For old school electronic music fans, Brooklyn native Frankie Bones is a man who needs no introduction. After getting his start as a DJ in the late 1970s at a New York City roller disco, Bones (real name Frankie Mitchell) moved on to other styles of music, largely influenced by the hip hop and breakbeat music popular in his hometown. In the mid 1980s, Chicago house and Detroit techno quickly found their way across the pond, where the music had taken on a life of its own, and parties known as raves began popping up and gaining in popularity. Bones was booked to play one of these early raves (in England in 1989) and was so inspired by what he saw, he brought the parties back to America with him. He threw his first rave, called Storm Rave, in New York City in 1991.
In 2015, Bones put on another Storm Rave, his first in over 20 years, and this year he played at the revival of the Midwest rave scene's flagship event, Even Furthur. It's been several years since he last played in Minneapolis, but that will change on Friday December 9 as he will play alongside Woody McBride and others at Get Together 7 at First Avenue. This event is the first event put on by Chosen By The Funk (in association with Genius of Fun and First Avenue). To mark the occasion, we connected with Bones to talk about his history with the Midwest and recent events on the rave timeline.
You speak very highly of the Midwest rave scene on social media and clearly you have a long history with promoters like Kurt Eckes and Woody Mcbride, how did you first get hooked up with Midwest promoters?
There was a natural progression to my early days in the Midwest scene, being that I discovered Rave Culture in London as it happened in 1989. It was something I never expected, and it was something that I knew I wanted to do in America. These people in the U.K. were taking underground music made in Chicago, Detroit & New York and playing it to tens of thousands of people at these huge festivals which became known as raves. New York wasn't supposed to be a place where this could happen, so it was just an afterthought. I was lucky enough to have created a huge buzz in the U.K. which landed me in Los Angeles nine months later. Los Angeles in June 1990 was the very beginning of rave culture in the United States. It took me to travel thousands & thousands of miles in opposite directions to understand how to do it in America, and being that New York was in the middle, I took the knowledge I gained in both those scenes and branded it for New York. So now we had the original blueprint London created happening on both coasts and within two years the Midwest had a scene.
What was the dance music scene like in the Midwest when you first started playing in the region?
The music was always important. But it was more important to use the music as a way to create a movement. In 1990, the music wasn't as popular as it was in London. The bigger cities in America had localized club scenes, but DJ's were not traveling around to spin. A DJ from Chicago playing in Minneapolis was unheard of in 1990. A DJ from New York would never be flown out to Los Angeles to play a DJ set. I only got to California because of my buzz in London. The first promoters who booked me in L.A. were shocked to hear a Brooklyn accent, and were disappointed to find out I wasn't British. In 1991 parties became popular every weekend in Los Angeles & New York. It spread like wildfire until 1993. So when I first got booked to play in Chicago in 1992, I was already successful in planting the seeds on both coasts. New York was in between London & Los Angeles, the Midwest is the middle point in the United States. In between Los Angeles & New York. That being said, Chicago & Detroit is not where the rave movement started in the Midwest.
Where did the movement first take hold in the Midwest if not Chicago & Detroit?
People would find it hard to believe that Midwest rave culture emerged from Milwuakee & Minneapolis, but the alliance between Woody McBride & Kurt Eckes was so strong between Communique Records & Drop Bass Network, that the party scene was created outside of Chicago and infiltrated it's way in. Tommie Sunshine also was doing a lot in the St. Louis scene and people began to travel by car from other places as the scene grew. Woody had a fanzine called "Earthworm" and we had "Under One Sky" in Brooklyn. Heather Heart's fanzine became quite popular in the early days. Woody began to distribute copies of his fanzine to us, and visa-versa and Kurt & Tommie decided to drive 10 hours to the last STORMrave we did in New York City and that night on December 12, 1992 became the blueprint for Furthur. With the added Midwest twist.
What do you mean by Midwest twist?
Woody & Kurt both started their record labels with intent to throw events around the music they showcased. That is how the scene emerged out of Minneapolis & Milwaukee before it happened in Detroit & Chicago. This is not to say Frankie Knuckles & Derrick May weren't playing events throughout the 1980's, but the club scene that existed in these places were trapped within their own city limits. Drop Bass & Superstars Of Love in St. Louis were instrumental in bringing DJ line-ups to the culture. That included flying DJs in like my brother Adam X and myself. So when the parties did start up in Chicago, people were coming from distant places. And the true House Music culture wasn't into rave. We were like outcasts to those people. Anyone who was making the music in Chicago & Detroit were more concerned with going to Europe then throwing events in their hometown. Yet, Drop Bass Network was all about that. Richie Hawtin lived in Windsor which was across the river from Detroit. Richie became the first real hero in American rave culture. But most of the original producers who made techno were going to Europe to make their history.
You brought Storm Rave back in 2015 and this year Even Furthur came back. How did the vibe of the reunion events compare to the originals back in the 90s?
STORMrave & Furthur are totally first cousins in a very large family. Kurt & Tommie Sunshine travelled to the last STORMrave on 12-12-92, and it painted the picture for what was yet to come in the Midwest. Both reunion parties were 20+ years in the making and both had original results.
DJ Jes-One moved up to Mellen, Wisconsin a decade ago and this Even Furthur 2016 reunion was about 8 years in the making. I played smaller events on the land in 2008 & 2013 and both times we had talked about getting Kurt to bring Even Furthur to Mellen. The timing was right. It's sacred land up there, but we knew it would be perfect and Kurt got the band back together in full swing. I'm so glad it happened it was stuff legends are made of.
Do you feel these comebacks are part of a rave resurgence, or just the right people coming together at the right time?
My wife and I just launched Bangin Music right after Even Furthur happened. I totally believe its the right people coming together at the right time. The label was a great idea taking cues from Freddy Fresh, Woody McBride, Kurt & Paul Birken. Analog Records, Communique, Drop Bass Records & Tonewrecker Recordings. Great Midwest imprints. Seeing Hyperactive & Tommie Sunshine doing big things, it's very inspirational for us. Don't call it a comeback we been here for years.