Circuit Chat - DJ Abel

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An interview with DJ Abel
By John McHugh-Dennis (webmaster)

Whether its deep inside Miami's afterhours clubs or at the most massive events on the circuit, Abel has a earned reputation for creating a heatwave on the dancefloor with a soul-injected groove thats often imitated, but never equaled.

I caught Abel after playing Labor Day Weekend at The Factory. Abel's latest CD, Circuit Sessions 00.2, is now available.

John:

So how many hours sleep did you get last night?

Abel:

Today was not bad.. today was good. I actually slept maybe 6, 7 hours today, so yeh, today was good.

John:

What did you think of Factory last night?

Abel:

I love the club, its amazing. Ive been doing it since AXIS, and its my favorite club here.

John:

Have you played other clubs in LA?

Abel:

Yeh, actually, I did Probe years ago a long, long time ago. And I think the other thing Ive done here was House of Blues.

John:

One of the Sunday night events?

Abel:

Uh huh.

John:

Youve lived in Miami since you were 13 years old. Youve seen the city change quite a bit! I lived in Florida until I was about 20, and then, which was about 20 years ago, you didnt think of Miami as a "Hot Spot"!

Abel:

As a kid, I always thought of Miami as "the mountains". Even though there are no mountains. It was like a getaway because Im a city boy Im from New York City, and then going to Miami was going to the country. All I saw was horses and cows, horses and cows, and I actually enjoyed it! I loved it and I started developing friends and enjoyed the laid-back feel and not rushing through subways and all that. School there was much better theres a lot of pressure in New York people dont get to relax they barely even get to see the sun sometimes, so the move was good. I do miss my family and everything.

John:

Wheres your family?

Abel:

In New York. Ive got some relatives that moved over little by little to Miami, like my dad and my stepmother, but my main family is still in New York. They refused to leave.

John:

Miami is now a trend-setting city in many areas such as fashion - lots of models.

Abel:

Its where they all are now.

John:

When did that happen?

Abel:

Actually I think that started happening maybe a couple of years ago in a big way. Its always been there ever since South Beach started the models were there. The modeling schools were there already. But for the last 2 years since theyve become more mainstream, theres more modeling and more of the key players in modeling and fashion industries than ever. I recently took a drive down Ocean Drive I live there, but I barely go down that street. I took a drive down there because I hadnt been there in so long, and I was in shock to see how many models were just hanging out and how many people were there on a Thursday!

John:

Most people think of New York when they think of fashion or music trends. Do you think Miami has a piece of that at all?

Abel:

Yeh, I see Miami as part of the New York trend. Ive always said that Miami is the sister of New York. Whatever New York doesnt have, Miami follows up with it because of the beaches and the weather, but its a back and forth situation. Whoever is from Miami is from New York actually. Thats all you hear! Including myself! I think it largely has to do with the fact that it caters to the fashion industry, pictures, the night club scene, the restaurants, the strip malls It is beautiful because of that. Its good to see beautiful people walking up and down the street.

John:

My boyfriend and I spent New Years there about 2 years ago, and at least when we were there, the city never shut down. If I had wanted to party without sleeping (hypothetically, of course), I could have done it all 7 days of the week in clubs 24 hours.

Abel:

You still can do that! Starting Thursdays you can go out and you can not stop. They serve liquor until 5:00 in the morning, and theres always the after-hours clubs. About 2 years ago, maybe not quite 2 years ago Id say, they started cracking down seriously on 5:00 closing times. We believe that was actually trying to hurt the club scene. And it actually affected it a lot because we were getting a lot of tourists because we were the city that never slept we kept going.

John:

So theres a law that says that clubs have to stop serving at 5:00?

Abel:

No, they have to close down! Period.

John:

So clubs had to close down at 5:00, but they werent enforcing it, but now they are?

