Today we discover the secrets of another great TangoDj, Michael Ruehl. He met Tango in 1983, so we can reread the evolution of this phenomenon in Europe over the last 30 years. Enjoy!
so we can reread the evolution of this phenomenon in Europe over the last 30 years
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?
In 1983 I went to a Milonga in Berlin, this is where I first saw people who danced Tango and also listened to Tango music. For sure, Di Sarli, Troilo, Canaro and Pugliese were played there. I was fascinated by the music as well as the choreography of the dance. So I asked people to give me Tango music and walked euphorically through the streets of Berlin listening to Tango on my Walkman. In 1984, I began to take Tango lessons, and I would always ask my teacher what kind of music he had played and tried to get the music that I liked. This is when my passion for collecting Tango music was aroused. In 1986 I began to teach Tango and in the dance studios where I taught, I also started to DJ at parties.
What were your early taste of tango?
I like Tangos from the twenties, thirties and forties that are sentimental and have a strong rhythmic accentuation.
There are significant differences with the current scene?
Of course, the Tango scene was smaller back then. I recall only Barcelona and Amsterdam having Tango scenes other than the one in Berlin and the one in South America. People had just started to dance Tango and there was barely anybody who had been dancing for more than 5 years or who had been to Buenos Aires more than twice. Here we had no Tango orchestras that played good classic Tango. There were only a few who taught Tango, but still sometimes there were Milongas where more than 200 people came. Cortinas were not used yet, but there were tandas already. From time to time, Piazolla was played. The Tango scene appeared more as one than it does today, where there are Milongas that offer alternative music as well as Neotangos, Milongas where there is classic Tango only, or Milongas that rather attract older or younger generations. This was from 1984 to1989.
Do you remember your first like tango dj?
Yes, I do. This was in a club in Buenos Aires, Rivadaria 6500, a big salon in which Raul Bravo had given lessons before the Milonga. The DJ played music that fascinated me and he had two banana boxes full of long-playing records.
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?
First of all, you cannot find everything on the web. Some of the recording you find is of bad quality, sometimes simply because the original recording is bad or because the music has been compressed too much to become a mp3. But of course, the possibility for almost everybody to download Tango music has increased the number of DJs to an acceptable range. For example, I began to buy 500 long-player records, shellackrecords, tapes and CDs every year, and I had to fly to South America to do this. I have been there 15 times, so you can easily imagine how much money I spent on my music collection. Three years ago, somebody offered me a collection of 12.000 recordings as mp3 files. The download would not have cost anything, and it would not have taken longer than 10 minutes. The difference is quite obvious here; I know DJs who paid 200 euro for their mini laptop and use their mp3 files on which they never spent a cent. Another difference is that a lot of mp3 files, not necessarily those ones, have a much worse quality than those recordings that are in waveformat or recordings on vinyl.
When you build your performance? Long ago, during the journey to the milonga, or sudden moment by moment?
Sometimes, when I plan to play at a festival or marathon, I spend one or two days preparing before I play. But sometimes, I prepare myself on the afternoon before the event. Most of the time though I think about the first songs while I install my equipment and then I keep playing spontaneously. As I have been playing Tango music for such a long time, I know a lot of titles as well as different creative phases of an orchestra by heart. Therefore I can come up with one or more tandas quite easily and quickly. I keep noticing, and this is very logical, that it is impossible to foresee the atmosphere of the night and I always want my music to represent the atmosphere in the salon.
Have you ever played in a boring night?
I am going to split this into to two groups: the guests and the DJ. Boring is a relative expression, so when I’m bored, then it is hard for me to play inspiring music, but I always try to fulfill my task professionally and play good music. People can expect this from me no matter what mood I’m in. Still sometimes, when a lot of the guests are bored, it is not easy to lift their spirits.
Have you you understand too late that perhaps the milonga could not give you the right motivation and you could not wait to finish?
I think it is important to be able to motivate yourself from the inside, not depending on the outside atmosphere. Also on boring nights, there are guests in a good mood and motivated to have a great night. I primarily play for them then and try to motivate the others. At the same time, you have to accept that you cannot influence everybody in a positive way.
Do you accept whatever you offer or try to make a selection preferring location and fascinating evening with friends?
I think, the repertoire of any good DJ is big enough, and the flexibility should be too, to adjust the music to different needs without denying oneself.
How would you define your style?
I am an enthusiast of sentimental and expressive music with rhythmic accentuation. Besides the classics from the thirties, forties and fifties, I also take pleasure in music from the late twenties as well as the sixties. And I think that certain music is very suitable for dancing.
It has evolved over time? And in which direction?
I used to be a passionate enthusiast of Tango music from the twenties and thirties. Music as from Varella from the fifties did not give me much, neither did music from D’Arienzo or Rudolpho Biaggi from the fifties and sixties. Today, I do like to play Varella with Ledesma or Solis, D’Arienzo with Valdez or De Angeles with Larocka for example. Nevertheless, I still like to play music from the twenties, thirties and of course the forties.
