Born Irene Gutteriez in Downey, CA back
when disco ruled and 45s were on any music
loving-kid's shelf, DJ Irene has come
a long way from lifting boxes for UPS...
straight up the charts to number one as
part of the production team Pusaka, into
the crates of the biggest DJs with her
own tracks, and now on the phone with
us from her Hollywood Hills home for a
little chat about eighteen years worth
of music memories and the great new projects
she's got in the works!
DJ Irene: I just started taking
Ti Kwan Do and it really tears you up!
So I apologies if I sound a little exhausted.
Jen: That's a serious workout! I
just started doing kickboxing, and I could
barely walk after the first day.
DJ Irene: I started out doing
kickboxing for about a year but wanted
to try something different.
Speaking of something different,
when was the first time you heard house
I remember hearing disco way before house
music! The first record I bought was "Boogie
Wonderland." I've been buying music and
collecting music since I was a kid. My
dad gave me a record player, and me and
my brother would listen to 45s... and
then my brother bought me a stereo for
my 13th birthday and he gave me some albums.
Do you remember what some of them
One was Jim Croachie [sp?},
another one was Janis Joplin, Carol King.
And I had two classical, one "The Gates
of Key" by Metroski and "the Overture
1812" by Chaicofski.
So when you were 13 you thought classical
Believe it or not, yeah.
Did you do other things musically,
like play instruments?
I was in band for 10 years in high school.
What kind of band was it?
Well from 5th to 8th we had intermediate
school, it was like elementary and junior
high combined together, so I played the
clairinet for band and orchestra, and
then when I went to high school they had
a marching band and I played the drums.
Did you hate the uniforms?
Ecchh! Who ever thought up band uniforms?
And those big hats we had to wear with
the Dippety Do in our hair... plus being
the only girl drummer, I had to follow
the traditions of the other drummers.
All of us had to get dressed in the first
bus, in the back. So I'd have to wait
for all the guys to get ready and get
out before I could get ready!
Kinda prepared you a little bit maybe
for dealing with the male dominated DJ
world back then.
I guess I've always been in that environment,
I was always been a tomboy.
When did you decide you were going
When I was in college. I had always wanted
to DJ but no one would show me how, until
I met a friend of mine in college. I kept
bugging him, and finally he said, "well,
write me a list of all your records."
I had already been buying records for
a long time, so he was pretty surprized
by what I had, and he told me to put them
in bpm order and then I went to his house
and practiced. I came from an area where
DJs were not respected, I mean you were
lucky if you got paid a hundred bucks
to DJ a club.
So what was it that made you want
to DJ then?
I mean, its not like now where you can
become a superstar. You know, I never
really planned this! I was DJing... I
loved it... I can't say it was a hobby,
cause I was getting paid for it, but it
wasn't a job because I loved it, and I
had a regular job too, working at UPS
during the day.
You worked at UPS, the shipping company?
I worked there for 10 years. I was supervisor...
or should I say stupidvisor.
You didn't have to wear a uniform
again, did you?
No, I worked in the hub where all the
packages went into the big trailers. I
loaded for 3 years.
Wow, that is really physically demanding
It was, but you have to be tough and you
have to keep it up... I was hungry.
Was it that hunger that got you your
first big break as a DJ?
It kind of just happened. There's been
little breaks here and there but the big
one was they had let go of the main DJ
at Circus and Arena. I had been playing
the small room but the owner, Gene, knew
I wanted to play the main room. So he
auditioned me one night, and after that
he said, you know what I'm not going to
audition anyone else - you got it!
So you played one night for him and
it was an audition?
You should have seen how nervous I was!
Talk about shaking! He watched my set!
What kind of music were you playing
Back then it was... I think it was when
house was breaking out. I remember when
"You Used To Hold Me" came out, Technotronic
was happening, a lot of freestyle, Culture
You'd mix those all together?
Oh yeah, that was the music back then.
