Nicky Siano, who will help Miami ring in 2017 with a New Year's Eve DJ set at Bardot, has been behind the turntables since the beginning of modern dance culture. As a teenager in the '70s, he opened his own New York City club, the Gallery, and is the last surviving original resident DJ for the legendary Studio 54. He spoke with New Times about his past.
New Times: What got you into DJing?
Nicky Siano: I was into music and the sonics of music before I ever heard what was called back then R&B, 1969-70. I heard everyone talking about going out dancing. I was just 15, and the only place I could go was an old firehouse where they played dance music but didn't serve alcohol, called the Firehouse. When I first heard danceable R&B, I knew that the music moved me like no other. Then, the same year, a 29-year-old girlfriend of my brother took me to David Mancuso's Loft; that was when it hit me: I have to play records, and more so, create atmosphere. David recently left us, only a month ago, and his passing has left me feeling very alone, since there is no one else left who was there at the very beginning.
How did you develop your DJing technique?
As with all DJs back then, you would go hear someone play — my favorite was Michael Capello — and it would inspire you. At the time, he was doing blends, but it wasn't a science; it was totally by chance. I wanted it to be more exact, so I started holding the records and pushing them to start on the beat; that became beat-matching.
What is a common misconception about the Studio 54 scene?
I have to say when I look back on it, it looks really sad to me. All the people were doing things to excess and not really enjoying the moment like they did at my club, the Gallery. They were just pushing the envelope, but not in the moment, always looking for the next best high, or sex, but not really experiencing what was happening right then, and so many of them winded up with very sad endings.
What was the most outrageous thing you witnessed or took part in at Studio 54?
A big, gigantic celebrity having sex downstairs in the private lounge with a busboy.
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Has there ever been a club you could compare to Studio 54?
No, and people ask me what was it like, and it's so hard to compare it because nothing has gone so far and been so over-the-top. One thing I can maybe compare it to: the best Broadway show you ever saw, because the lighting and music were synched just like a Broadway show.
What can we expect from your set at Bardot?
I am working on some new edits just for New Year's Eve. I have some new old vinyls, and I'm playing around with them to make something more exciting.
What are your plans for 2017?
A book and TV series based on the true story of the dance scene, record industry, the DJs, and how they took over radio's position for a while.