Frankie Bones is truly a man of history. Having been responsible for founding the American Rave scene, this tough-as-nails purveyor of our culture has been on a nonstop quest to spread the message of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect for over 25 years. Whether it is through his incredible DJ sets, productions, events, record stores....you name it! The guy has had all bases covered, and no stone left unturned as even today he continues to work hard at reviving the old school party scene through his legendary STORM Raves, never forgetting the core values that started it all, and why this message is no less important today than it was in 1989 when he first started this.
To some, there is a disconnect as to how the Hip Hop, Techno and Electro Funk scenes were actually the same movement in many ways, expressed through different means, yet driven by the same core values: The need to come together under music and a movement that could change the world....no less! For years we have heard of New School Electro being to "Ravey" to the old school B-Boys, or Electro Funk too "retro" for the younger generations. Perhaps even that neither retained the intrinsic influence of the roots of Electronic music like Techno did. The truth is, it all stemmed from the same place, the same need if you will, and while it has blossomed into many flowers, the importance of realizing WHY it all began is something old schoolers and younger generations alike must once again embrace if we are to change the direction which it has all taken. So with that in mind, let's meet the boss of all bosses.
Santino Fernandez: Thanks for agreeing to do the interview Frankie, its an honor to have you spend some time with us to discuss not just highlights of your career, but also the recent efforts in trying to revive the old school party scene. For those perhaps unfamiliar, briefly tell us what inspired you to get involved in throwing parties back in the day, what was life like for you in New York during that time prior to the Rave scene?
Frankie Bones: I started to DJ really young during the Disco era in the late 1970's. In 1977, Roller Disco became popular and I started skating at a rink called "Roll-A-Palace", which was a multi-million dollar complex with real DJ's and lights and sound. So from 10 years old I learned about programming and sets and BPM's and how to blend records. This was not something kids did in those days.
I was exploring a lot because I lived next to Freight Train tracks. Those tracks led to the subway, the subway took me to the rink and back and I could travel 5 or 10 miles without ever once crossing a street into traffic, so my parents were o.k. with that. This was an every weekend thing for me for about 5 years. I also was able to shop at many different record stores, so by the time I was 16, I was a lot better than most DJ's already in their 20's. A DJ named Tony Torres took me under his wing, and he was already doing big clubs and remixes for labels, so I learned a lot before even graduating High School.
Many people may not know that you are responsible for bringing the Rave scene to the United States, and you did so after getting booked to play in the U.K. back in 1989. What would you say was the main thing you took away from after playing in England? Obviously having played for 25,000 people is an amazing feeling I’m sure, but was there something that hit deep within you, perhaps giving you some sort of insight on what could be accomplished when people come together under one cause with such passion?
Up until I was 18 years old, I never knew anyone who passed away. The first party I made money at was my own 18th Birthday party where I made $60. Then on New Year's 1984-1985, I made $200, and my Dad who never believed you could get money to play records started to get excited about what I was doing; chasing this dream. He was murdered four weeks later and nothing can be as tragic as not ever being at a wake or funeral, and suddenly you lose a parent. My parents never were apart for a day and my brother was only 13, so it was a horrific ordeal.
The music is all I had and I was hellbent to make a career out of it. My Dad was murdered in a robbery during his 16th hour working driving a taxi. It also was racially motivated after a white subway vigilante shot four black teens on the subway. New York was a different place in 1985. Racial wars, territory wars, crack and AIDS; the city was falling apart. So I buried myself in the music after we buried my Dad. Four years later I got my first U.K. gig and that was incredible. Cannot describe the feeling of seeing so many people come together because of the music.
Did you have a sense of purpose before going there to bring people together under one cause, or was it there that night that you had some sort of an epiphany about it all? This was also the first time you took Ecstacy from what i understand, which as you even mentioned in your blog, is a powerful tool in breaking down the societal mental and spiritual limits imposed on us. Briefly tell us what this must have revealed to you about life, and people coming together. It had to have been a life-changing, in fact, Soul-changing experience.