Abel:

Right. It was cool with them that we stopped serving at 5, and we were able to stay open to whenever we wanted to, as long as there was no liquor in sight after 5. Now they feel like, and this doesnt make sense to me, but they feel that the drug situation started getting bigger in South Beach, therefore we had to shut down at 5. But then clubs with no liquor licenses started opening up and they were immune from the 5:00 law, so the people would just move to those clubs with no license after the others shut down, and they could stay there all day. Then law enforcement tried to target the no-license clubs, trying to force them to close, and it was a battle that they lost. Then they tried to close them down by 8 or 9:00AM, and that didnt work either. So what happens now is people go out till 5, they go to the little clubs till 8, and then at 8:00 they go back to the liquor clubs, because at 8:00 in the morning, they can start serving again! Theres actually a crowd that wakes up to go to these events!

John:

Youre starting to see that in LA with some of the after-hours clubs where guys are opting out of the regular hours clubs and sleeping until 3:00AM, when they go to the after-hours clubs.

Abel:

Well, its nice... its something different... because we get used to a schedule sometimes and want to try something new. In Miami, it works, because you wake up at 6 or 7:00 in the morning like youre going to your job, only you go to the club instead!

John:

Which type of club do you prefer?

Abel:

Neither! I cant picture myself waking up to go to a night club. I do look forward to Saturday night. I always have, and if I do after-hours, I have to keep going. I would have to keep going. But I cant wake up to breakfast at a night club. I cant.

John:

Where do you play regularly in Miami? Are you back at Salvation?

Abel:

Im back at Salvation.

John:

Is that a weekly club?

Abel:

The club is every Saturday, but Im not there every Saturday right now because of my schedule outside. Im there every other week.

John:

So what are your regular gigs right now? Where are you playing?

Abel:

Regularly its Salvation every other Saturday. On the other weeks, I'm out of town. Im doing every single major city. I have lined up all the way until the end of the year.

John:

Do you primarily focus on New York, L.A

Abel:

Actually, I dont go to New York much. The last time I was in New York was in November, so its gonna be a year. New York is a very competitive market, and the DJs that usually play in New York are usually New York DJs. With the exception of Manny Lehman, and Barry Harris, and thats because George Dillinger is their manager and he has very good ties with Twilo. Other than that, its very difficult, which I kind of find not right, because New York should be the shining star.

John:

The last interview I did was with Manny, and he did point out that New York was one of the few cities where you could try new things and be more daring in what you play.

Abel:

Absolutely. When I played, I played at Twilo twice... loved it... love Junior. He is the most unique DJ in my book and the most respected in my book, and the reason I say that is the club is based around him. It is a club totally made for him and when I play there I feel special because I can do whatever I want, and the crowd is educated to that. One thing that I always love about a club, and thats the same thing that I love about Salvation in Miami, is that we have an educated crowd. They look forward to that new song. They dont want to hear "Unspeakable Joy". They want to hear something brand new what is up my sleeve and thats what I love about New York.

John:

And Miami and Los Angeles arent so much the same?

Abel:

Miami is, Miami is, yes. South Beach, because it follows New York and they look forward to that. Miami is very educated. So educated that its actually one of the highest cities to rank in the sales of the Dance Charts. More actually than in New York, which is a shock. Thats how well Miami is with music. L.A., I guess, comes right behind Miami, so I have to say that L.A. is on top and its getting a lot better here. Im very impressed with the way theyre selling their CDs here how they have their CD shops. Theyre very on the money with it. Im very happy about L.A. catching up with the true cities that were always on top of music, because Ive always found L.A. to be the New York of the West Coast. L.A. is a very beautiful city, and it should have what Miami and New York have to offer as well. Its a big city!

John:

Were you one of these people who in the 7th grade could always name every song on the radio? When did you become so interested in music?

Abel:

Yes. When I was twelve, I came into Miami. At thirteen I started getting the itch. I would hear these radio stations that had mix shows they started in New York actually, and I would listen and I would record it and listen to it again, and I would go "Wow! That was really cool! How did they do that?" And then I would try to do it myself with tape decks. I would mix from tape deck to tape deck until I got it right. Thats how I started. Until I got my hands on turntables, and then I started doing it like that.

John:

What do you think of mixing with CDs?

Abel:

I love it.

John:

Do you mix mostly with CDs now?

