Great enthusiasm and knowledge of music. A vast repertoire where he choose every time the tango perfect to create the mood. Julian Ingram is one of the other big names in our gallery deejay. Wherever required, is a professional dj, with a special eye focused to the needs of the milonga and tangueros. Add another essential step to our journey/... And then Let's discover the secrets of the great Julian Ingram.
From the beginning: I suppose that your first approach with tango, like for other dj, was with the dance. What inspired you to get into console and play music? A conscious decision or was the result of chance?
Actually my first approach with tango was with the music and not the dance. In fact, I didn’t want to dance for months. I was too fascinated by the orchestras. I was in a class in high school when I first heard authentic Argentine tango (it was D’Arienzo & di Sarli). I was captivated from the moment I heard it. It was still the late 1990s and I didn’t know where to buy the music so I found one of my local milongas in Atlanta, where I’m from. I used to go to the milongas and just sit in the corner and soak up the notes. I’m sure I looked ridiculous with my eyes closed and my mouth wide open, but I didn’t care. I was amazed that I’d discovered a completely new fully developed genre of music in tango. It had such evolved and well-thought out style. It was “Latin” but not Latin. It was symphonic but not symphonic. It was folksy but not folksy. I was addicted and the music was my drug…a drug that I consciously consumed.
What were your early tastes of tango? There significant differences with the current scene?
I was lucky enough to start classes with a group of people who would become some of my closest friends. There was some connection that kept us all coming back and I think it was the teacher we had. We were learning in a more open embrace then but we loved this woman because she fully understood the modes of dancing tango that would transfer easily from open to close embrace. Our community was very divided in those days between salon/open embrace and close embrace/milonguero style dancers. In fact, they’d never even go each other’s milongas! I started dating a girl who was purely an apilado style dancer. I liked her enough so I told her that I wanted to go to her classes, and I’ll never forget her response and how shocked and angry she was, saying, “What?! You can’t dance like that! No one who dances open embrace can become a good milonguero style dancer! You’d be wasting your time.” I guess I proved her wrong. Luckily times have changed
Do you remember your first like tango DJ?
Sure, I remember! It was in 2005 and I was on the beach for a holiday festival. The whole thing was casual with lots of friends. The organizers needed a DJ to “fill some time” between the events. I told them I had my computer and jumped in. To my surprise everyone kept dancing and I was curious about what would keep them dancing. I’d already bought a huge collection of music during my first trip to Buenos Aires the year before and had thousands of songs by then…so I was ready for this moment! Three hours later people were still dancing! I still have the playlist from that afternoon but I remember playing Milonga Sentimental by Carabelli and people coming up and asking who it was. They said to keep going and the whole thing lasted almost five hours. The organizers cancelled the next event and we kept dancing until dinner!
The difficulty of the search for songs on cd often burned, the explosion of the Web and the consequent relatively easy to find in the music. Do you think this paradigm shift has changed the way of working of the DJ?
I think having access to download music whenever you want has drastically changed the way DJs approach expressing their style and work. For me, I’ve seen this sometime result in less care and consideration by some DJs when deciding what to play during a milonga. What I mean is that it’s not as personal. When I first started, all we had were CDs to buy –and most of the time it took weeks to get your order. This is important to note because back then when you wanted to learn more about, let’s say, Biagi’s music more intimately you had to take the time to order the CDs. There was no guarantee you’d like all the tracks on the disc but you were learning more about your tastes and preference as a DJ. Sure, you could ask a DJ for suggestions but that didn’t matter as much because when you got your CD in the mail it was YOURS. The things you discovered were more personal and purposeful. You knew all the nuances of the music when you clicked on “Track 7”, like what happens at :30 or the composer of the tango from the liner notes. All this was a part of your discover as a DJ and would eventually become your style. There are, however, DJs who have invested this same type of intimate time with acquired, non-purchased music and their discovery is changing how quickly a DJ’s style can evolve and develop.
When you build your performance? Long ago, during the journey to the milonga, or sudden moment by moment?
I feel like I’m always building for a performance in some way! While walking around the street I’ve always got my iPod on and save the tangos that I think would really speak to dancers. When I get home, I write out why and then start thinking of tandas to play them with and when during a milonga. I get really excited the days I DJ and sometimes dream about it the night before! If it’s a place I know –like my own local milonga—I think about the energy of the day and how that might affect people’s energy and expectations. I also have some tandas that I think work “all the time” and if I get to play them I’m a happy boy I get loooooots of joy from watching the dancers and building tandas on the spot. This kinda turns me on actually.
Have you ever played in a boring night? Have you you understand too late that perhaps the milonga could not give you the right motivation and you could not wait to finish? Do you accept whatever you offer or try to make a selection preferring location and fascinating evening with friends?
