Mervin Malone
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Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Mervin's 13 Questions with King Britt!

Aria is honored to welcome DJ, remixer and electronica pioneer, King Britt!

Let's start with your origins, 'Britt…

You grew up in southwest Philadelphia. 'Philly' — alongside Detroit and Chicago — is rightly revered as one of the most prolific hubs of modern soul music in the Western world. Your album work — particularly When the Funk Hits the Fan — showcases a strong appreciation for jazz, soul and funk.


1. What musicians inspired you in your (musically) formative years?

Well, my parents were heavy into soul and jazz. My mom was friends with Sun Ra and 'Blakey — my dad into the funk: James Brown, etc. — so this was the root of my upbringing. Then, growing up in Philly with amazing music from Gamble and Huff, I really appreciated songwriting!!! So groups like the O'jays, JBS, Sun Ra Arkestra, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Mtume (jazz stuff), Doug and Jean Carn, etc.

You toured — for a time (and under the name of Silkworm) — with the highly innovative jazz/hip hop group, Digable Planets.

2. How did your association with Digable Planets come to be?

I was working at Tower Records in Philly when Butterfly came in looking for a rare CD....I told him we didnt have it but i knew where to take him — we met later and just clicked. Then he told me he needed to make copies of a demo tape; I said stop by the crib and the rest is history. He made the copies — went to NYC — got the deal and bam! Grammy ! Lol ...

3. What DJs and/or producers — or influences in general — really made the case for house music in your life?

Well, for me it was T Alford (NJ) — friends with Blaze and Casio Ware — he really got me open to the NJ sound — Big Beat, etc — early Danny Teneglia — Frankie Knuckles, of course (Sound Factory days) — Morales (Red Zone days) — and Mancuso (I was a Lofty). Producers: Burrell —  Blaze — Larry Heard — A Guy Called Gerald (with 808 state) .

4. While we're on the subject, who are some of your favorite remixers?

I love Mark de Clive-Lowe, Bugz in the Attic, Jazzanova and Charles Webster!!! DFA!!! Junior Sanchez — they all have balls!!!

5. Do you enjoy the more prestigious aspects of being a world-class DJ and remixer? (i.e. travel, parties, recognition etc.)

Love travelling — I am so grateful to be able to travel and share my love for sound! Recognition is whatever — I love the DINNERS !

You've done remixes for the likes of Tori Amos, Bebel Gilberto and 4hero. You're also a remixer of choice for vintage remix projects; you've appeared on Motown Remixed, Everybody Dance and Verve Remixed among others and have re-interpreted tracks by Edwin Starr, Herbie Mann, Tony Scott and Curtis Mayfield, among others.

6. Of all your remixes, which are your favorite(s)?

Ha! Well my all-time favorite is "Footsteps in the Dark" — Isley Brothers, but the label didnt like it. Everytime I play it people freak — its deep dark and sexy — slow — Tori is another one — loved doing that, as I'm a huge fan! Everything but the Girl was another one, because I've loved the song since high school — and last but not least, Soul Dhamma -"Flower" — classic...I didn't know what I was doing !!

I (very) recently had the pleasure of attending one of your live mix shows in my hometown of Austin, Texas. I must say – yours is a fascinating aural mosaic! I felt swept into some sort of surreal dream-state wherein I couldn't resist dancing – conscious of myself, but only as an afterthought of the beats and melodies issuing forth from the speakers. You really made the audience a part of the music, and vice versa. I immediately reflected on the Acid-house craze of the late '80s; like that movement, you utilize a lot of unique sounds into your mix – some natural, some ethereal.

I realize that a competent DJ carries his/her tracks with them to each performance, but you seemed so natural and fluid in your mixing…

7. Is DJing second-nature to you? That is, do you extensively plan your sets before your shows, or is it sort of an instinctive drive that kicks in when you're at the DJ booth?

It's totally UNplanned — I have a pallette of sounds and songs and I paint a picture with each gig. I try to create atmosphere as much as I can — bring you into a world, so to speak! Sometimes it's hard to keep the artistic side alive, lol......

You are an experimental artist in every since of the word. While you're most certainly associated with house music and electronica, you have shown on your album work and remixes that you can move — quite easily, I might add — from house to hip hop to funk to broken beat. More, you seem comfortable in any and all of these styles and genres; King Britt isn't easily boxed in — but then none of the artists we've featured here on Aria are...