Abel:

Not mostly. Id have to say 50/50.

John:

Do you think its going to get to the point where you have less and less a choice? Is it the same for DJs as it is for consumers in terms of the availability of vinyl?

Abel:

Well, only here in the U.S. actually. In Europe, vinyl is huge. You have more control of the piece with vinyl. With the CD, you just stick it in the computer, and the computer does the rest. Sometimes like a record skips, CDs skip as well, but the thing is... with a vinyl you can at least pick up the needle and move it a tad. With a CD youre stuck! Things are improving now with some of the new technology, but vinyl is still better.

John:

When did you get your first big break into the DJ scene?

Abel:

I was brought into the public eye really fast because one woman had heard me at a night club that I was playing at and really enjoyed my style said that I had a "unique" style, and it just took off from there. I started meeting more people in the business and it was very, very fast up the ladder. I did radio for 5-7 years, then I was doing the clubs at the same time only on weekends though. During the week, I was in the medical field for sixteen years.

John:

I was going to ask you about that. So you did work in another field before music?

Abel:

Music was a hobby. Back then DJing wasnt as popular as it is now.

John:

And probably not as well paying either.

Abel:

No. To work in a big club you would get fair money, it wasnt even all that. Back then, DJs were respected, but not as much as now.

John:

Whats the worst experience youve had in a DJ booth?

Abel:

I would have to say the most embarrassing was a CD getting stuck on me at Snowball. It was at Snowball last year 1999.

John:

And you said you cant stop it? It just kind of

Abel:

Couldnt stop it. Couldnt get away from it I didnt know what to do but FADE OUT Thats all I had to do. It was very frustrating because you cant mix out of it, you cant move forward, you cant move back, youre stuck! That happened after having come back from a one-month break from Salvation and the city, and it really upset me a lot it was really embarrassing.

John:

Are you going to be spinning at Salvation for New Years?

Abel:

No. New Years Eve Im working with Manny Lehman at the Miami Arena with Jeffrey Sanker. Its a huge party its gonna be an experience. Its gonna be nice and mainly because its on Sunday as well. Im really looking forward to playing with Manny.

John:

Have you ever played with him before?

Abel:

I think we played once together I believe it was White Party Palm Springs.

John:

Whats in your head when youre mixing?

Abel:

When I say the word "energetic" you see, everybody has a different meaning for energetic but my feeling Im an old school guy I go back the music I used to enjoy when I was a kid, it was because of my neighbors, was Disco. And Disco back then was like a Latin-flavored Rock. It was a lot of drums it was a lot of tribal and thats what used to make the people go wild back then. Miami was one of the biggest in the Disco days as well because Disco was influenced by Spanish music. I keep that flavor from the Disco days. I still like some of the Disco, and I still like to do it because I think that the trend in the gay night clubs always was Tribal... Disco with a Latin flavor. If you talk to any of the old promoters that are still around, theyll tell you the same thing. Their definition of a gay night club is not Trance, its Tribal. Its funny, they like to hear drums, they really like to hear drums. I talked to a promoter in New York, and the DJs that he respected were the ones that had what he felt was a "true" definition of a gay night club...

John:

So what do DJs in straight clubs play?

Abel:

Now its more Trance. Trance now is more mainstream. Its out in the public eye, its on the radio. Its something that when it gets out most people try to get away from. I think the cool night clubs are listening to House, are very cutting-edge, and I have to say gay clubs always have been cutting-edge on the music always. So the cool straight clubs are playing the same music, and theyll hire the same DJs. Theyll hire Victor Calderone, theyll hire Barry Harris.

John:

Is that a recent trend? It seems like there are gay night club DJs, and there are straight night club DJs, but it sounds like from what you just said maybe thats changing?

