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Introducing Mr Frankie Knuckles - Part 1

Author: michelle pirovich
Thursday, February 27, 2003
'When I heard Frankie play and I saw the way people reacted, danced and sang to the songs, I knew this was something special. Not just a DJ playing music, but playing music with love. This vision of making a moment euphoric…it changed me.' Derrick May 1984

When Frankie Knuckles began experimenting with postdisco in New York with long time friend Larry Levan, he was unaware of the cultural phenomenon he was about to unleash. Working as a 'club bunny' at Nicky Siano's 'The Gallery,' Frankie was responsible for the clubs decorations and spiking the punch with acid.

In 1971 Frankie moved on to 'Better Days' and the 'Continental Baths' where he took up DJing, playing a mix of disco, funk and soul. It was the decadent 'Tubs' to which the Baths were referred that Frankie got his musical education, but upon the clubs closure Frankie headed off to Chicago after Levan recommended he play at a place called the 'Warehouse.'

Not quite the dance music mecca, Chicago at the time was predominantly a rock and blues town. Frankie however was taken by the Windy City and soon made it home. It wasn't long either before clubbers were amassing on the 'Warehouse.' Mostly a gay and black crowd, all were there to hear Frankie's music and to join him on a journey of discovery and redemption.

To the clubbers of Chicago Frankie's music was entirely new. They took not only to the Salsoul, East Coast and Philly flavour of his music, but in particular to the passionate way in which he played. Eventually, everyone referred to the music played by Frankie at the 'Warehouse,' as 'Warehouse Music,' this was shortened to 'house' and the name has stuck ever since.

20 years on and Frankie who is affectionately referred to as the 'Godfather of house,' has embraced his musical career with an enviable degree of passion. Having remixed for everyone from Diana Ross and Michael Jackson to Mary J Blige, Frankie was awarded a Grammy for remixer of the year in 1997. Frankie's albums 'Beyond the mix' and 'Welcome to the real world' have enjoyed immense success, and on top of all that, Frankie is also a part of the reputable label 'DefMix and has a new album on the way.

With little time and so much to cover, I chose to take a more reflective approach for my interview with Frankie. I started by quoting the ways in which so many have described him; 'a legend, the godfather of house, the greatest and most influential dj/producer of all time.' It is at this point that a rather modest yet most amused Frankie speaks up.

'Oh my god really, I haven't heard all of that, that's kind of scary, it seems an awful lot to live up to.'

No one really can argue with me afterall they are all well deserved descriptions. I want to know though how Frankie personally wants to be remembered for his role and contribution to dance music and dance music culture.

'Fondly I hope. This is very difficult for me to answer because I never think about it,' but after a small 'think about it' Frankie continues.

'The thing I enjoy about my work more than anything is the wonderful relationship I have with my peers and contemporaries. Beyond that, I get an enormous thrill in the relationship I have with the audiences I play for around the world. If you have ever been to any of my gigs you will pick up on the fact that it is almost like I have a one on one relationship with the crowd in front of me. I think that turns it into something really personal, as each person feels close to me.'

'People are always looking at me to smile, and if I'm not smiling someone's always nudging me to smile' laughs Frankie. 'Its not that I'm trying to just stand there or work with a scowl on my face, I'm just having to concentrate on what I'm doing, but the girls always want me to smile real big and the guys as well because everyone feels so good. So If I be remembered for anything it's for having made people feel good.'

Feeling slightly tingly all