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"I still enjoy doing the big circuit events," the Brooklyn native told New Times as he lounged on the patio of the Shore Club before his gig headlining the Miami Arena on New Year's Eve, "but having that reputation does hinder me when I want to expose myself to other audiences. Too many times crowds want what you've done before, and as a DJ that's frustrating. I don't want to get bored."
Once the heir apparent to the house-empire that Junior Vasquez built, Calderone quickly staked his own territory on the Manhattan club scene by snatching the Saturday night residency at the Roxy. In 1996 Eightball Records released Calderone's self-produced Give It U. In 1998 Madonna herself offered him the remix rights to her song "Frozen."
"I've come to a point where I've hit a ceiling as far as DJing goes," he says, looking back on his triumphs. "I want to experiment and change my sound. I go out and hear other DJs, and right now it [all] sounds the same. I want to educate more and break new music, rather than play what I know works."
The DJ's sense of adventure was heightened last year by trips to Manchester, Paris, and Israel. "I don't want to say my sound is becoming darker 'cause that wouldn't be right," he hedges. "But it is a little moodier. I still like uplifting music, but now I'm doing it without so much emphasis on the vocals."
Calderone says he is keenly aware that the industry is not as eager as he is to take the road less traveled. "I can speak for the major labels," he presumes. "They only want what works, what sells. They won't take risks, and they have no interest in experimentation. It's frustrating because then it looks like I'm repeating myself since my name is on [the disc]."
To save face Calderone has grown more finicky about which projects he will credit. He's passed on many circuit parties and scratched his name from releases he does not think measure up to certain standards. He also is reluctant to offer his services to just any pop diva in need of a quick fix.
"It's come to where [DJs] are seen as the go-to guys when tracks need help," he observes. "Remixes have become very important to the industry, mostly because they're now able to reach new audiences. Toni Braxton is a good example of this. She crossed over to the club audience solely on the remix versions of her songs."
Calderone still enjoys working with topnotch vocalists. Last year he happily catapulted Sting's "Desert Rose" up the charts. "Thankfully people like Madonna and Sting give me free rein when in the studio," he says. "Sting himself said to me: ďThis is your session; you direct me.' I was intimidated at first, but I had to be professional and say what I felt. If you act timid, they won't respect you."
Respect for his audience led Calderone to quit New York's Roxy, citing technical difficulties in the booth. "The number one thing for me is the sound system," he explains. "Too many events and clubs get thrown together with too little regard. Sound inspires me, and if that's not coming across, it's very frustrating."
"Crobar is my ideal venue 'cause it has an intimate feel," he continues, "and it has a Phazon sound system, so I'm happy. There I feel I have control and a real contact with the audience."
Is it just the sound system or the city? "I always love coming to Miami; it's great," he beams. "New York is at an all-time low right now in terms of clubs. I don't even have a residency anymore. But Miami has always been an amazing place for me."