Forget DJ Irene's title of America's No. 1 Female DJ. Having sold more than 300,000 copies of her various mix CDs, including the best-selling Audio Underground collection, Irene Gutierrez is one of America's top DJs, period. This year, she's racked up several impressive accolades, such as the prestigious Golden Turntable Award for National DJ of the Year, which she accepted at the ClubNation 2002 conference in New York City in October. “You're the Worst Thing for Me,” her collaboration with Chris Cox of Thunderpuss and diva Thea Austin released under the Pusaka moniker, reached the coveted No. 1 spot on Billboard's dance-music-singles charts, and her latest mix CD, Phonosynthesis (Surge/Warlock, 2002), has posted strong showings on Billboard's Electronic Albums chart. But what has truly made DJ Irene a top draw at clubs and massive raves across the United States are her dazzling turntable skills combined with her talent to choose exactly the right song at the right moment.
Every good DJ knows that timing is everything, which may explain why Irene has managed to snag a choice parking space right in front of DMC Records, located in a congested popular stretch of Hollywood's Melrose Avenue. Squeezing her brand-new black BMW X5 between a street vendor's food cart and a classic Harley Davidson, Irene parallel parks with the steady hand and bold confidence fitting of a self-assured DJ. Sporting chic all-black threads, a freshly styled blonde mini-Mohawk and a big smile, she breezes into the store, where the employees greet her warmly. A few fans flipping through the stacks look up and smile in recognition, later asking her to autograph 12-inch singles and posters.
Sandwiched between trendy restaurants and clothing stores that come and go as quickly as the latest Hollywood blockbuster, DMC Records has retained the same location for nearly 20 years. Such longevity speaks volumes for the kind of service and selection that owner Larry Saldano prides himself in bringing customers. The store attracts serious So-Cal club DJs and visiting celebrities, alike, looking for their weekly infusions of fresh vinyl.
“I come to DMC every week,” says Irene. “I've shopped here for years and years. They have really great variety, and they stock a little bit of everything: breakbeat, drum 'n' bass, house, progressive house and a lot of good trance, including stuff that not everybody else has. Some record stores just cater to one particular style. That's not my thing. As you can tell from my mixes, I like variety. DMC's service is really good. Larry; the store's manager, Eric Murphy; and AJ Morris are pretty up on a lot of things and will have a little pile of fresh releases ready for me to check out.”
As if on cue, Saldano hands Irene a stack of discs that have just arrived with this week's shipment. She sticks her nose into a record sleeve and says, “There's nothing like the smell of a fresh new record.” As Irene flips through the new releases, she explains her selection process: “As you progress as a DJ, you become pickier and pickier because you're looking for a certain sound, a certain style. When you get to this stage, that's when I think DJs start wanting to produce their own music. I'm there now. I've released so many compilations and been through so many genres of music that I need to go into the studio and start making the kind of stuff I want to play. When I play, I'm not asking you to dance — I'm telling you to. I'm not sitting there waiting until you start doing foreplay; I'm telling you to get your ass over here now. Finding music like that isn't easy.”
Already working with her production partner, George Centeno, on her debut artist album, Irene put finishing touches on several new tracks recently, including a thumping remix titled “Krawling Hard.” Until that album comes out, she's happy to continue crossing the globe, bringing her supercharged trance and hard, fast house sound to adoring fans everywhere. Here are a few songs that you can expect to hear when DJ Irene blazes into your town.
“Diving (Cosmic Gate Remix)” (Zeitgeist)
I always play this song, especially the Cosmic Gate Remix. This is one of the better trance tunes out there. It's well arranged and different, but it keeps the energy steady. When you're going from one record to another, you don't want to lose your energy, and this record has a good strong flow to it. The breakdown is good — it takes people down very gently, and then when the song is coming back in, you can really feel it build. I like the lyrics. Sometimes, I like to sing along with good lyrics like these: “diving into you.” This is where the chick in me comes out.
“Boys of Summer” (Super M)
The '80s remake stuff is in right now. Some songs take me longer to accept than others, but I liked this one right away. I really like the beat here, and the in-between beats and breakdown are nice. I like the keyboards in the break — how they come out of the breakdown and back into the main groove. That rising synth line coming out of the break is also nice. People still really go for stuff like that. It goes to show you what a good remix can do for a track. This record is definitely something that would be safe on the dancefloor for me. It's a keeper.
“Twisted (Sushi Dub)” (Positiva)
I like the Sushi Dub. It has a really powerful beat, a nice bass line and a great hook, which is very important. The breakdown isn't too long, but it's nice and gets right back into the catchy hook. It keeps it going strong and doesn't let you down. This is a good song.
This is my current favorite trance song. Whoever is behind Gouryella is an awesome producer and must have taken serious classical lessons. You can hear it in the music, especially the breakdowns. Check out this break — it's like a whole arrangement by itself. I was in orchestra when I was a kid, playing stuff like Mozart and Beethoven, so I can appreciate a good arrangement like this. I played this record in Guadalajara, and they just went crazy for it. In Mexico, they're really big tranceheads right now.
“Beat Junkie” (Rising High)
The beats are really driving, and it's got a nice hook. The energy on the break is good and doesn't slow you down. It's comparable to something Ferry Corsten might do, though he's more dramatic and classical, which is appreciated. This break is more straightforward, but he keeps it going with a strong hook. You need to keep that energy going. You can't drop it too much.
“Fascinated (Joey Negro Club Mix)” (Rulin)
The Joey Negro remix is the one you want to play. The song is a bit slower than what I normally play, but it's still energetic, with a different kind of sound. It's got a good groove and is very well arranged — a good old hook with a chorus that's easy to remember and sing along to.
Supreme Dream Team vs. Clive King
“Dreamer (Extended Mix)” (Dinky)
This is a Supertramp song from the '70s that's been updated. The Tom Space and Nick Pillar Club Mix that everybody has been playing is more of a happy-hardcore thing. If you're sort of ADD-prone, you're going to get bored with the Space and Pillar version, but this one has the beats. It's better because it has more oomph to it, and it has pumping synths and the original electric piano, which still sounds great.
“Rise (Original Club Mix)” (Drizzly)
This has a good old catchy hook, which always works. Cheese sells. And this is the good cheese, not generic. I really like this tune. It's almost like “Diving” — it even has those strings. And everybody likes those fat synth-chord sounds.
“Ultra (Vocal Mix)” (Positiva)
I actually bought a copy of this about a month-and-a-half ago. The groove on this record is really good — cool, funky and edgy. It's one of those perfect records that keeps the party going — the kind of record that you don't want the DJ to take off when it's done. And the vocal is nice, sort of like U2's Bono or Dead or Alive.
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