Category Archives: Music

Remembering Frankie Knuckles

There’s been so many heart-felt tributes today to the ‘Godfather of House’ that I thought I’d add my own.

It begins in 1987 at my secondary school assembly. A kid has just blown everyone away with his mean Fender Stratocaster skills – I look around and practically every girl in my year is swooning. The penny drops: I must learn to play a musical instrument or die trying.

Problem is, learning to play an instrument can be pretty hard and not easily mastered in a weekend. I tried the guitar but after a week got frustrated and dumped it in the attic so I went with what seemed to be a better option at the time – pretending to be a drummer.

This tactic got me pretty far. I joined a band, wrote some songs, but after a couple of rehearsals it was pretty obvious to everyone in the room that I was, indeed, crap. I quietly nipped out half way through one of the sessions and never looked back.

However, I didn’t have to wait long to have my first musical ‘moment’. I’d been watching our local village disco DJ for weeks and finally plucked up courage to ask him if  I could help him out  if he could teach me how to mix. He agreed.

Things seemed to go well at first until I realised after a couple of weeks I hadn’t mixed a beat. I was spending most of my time lugging around his vinyl whilst he smoked cigarettes and copped off with the girls in my school. I should mention this guy looked suspiciously close to thirty.

Anyway, I was about to jack it all in when he let me take over one night and passed me a 12″ he’d been raving about. I just put the record on and fiddled with the box that controlled the lighting – at least it looked a bit like mixing.

Everyone stopped dancing and wondered why we weren’t playing Jason Donovan tracks any more.  I just kept fiddling and pretending to DJ. Eventually, a few people started to nod their heads and get into the groove but it was all a bit confusing.  We got about halfway through the track when the DJ took over and restored the night to its usual rhythm of Stock Aitken Waterman-tinged reverie.

Anyway, the track was ‘Your Love’ and I absolutely fell in love with it. It started a long love affair with House music leading to several poorly-named electronic bands and a four year stint at Ministry of Sound. The track even inspired me to learn a musical instrument – well anything that could be triggered rather than played.

Frankie, can’t thank you enough – I owe a lot to you and and you’ll be sorely missed.

Why ‘Violator’ is the best album in the world, ever

Lots of people can remember that one track or album that really signified their teenage years, for me it’s ‘Violator.’ Let me tell you why.

Firstly, let me set the scene. I’m 15 and everyone in my local village is wearing leather jackets listening to Motley Crue, Poison and Skid Row. Don’t get me wrong, I loved those early glam rock bands but when my older brother started to play me 80’s tracks with an electronic pulse I thought: ‘Hmm, I think there’s more to music than just ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ right?’

For the uninitiated, this is what I mean:

Fast forward a couple of years and Depeche Mode release ‘Violator’ a week before my 17th birthday. It gets to No.2 in the UK charts and all the stars align. Friends start getting into the band asking me for mixtapes and I get to wear my own leather jacket à la Dave Gahan lead singer of DM. ‘Personal Jesus’, ‘Enjoy The Silence’, ‘Policy of Truth’ and ‘World in My Eyes’ – four great hits from a sensational album.

Take ‘Enjoy the Silence’ for example – surely the greatest pop track of all time? Romantic lyrics forged upon 303 acid loops and delivered through a cracking Anton Corbijn video. Of all their tracks, this one really influenced me – it kickstarted my love affair with dance music, made me join a number of electronic music  bands and pushed me to work for Ministry of Sound.

Nowadays, you can spend hours on YouTube unearthing all these documentaries about your favourite bands. As I recently learnt, ‘Enjoy the Silence’ was originally recorded as a ballad that almost didn’t make it on the album. In a last ditch attempt to revive the track, producer Flood and Alan Wilder remixed it for the dancefloor overnight and played it to the rest of the band in the morning. The rest is history. Those kind of stories amaze me.

I haven’t spoken about the other tracks on the album but they are equally fantastic, equally bizarre. You have to love the attention to sonic detail on this album and here’s why. Want to test your brand new sound system, car amp or stadium PA? Put this album on and press ‘play’ – it will sound #mazeballs.

Ok I’d better wrap up now as I’m sounding too much like an hysterical DM fan. My interest in Depeche Mode sort of faded shortly after Alan Wilder left – I never really felt they were firing on all cylinders after ‘Songs of Faith and Devotion’. Still, I did  have the good fortune of interviewing Alan a couple of years back but I never did summon the courage to thank him for album and explain how important it was to me.

Well, Alan, if you’re listening. This one’s for you…

Stay Positive Feat. Cooly G: You Hate Me

I think this one slipped under the radar when it was released earlier this year but I absolutely love it. The track is more of a loop than a radio edit so you can see why some people might lose interest. Still, Cooly G is absolutely massive at the moment so, you never know, the track could get a rework next year.

I also love the lo-fi video setting and shots of acid-house ravers – really gives the track an epic, nostalgic feel. Top one, nice, sorted.

Here’s a recent Cooly G mix on Boiler Room: