On the anniversary of Frankie Knuckles’ untimely passing, check out this interview with the house music legend from 1995

“The feeling, the feedback that you get from the people in the room, is very, very spiritual. The Warehouse was a lot like that. For most of the people that went there, it was church for them. It only happened one day a week: Saturday night, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon.”

Back in 1995, while researching the book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life, journalist Frank Broughton sat down in New York City with Frankie Knuckles, during which the Godfather of House Music discussed the emergence of house music in Chicago, the technology that drove the early house sound, and the people that made the scene so iconic.

Four years on from his passing on 31 March 2014, the interview makes for fascinating reading.

When asked where the term ‘house music’ came from, Knuckles says he can trace the term back to around 1980 or 1981, and the “kids that were hanging out at the Warehouse. Some of the new kids that had begun to discover what the Warehouse was all about: Farley, Jessie Saunders, Chip E, and all the rest of them. I would see them around I didn’t know who they were.

“And they started having different parties on their own in these different taverns and bars in Chicago. and when they’d do this they had a lot of success with it. And one day I was going out south to see my god-daughter, and we were sitting at a stop light, and on the corner there was a tavern, and in the window it had a sign that said WE PLAY HOUSE MUSIC.

“I asked this friend of mine ‘Now what is that all about?’ and she says ‘It’s the same stuff that you play at The Warehouse.’”

While the website that originally hosted the interview, djhistory.com, has since expired, the interview is still available thanks to the wonders of archive.org. Read it here.

This early 90s rave, dnb and hardcore playlist is all you need for the Easter weekend…

If you were looking for evidence as to just how incredible the dance scene was ‘back then’, this playlist does exactly what it says on the tin…

The good people at the Hardcore 91-94 Facebook group are mid-way through a ‘Hardcore Bake-Off’ knockout style competition to determine the greatest dance track of the early 90s.

With that in mind, contest organiser Proteus Duxbury (if that’s a real name, I’ll buy him or her a pint) has uploaded all the round 1 contenders to Youtube for your listening pleasure.

The list includes… here goes… Acen, Peshay, Ellis Dee, Shades of Rhythm, DJ Solo, DJ Tango (RIP), Omni Trio, Ratty, Liquid, DJ Gwange, Lemon D, Hackney Hardcore, Tic Tac Toe, 4 Hero, Carl Cox, Dragon Fly, DJ Mayhem, Krome & Time, Nookie, The Prodigy, LFO, Neuromancer, Urban Shakedown, Johnny Jungle, Q Bass, Johnny L, Joey Beltram, Rebel MC… the list goes on, and on, and on…

Crank it up loud, and remember, HARDCORE WILL NEVER DIE!!!

THROWBACK THURSDAY: A Homeboy, a Hippie and a Funki Dredd: Total Confusion [1990]

Of all the stars of the rave scene that were gone too soon, Caspar Pound arguably shone the brightest.

As the founder of Rising High Records, Pound, who died in 2004 at he age of just 33, was the first to licence the Harthouse label for release in the UK and Ireland, introducing a generation of ravers to the joys of German trance.

As a producer, he is perhaps better known for his work as The Hypnotist, alongside Pete Smith, but before all that, he released the seminal Total Confusion, under the alias A Homeboy, a Hippie and a Funki Dredd.

Pound was just 19 when the track came out, on Tam Tam Records, with the main riff reportedly inspired by 808 State’s Cubik (close your eyes and you can hear the resemblance).

RIP Caspar.

[Kudos to obscureoldskool for the YouTube upload]

Techno legend Jeff Mills on why the future isn’t as far away as you might think…

Long considered one of electronic music’s pioneering forces, Detroit techno legend Jeff Mills believes that some day, we’re going to be able to experience live gigs first-hand, from anywhere in the world.

Mills made the prognosis in a fascinating interview with Fabric London last week, during which he discussed everything from space exploration to the importance of Detroit radio stations in the 60s and 70s.

On the future of clubbing, Mills explained that he could envisage a day when a decline in physical machinery (replaced by another, more ethereal form of technology) will “have an effect on how we listen to music, how we look at art, how we look at dance. And how we look at all cultural things. It will have an effect on how we socialise, what the party structure will be like, and DJing.

“Having a physical DJ standing behind a set-up could disappear. I don’t know what will replace it, but I’m almost sure that it will be gone.”

On the role of dance music and clubbing as a form of escapism, Mills believes that as technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives, this too could change.

“The problem with the physical social atmosphere is that it’s only applicable to the people that can make it to that atmosphere,” he explained.

“If you live in San Francisco and there’s an event in London, you’re just out of luck. I think that technology will give us a way of somehow experiencing these things happening around the globe in real time. If you could apply something from your living room in San Francisco that allows you to experience this concert in London, that changes the whole scenario of a party.

“Just imagine a party where there are millions of people able to experience it in real time. Everything becomes magnified. Let’s say that a DJ does something that’s really impactful. If that’s seen by millions of people, the result can be enormous. I think that’s where we’re headed. People are not going to accept being unable to experience certain things for too long. If you can experience something anywhere, at any time – as long as you pay – that’s part of the future.”