I can only answer this by asking you to watch a Youtube link:
What was the response from people to this new idea of Peace, Love, Unity and Respect once back in New York again, and beginning to put together the nascent American Rave scene? The scene obviously adapted and evolved into this amazingly well into the 90’s, but did it feel during the first few STORM Raves that perhaps in some weird way people weren’t ready, or was it welcomed with open arms?
P.L.U.R. was started in 1990 when we began to push the rave scene as opposed to the club scene. It was The PEACE LOVE UNITY MOVEMENT, known as P.L.U.M., and we jump started it off of "The Stop The Violence Movement", which like anything else happening at the time, came from Hip-Hop. We were pushing Techno music in the exact same way I lived it through Hip-Hop. White Folks still were not used to white kids who liked Hip-Hop, so we really confused folks who didn't know better. We weren't Kandi Kids, we actually used the American Flag a lot. Otherwise we came from the streets, like Hip-Hop, Graffiti & Breakdancing, we were just pushing it as a movement of peace. People liked that idea. It needed to happen.
So what are your thoughts on clubs as opposed to warehouse parties then? It's a common belief amongst old schoolers that clubs were not really the place to have a party, somehow it perpetuated bad vibes in a way. What made you want to stay away from those type of venues since the beginning?
I discovered the rave scene @ Energy on August 26, 1989. This was a festival, absolutely an EDM festival in its own right. I never once even thought I wanted to do festivals. Only because it didn’t seem like it could happen on that level in The United States. In those first nine months, I thought rave could only happen in clubs and as I did my first successful NYC party called “Atmosphere” in June of 1990, I also did my first California tour, and those California kids were already doing Undergrounds, breaking into warehouses and that just lit my fuse. A Storm is a change in atmosphere. June of 1990 is where “rave” arrived. On both coasts at the same exact time.
Something else people may not be aware of, is that PLUR in itself was kind of born out of irony in some ways, at an event where a fight broke out and you threatened them in return in order to get them to settle down. We just have to know…what were the looks on those guys’ faces after you said you’d break them if they didn’t start showing some Peace and Love? Was there an overall vibe that things were still raw and rather negative at the time still?
We never had any problems during the STORM-Rave seasons in 1991-1992. The PEACE LOVE UNITY MOVEMENT as PLUM 1990-1993 was an almost invisible force, and people knew what we were trying to do. This all came into play after the Happyland fire in the Bronx in 1990. A social club where 87 [people] died when a jealous boyfriend torched the club because he thought his girlfriend "Daisy" was cheating on him. That in itself made Raves, festivals & carnivals a serious threat to NYC and the NYPD & NYFD weren't happy about us throwing illegal warehouse parties when they caught onto what we were doing.
The PLUR speech came in June of 1993 in the Bronx at a B2B event (Brooklyn to the Bronx). The Bronx was still kind of new to the Rave concept, so when the fight happened, I took it personal. It was not much different than me playing the part of "Cyrus" in "The Warriors". 300 people who I knew, understood where I was coming from and the party continued on until 10 a.m. without incident. Hyperreal who promoted the event are the ones who changed PLUM to PLUR right after that night. We now had the MOVEMENT so the M became an R for respect. Because that fight disrespected everything we built in three years.
Were you originally influenced more by the Electro Funk era of Hip-Hop in the early 80s, or did Detroit’s answer to it in the form of Techno appeal to you more? Perhaps both at the same time? Were you into 70s Electronic music as well?
I started out with Kraftwerk in 1977 when "Trans-Europe-Express" was released. Giorgio Moroder also produced Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" and Cat Stevens did "Was Dog A Doughnut". Those were your first three Electronic Dance Records. The Roland TR-808 was released in 1982, and in 1982, 1983 & 1984, I would go with my friend Tony T. every single week to pick up his box of 30-45 promo records at his record pool. I would also write every single title down and then we made our own Top 100's and at the end of the year, we would make a yearly list out of the entire year.