May 22, 2009. I’ll never forget this night. It was my local milonga in Budapest and the night was horrible. The energy of the day was wrong, the dancers weren’t feeling it, and the space was not one I normally had my milonga in. I remember being kinda pissed that it wasn’t working out. I still have the notes (which I write nearly every time I DJ) from that night. I even wrote a huge “F**k” at the top of my notes that night. It was worse for me because I felt like I was really playing good stuff. Nothing weird. Just good quality, inspiring music. I was so curiously angry that I decided to play nearly the same order of tangos the next week. The response was COMPLETELY different. Everyone loved it! I realized that the locals who came that night were more ready to dance and they fed the energy of the others. It was almost like a small festival. This was important for me to remember because I’d been DJing lots of festivals the weeks before and had DJed that May 22 milonga the week before like a festival and not a local milonga. It was a good lesson and great reminder for myself.
How would you define your style? It has evolved over time? And in which direction? What can influence you in an evening, the audience, the dancers, the acoustics of the location, the duration of your performance ...
I’d define my style as the “Historical Pedagog”. After 7 years of DJing my style has changed a lot –especially since I moved back to Europe four years ago. What I mean by “Historical Pedagog” is that I feel like I’ve been able to find the most compelling aspects of nearly all styles in tango music and compile them in a way that makes sense to dancers internally. I realize that I use my background and former career in music to do this. When listening to something I don’t just think of “if it flows” but rather “why and how it flows”. It’s pure pedagogy but the first part is what my gut tells me about how it works. From there I have to be able to express in words why it does. I feel like my job as a DJ is to be able to explain and know inside and out what the dancers are feeling from the tango. It’s learning to express in words what is actualized in feeling. Once I’ve got that, if I decide to break off from the standard path of what’s typically played, the compulsion to dance is so strong that the dancers have no choice. They’re dancing because it “just feels right”. While talking with my friend and fellow DJ, Konrad Krynski about connections between tangos and why they work, I started writing out the processes I think of when building tandas. I realized that there are literally over 30 things I consider when building a tanda. They range from things like: beats-per-minute, rhythmic intensity and feeling of each piece, to transition of key signatures between each piece, lyrics, composers’ styles, types of bandoneóns used and how the sound of a Doble A has a different timbre that might inspire certain types of movement. I also think greatly about the overall rhythmic intensity structure of the night and how it can remain intriguing without losing its purpose. These insights aren’t for any of the dancers to know but to feel. Yeah…I’m a really big “tango nerd.”
For sure, I think about the audience and dancers but I view it more in terms of what can we experience together. What sort of ride can we take in the course of 6 hours? If we’ve got space and good acoustics, all bets are off and we’re in for a hell of a ride together! I know I used to be a more romantic DJ but since moving back to Europe I’ve found myself more playful with what I play. I still listen to the romantic stuff at home thought
Do you prefer playing alone or sharing the night with a / colleague. Generally prefer to work alone, or with friends who you feeling? Or, you love the thrill of experimenting with a colleague ever heard until then?
Generally I prefer working alone during the night. It’s hard to build a great flow for a night with a DJ whom you’ve never heard. But more than that, it’s hard to build a night with another DJ without knowing their thoughts on how any given milonga should progress. Over the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to play with DJs I really admire. I feel like I know them. I know them through their music and it reflects the spirit they possess and the people they outside of tango. This really relieves me. I’ve had a DJ Challenge with Theresa Faus and will have another one in Vienna next week (Nov. 30) and love it each time! Both our styles and tastes are so very different but the way we complement one another keeps the floor interesting and the both of us curious and excited.
If someone asks you the name of a track you say it to him, perhaps suggesting where the CD is included, or invite him to venture into the trouble of searching?
When it comes to tango it’s all about One Love. No one should ever get to the point of feeling as if they’re disconnected from the masses or too good and shouldn’t share their knowledge –especially if someone is curious to learn more. We have to remember that someone cared enough about us and our curiosity when WE were learning about tango music and shared that information. We’re all part of the same music, the same history, the same tango experience extending back to the beginning of the genre. The person who asks me about an orchestra, a composer, a year, an album is the same person who might discover something that no one else ever has. If I can play a role in continuing the beautiful art form that’s meant so much to me for over a decade, I will.
Does the public bother you with absurd requests: what do you do? Are you a jukebox?
Well I’m a very sociable person and I think people know they can come up to me anytime, even if I’m DJing. The absurd requests happen for sure. If it’s something that isn’t too absurd then I’ll tell them “I’ll try to play it if the energy of the night goes in that direction, but I can’t make any promises.” Many times I’ll ask them why they want to hear that (absurd) request. From there we’ll probably start talking about some other aspect of that request. I think it shows them that you care about their opinion and actually know something about it. So when you tell them “…if the energy of the night goes in that direction,” they know you’re being honest because it’s not just about taking request from one person but that it’s about nurturing the floor for the whole night.
Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances.
Hell yeah, I do! One of the most exciting parts of being a DJ and having other DJ friends and colleagues is that you get to experience their curiosities when they DJ. Another great thing is that they can be more specific about what you played as well as give you (hopefully) positive feedback. The more specific the better. I wanna hear things like, “Hm…you played that di Sarli tanda with one from 1942 then something from 1947 and it really intrigued me –but totally fit! I wouldn’t have thought about that.”
Do you believe that the art of “musicalizador” is different for geographic areas? Argentina, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean ... or is it similar in every country?