Mills isn’t alone in thinking that dance music in conventional forms is on the way out: Tiesto admitted in an interview with the New York Post the other day that “People don’t have the attention span anymore to listen to whole albums. The album used to be a journey, and now the journey is one track to another track. People want to make their own ‘best of’ albums now.”

The idea that you or I could experience first-hand all the excitement of a club night from somewhere else in the world, however, is another step from that entirely, yet one I don’t think we are that far away from.

Broadcasting club nights and dance festivals live has come a long way from the days of Rapture TV, a short-lived clubbing channel on the Sky satellite network.

Last weekend, Ultra Music Festival broadcast three stages live on YouTube, a platform that is becoming increasingly popular for live dance broadcasts, while Boiler Room is now an industry institution.

Throw virtual reality (a la Oculus Rift) into the equation, and the possibilities are magnified.

It’s just too bad that such experiences are likely to lack retrospective capabilities – personally I would love to have been able to been in Japan around 1996, when Mills recorded the seminal Live At The Liquid Room – Tokyo mix.

Oh well…

Love it or hate it, EDM is in serious need of a ‘punk’ moment…

The Ultra Music Festival, the 2018 edition of which closed in Miami last night, is one of the highlights of the electronic dance music, or EDM, calendar, welcoming more than 165,000 revellers to the city’s Bayfront Park.

This year’s event was a landmark for the organisers, marking 20 years since the first Ultra festival took place, at Collins Park in Miami Beach (the name, Ultra, incidentally, was in homage to Depeche Mode’s similarly-titled 1997 album).

As the live footage on YouTube indicated, the three-day event was packed with pyrotechnics, Hollywood-esque stage constructions and a myriad of megastars largely unknown to those of us born pre-2000 (although seeing Sasha and Digweed on the lineup was a welcome bit of nostalgia).

If this sort of ‘last night on earth’ revelry looks familiar, it’s because the EDM scene appears to be becoming a parody of itself, where DJs spend more time bouncing up and down on tables than working the EQs, where high-pass filters count as mixing, and where the contents of an entire set can be carried around on a USB stick.

The footage above could easily be taken from Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Zoo, Mysteryland… such is EDMs propensity for taking the same product, churning it up and spitting it out for a crowd of dayglo teens waiting interminably for the fabled ‘drop’.

[EDIT: Before I continue, I should point out that while I dislike EDM, I don’t fully understand it, therefore I will refrain from commenting on the musical element of the genre. Everything else, as far as I can tell, is fair game.]

What galls me most is the wanton ostentatiousness. Watching Ultra’s live broadcast, it seems that everyone is under pressure to have the BEST TIME EVER and make sure the world knows it.

Isn’t there a case to be made for some subtlety? Give me a pulsing TB-303 and TR-909, a dark room (and maybe a strobe light or two) and I’ll be happy.

But I digress. My reason for bringing up Ultra Music Festival and EDM is that on Saturday, the Miami Herald questioned whether this scene might be coming to ‘an end’.

‘The growth of EDM was so rapid, many began to refer to it as an economic bubble, similar to the housing bubble responsible for the financial crisis of 2008,’ the article reads.

‘Many of the major players in the music scene began a downward trajectory: Google searches of the artist Skrillex peaked in 2012. Similar artists Avicii peaked in 2013 and Zedd in 2015. Swedish House Mafia, one of the household names of EDM, broke up in 2013, performing their final concert at Ultra.’

[Another EDIT: Yes I am aware that Swedish House Mafia are now ‘back’, but it’s an interesting point nonetheless]

Later in the same article, music critic Michaelangelo Matos suggests that writing the obituary for EDM might be premature, but that the scene is no longer peaking: rather it has become established.

“It doesn’t have the excitement of being the thing a whole generation of kids are into at once –– that moment passed,” he says.

As someone who’s into all branches of music, I draw parallels with the current state of EDM, and that of rock music in the mid-70s.

The early acid house era and movements that followed (house, techno, trance, drum and bass and even dubstep) could be likened to the path rock took through the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s – all raw energy and experimentation.

By the mid 70s, rock had become super-commercialised, and lost much of its ferocity (and, I would argue, passion).

This, to me, is the situation that EDM now finds itself in.

Rock’s answer to this dilemma was to rip up the rulebook and start again – leading to the birth of punk.

Could the same thing happen to EDM?

I will never get tired of watching Shaun Ryder trying to describe ‘Voodoo Ray’…

Not content with featuring one Happy Mondays-related post today, here’s another, which also features another Manchester music icon.

One of THE seminal acid house tracks of the late 80s, A Guy Called Gerald’s Voodoo Ray made its first appearance in the charts on this day in 1989.

Back in 2001, Channel 4’s epic Pump Up The Volume documentary called on those that were part of the Manchester music scene at the time, such as the Mondays’ Shaun Ryder, to relive those heady days.

I’m still not sure exactly what track Ryder is describing here, but I LOVE IT.

“And you’d had a pill, and then there was this doof, door, doof going over it. And then boing, BOING, boing, boing! And aaaahhhhh! You know, I mean, and that was it!”

Never change, Shaun.

