Tony Moran interview with ChicagoPride.com
Thu. April 20, 2006 by Matthew Harvat
Just try and schedule a moment of Tony Moran’s time. The deception of cell phones and emails is that you sometimes assume the sender is hanging out at home. Tony, however, will email or call from Brazil or London or Miami when he has a moment to answer a music question for me or just to say 'HI' after a week of silence. There have been times when we are both booked for "big weekend events" like Memorial Day, Gay Disney or Pride in the same city, but on different nights, so we never see each other because we each fly in, do our thing and head right back out to the next event. It’s like a giant game of chase. One year, Manny Lehman and I literally missed each other by one day for 8 months straight for a total of 9 major events until I finally booked him at Crobar Chicago just to be in the same room with him.
Tony is no exception. If you don’t hear back, you can pretty much guarantee he is in his studio "in the zone" of creating his latest triumph or DJing in a foreign land. He is at his creative peak in the wee hours of the morning and his latest "record" as he still calls them, is a stunning follow-up to his 2004 two CD set "TOUR De BEATS" from Tommy Boy Silver. The new record, also on Tommy Boy, a double CD titled "CONNECTED" is jam packed with super star dance tracks just waiting to make your summer dance scene the best one yet. I called Tony while he enjoyed a few days off in Los Angeles to chat him up about the new CD, the "City Of Babylon" tour, Mariah, jail and the dance record we will record together this spring.
M: (in my best 'evening news' voice) Yes, hello, Mr. Moran?
I am calling for my 3pm interview appointment.
Is this a good time?
T: (laughing) What are you doing?
I am having lunch outside in West Hollywood. The weather is amazing today.
M: Ok, I cannot take myself seriously and pretend to interview you, it’s too strange.
I am just going to type everything you say, so watch it!
T: Shoot girlfriend!
M: Where does the name "Connected" come from for your new double CD coming out next month?
T: The word connected has various meanings at this point in my life.
I feel so grateful for all that I have and "Connected" was the best way to describe what I am experiencing. I am connected to the artists on the CD, the people out there dancing, to the DJ booth, my friends.
It’s a one-word synopsis of the best feeling in the world.
M: Can we tell people which artists are on the CD yet?
T: There are still a couple contracts not signed, so just tell them "super star artists from the last year plus forthcoming summer anthems."
M: You exploded onto the New York club and music scene with Albert Cabrera as The Latin Rascals in the early 80's. Hosting a continuous mix show on a New York radio dance station led to your Latin freestyle records for groups like TKA and the Cover Girls which in turn put you guys in high demand for clubs, record companies and performances world wide... and so young.
You just may be the first "boy band" of our generation.
T: Success is about timing and with Albert we were acting on creative energy. We had so little fear because we felt the discovery each and every time we tried something new. Stepping out on all those stages back then brought such energy and explosive desire it was like "One small step for Latin kind, one giant step for Latin DIVA" (laughing).
M: And last year at Philadelphia's "BLUEBALL" circuit party fundraiser, you were the main event DJ and the vocalist singing your remake of When In Rome's "The Promise." What was it like to step back out on that stage and sing in front of a very large gay audience?
T: NERVOUS, but you have to go into it prepared. Like DJing, you want to feel confident on "creating the moments" within the party. As an artist, it's not always good to exhibit all of your talents simultaneously, transitioning back and forth. I didn’t want people to think I was a lip sync artist or just wearing headphones and pretending to DJ. I spent a couple months preparing for that moment. It's not where I’m most comfortable, but the payback for the anxiety was the support the audience gave me by singing along with their hands in the air. I am so appreciative (for that) and Tony Fisher from "BLUEBALL" really worked me into doing it!
M: I watch you continue to be so accommodating and patient with everyone tugging on you at events. Do you still get a bit nervous?
T: I have nervous excitement at the beginning of the night. It doesn't matter how many events I do, it's important the audience feels I deliver for them. I am eager to make them feel their dance floor experience is wonderful and God lets me have that moment every time! It doesn't matter if I am spinning for 10,000 or in a small bar somewhere, crowded or not, there's that one moment when the dance floor comes together and I am blessed by my surroundings and the music and the people.
