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Interview with DJ Abel
Miami Beach, Fl
by Mark Thompson & Robert Doyle
December 15, 2007 Bookmark and Share

New Year’s Eve can be like a soufflé: all that blissful anticipation, so gorgeous to look at, and achingly delicious.  That said, it takes consummate professionals to keep a soufflé afloat—and when we heard that promoters Hilton Wolman and Gary Santis had hooked up with DJ Abel to cook up a New Year’s Eve celebration in Miami Beach, we knew this was one New Year’s Eve soufflé we could hardly wait to bite into. 

We caught up with the three chefs to talk about how they work their magic together in the Magic City.

EDGE: First of all, congratulations—and thanks—to all three of you for stepping up to the plate and bringing back the celebration in New Year’s Eve.  It seems as if New Year’s in Miami is back with a vengeance.  So how did you settle upon Soho Studios?Had you been to events there that made you think, Whoa, what an awesome place for a New Year’s Eve party?

HILTON:  Gary and I wanted to do something different from the "club nights" that have been the only New Year’s Eve options for the past few years.  We'd heard about a huge warehouse in the design district—and the minute we walked in, we knew it would be a great venue for the party. [Plus], it’s already been used for several dance parties, [such as] the Event Solutions Showcase, Miami Fashion Week and Art Basel.

EDGE: Soho Studios certainly sounds phenomenal, what with 33,000 square feet and a Dynacord Turbo stadium sound system, as well as video screens and LED walls, concert lighting and full-color lasers.  Beyond the décor by RKM, how are you transforming the space for this single-night event?   

GARY: We’re also featuring an outdoor area with performances by a cavalcade of South Florida divas throughout the evening. [And meanwhile], inside, we’ll have a huge stage for the productions that have been designed for the evening. 

EDGE:  We also heard some rumors about some pretty fierce VIP. 

GARY:  Oh, yeah.  There’ll be Super VIP suites with a very classic décor in black and white, complete with crystal chandeliers and black orchid arrangements.  And the VIP area will feature glowing water-themed bars, along with tables and seating in black, white, and silver-draped linens—and everything adorned with freshly cut floral arrangements.  

EDGE:  Wow.  Sounds very nice. 

GARY: All of this, of course, [on top of] the spectacular décor by RKM.

EDGE:  Let’s hear it for RKM.  According to your website, Masterbeat Miami NYE is going to be the largest New Year’s Eve celebration on the planet—at least when combined with all the other Masterbeat celebrations around the globe.  What can we expect from the link-up with Masterbeat?  Are we going to be able to tele-transport ourselves to Los Angeles and ring in the New Year all over again?  

HILTON:  We’re planning on live telecasts from several other Masterbeat events.  The ten-minute video countdown to the New Year will be the same at all the events.  The people at Masterbeat have been working with several Hollywood studios to ensure that this is a top-class production.

EDGE: Hilton, you and Abel share an illustrious history, in terms of gay nightlife.  When was the first time you two worked together?  Was it Salvation?  Or Paragon?  Two clubs, we might add, that more or less cemented South Beach’s reputation for legendary gay nightlife. 

HILTON: While I had heard Abel at Paragon, he and I only started working together when I invested in Salvation.  A few years later, I joined him at Space for the Orbit parties.  We've done events at Crobar, Coliseum, Score—and, of course, Twilo.  For President's Day Sunday, he’s [going to be] spinning our new party at Gerry Kelly's fabulous new club, The Fifth on South Beach

EDGE:  Clearly, the two of you work well together.

HILTON:  I'm fortunate to consider [Abel] not only a business associate, but also one of my closest friends.  When I threatened to hang up my dancing shoes a few years ago, it was Abel who reminded me that Celia Cruz had kept her cha-cha heels on until the day she died—and consequently, I plan to do the same!

EDGE: Azucar to you, Hilton!  And speaking of “Cha-Cha Heels”…  Abel, you and Jeanie Tracy obviously have something special percolating between you two.  What is it about her that sparks your creativity?

ABEL: Jeanie Tracy is my big sister. [We’re talking about] a true legend! Jeanie was one of Sylvester’s back-up singers, along with Martha Wash, and the late [and great] Izora.  These three ladies became individual stars later.  [First] “Three Tons of Fun,” then “Two Tons of Fun,” and then “The Weather Girls.”  Me and Ralphi Rosario, my remix partner, have been very close with Jeanie for years. We have a tight friendship, and we love to work with each other.

EDGE: What history! What stories you two could tell.  We have to lock the two of you up in a room some day and let the stories get told.

ABEL: We just remixed her latest single called "Everybody Up" which is coming out first on my latest Alegria CD, "Alegria Universo." [And it’s going to break] exclusively at our New Year’s Eve party!  [And also] we have a couple more singles in the works with her.  What an amazing person!

EDGE: The both of you!  Given the relatively high profile of certain deejays—and by that, we mean deejays with websites and forums, podcasts and fashion shoots—you seem somewhat more private, as if you were saving your voice for your marathon sets and well-loved parties.  Would it be correct to say that your truest voice is revealed in the booth?

ABEL: Yes, I do keep very quiet! [Laughing loudly]  But I do believe I don't need all the commotion and spotlights, etcetera, etcetera.  People know that I am a down-to-earth type of guy—and [that] I will make the scandal in the booth!

