Being the Godfather of House is a full-time job – you don’t rest for holidays. So it is for Frankie Knuckles, the 55-year-old Chicago DJ whose 30-odd year career first flourished in the early 1980s when he helped to form the musical blueprint for modern house music.
Knuckles, who will play this Sunday at The Roxy 6 Waterfront Place Station Pier in Port Melbourne, last visited Australia only two months ago when he played a white party in Tokyo on Christmas day before jetting into Sydney in time to play a New Year’s Eve party.
“I don’t have children and my favourite holiday is Thanksgiving, which I make sure I celebrate. I don’t miss out on much,” he told the Star Observer of his taxing festive schedule.
The DJ said he had a “long-term relationship” with Australia, having visited our shores virtually every year since 1989. He promised that fans heading to this weekend’s gig could expect a classic Knuckles set.
“They’re going to get me being myself. I like to think I’m at the point in my career where that’s what people come wanting to hear. You know, if you go to a party and the music is familiar to you, it’s enough to make you feel comfortable and relaxed,” he said.
The openly gay Knuckles, who got his start in the late ‘70s playing the Continental Baths — the same gay bathhouse that launched Bette Midler’s career — acknowledged the tendency of many of today’s queer musical acts, from the Scissor Sisters to Hercules & Love Affair (whose own Blind he remixed), to hark back to those earlier days of gay life.
“With DJ culture, the music’s moved so far away from its nucleus and there are only a handful of us trying to keep it close to its roots. I notice with younger people now, there’s a real romanticism for anything that comes from back in the day – the ‘70s, the golden age of house. A lot of DJs out there are trying to reinvent the wheel. Well, there’s nothing wrong with the wheel,” he laughed.
“They might come up with something that’s catchy for the moment, but that’s just it — it’s for the moment. People tire of that and start listening to the older, classic stuff again.”
And he’ll be bringing plenty of classics with him to Australia. Throughout his career, Knuckles has been personally chosen by artists such as Michael Jackson, Toni Braxton and Whitney Houston to remix their hits. But he’s not afraid to allow for some breathing space between all those house classics.
“I think it’s essential to give the dance floor a chance to catch up to itself. Not everything has to be running at 130 beats per minute. I try and keep it like a house party, and what happens at a house party? You might hear a little bit of jazz, some soul, some rock. A bit of everything.”
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