From Puerto Rico to Chicago to the globe to your devices, DJ Cindel keeps the beat alive this Labor Day Lockdown.
Thotyssey: Hello, Cindel! So, this bizarre summer is nearly over… how did you hold up?
DJ Cindel: This summer has definitely been quite challenging for artists like myself. Having so many events we all looked forward to being canceled, readjusting our lives to new norms, the economy collapsing… it all has been a struggle. But I am certain we will come out of this stronger and wiser.
I’ve kept myself as busy as possible, producing original music, creating virtual livestream shows and working on a new radio show. Overall I can’t complain; I’m healthy, and have a roof over my head.
Tell us a bit about the original music you’ve worked on. What’s the sound like, and when might we hear it?
I am working on two original tracks, one fully produced and written by me called “Sucia” which means dirty in Spanish, with the vocals of my good friend Laurie Kotarelo from Cuba. It is a tech house track infused with lots of percussion for added tribal drums. As many know, my beats always include drums. Being from Puerto Rico, I like to always add an element of my culture to my music. I am hoping to get a few more producers to remix It before pitching it to a few record labels. In the meantime I will be uploading a snippet to my personal SoundCloud page soon.
How long did you live in Puerto Rico before coming to the continent, and what was life like there for you?
I was born in Caguas, and lived there until the age of 19. Life on the island was great, but I always knew I was destined for more. My parents still reside in PR and I visit often, but I do not regret moving to Chicago. I’ve always been a “big city boy,” and settling for less is never an option.
How did you begin as a DJ and music producer?
I come from a family of full time musicians, my father being my biggest inspiration. He is a professional pianist who’s devoted his entire life to music, and having played with some of the best Latin American bands out there. He also plays seven instruments, and has his own music production studio that he built himself under his house.
I began singing at the age of 14–as a lead vocalist in a band–as a means of making my own money. My life has revolved around music since the day I was born, so I always knew I’d want to be a musician in some way.
Dj’ing came naturally. I began with making custom mixes for drag queens, and that led to the passion of actually producing It. At the age of 19 I bought my first DJ equipment: a pair of Stanton CDJs and a two channel Numark mixer. I taught myself how to beat match by ear, and the rest is history.
You’ve put out some amazing Celine Dion remixes. Is she an inspiration?
When I was 17 years old, Alex Soto–who was a celebrity drag queen in PR, and drag mother to legendary Nina Flowers–took me in and gave me a place to live. Alex was a huge Celine Dion fan, and he always performed her music at the clubs he worked at. That’s how I was introduced to her music. While I’m also a big fan of hers, playing her songs are always a personal tribute to Alex, who took care of me and treated me as his own son. It’s always a very emotional moment when I play one of Celine’s tracks and see people smile and sing along.
You’re a well known circuit DJ, having spun in parties across the world including several right here in New York. Have you had a favorite experience in your career?
Absolutely. I remember the days of playing local bars for long hours which helped me hone my craft. One of my favorite experiences was in my early stages of becoming a DJ in the circuit world: White Party Miami, where I got to play the block party next to the legendary Palace Bar. That was the first time I had played for over three thousand people, just living their lives and dancing to my music. I remember walking up to this massive outdoor stage with my CD books and headphones thinking to myself “this is it, they’ll either love you or hate you.” Being able to blast my music for so many people and seeing them dance so freely, hands in the air, was definitely the validation I needed in that moment to realize my dreams were coming true. I knew right then that all the hard work was paying off, and that I was destined for success.
How do you enjoy being based in Chicago?
Chicago is home. It’s molded me into the man I am today, and it gave me my first opportunity to step behind a DJ booth. Not to mention, Chicago gave birth to house music. There are so many DJs that are from this amazing city: Ralphi Rosario, Frankie Knuckles, Honey Dijon… to name a few. I am proud to represent this city, and to hopefully one day be an inspiration to other up-and-coming DJs.
What are your thoughts about these Rona Raves that have been happening the past few months, i.e. socially undistanced, unmasked “illegal” gatherings? We’ve had quite a few of these in NYC, and the participants get dragged on social media and the local press. Is that the right thing to do because they are making it worse for everyone and giving us all a bad rep, or should we be showing a little kindness and forgiveness during these uncertain times?
We should always strive to be kind to one another. We all have our own way to cope with different situations. Right now, everyone is having to go through this… and instead of judging, we should be there for one another.
There are rules and laws in place during this pandemic, and we should all do our very best to adhere to those in order to contain the spread of this virus. However, we should always do what we think is best for us while protecting those around us as well.
Ultimately us artists have to work. We cannot sit at home for months and months with uncertainties on when we will be able to go back to work and provide for ourselves. I’m not one to tell others what they should or shouldn’t do, or how to deal with what’s going on. However, I myself have tried my best to keep as safe as possible. I did an event in Atlanta not long ago, where it is legal to host events with a certain capacity and mask regulations. We should make the best decisions for ourselves and continue to move forward.
Having said that, there is no safer party these days than a digital one! We can find you spinning the “Reload” virtual Labor Fay Weekend event on Saturday via Zoom (10pm EST)!
Reload has been my residency in LA for many years, and I have Alexander Rendo to thank for that. Reload is an after hours for everyone; the energy in that place is unlike anything I’ve seen in my years spinning. It is dark, sexy, filled with great music, great vibes, and overall just an amazing time. People go for the music. I love smaller venues where you are able to take them on a journey and make it more personal.
Being a part of the Reload virtual experience is equally as exciting because although we won’t be able to perform in front of a crowd, It still gives us an opportunity to bring our music to your speakers from the comfort of your home.
This weekend, Reload is teaming up with Masterbeat and Nina Flowers’ new “Resurgence” livestream. Three major party brands paired with a stellar lineup of DJs that include [from “Reload”] myself, Alexander, Serving Ovahness, Mike Soriano, Cajjmere Wray, [from Masterbeat’s “Hard Labor”] GSP, Oscar Velazquez, Micky Friedman, [from “Resurgence”] Bio Zounds, Alex Acosta and Nina Flowers.
What else might be coming up for you that the children should look out for?
Currently I have a new radio show that is being featured on the first and third Thursday of the month on Mix 93 FM. It is an opportunity for me to continue showcasing my brand, and to reach a wider audience. My show is called Santos y Tambores (saints and drums); it is an hour full of tech house, melodic house and Afro house that perfectly encompasses my signature sound. I am able to play different genres of house music and show a different side of me that many have not heard before.
I am still very hopeful that soon enough we will be able to go back to the dance floor and go back to what makes us all happy. In the meantime, everyone can follow me on social media for updates on my schedule and future events.
And finally: there was lots of new music these past few months… what was the Song of the Summer for you?
The song I’ve played over and over this summer is “Joys” by Roberto Surace. It came out late 2019, but it has definitely been my go-to tune for when I’m feeling happy and joyful.
Thank you, Cindel!