EDGE: All eyes on the booth then—from now on!

ABEL: That said, I believe [my privacy] is my way of being confident with my work. I am very focused at work—especially my marathon sets that I love so much. [Laughing again]

EDGE: Sets that are loved as much in return by your faithful audience.  Lately, it seems as if your “star,” if you will, is in continual and constant ascension.  Or, in other words, each year seems to be even better than the last—at least in terms of musical productions and the sheer number of concert dates.  To what do you attribute your ongoing success? 

ABEL: I am very picky [about] what events I play. I want to always make sure I am doing the right thing.  And I also don't like to burn any bridges with anyone. And it's also the reason I manage myself.

EDGE:  Self-managed.  Wow.  Maybe therein lies a lesson for us all: self-manage our own lives.

ABEL: No, I don't have a manager [which] means, I do what I want, where, and with whom, at my [own] pace. I love to deal with the owners and promoters and producers myself because it makes [the event] more professional [as well as] personal.  [I like to] work closely together [with the promoters] to possibly make the event stronger by exchanging thoughts. In other words, you get more than a deejay from me.

EDGE: You know, you hear people talk about “Circuit Abel” and “Alegria Abel” and “Abel Classic”—each of which would appear to be monikers for various manifestations of your musical talents.  What might you argue is the quality that is shared by all of your musical personae? 

ABEL: I think the best word I can think of to describe all my titles would be Professional.  Each event has its own flair [so therefore] Alegria Abel can not be the same as Palm Springs Abel or Fire Island Abel. The ingredients are way too different—so they won't taste the same!

EDGE: You’re right; it’s all about the recipe.  And given your penchant for remixing, and persistent editing—so that even a song your audience is familiar with becomes new all over again—can we assume that you’re reworking something to ring in the New Year?

ABEL: There is always something to break out on a night like this!   This is why we get so excited to work New Year’s Eve! I will have tons of [new ingredients] but I will not forget my classics! They have to be part of my memorable sets.  Always!  I guess I am from the old school. Literally.  [Laughing loudly]

EDGE:  And thanks heavens for it.  You teach the right lessons in the kitchen.  And it sounds like it’s going to be a night full of delicious surprises.  Gary and Hilton, can you give us any clue about what else you’ve got up your sleeves?

HILTON: We don’t want to say too much—other than the fact that Jeanie Tracy is appearing.

EDGE:  Fair enough.  Far better to be happily surprised during the holidays than to know everything Santa is bringing.  And, speaking of, as if the New Year’s Eve event weren’t enough, the two of you also have parties planned for the Saturday and Sunday after Christmas, making Miami every bit the New Year’s circuit destination that Los Angeles has been for the past few years—except without the rain, of course…

HILTON:  You know, with [all] the changes in club land, there haven't been many options for parties in Miami over the past few years.  We’re hoping that once people realize that we've put together an entire weekend of events— coupled with the fact that the weather in Miami is usually superb this time of year—that Miami will regain its reputation as offering the best parties.

EDGE: Let’s talk about Saturday night’s party in Miami.  It’s called BPM @ ParkWest with Manny Lehman and Tony Moran.  What do you mean when you say that this will be the inauguration of Miami’s new monthly gay party?

HILTON:  Well, Louis Puig, the owner of Space, recently bought the adjoining club, which is where Twilo was located.  He's remodeled it completely [and] built-out previously unopened areas of the building and added a second dance floor and bar area that can be combined or operated separately from the main room.  I'm going to be doing a monthly gay night there, similar to how we did the Orbit parties at Space Manny and Tony [will be back to] kick it off in December.  [And then] in January, Tracy Young will be playing the Atlantis Cruise Welcome Back party—and at the beginning of March, Peter Rauhofer spins the Monday daytime Winter Party event.

EDGE: Whoa, what a line-up for 2008.  But first, on the final Sunday night of 2007, there’s Last Dance with David Knapp and Kitty Meow at Gerry Kelly’s latest club, The Fifth.  What a sense of homecoming, given that it was David who helmed so many celebrated Amnesia/New Year’s Day parties for so many years.  And, of course, Kitty Meow is circuit royalty.

GARY: What we want to do that weekend is to take South Florida on a journey. We wanted to tie in the amazing sounds of the superstar deejays and entertainers that [helped make] South Florida the legendary party place it’s become.  So at The Fifth we wanted to go back to the Amnesia days with superstar DJ David Knapp.  [And by] bringing Kitty Meow into the mix, [that] would give us the great combination of the Amnesia/Warsaw Sunday events.  

EDGE:  The parties that made the Beach famous…

GARY:  The design company Visual Xcess who did the amazing Karu&Y event for White Party Friday [this year] has designed an installation especially for this event. This will be the first event at The Fifth under Hilton’s and my direction.  We are excited to be in such a beautiful venue and [later this year] we’ll be returning there with DJ Abel on President’s Day Sunday.

EDGE: We’ll be there—all weekend long, along with 80,000 others around the globe.  Thanks for taking time out to talk to us—and most of all for making Miami and the Beach the place to be this New Year’s week.  Now get back to work—New Year’s is right around the corner! 

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