Aria is pleased to welcome Grammy Award-winning DJ/Producer/Remixer and the Godfather of House Music, Frankie Knuckles.
There's no time like the present, so let's begin with…
1. What projects are you currently working on?
I'm in the process of launching a new album/CD, DubJ's D'Light on my own first imprint, NOICE! Music.
You were the first to win a Grammy for Remixer of the Year in 1998…
2. What is it like for you to be recognized in that way? Is it important to you?
Is it important? Yes and no. Yes because you are recognized by the industry in the USA and it does lend a certain amount of legitimacy to your profession by the industry. But no, because it can also be the kiss of death to your career in the industry (if this makes sense at all). The game has changed drastically since I did all those remixes for all those great artists. The majors don't want to spend the money to have quality work done. And with the advent of technology, it's been very easy for so many guys to teach themselves how to do this work but, with limited appeal. And with the kinds of A&R directors running these departments at all the majors, bastardizing the vocals of so many artist to bedroom remixers/producers whose tracks always comes before the importance of the song or artist. What you have is what is being passed off as "dance music" in greater America. No one out side the USA recognizes any of it as anything viable. No one in the industry backs it. Therefore, you just may find your career in remix purgatory (unless you take complete control of your own present & future).
3. What is it like to be considered the Godfather of House Music?
It's not a term that I ever thought would really stick and follow me throughout my days but, I'm so into it. There's not a place I've traveled to where I haven't been recognized as The Godfather of House.
You've done legendary remixes for so many wonderful artists…
4. Which is your favorite remix you have worked on?
"Where Love Lives" by Alison Limerick. The title of the song says it all. Plus, I really believe it was the defining moment when I came into my own as a producer.
As one of the few who were at the forefront of the house music movement…
5. What is your all-time favorite House song, either one you worked on or someone else's work you appreciate?
I don't know if it would be considered a house song, but it definitely inspired it: "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. "Found a Cure" by Ashford & Simpson.
You've done remixes and your own productions…
6. Of the artists you've worked with, whom have you been in the studio with to re-record vocals for the dance mix, and which experience did you most enjoy?
The most memorable would have to be Luther Vandross. He came into the studio (Quad Recording) completely on his own, without an entourage. He and I grew up in the Bronx across the street from one another and hadn't actually spoken or seen each other since we used to ride the subway together going to school. After he realized exactly who I was, we laugh and giggled and reminisced about the old days in the South Bronx. Look at where we both were in our lives now and were both dumbstruck that we would end up in this place, working together. But apart from all of this, the level of professionalism he lent to the whole process. He didn't have to deal with it (if he really didn't want to). But the man was a workhorse. We basically nailed his vocals in the first take. But I went thru them all over again with a fine tooth comb just to amuse myself and keep him there. He knew it also. We were both having so much fun we didn't want it to end.
In 1992, you released Beyond The Mix, which was a collection of your own productions…
7. At the risk of asking which of your children you love more, of the following tracks from Beyond The Mix, which do you like best and/or which did you most enjoy working on: "Workout," "Rain Falls," or "The Whistle Song"?
I'm not sure that I can single out any one particular track. It was all an exercise in experimentation really. It's one thing to write and produce for someone else. It's a completely different animal when you're doing it for yourself. But it's obvious that "The Whistle Song" is the most endearing. Check out "The Whistle Song Revisited" on my new CD, completely updated, but feels just as good as the original.
In your career, you've remixed songs for Toni Braxton ("I Don't Want To"), Michael Jackson ("Rock With You"), and Janet Jackson ("Because of Love"), some of the biggest names in the music industry…
8. What was it like for you to remix songs for such icons in the industry?
Looking back on the experience, I was so in awe at the fact that these artists even knew who I was to the point that they would request for me to do the remixes. They trusted me enough to do the work and rewarded me with platinum & gold records to commemorate the work.
You began your career on the wheels of steel…
9. Do you currently have a DJing residency?
I'm not currently doing a residency. My last residency was here in Italy (Venice) and, as much as Italy is a fantastic place for me and my career, I don't think I'd ever do another residency in my life.
10. What was it like living in New York and making such a huge impact on the New York nightlife scene at Sound Factory Bar?
New York City is my home. Moving back there in 1987 was a blessing for me. As much as I thought I wasn't ready to make that move back, my life and career was primed for it. I landed on the ground floor of DefMix Productions at its inception. Next year DefMix will celebrate its 20th Anniversary. Paradise Garage had just closed and many folks were looking for some place new to go (although most true Garage-Heads never recovered from it's closing). My tenure in NYC garnered me the success of the very first Grammy for Remixer (when you were judged on your body of work for the previous year. Now it's judged on just one song you remix throughout the year). Next to The Warehouse and Powerplant in Chicago, the greatest residency I ever held down was Sound Factory Bar in New York City for six years. [It was] an incredible room with an awesome sound system, custom built for me. That's when you know that you've arrived!
11. What are you currently listening to?
Currently I am listening to KT Tunstall and Nigel Blake. Not dance music at all but both incredible albums. I only listen to dance music when I have to.
12. What do you think of the state of dance music today? Are you a fan of it or do you feel that it has strayed way too far from the lush and melodic roots of house music?
I don't think it has strayed off course. Technology has made it possible for anyone to be able to make dance music. Could you imagine if technology made it possible for every kid in the United States to become a great baseball player how unpopular the sport would be? It would become so watered down and far less superior to the old school production process of yesteryear. Most of the guys making tracks have no clue how the real recording process works. They do it all in their bedroom, by themselves. In another life that was called MASTURBATION. But I digress. Oops!!! I just thank God for being where I am in my life right now, for the education I forced myself to have in this industry. The artists I loved and revered and held a special place in my heart for throughout my career not only inspired me over the years but have also become very close and dear friends. I guess I'm a very lucky guy.
You can visit Frankie Knuckles online at www.fkalways.com or at www.myspace.com.
Q&A conducted by Ivan Diller — Ivan in the "Mirror"...