David Morales: a Tribute to Frankie Knuckles

David Morales FrankieAt a time when house music’s global popularity shows no bounds, it’s seems that the passing of the Godfather of house music, Frankie Knuckles, seems even more relevant, important and ultimately, sad as the genre spreads and mutates beyond the original scene's wildest dreams. Frankie and his close friends including the equally legendary David Morales helped to bring the sound of Chicago to the masses, spreading joy, positivity and inclusion that helped to change and influence people's lives for the better. Def Mix, the label spearheaded by close cohorts Frankie and David are heading to Brighton for an Inspired Presents… night, featuring an all night set from the “Needin’ U” creator and house music veteran this Sunday, 4th May. Ahead of his appearance, MEOKO spoke to David about his relationship with Frankie, the future of the Def Mix imprint, the ever-changing demands of a DJ and how, driven by love for the music, the show will always go on….

frankie morales

David thanks for joining MEOKO, especially at such a sensitive time for the dance music community and those that were close to Mr Knuckles himself. I guess the first question to broach is, simply, how did you guys come to meet each other during the original house music explosion?

We both met in 1987 at my office in NYC. We met through our manager Judy Weinstein.

What influence did he have over you, more specifically? Did you guys always have a great dynamic between you, both at work and as friends?

Frankie and I were like a couple both outside and in the studio. Frankie was older than me so of course I was like a student learning about life from an elder. Musically we complimented each other.

10168150 697978146931269 4374980913389636976 nAs someone who knew Frankie himself, just how big a part did house music play in Frankie's life? He was quite a spiritual guy who's connection ran a little deeper than superficial, stylistic traits...

Frankie loved music. Way before “house music” evolved he was already DJing. But in Chicago he was the main man to present house music.

Personally, you've seen house music's popular reach as it bled into the mainstream, notably with your fruitful relationship with artists such as Mariah Carey do you still dabble in mainstream remixing and production, and how do you approach the sound?

I don’t really remix much anymore. I’ve remixed so many records in my career. I will only do a remix if I like the record. I’m not into creating hits for free anymore. When I remix a record I just go with the flow. There’s never a plan. I’m focusing now on my own projects.

As someone who's been at the forefront of the scene since the beginning, how do you personally feel about the advancements in technology, consumption and trends that seem to push dance music forward? Is house music governed too much by these developments these days, or are the people still in control of the scene's future?

Hmm, good question. There are positives and negatives. I love the evolvement of the technology.
But it’s lost some of the basics that are essential, like the quality of sound for one. I mean you’re talking mp3 files compared to vinyl or even cd quality. People don’t have to know how to sync to mix anymore. And everyone thinks right off the back that they’re a producer. There was a joy in going to the record stores and meeting up with other DJ’s to buy music. There was more of a social network with DJ’s. The house music scene has gone mainstream. I think that’s great really. It’s been a long time coming.

How do you feel the upcoming Inspired presents... Def Mix event will go down on Bank Holiday weekend in Brighton? Will this be a celebration of Frankie's life and the influence he had over global dance music today?

This will be a night dedicated to Frankie, his music and the music that he loved to play. The music that we all love… I’m so looking forward towards this night. His spirit will be among us.

10251904 487829931342953 3736019660252518884 n copyWe are aware that Inspired will be donating part of the funds raised from the event to Elton John's newly formed Frankie Knuckles Fund, part of his worldwide drive to raise awareness over global health issues, particularly AIDS. How much of a philanthropist was Frankie, and how important is it for his name to be used in such charitable endeavours?

This is a wonderful thing. Frankie, I and many more have lost friends to AIDS. Frankie was always committed to create awareness to this cause. We are getting more involved to keep his commitment going.

The idea of a touring DJ is commonplace these days, but over the years we've spoken to the original crop of DJs who took their sound on the road, sometimes in a car, driving about and transporting themselves from venue to venue and selling records on the way. It really is a significant marker of the industry's success to see superstars flying around the world isn't it?

Funny I was just having a conversation with Louie Vega and some friends about how we used to take our whole record collection to a gig back in the days. Playing gigs for nothing or close to it. To have stuck by our love for music all of these years and to still be a part of what it’s become is amazing. I’m still living a dream.

 

What is your relationship with Brighton? Over the years, have you played there often and do you have any lasting memories of the city?

It’s been a long time that I haven’t been to Brighton. I remember playing at Zap at least 15-20 years ago. I’ve always had a great time in Brighton.

Frankie's influence spread beyond the Dancefloor with the at-the-time Chicago state senator Barack Obama even naming a street after the icon. We were really warmed by the letter that you posted on Facebook that came direct from The White House, offering personal and heartfelt condolences from the first lady herself....

Frankie was always passionate about his project that yourself and him run, Def Mix, a label for un-tampered, underground house music that's running as strong as it ever did.

 

What legacy has Frankie left behind through the label?

Frankie’s legacy is the sound that we created together. I will continue to carry on that legacy as best as possible. Frankie was an icon. We loved spending time in the studio. We lived for that. His records speak volumes of his spirit.

How are things going to change in terms of the mechanics of running the label? You must have a big job on your hands steering the ship forward as it were...

Tell me about it. I have people telling me.. “David you have to carry the torch”… it’s a big task to take on. But the show and his legacy must go on. We still have Judy running the show, Quentin Harris which is an amazing talent, Hector Romero and DJ Meme.

Finally, what can we expect from Def Mix and David Morales in the coming months? How do you intend to spread the positive, humanistic message that the house music scene is centred around?

Expect more of what we’ve been doing for the last 25+ years. I have a RED ZONE PROJECT Album
plus some new single releases on the way. Quentin Harris has an album that he’s finishing up as well.
We’re committed to bringing quality HOUSE MUSIC to the dance floors.

 

David Morales will play an extended set in honour of Frankie Knuckles on the 4th of May at Digital in Brighton.

More information about the tribute HERE