8. How would you define yourself as a musician?

I am music — every part of me is music !

9. Do you find genre-specific labels limiting? (e.g. House remixer)

Yes i do, but people kinda need these to get an idea of what to expect; with me, my label is loooooong... lol .

Now I'd like to switch gears and talk a little more about your production work.

You collaborated with Grammy winner Jody Watley on "The Essence" — a brilliant broken beat track that was featured on your Black to the Future collection, as well as her Midnight Lounge album and — more recently — the This is What Radio Should Sound Like compilation. This track is unique for its use of colorful melodies and multi-tracking. Indeed, it harkens back to Ms. Watley's best ("Still a Thrill", anyone?)

10. How did "The Essence" come to be?

I have always — always — always — loved Jody Watley. Not only is she a great singer, but a beautiful soul — inside and out — she is the definition of love in my book. So, I first wanted to work with her on Re-Member's Only. The song "Rising" was written for her, but her manager said she didnt like it — so Kathy Sledge did it — I came across Jody over Email and we talked. Then boom —  "The Essence" — a song for all young women everywhere. A song of self-realization....

In recent years, you've worked with an exceptional roster female vocalists — Michelle Shaprow; Alma Horton; Ellie Perez.

11. Any new talents you'd like to clue us in on?

Oh yeah — lol. On MySpace, there are some of the most talented singers!!! Kelly Evans from Canada; Chris Rouse from Toronto; Eric Rico from LA; Santi White - Philly, Nikki Jean - Philly; Aries, of course — all coming sooooon!

You also have a great working relationship with progressive soul singer/musician, Vikter Duplaix.

12. How did you and Vikter meet?

Hahahahahaha....we went to high school together, 9-12 — and we weren't really tight in high school. I floated to different cliques — just into all things — he was mainly hip hop and a dj, so i really didnt hang with him 'til college when he used to come to Silk City to our legendary Back to Basics events — then he played me a demo tape — WOWOWOWOWOWOW!

13. What's next for King Britt?

Trying to break into the pop world; I need to reach a larger audience. Just sent a song to Britney and working on some things for Kelly Clarkson — not sure if they will accept, but the door is open !!!

You can visit King Britt at www.kingbritt.com

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Posted at 02:10 pm by Mervin Malone
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Monday, March 13, 2006
Ivan's 12 Questions with Frankie Knuckles!

Aria is pleased to welcome Grammy Award-winning DJ/Producer/Remixer and the Godfather of House Music, Frankie Knuckles.

 


There's no time like the present, so let's begin with…


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting1. What projects are you currently working on?


I'm in the process of launching a new album/CD, DubJ's D'Light on my own first imprint, NOICE! Music.

You were the first to win a Grammy for Remixer of the Year in 1998…

 

2. What is it like for you to be recognized in that way? Is it important to you?

 

Is it important? Yes and no. Yes because you are recognized by the industry in the USA and it does lend a certain amount of legitimacy to your profession by the industry. But no, because it can also be the kiss of death to your career in the industry (if this makes sense at all). The game has changed drastically since I did all those remixes for all those great artists. The majors don't want to spend the money to have quality work done. And with the advent of technology, it's been very easy for so many guys to teach themselves how to do this work but, with limited appeal. And with the kinds of A&R directors running these departments at all the majors, bastardizing the vocals of so many artist to bedroom remixers/producers whose tracks always comes before the importance of the song or artist. What you have is what is being passed off as "dance music" in greater America. No one out side the USA recognizes any of it as anything viable. No one in the industry backs it. Therefore, you just may find your career in remix purgatory (unless you take complete control of your own present & future).


3. What is it like to be considered the Godfather of House Music?


It's not a term that I ever thought would really stick and follow me throughout my days but, I'm so into it. There's not a place I've traveled to where I haven't been recognized as The Godfather of House.

 

You've done legendary remixes for so many wonderful artists…


4. Which is your favorite remix you have worked on?


"Where Love Lives" by Alison Limerick. The title of the song says it all. Plus, I really believe it was the defining moment when I came into my own as a producer.

 

As one of the few who were at the forefront of the house music movement…


5. What is your all-time favorite House song, either one you worked on or someone else's work you appreciate?


I don't know if it would be considered a house song, but it definitely inspired it: "The Love I Lost" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes. "Found a Cure" by Ashford & Simpson.


