Here at Ears To The House, we pride ourselves on a few different things. Such as not being afraid to ask the questions others shy away from – and whether it’s over issues such as the sexual assault allegations surrounding Derrick May or questioning why dance music fans are being ripped off by identikit festivals, we’re pretty proud of our record so far.
But similarly, we also show no fear or favour towards anyone, no matter how “legendary” they are in the bro fest that is dance music. So what we’re about to say might ruffle more than a few feathers, especially since the man himself is no longer in a position to speak up. Still, as we said – we show no fear or favour.
A few weeks ago, it was the ninth anniversary of the death of Frankie Knuckles. March 31st in 2014 was the day of his passing at the mere age of 59 – reportedly following complications from diabetes. Ears To The House has few qualms with those who celebrate his legacy – he was an integral part of house music for nearly its first two decades through his work for the likes of the Warehouse nightclub or the Def Mix outfit.
A few different quotes and clips from the man himself circulated on social media around the time of the anniversary – and this one from the later years of his life certainly piqued our attention. Watch in its entirety…
Now, there’s a lot which Knuckles says here that’s bang on the money. Yes, he did have something of a rock star status during the 1990s. Yes, he did remix a vast number of records for pop artists and yes, he produced a huge amount of music during that time. There’s no question his list of achievements is long – and we wish there were far more of his ilk in the pipeline.
But on his statement that nowadays, “all anyone cares about is who remixed it”, was Knuckles not being a little bit hypocritical? To understand why, allow us to explain – Knuckles backed away from dance music in the early 2000s and was almost entirely absent from the scene for a few years. It was only a request from Hercules and Love Affair in 2008 for him to remix “Blind” which brought him back.
Since Knuckles had not done any production work in years, he enlisted the help of long-time friend Eric Kupper for the project. This led to the duo creating Director’s Cut, a collaboration which was responsible for numerous remixes between 2009 and 2014 – but very little original material emerged in this period. Indeed, one of Knuckles’s most successful releases in this period was a new version of “The Whistle Song”, which first emerged back in 1991.
Viewing the entire frame of work which Knuckles contributed to since the 1980s, his point over the obsession of “who remixed it” seems a fair point. But during his renaissance period in the 2010s, Knuckles was a central figurehead in the remix culture – which, in our eyes, make his comments just a little on the hypocritical side.
Does any of this take away from his extensive legacy? Absolutely not – Knuckles has a long list of achievements, certainly far more than many of today’s big names in dance music will ever achieve. But that doesn’t mean his words and actions are beyond scrutiny. As much as we agreed with a lot of his statements and pronouncements during his incredible life, this was one occasion where he displayed a rare lack of self-awareness.
The only people showing a greater lack, of course, were those big names of today who happily profit from a culture they contribute little or nothing to…