The night Daniel Paul Cortez converted me I thought he was someone else.
It was at Honey last September, and Cortez as playing in front of headliner Mike Huckaby. Huck is extremely knowledgeable and extremely good, but for some strange reason I thought Cortez was a different, much older DJ who’d pulled out some mid ’90s classics from the crates. Only about halfway through the set when I asked someone to confirm who it was did I realize my mistake. No matter—he’d played one of the most fearsome house sets I’d caught since moving back to town.
Cortez is a Twin Cities native. He grew up in St. Paul’s southeast suburbs and migrated across the water twenty years ago, spending the last ten in Northeast. “My parents had a diverse taste in music, and I grew up listening to their records,” he says. “Generally, I’m a house and techno DJ, but my favorite sets are ones that I don’t have to silo myself into specific categories,” he says. His musical roots should be on show June 15, when Cortez guests at Bev’s Wine Bar for a “jazz, soul, and funk” night. (He’s also playing at Wax Poetics, in the Loring Bar’s Red Room, on May 24, and with Manik at Rhythm & Soul at Heavy Attic on June 8.)
Cortez began DJing in 2000. “I first learned how to beat match on my roommates belt-drive Numark turntables,” he says. (Belt-driven turntables have less give than direct-drive turntables such as the Technics 1200, making them harder to play on.) Soon, his friend Bryan B ushered Cortez into Groove Revival Network (GRN), which he describes as “a group of friends that provided a platform to flourish and learn from each other—everything from DJing to the roots of disco, hip-hop, house, and techno. I learned a lot during that time”—not least how to spin with a pair of Technics.
Cortez’s set at SYSTEMeleven—7 Year Anniversary (February 24, 2018) is nothing like his great house opener at Honey. This time he concentrated on techno, with efflorescent results—it’s a propulsive set, frisky and percussive and rhythmically off-kilter. “I played alongside Berndt and Andy Fitton, who both delivered amazing sets,” says Cortez. “There was a pretty bad snowstorm we were up against, but the turnout was massive and the vibe was on fire.”
That’s happening a lot lately, he thinks. “Here in Minneapolis, due to strict bar close and curfew laws, we don’t have a lot of options on our plate,” says Cortez. “We do pretty good for ourselves, though. I’m constantly reminded of what everyone is able to achieve against the odds. Sometimes, the darker the warehouse the better. Now that spring is here, I’m very much looking forward to Communion Sundays.”
Are you a Twin Cities dance-music DJ? Michaelangelo Matos wants to hear your latest set. He writes about recent mixes by local DJs every Thursday for City Pages. Tweet to his attention: @matoswk75.