You can use my 1984 year end Top 100 to hear the actual songs on Youtube, and that will be where my inspiration came from. It wasn't based in other cities. It was really a New York City thing at that time. We never knew we would travel outside of our area to DJ. The international DJ circuit wasn't even a thought at this point. Even when I went to the U.K. in 1989, it was unheard of for a New York City DJ to actually DJ in another country. You had some guys in the Military based in Germany maybe playing a local gig there, but you are in combat, you weren't making a career out of spinning. I paved the way for that by having that experience I got in the U.K..
Very interesting stuff! Alright, so let’s talk about “Call It Techno” then, this is a fairly intriguing track for us. Obviously you were aiming to make a Techno track, but you also refer to it as “Techno Bass” in the lyrics. Clearly you can hear influences of Detroit Techno, as well as early breaks and Electro Funk. Had you already heard the track “Techno Bass” by Dynamix II?
We ask because into the 90s, this became a term for “Intelligent” Miami Bass, like Dynamix II or Beat Dominator for example, as well as Detroit’s 2nd wave of Techno like a lot of Underground Resistance’s catalog, or even Direct Beat and 430 West, yet not long after the term seemed to have gotten lost and it became known as “Electro Bass”, shortly after “Electro”…what was your inspiration for creating that song?
Freestyle Music. Shannon, Stevie B, TKA, Noel, Expose'. It was street music also called Latin Hip Hop which inspired "Call It Techno", It all came from "Planet Rock" 100%. Even Juan Atkins "Clear" by Cybotron. Juan claims to have never heard "Planet Rock" when he produced "Clear". However it wasn't the version everyone knows, because that "Clear" clearly says MIXED BY Jose "Animal" Diaz and Diaz remixed it to sound like "Planet Rock", so even Detroit putting out it's first Electro-Funk record was still just another great New York record from 1983. Hashim & Twilight 22 also, We considered those Hip Hop records with beats. Beats from Disco/Dance Music, and it all evolved from that. Miami Bass also came from that and Freestyle was always a New York-Miami connection. In 1988, the first wave of House came through, then Techno in 1989, but it wasn't until 1990 where breaks & trance also first came through, and a lot of it arrived with rave. Detroit & Rave hit New York simultaneously.
While we are on the topic, what are your feelings about the whole argument of Electro only being Electro Funk, or Electro Bass? In this scene, there is a sense of elitism against Electro House, or even just the idea of Electronic Music being Electro in general, even given the history and the fact in the 70s people in the UK and perhaps even here in the US already referred to Electronic Music as Electro prior to Street Sounds. Obviously at this point it would be difficult to call it all Electro, nor would we really want to, but does this argument seem silly, or do you also feel Electro is only Electro Funk and Electro Bass music?
Electro-Funk is something Afrika Bambaataa was pushing from the time "Planet Rock" was released on April 17, 1982. Celluloid Records like "The Wildstyle" or Herbie Hancock "Rockit", "Jam On It". Washington D.C. had a small "Go-Go" scene which records like "Arcade Funk" came from which were also known as Electro-Funk. It didn't stick though. It just became "Electro" and when the songs like "Let The Music Play" by Shannon came along, Electro became Freestyle. Miami Bass also started from Freestyle as early as 1984.
Many of Electro tracks fit in that equation, with Freestyle or Miami Bass which all came out during the 1980's. Electro-Bass such as UR, 430 West and other Detroit based labels was strictly after 1990. Aux 88 isn't much different then a lot of 1980's electro but Detroit pioneered Electro-Bass early on, in 1990. Electro-House wasn't even a thought before 2007 and doesn't really fit into anything that came before it. Electronic House music might be a better way to describe that, where synths became more futuristic sounding then traditional based House songs.
What would you say have been your feelings about the so called “Digital Revolution”, and the subsequent decline of vinyl? Do you feel as if Social Media and digital downloadable music have been of benefit to the music industry, or has it deteriorated everything to some degree?