Now on your CDs, you mix really fast,
so in an hour you'll play a ton of tracks.
Is that how you were mixing back then
I've always had that energy. That's what's
kept me in the limelight. I've always
kept the excitement going on, I've always
changed with the times.
For someone who's never heard you
DJ before, how would you describe a one
of your sets?
I'm hard at first, but I have a lot of
energy in my sets so when I enter you
know I'm playing and when I leave, you
know I've gone. I've been told by people
who said they couldn't stand hard house,
but when I play it they just love it.
I know exactly what you mean. When
people ask me what kind of music I like,
I can't narrow it down to just a few types
- its all about the setting and who's
playing it and the energy behind it.
Now you've heard my CDs, they are very
diverse. I've always played that way,
even though I was pigeonholded into the
hard house scene, that's not really me.
When I started to get more known, that
music was really happening, but I've always
been able to change. That's my experience
coming into play: when you play from a
club from 9pm to 4am, you need to be able
to change. I remember mixing in disco,
hip hop, everything into one night. I
would have to bring cases and cases of
records. We didn't have CD players back
So at least you were able to put
your UPS lifting skills to good use!
Damn right I was carrying those crates!
Tell us a little bit about this new
mix CD you have out, called "Fearless."
There's about six or seven productions
that me and my partner George Centelle
did, the first one "Seduction", DJ Irene
Blues is sung by Thea Austin who is the
singer of "Rhythm Is A Dancer." She also
sang for me for the group "Pusaka" which
is me, Chris Cox of Thunderpuss. That
song went number one on Billboard.
That was "You're The Worst Thing
For Me" - that was a great song.
She sang on my intro on the second side
of "Fearless." And then there's some breakbeats
that me and my guy did, but picking music
was kind of hard this time. It was hard
for me to find stuff that I liked that
I could get, problems licensing or some
legality issue, so I ended up doing a
lot of productions myself.
I guess it was for the best then,
in a way, that you couldn't get those
Paul Oakenfold had given me a special
remix of "Bullet In The Gun" - the Hickies
mix, and he says I'm the only one that
has it, that he actually thought of me
when he made it. Then he went ahead and
had his label send me some of his other
stuff for it too.
How did you meet him?
Actually, his people came looking for
me! I ended up going to meet him in his
studio when he was in the middle of working
on his album. And you know me and my sense
of humor... I had him laughing all over
So considering all your experience,
could you give any advice to up and coming
DJs out there that might help them along
You have to work really hard. I had a
lot of support from the owner of Circus
and Arena, Gene La Peitra, but I always
fought my own battles. There are haters
out there, but it was just in me to do
a good job. I was very ambitious and I
have a lot of passion for my music and
my DJing. And that's probably why my music
is so energetic and people have a good
time dancing it to it. No matter what
happens... like at Coachella, I hadn't
had any sleep in two days, plus difficulties
getting there, nearly missed my plane,
fight with the hotel people when I get
there to check in early so I can make
it to my 2pm set time at Coachella...
the same kind of delays and annoyances
everyone has run into traveling at one
point or another, but all jammed into
right before I was going to play for all
those thousands of people. But I get there,
and the minute I stepped on stage, none
of that mattered, I wasn't exhausted any
more. When you have the passion for the
music, it just comes out.
That's so true.
Afterwards I did want to collapse!
So what's coming up for you next?
I'm going to start working on my album,
taking piano classes now again...
Back to school like you did for learning
No, I don't have the time for school...
I don't even have the time to do what
I already have to do, even with hiring
an assistant! I would like to concentrate
on writing more.
Are you going to collaborate with
people on the album?
I'm doing some research but I'm not going
to say what I'm going to do yet, because
its my secret. But I am going to give
it variety because that's what I am. I'm
going to give a dance album. I'm going
to give an album which everyone will like.
I look forward to hearing it!
-- written by Jennifer Warner
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