I’ve heard so much about DJ Montuno and his music, and have often been tempted to travel to Montreal to experience his art first hand. Well, thankfully, he has been travelling quite a bit, even outside of his home city, and we were lucky enough to have him join us at VIS! It was a pleasure to find out a little about how he got into DJing and what he loves about it.
[Note: This is the 3rd part to a series of 5 brief interviews under the title Reminisce on VIS (Vancouver International Salsafestival). To start at the beginning, at interview #1, and to learn why and where these interviews were conducted, click here: Reminisce on VIS- a series of five brief interviews)]
I always wonder if people just decide to become DJs one day because of their love for music(smiles), or was there someone out there who inspired you to go into this?
I think everyone has their own reasons for DJing. For me, it has more to do with my personality. When I get into something, I tend to get into it all the way. Even too much (smiles), sometimes. And when I started dancing, I already have a little bit of a musical background, so the music was very easy for me to familiarize myself with. And I instantly took an interest in it. But I felt that the stuff that I was finding and researching on my own was not being reflected in the music I was hearing in the classes I was taking or the clubs I was dancing in.
I found that there’s such a vast pool of salsa and mambo and all the influences in Latin Jazz out there. I never had the ambition to be a DJ or anything like that. But I just took it upon myself to kind of introduce people to the music that I was finding and listening to. And people really appreciated it. They kind of pushed me to bring that to the Montreal scene at the time. It happened naturally, and people seemed to like what I brought at the time.
I seem to remember somewhere on the VIS promo materials a joke saying something like, ‘Don’t even try to Shazam what the Djs are playing at the event because you probably won’t be able to find it.’ (smiles) How do you go about finding the unique mixes of music that other people can’t seem to get?
There are two kinds of DJs: There are the ‘collectors’, who really pride themselves on finding really obscure stuck-in-the-basement-or-garage-or-attic kind of recordings, from some village in Venezuela- after the musician went to New York for two years, and so on (smiles)…
And that’s interesting in itself. But that’s really not what I’m interested in. I find my music through exchanges with DJs. For me. the most important thing is not the uniqueness of the song but about how danceable the song is.
And that brings us to the second type of DJs- those who come to it from a dancer’s background. That’s where I fit in. I find it really important that the song is danceable and that it has all the elements that dancers would like. Because ultimately, in my opinion, what DJing is about is pacing the evening, and it’s about consistency in that if you play some really popular songs, you play them in the right order, with the right speed, at the right pace, at the right time. That’s just as good as any vintage or any hidden track that someone found. And I actually give out the names of all my songs and tell people where I got them, because having some obscure track is not what makes my style unique.
Do you have a favorite artist or song?
I have so many. But for me, for me, what’s more important is the setting. I’ll DJ in a different way for a big venue with a certain level of dancer compared to a weekly social with another level of dancer. That’s what the important thing is for me- matching the music to the setting. I have the songs that I really like, but I really tend to vary my sets depending on the vibe of the dancers, the vibe of the room, the way the system sounds and those kinds of things.
You travel a lot and meet so many people. I’m wondering who you would like to talk to or interview if you got the chance to sit down and chat with anyone of your choosing?
I think the consistent string throughout my life has been entrepreneurship. Be it in Djing, be it in salsa, be it in other businesses. So I would listen to any major business leader that has been through the experience, because everyone just has that little grain of truth or whatever that is unique to their experience that you could learn from.