Million Dollar Knuckles...
365MAG Interview: Frankie Knuckles
Don't consider this an
interview; consider it a lesson from one of the biggest and most respected
artists in all of house music history. Frankie is one of the instigators of
house music as we know it today, but we're not even going to try to list all
of his achievements... check out Wikipedia or any house music historic
overview for that! He may not think he is a legend but it certainly doesn't
deter from any of his fans believe so.
Recently Frankie Knuckles has completed work on his latest Motivation Too,
which will be released on October 13th, 2009. In addition he will be
performing at New York's Electronic Music festival - Electric Zoo on Labor
Day weekend. Frankie Knuckles has been in this game since the very
beginning. and he knows what he is talking about, so we suggest you sit back
and take in everything he has to say…
Approximately how long did it take you to complete Motivation Too from start
It took about a month from conception to completion. Choosing the right
songs, continuity and physically putting it together without any additional
digital assistance/enhancement it took a month in total time to complete.
What is the message you were trying to convey behind this mix?
I think it's pretty clear. Times are tough and it's not getting any easier
for any of us out here. Stay MOTIVATED.
What is your biggest concern with the state of dance music today?
From the view point of someone that's been at this a long time, how
technology has enabled DJs to bring themselves full-circle with their craft
but lose sight of what's paramount. The Song. I guess in Europe and other
foreign countries that emulate what we do here in the States when it comes
to making music it's okay to make and embrace track-based music because of
the language barrier. But with the bounty of prolific songwriters and
seasoned singers here, there's no excuse why these resources aren't being
exhausted by the talent we have out here making what is being passed off as
"pop/dance" music. Technology has made it easy, yes, but at the same time,
it's also made a lot of guys lazy. Everyone is so consumed about being
perfect that they don't realize they're excluding the "human factor" in the
What is the hardest lesson you have ever had to learn about the music
That no matter how good you are or, no matter how great the choon you just
created is; it's never about you. You may be good but you'll never be
greater than the music. And for me this is okay.
Have the frequency of your performances changed much from your first debut
up till now? And why?
Absolutely! I'm not as young (obviously) as I was when I started. I don't
have the same stamina. I have the desire to work in the same capacity but, I
have no desire to do the same drugs and party at the level I did, as a kid,
to compete. This is not a competitive sport. If you've landed a residency
and being paid a decent wage, you've achieved success. The real work is
Do you consider yourself to be an electronic music legend?
If the four figureheads of Mount Rushmore were to be changed into dance
music artists who do you think they would be?
Larry Levan, David Mancuso, Nicky Siano and maybe Myself (the jury's still
What do you feel are your biggest accomplishments to date?
Obviously winning the first ever Grammy for Remixer in 1997. Being the first
Club DJ contracted to write/produce his own artist album (for Virgin Records
in 1990). To have remained consistent in my field of expertise in
house/dance music. Several Gold & Platinum Awards for production and remix.
To be partially responsible for the benchmark choon of House Music; "Your
Love" by Jamie Principle.
What does house music mean to you?
It means everything to me and at the same time, perhaps not even anywhere
near close to what it means to most young people out here dancing to it.
It's okay, tho'. Most young folks don't really recognize the music that
makes up their lives until they reach their 50s. That's when they stop and
look around to see how many of their friends are still with them. They look
to see if ANY one is still around that can relate to where they came from,
what they went thru and, can remember where they were and with whom when
they first heard that choon.
With you being in the scene all this time I know you must have some words of
wisdom for the up and coming artists out there. Would you care to share some
of your valuable knowledge with our readers?
For the artist/singers/performers: Remember, this is not a competitive
sport. There's no singer/performer great than/better than you. Like
everything has its season, so do we as artist/musician/performers. It all
depends on your diligence, fortitude and willingness to sacrifice all else
because nothing is more important to and the advancement of your craft.
For the DJs/Remixers/Producers: Check your ego before you even step to this.
It's not about you. It will never be. It's about the music. We're conduits.
The go-betweens God & The Gift. It's our jobs to entertain and to do it to
the best of our ability. And when the party's over, go back to our
respective life as the good sons and daughters, mothers and father, uncles
and aunts we're expected to be. Simple.
Of all the venues that have closed their doors and were shut down in New
York City, which one would you say you miss the most?
Sound Factory Bar. This was my last residency in New York City. It was also
the last venue to embrace the industry as a whole and represent just how
good New York's music scene really was. 6 days a week.
What new projects or artists are you working on at Noice! Music currently?
I'm wrapping up production on my next artist project, Director's Cut
featuring Jamie Principle. It's a project I'm joined on with my Director's
Cut Partner, Eric Kupper. I have a lot of stellar compatriots waiting in the
wings to help me complete it; David Morales, The Shapeshifters, Lil' Louis
Vega, Seminal Grooves to name a few. Plus, preparing Jamie's performances
for the tour at the end of the year.
Also, The remix of the J5's Forever Came Today, The Director's Cut Remix of
Million Dollar Bill and several other Indie bands waiting in various stages
Is there anything else you would like to mention to our readers?
The Million Dollar Bill remix wasn't commissioned or contracted. However,
due to the nature of the artist (Whitney Houston) and the writers/producers
(Alicia Keys & Kasseem Dean) I personally felt (in representing the house
music community) there needed to be a dance mix that would truly reflect all
the things that are grand and historic about this genre while still giving
respect to what the producers originally intended. In a minute there's gonna
be a ga-zillion mixes coming down the pike and I just wanted to make sure,
on behalf of the house music community that thru one remix, respect was
Just my own personal view.
365Mag would like to thank Frankie for his time and answers!
1 OCTOBER 2009