Frankie Knuckles: from remixes to producing!
“The turning point happened along with Jamie Principle. A mutual friend of ours brought him to the record store I was working for and introduced us to each other. Jamie asked if I would consider producing him. I’d never done anything like that before. He insisted saying this was all new for him too and that he had trust in me. And that’s how it all started.”
“Like it or not, two heads are always better than one. You can have a great idea and I can feed off of it or vice versa. That’s the proper of the exchange, as I already said, and the shortest key to improve. You come up with a suggestion, with the other adding something to it. And before you know it, it’s already bigger than the original idea.”
“We were a great team on the road and we spent a lot of time together. Frankie Knuckles taught me how to be a better DJ, a better producer, a better dresser…” (David Morales)
Frankie Knuckles: From Chicago to back to New York (and Def Mix)
“I felt I’d done all I could do in Chicago. There was no room for me to grow anymore, I suppose. I’d done a lot of remixes and productions for people there in the early days. Like Fingers Inc., Marshall Jefferson, Joe Smooth and others. There was nothing else I could do. The industry outside of Chicago was much greater. Moving back to New York happened to be the best choice I could do at the end. I worked on the foundations of Def Mix. And when I came in, I landed in with a pocket full of remixes that people were asking me to do for them. So I came up with something to the table just at the time when Def Mix was about to open and try to find its way into the industry…
Def Mix is a production company that Judy Weinstein, David Morales and myself have put together. Judy is my manager but she’s also my best friend and she’s the heart of this business and what we do. David (Morales), well, you know who he is. He’s my partner and we started in this together.
The moment we started doing remixing work… We didn’t realize it at the time, but we changed the shape of how it’s done. Before us, when you did a remix you worked with what was available to you. By the time we got started, we were bringing in musicians and completely overdubbing everyone’s songs. Reworking the music and the tracks.
We had to work with the songs that were brought to us. But when you look at the people we were working with, Mariah Carey was pretty much David’s. She was his protégé if you will. He did everything for Mariah, meanwhile I would be working with everyone else. We were taking these songs as they were originally written and reshaping the music they were written to, to give them a bit more energy. We have sort of changed the shape as to how doin’ remixes…”
“The whole thing of House Music is based on what came out from Philadelphia, which was real. As for the rest, be it considered too as House Music, that’s not anything what I’ve ever been into, as you know…”
“That brings us back to ‘Tears’. It was such a beautiful instrumental initially. I thought it should stay the way it was, but Judy suggested we should write a song to it. Satoshi, a keyboardist who I met while DJing in Japan, instantly thought of Robert Owens who’d been my rommate for some time to sing it. And the rest is history.
I’ve always been into Gospel voices. Robert had a religious background, although his sound was an exception to the rule for me. It didn’t come instantly though. As a matter of fact, Robert is like a wild horse. Unless you put up margins for him, he never can sing the same line the same way twice. I had to constantly sort of reframe him. Writing a song to a piece of music requires you to get what’s necessary to get it in place. The verses, the chorus, everything has got to be structured with countless details makin’ the difference at the end. I consider it as one of my favorite to date…”
“The reason why we use equipment is because we simply couldn’t afford bringing in all of these formations like MFSB or Salsoul Orchestra. Otherwise I suppose Roland and Yamaha would have gone out of the business. Of course music has got way out of hands with the whole technogical thing. And while there will always be floorfilers, they’ll be the songs telling the story which will make it over. Just like what Kevin Saunderson did with his Ten City project. Comin’ up with real voices and perfect harmonies, and keepin’ the edge of the street.
The whole thing of House Music is based on what came out from Philadelphia, which was real. As for the rest, be it considered too as House Music, that’s not anything what I’ve ever been into, as you know…
Interviews: Frankie Knuckles