I GET THERE EARLY. CREMA, like the smooth coffee they serve, feels warm inside; the shop’s windows are fogged by a cold Denver day. The gaudy gold chandelier lights the exposed wood and brick as the sweet, soulful pleading of Al Green quickly fades into Beach House’s atmospheric lull. Someone at the table next to me has a unicorn head mask splayed out as two girls talk about their plans for the weekend. Its eyes stare at me, bulging, saying something between RIDE ME and SAVE ME. Before I can say boom-badoom-boom, my phone rings and a bright, “Hello, I’m here!” greets me on the line. I walk to the front door and know right away DJ Tatiana has arrived, wearing those perfect black boots and a soft, lumpy sweater underneath a sleek leather jacket. She’s got intricate braids on one side of her head, falling into a loose ponytail in back. She looks like someone you could be best friends with.
Tatiana’s a touring performer with regular sets around town, a former Billboard DJ and chart panelist, an LGBT advocate, a Capricorn, an avid horse rider, and red wine drinker. She has a real love for Denver and our mountains, but not hiking. “I’m not that kind of lesbian.” Tatiana is cool, and will only prove to be more so as we sit down to chat.
Her story, like all of ours, begins at home. The oldest and only female in a family of four children, she grew up in Spain and spent her formative years traveling the world, music always included. “My family had restaurants that had live music. In Madrid, in Bogota, they all had a similar flavor. People [would] go there and have some drinks, some food, and there was always a stage — a guitar player, a band, something! It was a lot of fun. So I’ve always loved music, since I was very, very little.”
Tatiana left for the US to start college, double majoring in international business and computer information. She returned to Spain to get an MBA and went corporate. “But,” she says, “DJing was always there.” She worked ‘round the clock, peddling away at a desk by day and spinning records by night.
“My body just couldn’t take it anymore and I was like, ‘You need to choose one.’ I would get up at 7am to be fresh for the office after staying up until three or four in the morning. I had to take off all the glitter — it was all over my face, my hair, everywhere! I think at the end of the day, it wasn’t an easy choice. You have to choose between security and money, but [office work] lacks the creativity and passion.” She thinks for a quick minute and I try to imagine this fireball in a cubicle rather than a DJ booth. “As for the big picture,” she says, “there are many artists in the world, you know, many people have been blessed with artistic ability. Very few people can actually live off of it. So if I can manage to somehow live off my art, I owe it to myself and the rest of the world to do it.”
And do it she has. Recently, in under two months she traveled to Spain, Puerto Rico, Chile, Argentina, Miami, NYC, and back to Denver. Whew.
“In every country, every crowd is different. It’s a bit more nerve-racking when you go to a country or a dance floor you don’t know very well, but you’ll never see those nerves on my face. You have to keep it together. For me, it’s adrenaline. You step on that stage and you see the people there, and you just think, ‘Game on.’”
What’s that learning curve like?
I’m an observer. I’m a sociologist at heart. I like seeing how crowds react to certain things. At the beginning, I throw something out and see if they pick it up. Later, when you’re feeding them hard on the prime time, you know exactly where the party’s going. You have to be skilled enough to deal with what’s going to happen.
So you have to trust your audience to get it, and they have to trust you to get them there.
That’s the beautiful thing. DJs used to be in the shadows, up in some room. You didn’t know there was a DJ — you just knew there was music playing and you’d just dance. Now, it’s an art. You’re center stage and people are looking at you to know when to start the party. We’re on a five-hour trip together.
What does that feel like, when you’re on top of your game and you know the crowd’s really feeling it?
*laugh and long sigh* It’s like the best orgasm ever.” [Author’s note: Sign us up!] “It’s all about the love and energy that you feel. If I’m feeling like I wanna dance, I wanna jump, I’m in heaven. The most beautiful part of the night is when somebody comes up dripping in sweat, and they tell me they really enjoyed the set. If you come to me and your hair is all perfect, no, no, no! If you’re a hot mess, then I want to talk to you.
Do you ever meet women at work?
All the time. No complaints there!
Complicated. I would never put anyone between me and my crowd. That’s difficult for a lot of women be ok with. Jealously definitely becomes an issue. I’m all about the people. I love the happiness. There never can be a bad show because I need to bring happiness to these people so I can’t let anything detract from that.
Has any negativity associated with the club scene affected you on a personal level? Like maybe the drug use at raves?
I’ve been lucky enough not to have any addictive personalities. You must give more freedom to the people because we’re adults. Anything in life in excess is not good, but as long people know what they’re doing and they’re taking care of themselves, I won’t promote it, I don’t condone it. After working in the night life for so many years, I know what exists within it. As long as you’re a responsible individual and you’re not gonna hurt yourself or others, go ahead and party.
I’d wear that t-shirt. So what’s the worst part?
The art form is beautiful. I even like when people make requests, as long as they’re nice about it. There are a lot of politics behind this and sometimes people only see the glamour and the glitz, but they don’t see what goes on behind the stage. Music is moving to a superficial point. You have a computer, you have somebody who is very cute behind the computer — that’s it. We’re not looking closely at the music or the artists themselves. We need to be very careful as an industry. We have to make sure that we don’t go too far out from quality and make sure we don’t lose the basics of our art. Anybody can open their computer and hit the space bar and have a beat and wave their arms and be a ‘DJ.’ We can’t go in that direction or we’re gonna lose it, and that would be very sad.
Speaking of politics, has it been difficult breaking through the industry as a woman?
In the corporate world, the woman is always seen as the secretary. In music, it’s been challenging, too. They expect a Playboy Bunny, you know: with things hanging out. Don’t get me wrong, when I walk onstage, I know I’m an entertainer and I will dress accordingly, sometimes sexier than others, but I don’t let that be the only attribute I’m bringing to the table. If you have it, flaunt it. That’s great, but you should also be a very good musician. Now, though, the industry is starting to change, and it’s a little more all-inclusive and I’m glad to see that happening. I think we’re starting to overcome those old stereotypes as a community.
Is there any tension or more competition between female DJs?
Good female DJs believe that, if you have any [tension], take it to the dance floor, take it to the decks. Speak with the music. Then I will respect you — you’re badass! There are some fantastic DJs out there.
What sets you apart?
For one, I think my flexibility. I can do Latin, hip hop, house, tribal house, diva house, circuit. It’s a question of what my crowd wants or — really — what my crowd needs. Playing in a lot of different communities, I see how expectations are different across them. I’ve played for straight, gay, lesbian crowds, everybody! Sometimes I think we forget how lucky we are to live in a country like this where we can be ourselves as women, as individuals, as gays and lesbians, to be able to say, “This is what I want to do today. This is what I want to do with my life. These are my dreams.” A lot of people cannot do that so I think it’s our duty to live our lives the best way possible for others who cannot. Like when women look at me, I hope they see that I can be whatever I want to be. In certain communities, things can be a little more closed-minded. When I play for those communities, the most important thing for me is to be an empowering woman.”
Tatiana’s resume speaks for itself. She’s been instrumental in organizing local community parties for a wide array of charities — the Colorado AIDS Program and the Urban Latino LGBT Foundation to name a few. You can find her this year performing at Miami’s AquaGirl, the world’s largest charity event for women. She doesn’t just play music, she aims higher in hopes to inspire and bring people closer together because, she says, “We really are like a rainbow.”