“I’ve just always been a melancholy, reflective kind of person…” Larry Heard on (almost) quitting the music industry [December 1997]

There are few tracks as synonymous with the birth of house music as Mr Fingers’ Can You Feel It, released in 1986 – the soundtrack to a million ‘hands in the air’ moments in the three decades since its release.

But just over a decade on from setting the template for the flourishing scene to follow, Mr Fingers, aka Larry Heard, was all but done with the music industry, having quit his native Chicago for pastures new, in this case Memphis, Tennessee.

“I’m a conservative person, generally,” he told Mixmags Tim Barr in December 1997,“I may have a way-out mind but I’m basically conservative. I come from conservative people, regular old conservative black people who work every day, and will probably work the day before they die too.”

As he told the magazine, Heard grew tired of the ‘superficial shit’ surrounding the music industry, with a near-drowning experience in the summer of that year changing his perspective on things.

“Everything has to be give and take,” he explained. “I’ve had ten years of frustration in the music business. It’s had its advantages. I got to see some things, experience some different cultures. But once all the interviews are done and the label stuff, then you’re on your own.

“Once all the hurrah is over, I’m still sitting by myself in the hotel room. And that isn’t a fun life.”

Mixmag’s December 1997 edition

During the interview he recalls a number of sour experiences that permeated his musical career – for every high, such as the release of Fingers Inc’s Another Sidein 1988 (alongside Robert Owens and Ron Wilson), there were a myriad of lows, such as the heroin addiction of longtime collaborator Harry Dennis.

“I had drug-dealers chasing me down the street for Harry,” he explained. “I just didn’t need that, it’s not part of who I am.”

The interview coincided with the release ofDance 2000, an underrated long player that bears both the hallmarks of classic Heard productions like Washing Machine, but is also awash with emotion… after all, as he told Mixmag, this was supposed to be his swansong.

But thankfully, within a few months, Heard was back in the studio to record a follow up to Dance 2000, as well as the soulful, downtempo Genesis, released in 1999.

Fast forward to 2018, and there was even another outing for Heard’s Mr Fingers pseudonym, on Cerebral Hemispheres – which also saw him embark on a global tour, full of love once again for the music that set his career in motion.

The full interview, End Of the Line?, can be found by clicking here. [Main picture by Marc Sethi, taken from NPR.org]

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