[Kudos to alphaville99 for the YouTube upload]

Check out this video of the Happy Mondays rocking Manchester’s G-Mex… [March 1990]

Today, 25 March, marks the anniversary of one of the most ‘Madchester’ gigs of all time, the Happy Mondays at Manchester’s G-Mex Arena, supported by 808 State.

Kicking off with Rave On, and taking in epic tracks like Step On, Lazyitis and 24 Hour Party People, the March 1990 gig is a proper time capsule of a seminal time in music history.

Some years back, ITV broadcast the gig as part of its ‘Night Time’ programming, so kudos to whoever decided to set the VCR going that night and upload it to YouTube.

The gig is in two parts, part one can be found here:

And part two is here:

Setlist:
Rave On
Do It Better
Tart Tart
Step On
Performance
Clap Your Hands
Kuff Dam
Lazyitis
24 Hour Party People
Mad Cyril
God’s Cop
Wrote for Luck

[Kudos to Ergenstra Media Resources for the YouTube video]

Tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty… Dub Be Good To Me tops the charts [March 1990]

Beats International‘s Dub Be Good To Me, which topped the charts 28 years ago this week, marked a turning point in the career of former Housemartin (and soon-to-be Fatboy Slim) Norman Cook.

The track, originally called The Invasion of the Estate Agents, first appeared as a B-side instrumental on another, lesser-known Norman Cook single, For Spacious Lies, before being repackaged and reworked into the dub crossover classic we know today.

Sampling had been around for a couple of years – Bomb the Bass and MARRS being early aficionados – and Dub Be Good To Me is a masterclass in mashup artistry, nicking the bassline from The Clash’s Guns of Brixton, the vocals from The SOS Band and a harmonica riff from Ennio Morricone.

The iconic vocal snippet, “tank fly boss walk jam nitty gritty you’re listening to the boy from the big bad city, this is jam hot, this is jam hot” is from a 1983 hip hop track by Johnny Dynell and The New York 88, Jam Hot.

As a Spin review of Beats International’s album Let Them Eat Bingo put it, “Everything is imitation, from rap, house and funk, to blues, gospel, reggae and rock’n’roll: nothing means anything.”

Rarely, however, does imitation sound this good.

[Kudos to G R O O V I S S I M O for the YouTube upload]

THROWBACK THURSDAY – The Horrorist: One Night in New York City [1996]

Remember Jackanory? The programme where celebrities sat down with a children’s book, and proceeded to read aloud for a TV audience? We’re not sure whether Oliver Chesler, aka The Horrorist, was ever a fan, but with One Night in New York City, first released in 1996, he took storytelling to dark, macabre levels.

Having been just remastered and re-released on Chesler’s own Things to Come Records, One Night… tells the story of a New Jersey-based teen escaping to the big city for a night out in New York’s notorious Limelight.

As for what happens next… well, that would be telling.

As well as having a reputation as one of the Big Apple’s most hedonistic nightspots, the Limelight came to international attention when club kid and party promoter Michael Alig was arrested for the killing and dismemberment of Angel Melendez, a story made famous by the movie Party Monster.

That occurred in 1996, the same year in which One Night, the second release on Things to Come, came out.

As for Chesler’s inspiration? In a 2012 interview with the Red Bull Music Academy, he recalled early 90s parties in New York alongside buddy John Selway, which, coupled with his love of new wave and industrial, led to the creation of The Horrorist moniker.

“Somewhere around ’96, I started to really get an itch to return to new wave and industrial,” he said. “There are really good techno producers with a lot of skill. The only way for me to stand out was to use my own voice and tell my own story. I did my first drugs around that time, so I [wrote] stories about drugs.”

It’s not Jackanory, but some 22 years after its first release, One Night in New York City makes for a sobering bedtime story. As one user of Discogs put it, “Like Soft Cell on brown acid…”

[Kudos to Babylon303 for the YouTube upload]

What’s the best way to file your vinyl? This article from 1997 tries to find out… [June 1997]

I’ve often found it amusing to see DJs posting pictures of themselves on Instagram surrounded by piles of vinyl, ‘selecting’ their tunes for a forthcoming gig… only for the subsequent pictures from said gig showing them standing in front of a pair of CD decks, with ne’er a vinyl in sight…

Back in the 90s, of course, you didn’t really have an option – vinyl was the only option.

And just as grading one’s FLACs or MP3s takes time and precision – does this go under Tribal House, Progressive House or just House? – so structuring your vinyl collection in an easy-to-find manner is was a fine art.

This article from MUZIK magazine in 1997 sought to answer that question, asking some of the biggest names in dance music, including David Morales, Roger Sanchez, Lottie and Junior Vasquez how they file their records.

What is the best way to file your vinyl? This MUZIK article from 1997 tries to find out… [June 1997]

As the article reveals, storage systems range from meticulous (hat tip to Sub Club’s Harri for sorting tracks by BPM!) to chaotic, with Morales admitting that most of his collection is “in no order whatsoever. The new stuff in the office, I just try and figure it out, but it’s still not in any order.

“The longest I’ve spent looking for a record? A whole day, only to find I’d given it away.”

[Article taken from MUZIK Magazine, June 1997]