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"Godfather of House"

After Dark:
Frankie Knuckles

After a one-year absence, house music temple Yellow welcomes the Godfather of House back to Tokyo for a one-off, one-man set.

Although Frankie Knuckles earned his moniker as the man behind the turntables from 1977 to 1982 at the legendary Chicago gay club Warehouse (hence the term "house"), he had in fact been spinning since the early '70s in his native New York City. Taking his first DJ gig in 1971, Knuckles and childhood friend Larry Levan together worked at the New York club, Gallery.

Moving to Chicago in 1977, the DJ began spinning disco and tracks, introducing beat-mixing and percussion fills composed on the Roland 909 drum machine to create the music now known as house. "I had to reconstruct the records to work for my dancefloor, to keep the dancefloor happy, as there was no dance music coming out," Knuckles told the Electronic Mail & Guardian. "I'd take existing songs, change the tempo, layer different bits of percussion over them, to make them more conducive to the dancefloor."

Leaving Warehouse (where he also happened to live) in 1982, Knuckles ran his own club, Power Plant, until 1986, relocating back to New York in 1987 to take part in the burgeoning dance scene there. He formed Def Mix Productions with David Morales (also taking under their wing Japanese DJ Satoshi Tomiie), and began to work on house treatments for the likes of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and Chaka Khan.

Already a veteran remixer and vinyl-spinner by the late '80s, it wasn't until 1991 that Knuckles was signed by a major record company, hooking up with Virgin for his debut album, Beyond The Mix. Welcome To The Real World followed in 1995, and in 1997 the DJ was given the industry stamp of approval in the form of a Grammy award for Best Remixer.

In a recent interview with the website, Knuckles looked back on three decades as a DJ and the development of DJ culture. "The energy is the same, the only thing that makes it different now is that most of this music is being made by DJs or bedroom producers, so to speak. That's what takes the music downwards. Before, you had legitimate producers and songwriters writing and producing the stuff. Now with the origin of DJ culture, anybody and everybody could do it. And that's pretty much who's making the music—which is the reason trance has managed to make such a big impact. It's easier to make a trance track and call it something real than it is to actually sit down and really write a song—beginning to end."

Of his own career, Knuckles said: "I attribute my success to being consistent. You know, there's many kinds of music that keep coming and going. But I've always remained true to what it is that I do, and for all the different kinds of music that come around…everything ends up coming back to the same kind of music. You know, you always hear people say, 'Oh, house music is back.' Ha ha! It never went anywhere."

Frankie Knuckles@Yellow, 3/11, 10pm, ¥4500. Tel: 3479-0690.

Photo: Yellow


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