sound system," he says. "When the club changed from Vinyl to Arc, they asked me if I wanted to have the system. They were actually selling it for a fair price, so I said, 'of course' without really thinking it through! I probably ended up spending more money getting it over here, wiring it and everything else; Gary did that for me, and redid a lot of the system as well." He's referring to famed soundman Gary Stewart, who passed away in 2012. "Gary was such an incredibly talented person. I had the honor of christening the sound system he had installed at Zouk in Singapore; that meant so much to me. Everything he did was so impressive. He learned under [Garage sound wizard] Richard Long, and was one of the few who followed properly in Richard's footsteps."
The building also houses his studio, something he considers both a blessing and a curse. "It's kind of hard to have it here," he admits. "I think I have a touch of OCD—or maybe it's ADD, I don't know—so it's difficult to just settle down and work. Every time I walk into another room, I'm sidetracked by something else that has to be done. I'm like, "Oh, we have to fix that light!" or whatever. I get distracted very easily, but I'm trying to fix that. If I make one final big investment here, it's going to be making the studio into a really professional room, with a sound paneling, a console and lots more. But I think I may need to hit the road a bit more before I can afford that."
Tenaglia's already dropped a bundle on his dream loft—happily so, it would seem. "I have changed this place so much that my head hurts when I think about it!" he says. When I first got the space, it was a raw factory, with no windows, now we have nine skylights and seven windows. The floor was cement, and the space is 6,500 square feet—I can't tell you how much work it was to put down this dance floor. But now," he adds with a flourish, "it's ready for a party!" And with that, he turns to take the stage.