“Too many DJs lack identity, they should follow their own instinct, not other people’s…” Frankie Knuckles speaks to Soul Underground [May 1989]

Today, 25 August, marks Frankie Knuckles Day, celebrating the life and work of arguably the most important figurehead in the development of house music.

Indeed, if it weren’t for Frankie’s epoch-defining sets at Chicago’s Warehouse club, perhaps the genre the late maestro helped foster would be known by some other name.

In May 1989, Soul Underground magazine caught up with Frankie just as he was putting the finishing touches to Tears, alongside Satoshi Tomiie (described as ‘a pianist he met while DJing in Japan’), in which he describes the evolution of house as a unique variant of popular music.

“While there will always be dancefloor fillers, it will be songs that tell the story,” he explains in the article, archived by the good people at Truth Is Light. “That’s why Ten City gets it over, because they have real voices with perfect harmony. They will never be pop, because they still have the sound of the street.”

A snapshot of the great man in a turning point year for house music, the article references Frankie’s musical upbringings – who knew he used to play the double bass? – as well as a run-in with Rocky Jones of DJ International over the timeless Baby Wants To Ride (“Knowing that I had a tape copy in my office desk, he broke into it, and took it and pressed it up, and released it himself as well,” he explains).

On the growing role of drum machines in synthesisers in music creation, Frankie is somewhat reticent, meanwhile. “I think the music got way out of hand… the reason why we use this equipment is because we can’t afford to bring all these orchestras in,” he explains. “If it was possible to use the MFSB or the Salsoul Orchestra, then please… Yamaha and Roland would be out of business!”

Frankie Knuckles backed by the original ‘Sound of Philadelphia’? That’s almost too perfect to contemplate.

The full article can be found below (click to open in new tab). Happy Frankie Knuckles Day!

[Article taken from Soul Underground, May 1989, uploaded by Truth Is Light]

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