You've done remixes and your own productions…

 

6. Of the artists you've worked with, whom have you been in the studio with to re-record vocals for the dance mix, and which experience did you most enjoy?


The most memorable would have to be Luther Vandross. He came into the studio (Quad Recording) completely on his own, without an entourage. He and I grew up in the Bronx across the street from one another and hadn't actually spoken or seen each other since we used to ride the subway together going to school. After he realized exactly who I was, we laugh and giggled and reminisced about the old days in the South Bronx. Look at where we both were in our lives now and were both dumbstruck that we would end up in this place, working together. But apart from all of this, the level of professionalism he lent to the whole process. He didn't have to deal with it (if he really didn't want to). But the man was a workhorse. We basically nailed his vocals in the first take. But I went thru them all over again with a fine tooth comb just to amuse myself and keep him there. He knew it also. We were both having so much fun we didn't want it to end.


In 1992, you released Beyond The Mix, which was a collection of your own productions…

 

7. At the risk of asking which of your children you love more, of the following tracks from Beyond The Mix, which do you like best and/or which did you most enjoy working on: "Workout," "Rain Falls," or "The Whistle Song"?

 

I'm not sure that I can single out any one particular track. It was all an exercise in experimentation really. It's one thing to write and produce for someone else. It's a completely different animal when you're doing it for yourself. But it's obvious that "The Whistle Song" is the most endearing. Check out "The Whistle Song Revisited" on my new CD, completely updated, but feels just as good as the original.

 

In your career, you've remixed songs for Toni Braxton ("I Don't Want To"), Michael Jackson ("Rock With You"), and Janet Jackson ("Because of Love"), some of the biggest names in the music industry…


8. What was it like for you to remix songs for such icons in the industry?

 

Looking back on the experience, I was so in awe at the fact that these artists even knew who I was to the point that they would request for me to do the remixes. They trusted me enough to do the work and rewarded me with platinum & gold records to commemorate the work.

 

You began your career on the wheels of steel…


9. Do you currently have a DJing residency?

 

I'm not currently doing a residency. My last residency was here in Italy (Venice) and, as much as Italy is a fantastic place for me and my career, I don't think I'd ever do another residency in my life.

 

10. What was it like living in New York and making such a huge impact on the New York nightlife scene at Sound Factory Bar?

New York City is my home. Moving back there in 1987 was a blessing for me. As much as I thought I wasn't ready to make that move back, my life and career was primed for it. I landed on the ground floor of DefMix Productions at its inception. Next year DefMix will celebrate its 20th Anniversary. Paradise Garage had just closed and many folks were looking for some place new to go (although most true Garage-Heads never recovered from it's closing). My tenure in NYC garnered me the success of the very first Grammy for Remixer (when you were judged on your body of work for the previous year. Now it's judged on just one song you remix throughout the year). Next to The Warehouse and Powerplant in Chicago, the greatest residency I ever held down was Sound Factory Bar in New York City for six years. [It was] an incredible room with an awesome sound system, custom built for me. That's when you know that you've arrived!

 

11. What are you currently listening to?

 

Currently I am listening to KT Tunstall and Nigel Blake. Not dance music at all but both incredible albums. I only listen to dance music when I have to.

 

12. What do you think of the state of dance music today? Are you a fan of it or do you feel that it has strayed way too far from the lush and melodic roots of house music?

 

I don't think it has strayed off course. Technology has made it possible for anyone to be able to make dance music. Could you imagine if technology made it possible for every kid in the United States to become a great baseball player how unpopular the sport would be? It would become so watered down and far less superior to the old school production process of yesteryear. Most of the guys making tracks have no clue how the real recording process works. They do it all in their bedroom, by themselves. In another life that was called MASTURBATION. But I digress. Oops!!! I just thank God for being where I am in my life right now, for the education I forced myself to have in this industry. The artists I loved and revered and held a special place in my heart for throughout my career not only inspired me over the years but have also become very close and dear friends. I guess I'm a very lucky guy.

You can visit Frankie Knuckles online at www.fkalways.com or at www.myspace.com.

 

Q&A conducted by Ivan Diller — Ivan in the "Mirror"...

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted at 09:05 am by Ivan Diller
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