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8 Sep 2006

dj de len: fresher, juicier and more bite!

LA-based DJ De Len who's making his Asian debut at Nation in Phuket talks to nightlife writer Tony Giampetruzzi about the DJ industry in the US, and taking risks and trying new things to deliver a fresh experience for Nation partygoers.

When I first spoke to DJ De Len nearly three years ago, he was just beginning to gain traction in an industry that was saturated with mediocre talent, cookie-cutter jocks who would spin to the masses. But, most of them were pied pipers, taking few chances and playing only the tried and true sounds that would do nothing to challenge the ears of their audiences, rather stringing them along on unspectacular journeys.

Argentina-born LA-based De Len
"Don't expect to hear a lot of Donna Summer from me," warned the L.A.-based De Len who then, as now, is quick to classify his sound as "progressive tribal house with a vocal house element."

"You know, really huge DJs come to L.A. for parties and then deliver a performance that is really sub par for their reputation. They second-guess themselves because they've been told by promoters to deliver a commercial performance, you know, 'play vocals, play this, play that,' and then what you get is something totally sub-par.

"No DJ on the West Coast has the balls or the guts to say what I'm saying. I have no problem with being uncompromising, and I'm gonna play stuff that you haven't heard before, but stuff that's acceptable to the gay community."

De Len promises that his gig for Nation VI, his first appearance in Asia, will be no different. To be sure, despite a ballooning list of high-class gigs and a long-running night called Lattitude in L.A., De Len has anything but compromised his sound; in fact, he claims to have refined it. His sets are marked by what club and circuit goers came to love throughout the late '90s and during the first few years of the new millennium. But, while this West Coast DJ plays a sound that's more driving, more sexual and certainly a shade darker than what many of the California boys are wont to play, don't say that De Len's signature groove is dark.

"Yes, I play a hard and aggressive sound, but I don't consider what I do to be dark. That's a dirty word these days. I think there are people out there who listen to dark music and call it something else. A lot of confusion can arise by who calls what, what and that's always been the case with dance music," De Len explains."

The dark thing is out. I don't want to come across as dark, although there are plenty of moments in my set when I can get sexier and darker, it just needs to be integrated into the set seamlessly." That, he says, is the challenge. He concedes that audiences are in a bit of a flux these days, but he's not convinced that the lighter, so-called happier music is the new MO.

"People still love the darker sound from the likes of Paulo, Abel and Calderone, and the people in that camp enjoyed a time when it was very fashionable to be very, very dark and they could exaggerate the dark aspects of sound, to convey a sexy and seedy atmosphere," says De Len. "I just don't think we need to exaggerate it so much anymore. We've reached a happy medium."

He may not want to come right out and admit that his is some of the sexiest sounding music around, but, by virtue of the parties he throws, De Len is of that very sexual stock. Because his long time event, L.A.'s Lattitude happens to be military-themed, he has the luxury of playing an aggressively masculine set while knowing that his target audience will eat it up. Nation VI is a little bit lighter fare, though, and De Len is prepared to deliver what Nation audiences have come to expect: namely something cutting edge and a little auditorily challenging.

"The end goal is to have everyone jumping up and down with their hands in the air and feeling good, no matter what you're playing," says De Len. "Whether it's tribal, vocal, progressive or some mixture of them all, you're throwing a party and you want people to walk out the door saying it was the best party they've ever been to."

Anyone who has been to Nation knows that, above all, organisers place a premium on the music - they're not ones to take chances. For that reason alone, De Len is pleased to have been plucked from those aforementioned pipers of the club world.

"It's great. This is my Asian debut, so I'm very excited. Plus, this is one of the largest and most important gay events in that part of the word, and that is very important to me," he says.

"Plus, having my name up there with Tony Moran is an amazing thrill." At the end of the day, De Len hopes to be in that pantheon of mega stars, like Moran, and he marks Nation as another important stepping stone to reaching his goal. Why? Because Nation only works with the ever-growing-smaller handful of jocks who are setting a new standard.

"There are beacons of hope out there and certain people who are willing to take risks and try new things. By booking people like Tony Moran, and people like me, it's clear that those in charge want to try to shake up the standard format," says De Len. "Promoters are trying to deliver a fresh experience while, at the same time, delivering an experience that reminds the audience of the better circuit events they've been to in the past.

"There's something to be said for circuit goers, as opposed to club goers, gay or not, who want to feel like how they felt the last time they were at the event, they want to feel that the same sort of energy. So, I think the two things can exist: a fresh experience that will bring people back for something new without having to compromise those amazing experiences of the past."

2006 has been a banner year for De Len - he was handpicked for gigs at Avalon Hollywood opposite global superstar DJs Tiesto, Sasha and Sandra Collins, while making his Winter Music Conference debut in Miami. Lattitude has transformed into a beacon of cutting-edge house on the west coast hosting legendary DJs Saeed.

"This year has also seen the sale of my first original production 'Don't Lie' to KULT Records, and my second original production 'Show You' has just signed to STEREO Productions and will have a full global release next month," boasts De Len.

In the end, says De Len, whether at Nation, Lattitude, or listening to one of his remixes, you can expect to be entranced, but the experience is one that will stick with you for years to come... and you're likely to be asking for more and more.

The three-day Nation event will also see Tony Moran play on Oct 21, DJ Sawa (Japan) at the Muscle Beach party; DJ Severino (Italy) at the Pirates Paradise pool party and hot faves DJs David S (Taiwan), Victor Cheng (Taiwan) and Kate Monroe (Australia) - who played at Nation last year - at the closing party on Oct 22. Log onto www.fridae.asia/nation for regular updates, DJ bios, and links to purchasing party tickets, Jetstar tickets to Phuket (ex-Singapore) and making hotel reservations at host hotel Hilton Phuket Arcadia and/or other supporting hotels.

Watch this space for more interviews with DJs Sawa (Japan)and Kate Monroe (Australia).

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