Alex Gutierrez Blog

Club 80 Interview with DJ Alex Gutierrez

Alex-80s-247x300Posted March 17, 2013 by Wilson Alvarez
Alex Gutierrez
Back in 1975, I walked into a party and spotted a guy in the corner of the room, playing records. I was amazed that he had two record players going at the same time. So instead of dancing and hanging out with my friends, I stood next to that guy all night, studying his every move. I noticed that the music never stopped; when one song ended, another one would start. People would yell when they heard a popular song. Most of the music that the guy played was not the usual radio hit list. No Elton John. No Santana. But, man, did it sound good! At the end of the party, when my father was standing at the door, waiting to take me home, I got the courage to ask the guy a few questions. It just so happened that he was a ninth-grader at my middle school, so we met the next day after school. As I sat in the band room, I saw him walking toward me, holding a 45 RPM in his hand. He said to me, “Here, this is for you. Listen to the music, but really listen to the words.” The record was a disco tune by Trammps, “That’s Where The Happy People Go.” In the next few months, I bagged groceries, mowed lawns, washed cars and did anything else I could to buy 2 BSR McDonald Belt-Driven Turntables and a Radio Shack microphone mixer, which I connected to an Old Traynor Guitar amp and speaker. A week after that, I was the guy standing in the corner of the room, playing the records. I’ve been that guy ever since.
My first party was a Quinces at a private home. On orders from my mother, my aunt drove me to the party and waited for me outside in the car. (My mother was worried about the strangers’ house I was going to.) For that night, I charged about $15. The party went great, with all eyes and ears on me. I had a total of 40 records; as I saw the packed dance floor, I thought this was what I was meant to do. I was saving a couple of records for the right moment when all of a sudden—BAM! A fight broke out and the party was over. I had to wait until the next party to play my “killer jams”. asks: What was the first disco song that you really loved and which became your favorite song? My favorite was that record given to me by the DJ I met at the party: “That’s Where The Happy People Go”. To this day, when I hear that record, it transports me back to that time.
My favorites bands are Earth, Wind, and Fire; Love Unlimited Orchestra; Incognito, and Jamiroquai.
In regards to my experience with celebrities, I have an interesting story about the biggest celebrity I ever met, and the funny thing was that when I met him, he wasn’t big yet. About 25 years ago, I attended the ASCAP Awards at the Billboard Latin Music Conference. I went along with The Chief Raymond Hernandez, who at the time was the Majestic Record Pool. At the event we met a young man—short, with long hair and glasses. The young man spoke in a very quiet tone and gave us a few of his promotional CDs. He asked us to help him out in promoting his music. We had never heard of him, but he told us he would be performing at the Sony Artist Showcase that evening, which Raymond and I had plans to attend. During the day, we had lunch with the young man, talking about his goals in the music industry. Although we considered him a nice guy, we weren’t convinced about his “hippy-like” appearance. That night at the showcase, Raymond and I sat through a variety of acts on the Sony label. When it was time for our new friend to be introduced, the lights dimmed, red fog filled the stage, and our friend made his entrance, stamping out his cigarette on the stage floor. When the music track started and the young man began to sing, Raymond and I could not believe the voice we heard. The audience stared, not really knowing what to make of this long-haired, skinny kid. The song was “Hasta que te conoci”; the artist was Marc Anthony.
My top five songs are “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” by Barry White; “Too Hot for Love” by THP Orchestra; “Coro Miyare” by Fania All Stars; “Indestructible” by Ray Barretto; and “That’s The Way of the World” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
It’s easy to name my favorite club because it was also my home for over 20 years. It’s the Alcazaba at the Hyatt Regency in Coral Gables. It was supposed to be just a lounge for hotel guests. The sound system was very basic: two 1200s and a Urei. The publicity was handled by two guys from England. The grand opening, on a hot August night in 1988, was out of control. The expected crowd of a few hundred turned out to be close to 2,000. The crowd drowned out the music, so unless you were on the floor, you couldn’t hear Rick Astley’s songs. I remember that it was an amazing feeling. While most DJs have to build up a crowd, I found that at Alcazaba’s, the crowd was instant. At that time pop music flavored with house beats dominated thelocal clubs, but perhaps unique to Alcazaba, disco and Italo were still very much alive and remained that way until the place closed in 2009. In fact, Alcazaba’s secret recipe was its eclectic combination of music. You could hear today’s hits sprinkled in among Latin,disco, and Italo. It was a musical representation of Miami. The day before Thanksgiving could only be described as “epic” and “legendary”.
Alcazaba had a suit-and-tie crowd early during its reign as Miami’s best happy hour. Slowly, as the night progressed, the crowd became younger and the music would adapt. Salsa was the buffer zone where these groups could find common ground. The atmosphere was classy, well dressed, well-mannered. You wanted to be in that place.
Alcazaba was home to thousands of Wednesday Party Animals who all had to work the next day but who didn’t care.
Managers at Alcazaba came and went, all with different visions ofhow to handle a bunch of Hispanics. Eventually the hotel was sold and the new owners probably decided the club was more of a liability than an asset. Once a year now, on the night before Thanksgiving, the hotel opens its doors and lets us revive one night of magic. Bar 609 and Club 609 came later in my life and allowed me to grow more as a DJ, exposing me to very diverse crowds.
Because I specialized in music that was 70s, 80s, and Latin, I was brought into nightclubs to do a specialty night. I was resident at the original Club Mystique at the Airport Hilton for four years. I was resident at Palladium Night Club in Broward County for 12 years. I was resident at Gabriel’s on LeJeune Road for three years, and at the Mezzanote in Coconut Grove for three years. I spent four years at Club 609 in The Grove and 21 years at Alcazaba. I have also worked at Bermuda Bar, Mars Bar, Café
Iguana (in Kendall, Beach Place and Mayfair) and a number of other places in Miami, California, and Pensacola.
Some of my favorite Radio moments was when I worked with radio station I-95, traveling around town to youth fairs and other events, as part of the I-95 Street Team. The first time I mixed on the air was in the early 90s on El Zol 95, thanks to Jesus Salas. It was exciting to hear my namebeing said on the radio because it added a whole new dimension to DJing. It seemed to make official what I had been doing in clubs. Along with Carlos Sarli, I was one of the first DJs to be offered a paid contract on Salsa 98, to be an on-air mixer. This was thanks to Leo Vela and Raymond Hernandez.
Some of my favorite DJ’s that I admire, specifically was Bob Lombardi. To me, he was the man. There has been none like him since.
DJing stays inside of you forever, even when work is not abundant. You create work. I’ve been fortunate all these years to work in clubs. Now withthe changing face of DJing, in an era when all it takes is a laptop to be considered a DJ, it’s hard to compete with inexperienced guys out there who will work for beer. Your skills as a DJ are now secondary to the amount of Facebook friends you promise to bring in. A good talker will beat you out of a job any day, regardless of the experience you bring to the table.
Now I create my own outlets and events for our music. I started a Podcast three years ago with the late radio personality Mike in the Night. Our show is called “Open House Radio”, playing exclusively dance music from the 70s and 80s. I produce this show with Super Producer Lewis Martinee of Expose fame. We also produce a weekly program of current dance music, called “Rhythm Mix 24/7”. Both of these shows are played on over 75 Internet and terrestrial stations worldwide. We have also teamed with local bands from the 70s and 80s, producing events at local venues to preserve the music of the period. We recently created the South Florida DJ Association with over 150 of the area’s finest mobile and club DJS of past and present. Of course, as any DJ, I’m always on the prowl looking for that next club to call my home.
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