Abel:

It is changing now because most of the producers in that type of music now are gay DJs. Most of them, not all. Since that music is highly selected by a particular crowd, you get to see more of those DJs in the gay clubs than in the straight clubs. The straight clubs that do that kind of music are still limited; its mainly the big cities like New York, Miami I dont know how L.A.s doing with the straight scene like that I know that Miami always brought the same DJ producers to do straight and gay nights and the same in New York. New York is very mixed when it comes to that, and thats I think the way it should be. I really believe that we shouldnt have that "Oh this is a straight club!", "Oh, this is a gay club" thing. Its not like that in other countries like when I go to Canada I love Canada! Canada is a beautiful country, and so is Brazil.

John:

Is the nightlife there more mixed?

Abel:

Yes it is. Its all mixed! Its beautiful! Its beautiful to see everybody together. Everybody! I wish that the U.S. would be a little more like that. Ive only seen two cities in the U.S. that are like that, and thats Miami and New York. Miamis being more open to it now.

John:

Do you have much experience with San Francisco?

Abel:

Yes. I played there a few times, love it.

John:

Would you say theres still a pretty separate night life for gay and straight?

Abel:

Id have to say yes. I dont visit the city that much, I only go maybe twice a year. The club that I do go to I love dearly, and I think its a great club, but I wouldnt consider it mixed. I think we should all get together and just share what little time we have on this planet together.

John:

If you had three people in the room with you, one each from Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, would you be able to pick them out based on their behavior?

Abel:

New Yorkers you can tell a mile away! No doubt about that! New York is a type of city that you tend to be proud of you will automatically show off that you live in New York, because you live in the greatest city in the world! Miami people you can always tell by their tans (except me). By the tans, the way they dress, clean-cut, and probably more Latin, but actually, its not like that. Theres actually a lot of variety in Miami, and thats what I love about it. L.A. um, I would have to say the same thing. Youll see a beautiful person, youll see a beautiful figure. A beautiful face, a beautiful body, clothing, fashion

John:

I dont know about the clothing and the fashion part.

Abel:

Well, unless you see them at 3:00 in the morning! L.A.s tougher for me to peg, but I can spot somebody from Miami or New York immediately.

John:

Tell me a little bit about Rosabel.

Abel:

Its a remixing name. Its a collaboration between myself and Ralphi Rosario. The name came out of a track we did together. Its his last name and my first name combined. We got hooked on it, and we loved it.

John:

And youve mixed some pretty big names!

Abel:

Yes, weve done five records for Gloria Estefan, weve done Donna Summer, which was an amazing experience. My partner has done "Everything but the Girl", Pet Shop Boys... we just did a group out of Miami, "No Mercy". We just did Amber. Amber was another excellent experience for us, because shes such a talented person. Weve done CeCe Peniston here for Randy Sills (4 Play Records).

John:

Do remixes often involve bringing the artist back into the studio?

Abel:

Sometimes. Its not all the time. Sometimes we just get the vocal parts and do what we can with it. Sometimes were stuck with it. And sometimes, believe it or not, we have turned down work because we cant work with what theyve given us.

John:

You cant just necessarily take a track and turn up the beats per minute!

Abel:

No. Sometimes, and I think most people will agree with me... Sometimes theyll take a song and remix it regardless of what they can do with it just because its a "major artist". Theyll just put some beats and some crazy techno noises behind it, and kill the song actually. And what happens to the artist that was in there? Im not like that. We like to work with the vocals and give the artist a boost with our music. But the artist is the one thats supposed to shine its not so much of the remixer youre supposed to do the work for the artist.

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To read other Circuit Chat interviews, click here.


CIRCUIT SESSIONS 00.2, a custom-mixed collection of twelve blistering cuts, gets temperatures rising from the start with Abels new release "Control," and only gets hotter with a seamless stream of slamming tunes including, Michelle Weeks "Rejoice," Submission "Women Beat Their Men 2000," Jeanie Tracy -- "The Power," Evil Stepsister -- "The Relief," Joey Negro feat. Taka Boom "Must Be The Music," The 3 Jays "Feeling It Too," OnePhatDiva "In And Out Of My Life" and special of remix Ce Ce Peniston "Lifetime To Love." Abel also works in "Dont You Want My Love," his current chart-topping smash with Rosabel partner Ralphi Rosario -- as well as Rosarios solo track, "Energy Factor 9."