M: Any artist make you star struck?
T: Cher. It took a lot for me to "get" her for about fifteen minutes, but she never knew. She never saw my makeup run! (laughs)
M: You have told me some craaaazy stories about some artists we cannot share with the public, but has any particular artist caught you off guard with an unusual request or requirement while you were working with them? I remember Britney Spears sending her security team to check out your studio and staff before she came to work with you...
T: No one really had any unusual requests but personality is a humongous part of how we work together. If I am treated rudely by an artist that doesn’t know what I am all about or questions my abilities, I don’t care if it’s Celine or Bono or whoever, I may be a little guy but I will not be pushed around in the studio (not that either one of them did). Dance music is an intricate part of my life. To a commercial pop artist, they may think you are only laying beats over their work, so it’s nice to conquer an artist who then sees you understand the structure of how music is created and can gain their trust to take their music into a whole new genre.
M: But these artists have to know who you are by now, no? I have seen your massive catalog of work from artists from every corner of the music industry. It looks like one of those old reference card files at a library. How can, say, a Mariah Carey, not know of your work and track record?
T: When an artist is working on an album and the record company (or artist) wants to release either a dance single or remix of a track, the label will say "you gotta work with this person-they are really hot right now" and if you are it, you are it. If the label wants them to work with me, they (the artists) don’t always know about me or what I can do. Celine Dion, Cher and Gloria Estefan (to name a few) were all a test. They gave me the shot and I made it work. Together we created great music. Nothing gets in the way of me doing the best job I could.
Not a bad day or other dramas.
I’m not there to impress the artist, but to turn out the best product.
M: You had your own security issue recently.
M: Didn’t your famous face keep you from getting arrested while trying to break into your own home in Manhattan?
T: (laughs) Popularity has its rewards! I lost my keys and accidentally set the alarm off while trying to break in. Keep in mind, I am Latin and we live in Manhattan. The police came and luckily one of the cops was gay and recognized me from being on the cover of HX (a gay magazine in New York)!
M: (on the floor laughing) God, only you. So, say you have spent time in jail for something.
What’s the first thing you do when you get out?
T: Mani and pedi. Immediately.
M: Greatest Rock and Roll voice of all time?
T: Tina Turner. There is no other.
M: Freddie Mercury for me. Dream artist to work with?
T: Mariah Carey. I went on this crusade to let her record company know that "Look, I live for her and her music and I HAVE to work with her" and it finally worked out. (Tony and Warren Riggs remix of "Don’t Forget About Us" for Mariah went to #1 the week after Tony and Warren Riggs remix of "House Is Not A Home" for Deborah Cox went to #1).
M: So many divas' ...how do you decide who to work with? The list has been so eclectic over the years: Beyonce, Luther, Kevin Aviance, Patti LaBelle, Britney, Barry Manilow and on and on...
T: In the beginning, I was just like every other guy looking for an opportunity to make a mark and work with anyone and everyone. I really had no fear because everything was so electric and new. Every sound was new. I would have never thought of Barry Manilow, but the end result was something new and different brought out in me and I think in him as well. To work with someone with such a vast knowledge of music is truly amazing. It’s all about what I think I can create with that person.
M: So you and I have a dance record in the works for this summer (after four years of impossible schedules), what should we tell people?
T: We are going to take a little from the old and a little from the new and create something that represents what Circuit MOM and Matthew stand for: unity, positivity and excellence.
AND I have been working on it, I promise!
M: I believe you! And yes, bring it down a half step just in case (ha!). What’s on your iPod right now?
T: I’m not telling you!?! I keep a lot of classics on there as a reminder of what made dance music today, which is the song first. The rest is colors around it. It could be Gladys Knight, old disco, but also things I am currently working on.
M: Gladys Knight is my end-all-be-all! I have so much I want to thank her for, but I know I would make an absolute idiot of myself if I ever met her.
T: She makes me wet! I really want to collaborate with her on a project.
M: American Idol. What do you think?
T: Anything that exposes music talent is a good thing. Is it commercial? YES!