HAHAHA…I’ve had this conversation a lot with colleagues! I’ve been blessed to be able to DJ on four continents and in over 25 countries so I’ve learned LOTS about geographical tastes and what it means for us DJs. In the U.S., I’ve seen the major focus be on dancing to the melody and moving through a phrase. Rhythmic accents were just that: accents. They were intended to dictate the whole manner of dancing even if the orchestra was very rhythmic. This was true in South America as well. It seems to be changing. In Central/Eastern Europe the focus seemed to be on dancing to the rhythm; expressing with your body all the rhythmic nuances heard in the orchetsra. This too is changing –and in large part to the music maestros dance to as well as ambitious DJs out there playing things that really speak to them. This is the art of the “musicalizador”: believing so much in the music that it transcends style. It allows the body to be so intertwined with the music that you can’t imagine moving any other way.
Would you like to have a milonga just for you, furnish it with the appropriate facility to your desires, try to create a wave that satisfies you over to play when you want and create a calendar of events to measure your tastes?
No, I think I’d hate to have a milonga just for me. NO WAIT! When you say “facility of your desires” do you mean women? In that case, yes! I’d love to have a milonga just for me…but that might be too tiring, no? In that case, I think I’ll just stick with playing music for other dancers
Three orchestras that cannot miss in one evening
Biagi – from 1938 till as late as you want. The orchestration is so diverse through the years that you could play several tandas in one night. Gotta respect that.
Fresedo – …because everyone likes the sounds and sensations of falling in love.
Troilo – It always has the power to get my blood boiling!
Your three favorite orchestras
Caló – I think it’s because I grew up with his music as a “tango baby”.
di Sarli – The soundtrack of my heart.
Canaro – The guy did it all and has such a diverse musical journey!
Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga
Lomuto – This tanda always lightens up the mood of the floor and remains slightly familiar. I’ve been
playing it a lot lately to great success.
El 13 (1938)
La Rezongona (1938)
Tanda with singer:
di Sarli w/Podestá – I think this is one of the most well-rounded and satisfying tandas ever. It takes
you on a real ride of music and lyrics. By the time Vamos comes on, it feels like exhaling.
Dinero, dinero (1947)
Cero al as (1944)
Va a cantar un ruiseñor (1942)
La pulpera de Santa Lucía(1945)
Idilio Trunco (1946)
Violetas (1948)– Even though it’s with Tanturi, it finishes out the tanda with a
rip-roaring good time! I think this will always be one of my favorite tandas!
Canaro w/ Maida
Largá las penas (1935) – This manages to throw in the atypical tangón rhythm as well like in El
Tangón and El Porteño. It always makes the floor happy
El Tangón [Nueva Danza] (1935)
El Porteño (1936)
What are the three bands or singers you cannot stand?
Orq. Miguel Villasboas – I’ve never learned to love it. The violins are constantly out of tune and it bothers me. Maybe I was abused by Villasboas in the past. I don’t even think I have any of his music on my computer anymore. Maybe it’s time to give it another try.
What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?
If you’d asked me the most underrated orchestra six years ago I would have said Varela. I have to change my mind now since Fueron tres años has been played into the ground, but he’s still got some great stuff like Noche de Cabaret and Tal para cual. Now I guess I’d have to say that the most underrated is de Angelis. He’s got some great stuff out there too! I think one reason he’s so underrated is that the stuff that’s been put on CDs is kinda boring when it’s all played together. We’ve all heard it, but if you have a DJ who’s really keen on finding all the subtleties, you can feel like you have a dance. When my friend Konrad would come up and ask me why I played de Angelis during my regular milonga, I’d always point to the floor and show him everyone dancing. There’s something about it when it’s done well that’s so satisfying.
Your top three nights (in your opinion of course...)
Tango Alchemie 2012 (Sunday Afterparty) – I started around 3am and had the best feeling about DJing that night. Most dancers had stayed for the whole festival so the floor was packed and the dance level was really good. I kept cranking out both hits and rare stuff and everyone was on the floor. The night already seemed perfect. I also kept playing REALLY funky cortinas to keep everyone’s energy up. At one point I realized that everyone was dancing just as much to those as the tanda. There was 10 seconds left of a tanda before the end and at the last seceond I changed the cortina to Make It Funky by James Brown and decided to just let the song play. Nicolas Wan Park jumps up and starts dancing all around the floor. The crowd makes a circle around him, clapping and yelling. After a minute, another guy (a B-Boy) jumps into the circle and they start battling each other. They’re popping, locking, doing the worm. The crowd’s going wild THEN a magician jumps into the mix and starts performing magic tricks!!! I let the whole song play and by the time it finishes the WHOLE place is like a riot of good times! This continued the whole night and I finished DJing at 11am! 11am!!! By the end we even had the kitchen and bar staff from the hotel on the floor dancing and grooving. I think this night was awesome enough for three nights. It was legendary.
We are less serious: Last night a DJ saved my life. The DJ rule is sexy? Have you ever had a relationship with some fans and some flirt with your colleagues?
This isn’t going to be one of those blog interviews where tangueras can write in with their personal experiences, is it? I’m sure that’d make this a much more…ahem…“interesting: interview. I’ll just say that it’s only happened once or twice…and leave it at that.