What can influence you in an evening, the audience, the dancers, the acoustics of the location, the duration of your performance?
As at a Milonga guests and dancers are the same, I would like to say, guests are by far the most important.
Do you prefer playing alone or sharing the night with a / colleague.
Generally, I prefer to play by myself, except if there is an interesting dancer who finds me interesting as well and I would not find time for her if I played without a break. I also like to share the night with a colleague if I don’t feel inspired.
Generally prefer to work alone, or with friends who you feeling?
With the right mood, it can be very interesting to get inspired by other DJs. It offers an inspiration which is not possible when you play on your own. I do not have the whole repertoire in all its wide range on my mind at all times. Depending on my state of mind, I am either with one part or another of my repertoire. Other people walk on different paths and they have different answers to the questions that come up while playing.
Or, you love the thrill of experimenting with a colleague ever heard until then?
Yes, that can be very exciting (or be a complete flop). Sometimes you just do not fit together, either because of different characters that just do not connect or when the momentary atmosphere does not really allow it.
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?
No, I always give out the information, people are interested in.
the public bother you with absurd requests: what do you do?
As long as there are not too many questions and I don’t feel disturbed, I answer any questions, also strange ones. If the question seems too absurd or I really do not have time, I say that I need to concentrate and that I don’t have time. But I always try to be as friendly and respectful as possible towards the questioner.
Are you a jukebox?
Sometimes, but it has to fit.
Do you like to dance and listen to your colleagues enjoy the selections and styles of others from your performances?
I like to listen to other DJs to learn how they put together a tanda or the whole evening. I hope I will keep this desire to learn for the rest of my life. In order to dance, I have to like the music of course. But it can be combined very differently from what I would have presented.
Do you believe that the art of “musicalizador” is different for geographic areas? Argentina, USA, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean ... or is it similar in every countries?
No, I think there can be very strong differences sometimes. The art of DJing is not homogenic. It differs from individual to individual. Therefore, I think that sometimes two individuals from different regions can be more similar than they are to their colleagues from the same area.
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?
I organize two Milongas per week regularly. I cannot furnish the locations, I have to take things as they are. But I do decide how often I play and what music I play, if I offer live music or a dance show. But yes, I would like to have a Milonga that I could furnish.
The classic point-blank questions you have to answer, you cannot refuse: Three orchestras that can not miss in one evening.
Besides at least ten more orchestras that should not be missing, I am going to spontaneously name three. They might be different from the ones I would list tomorrow or the day after: D’Arienzo, Di Sarli, Canaro.
Your three favourite orchestras, which may also be different from the previous ones.
Besides at least ten more orchestras that should not be missing, I am going to spontaneously name three. They might be different from the ones I would list tomorrow or the day after: Biagi, di Sarli, Pugliese.
Suggest a tanda of tango instrumental, a tanda of tango singer, one of vals and milonga.
Con canto: Los autenticos reyes del tango: el bazar de los jugetes, remenbranza, una piba como vos, paciencia.
Instrumental: di sarli 1951-53: nueve puntos , la viruta , el ingeniero, comme il faut, bar exposicion,
Milonga: Miguel Petrafiesa: la caprichosa, Angel Sica: Rebeldia, Emilio Pellajero: Mi vieja linda.
Vals: Biagi: dejame amarte aunque sea un dia, loca de amor, dichas que vivi.
What are the three bands or singers you can not stand?
Please understand that I am not going to make this public.
What is the band most underrated by the general public and which is the most overrated?
This depends on one’s point of view. There are people who are educated in the musical field who think Francisco Canaro or Juan D’Arienzo play simple music. In my opinion, they do not have enough perspective. Since overrated is not necessarily a compliment, I do not want to pass this on.
Your top three nights (in your opinion of course …)
I do not remember every night of those 2500 I played, but I remember one night three years ago. It was at an open air Milonga in the Strandbar right at the Spree River, when a lot of friends from Argentina came. They inspired and impressed me with their enthusiastic and positive mood. Another great night took place around 1995 at Roter Salon. Carlos Copello and Alicia had danced and an orchestra of four old gentlemen with a bandoneon player who they called Pichuquito was there. Along with 250 guests that had come, they created a fantastic, phenomenal atmosphere. As a third night, I would name a night in Ballhaus Rixdorf around the year 2000, when Gloria and Eduardo, who had already taught Tango during the eighties in Berlin, performed.
We are less serious: Last night a dj saved my life. The DJ rule is sexy?
.Not necessarily, but I do hope, this applies to me.
have you ever had a relationship with some fans and some flirt with your colleagues?
Yes, because I was a fan of this woman too.