Commercial means popular and that’s something I have battled my whole career. It doesn’t make me a sellout because a project I do is popular. I want to do things that the most people (will) like. Talent is only one factor of what it takes to sell records. Kelly Clarkson is a good example. She can come out and say, "I not only won that show, but I made a difference."
She has the record sales and the Grammys to prove it. And I admit I have raised my fist in the air on the dance floor and sang along
(singing loudly into his cell phone) "Since you’ve been goooooooooooooooone, I can breathe for the first tiiiiiiime"...
M: Are people staring at you yet, dork?
T: Not yet!
M: One of my Circuit MOM greatest moments would be performing for you and Beau's Labor Day Charity event at your home on Fire Island in ’02 with Manny Lehman spinning for 1000 of your closest friends. I had already done the big costume, big dancer show but we surprised you by my coming back towards the end and doing your version of "The Promise" before you had released it to the world.
T: That’s right!
M: It was a miracle the twenty gay men it took to get you subtly in place on the dance floor could keep a secret! You turned panic stricken to your friend Jose and said "Manny’s playing my record, what am I going to do?" but then realized everyone was looking at you because everyone knew this was for you. Your shyness and humble gratitude made me appreciate you even more. Do you have any stand out moments?
T: There have been so many amazing moments for me. I try to create special productions of song for events I am playing that fit the theme.
The first time I spun an ALEGRIA in New York, I wrote and debuted the song "Alegria." It was amazing to see the crowd reaction when they heard that track.
M: Dancing with you at the Black Party ALEGRIA when Zhana performed that song live was a very surreal experience to be with the person that created the song and watch it unfold live but to also watch the people around them watching them (you) experience it as well.
T: The most impact would have to have been DJing this event in Rio de Janeiro. There is an extremely popular singer that would be like the Madonna of Brazil (I think she’s older, but you know what I mean) and her name is Gal Costa.
She has this song "Aqua De Brazil." Well, I did a remix of it and I didn’t know how it would go over. What if they felt I destroyed their national anthem (comparable) or was viewed as being disrespectful to their idol? I was so nervous to play it, but once it started and the people heard her voice, they were crying and screaming with joy. People way back in the crowd were holding their arms up and motioning to me that they had goose bumps and they were all reaching for the DJ booth. It was the most overwhelming blanket of emotion and energy shot to me from a crowd. I almost felt like I was possessed by the 10,000 peoples positive energy and the massive amount of love.
M: That is amazing. I would have been a wreck! Okay, the biggest dance record in the world is locked in a room with DJ’s Abel, Manny Lehman, Tony Moran, Tracy Young and Brett Henrichsen. Only one DJ emerges from the room with that record to play—who is it?
T: We all have so much of our own thing(s), records, songs, techniques we use to shape our own dance floor experience that not one of us would win...
M: So, Tracy gets the record? (laughing)
T: (laughing) No comment! I have such a great deal of respect for each of them because we allow and encourage each other to use each others "moment" songs—that one current track that makes everyone go crazy—no matter who produced it or remixed it. There is nothing like DJing a party.
M: AND, our party to DJ together is the "City Of Babylon" tour event at Crobar Chicago on Sunday, April 30. You are doing quite a few stops on the tour this time including a couple tag team nights with Manny. I know you guys go way back.
T: I love working with Manny! We used to work in all the record stores in New York like 16 years ago.
M: I had queens calling me from the dance floor of SPACE in Miami last year when you guys DJ’d together telling me they thought you guys were trying to kill them the music was so amazing.
T: We have great respect for each other and the light between our energy compliments each other. I really feel Abel when we spin together, too. It’s like we are rooting for each other. I love to hear their personalities and exhibit who they are to the audience. I love to hear DJ’s and experience their passion.
People create situations to make DJs not like each other, but I love DJs and love working with them.
M: Alrighty Mister Man, I will let you enjoy the rest of your time in Hollywood. I’ll see you in Palm Springs (White Party) and then in Chicago. I look forward to seeing the new studio next month in New York. Give our love to Beau.
T: And my love to Roger!
The "City Of Babylon" Tour featuring RKM, yours truly and Tony hits Crobar Chicago on Sunday, April 30, 2006. (Event Details) Advanced tickets available at www.crobar.com.
Interviewed by Matthew Harvat
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