10 Questions With Nicky Siano, Legendary Studio 54 DJ
His royal highness of disco soul, Nicky Siano, has been popping up in North Brooklyn recently, having just DJ-ed Good Roof at Dobbin St (64 Dobbin St) this past Sunday. He’s thrown down the funk all over the world since he was 16 years old: he was an original resident DJ at Studio 54, helped launch Grace Jones’s career, and these days he’s still killing it on the dancefloor. You can dance your ass off for six hours as he spins at Good Room (98 Meserole Ave) on Friday, August 25th. We were lucky to be able to ask him a few questions about DJing, Brooklyn and politics.
GP: How is the Brooklyn club/dance scene different from Manhattan? Is the vibe different?
Nicky: The Brooklyn club scene is more like Manhattan in the seventies, exciting and fresh. I love the vibe all over the city; unfortunately, no great clubs are opening in Manhattan, or they can’t exist there… I am loving the Brooklyn scene. After all, I live in, and was born in Brooklyn, but back then it was a dangerous, racist, prejudice place. I was mugged regularly, and constantly called faggot—it was a painful time for me. I would walk down the street afraid to exist—that’s why I moved into Manhattan at sixteen.
GP: Have clubgoers changed since you first DJ’ed at Studio 54 back in the day?
Nicky: OF COURSE. You’re talking about a time when this was all happening for the first time. There was an excitement that doesn’t usually happen these days, happened everywhere back then… but I am very lucky to have great audiences who respond like it was the seventies!
GP: How do you read the energy of the dance floor?
Nicky: I don’t. I always say, DJing is about inspiration, not ego. It would be egotistical of me to think I could read people, unless I had some super power. What I do is try to get out of the way, and listen to the inspiration of the universe, often people on the dance floor are hearing the same inspiration. People when asked about my music often say they will be thinking of a record and then I play it; that’s because we are all hearing the same inspiration.
GP: What’s the worst song anyone’s ever asked you to play?
Nicky: It’s the Best Disco In Town, at the Gallery. This guy kept asking me over and over for it, and I didn’t want to play it, but I did. When the song was over I stopped the music and got on the mike. “Did you like that song?” I asked, to a half hearted response. Then I said, “Well you will never hear it here again,” and I flipped the record like a frisbee onto the dance floor.
GP: Do you currently have a go-to banger track that never fails to get the crowd going?
Nicky: No, as I said, I don’t play music that way…. I don’t try to manipulate the crowd, I just try to enjoy the music.
GP: How do you keep up with new music?
Nicky: I rely on friends.
GP: What kind of music are you listening to when you’re not DJing?
Nicky: I listen to a lot of soul, old r&b, new rock, I still listen to WBLS radio.
GP: Did you always want to be a DJ?
Nicky: No, I had no idea what I wanted to be, until I started going out dancing—then I had this drive for it so strong, I couldn’t think of anything else.
GP: In your career as a DJ, was there one particular moment that was truly epic and life changing?
Nicky: My first time at The Loft, David Mancuso’s house, 1970.
GP: What kind of message are you trying to send with the music that you play, and do you feel that you can be political at all? Do you think DJs could or should be political?
Nicky: In my memory, this is the most frightening time I have ever experienced. I just read an article about North Korea’s latest missile test, it could reach CHICAGO! WOW, this is just too scary, I AM SO GLAD I AM NOT STAYING HERE MUCH LONGER.
Nicky Siano’s Native New Yorker – Summer Madness
Friday August 25 | 10pm-4am
Good Room | 98 Meserole Ave