After living away for a number of years, Frankie Knuckles, the legendary Grammy Award-winning producer, DJ, and godfather of house music, returned to Chicago in October of 2000 to stay.
We sure are glad to have him back.
His presence can only elevate an already ascendant and thriving dance music scene to new heights. Celebrating 30 years in the music business, as a DJ and an inspiring force on the scene, Frankie Knuckles is being paid tribute to at an event called Carnivale at The House of Blues on Tuesday, July 3. Not one to rest on his laurels, Frankie is hard at work on his new album.
GS: What brings you back to Chicago?
FK: Several different things, actually. Frederick ( Dunson ) , for one, being my best friend for a million years. We have a business we're running as well, this production company that we're running. That, plus I'm working on a new album that is pretty close to completion. As long I've been working on production I really wanted to bring it from a very natural place. Chicago is one of the places in the world I feel most natural. It feels more like home and I think the inspirational effect from here would help fuse that.
GS: In addition to working on a new album, are there other projects that you may be able to work on while you're here, like other singles and stuff?
FK: For the most part, on the production side of things, my album has taken precedent over everything. I'm not really working so much with other people. I'm really just trying to hone in on just finalizing this project. The first single is due out in about another two or three weeks.
GS: Are you releasing it on your own label or on another label?
FK: I'm releasing it through Definity, which is Def Mix, the production company I'm with in New York, on their label. The album itself will ultimately come out on my own label which will probably be in partnership with Def Mix and a worldwide distribution deal.
GS: And what's the name of your label?
GS: You brought up the natural feeling here. What do you think is the difference between doing what you do here and doing it in New York, for example?
FK: New York City is a mecca for everything, especially related to the arts and music. It's where I was born and raised, but I still feel that Chicago is the place that I grew up. It's one thing to be born in a particular place, but when everything that means anything to you is fed to you in one particular place, other than the place that you were naturally born—to me, that's the place where you grow up. I spent ten years here before I moved back to New York and it was probably the ten most crucial years of my life: between 22 and 32.
GS: Is there a romantic tie to Chicago as well?
FK: There is. Although, he wasn't the reason why I moved back, even though everyone else seemed to think that he was, but just to clarify, he's not even in Chicago now, he's in San Diego. As a matter of fact I was just in San Diego, last week, and I told him I've done a number of different interviews where people have asked about him, and I'm very reluctant about talking about him because the relationship is so private and I'd kind of like to keep it that way. He was like, "Look, I don't have a problem with it." There are just certain things about a person's life that need to remain private and that's how I feel about it. He's in the military. He's a sergeant with the Marines. Obviously, he has to keep up with a certain front where they're concerned. It is very "don't ask, don't tell." I'm very proud of him, but he is not the reason I moved back here.
GS: Do you want to talk about a few of the vocalists that you've worked with on this new record?
FK: The one I'm working with right now, that I'm getting ready for the second single, is Jamie Principle. Jamie Principle is going to have two songs on the album. One of them will probably be the title cut of the album which is called, "Back In the Day." The album is not necessarily a reflection, so much, as it is an inspiration of where all of this has really come from. So, I want people to at least have a feeling that as much as the songs may not sound like anything they heard a long time ago, they will definitely feel like, back in the day.
GS: Do you have very favorite all-time vocalist that you've worked with, without hurting anyone's feelings?
FK: ( pause for thought ) I think Chaka ( Khan ) , probably.
GS: Is there a dream vocalist that you haven't gotten a chance to work with that you would like to work with?
FK: ( no hesitation ) Gladys Knight.
GS: As a DJ how do you feel about the deification of the DJ?
FK: I still don't quite see it that way. I understand what the media has done to help this along—especially in England. I've also seen how a lot of guys in this business have fallen victim to the hype, but at the end of the day, you're still just playing records. The minute you let that hype get ahead of what you really do, then you've lost, as I far as I'm concerned. I think the audiences that have followed me as long as they have, have done so because of what I do naturally and how I put that in front of me.
Because, at the end of the day, we're just conduits. If we can put this music together well, and really entertain people and tell stories with it and make them feel good—even make them escape from whatever it is they have to deal with on a day-to-day ( basis ) , for an eight hour period, one night a week—that's saying a whole lot. But the minute we start buying into they hype about "it's all about us" and "it's not necessarily the music," then, please.
If none of this music was around then where would the hell would you be and who the hell would you be? Personally, I don't necessarily buy into it. I think it's very nice and I get paid very well. I get to see the world and all the rest of different stuff and it's great, but I think the greatest reward I've gotten out of it is the kind of friendships and camaraderie I make with people all around the world.
I can really go anywhere in the world and be at home. So, that's the best part of it.