The digital revolution put everything on the grid via the internet. It connected the entire world into one great movement. It deteriorated everything that came before, but it expanded on everything that existed. It's great that the whole world is now tuned in, but it sucks that the original history isn't important to most people doing it today.
So were you one of the producers who sold their studios to jump on the Plug in bandwagon, or did you remain hardware oriented throughout all this time? What are your thoughts on the return to analog, and all these great issues and re-issues?
I still use Hardware. The Roland Aira system is the only new gear I got. I never needed anything else but my original Roland boxes anyway, I'm kind of simple in that sense. Drum Machines and Synths, the same way I always did it. And some samplers of course. Got to have samplers.
Yes of course, very cool to hear you stuck with hardware this whole time. So this is very important, let’s talk about the rebirth of the Storm Raves recently. While some might argue the Rave scene never died, clearly what had been built in the 90s was somehow lost as the turn of the century came. Seems to have become sorta mainstream, with lots of Candy kids and girls in lingerie running around almost aimlessly at EDM shows that simply do not seem to promote the kind of vibe and mentality that we all worked so hard to attain a long time ago.
What was the inspiration to start this back up? We must admit its probably the greatest bit of news we have gotten in years, as we have always wished the real rave scene would return. Has the response been good?
9-11-01 changed the world. After 9-11 the rave scene kind of disappeared and returned as something else which happens as things move on. It's the same scene we started in 1990, just a little bit more commercial and not as underground as I would like. The club element came back into the scene, the same one we were trying to escape. It took them 20 years though, it was bound to happen.
I can only answer this by you going into GOOGLE: "Frankie Bones Storm Rave". Search that and study the topics. Over 22 years between the last STORM rave and the one we just put on in 2015. The answer is in that.
What are your current plans or projects aside from DJing and reviving the scene, are you working hard in the studio?
It's really EAT, SLEEP, RAVE, REPEAT....or however the expression goes. My life isn't any different then it has been for the past 25 years. I make a career out of Selling Vinyl, Making Tracks & Spinning on the weekends.
It's an amazing feeling being able to do what you love as a career I am sure. So as you have probably heard, there has been lots of talk about vinyl making a resurgence, are you seeing it? Are you getting back into it, did you ever stop playing it?
I'm going to pick up 200 records in about an hour. I never stopped buying & selling vinyl. It doesn't change for me, but I have used CDJ's when I play out because that is what is available to use when I play out. Turntables don't exist in most live settings, venues & festivals.
Are there any plans for Sonic Groove the store, or the label to return? Do you stay in close contact with the whole gang still?
My brother still runs the Sonic Groove record label. (www.sonicgroove.com)
That's great news, it was sad to see the store close down, though we can understand the reasoning after 9/11 and the environment that was created in the city for some time. So are Heather Heart and Adam X joining you in the new STORM Rave journey you are embarking on?
Rob Gee, Lenny Dee, Heather Heart, Adam X & myself were able to become a serious working team in 2015 as proven by the event Red Bull sponsored event for their RBMA festival. There are a lot of new areas to explore and I have been active in trying to bring this original concept to the next level. It is still a work in progress.
Well thank you, we really appreciate your time doing this interview Frankie. To conclude, what would you have to say to the new generation of DJs, Producers and partygoers as to what should be important in doing all of this? Obviously there are different reasons why people do it, whether it be ego, image, or hopefully a deeper drive to promote good vibes and a good message. What would you personally encourage people to strive for?
Be true to yourself, and you will never fall. Words of The Beastie Boys. And maybe think of PLUR for what it truly means, not for what it has become in the scene today. Think about Peace, and be peaceful. Think about love, and go fall in love. Think about unity as we are all in this together, and try to have a little respect. For everyone. When we pass on, the fame, the life and the money don't come with us.........
Thank you again Frankie, long live the movement!
Interview by: Santino Fernandez