It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to House icon Tony Humphries.
The legendary DJ, producer and remixer started his career at Kiss-FM Radio making a name for himself on WRKS 98.7 Kiss-FM and Hot 97’s radio slots and then thanks to his residency at one of the greatest US clubs, The Zanzibar in New Jersey. Back in the days, Humphries turned the famous venue into a home for the new soulful electronic sound, labelled the Jersey sound. Since then, albeit his Brooklyn origins, he is often referred to as the Godfather of the New Jersey sound.
Humphries had also a great impact on Europe’s dance music thanks to his various gigs in London at Danny Rampling’s Shoom, Norman Jay’s High On Hope and at Ministry of Sound. Alongside Norman Jay, Larry Levan and DJ Harvey, he also paved the way for Garage House music.
Over the course of his illustrious career, he has worked with some of the best names in the music scene: Chaka Khan, Janet Jackson, Karen White, Regina Belle, Donna Summer, the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, The Cover Girls… and the list goes on.
We had the honour to interview the House legend during his visit to our HQ. He spoke to us about his career, friendship with Frankie Knuckles, new DJ technologies and much more.
Hello and welcome to House of Frankie, Underground Radio in Milan, Italy. Today, we are honoured to host one of the House Music founder, Tony Humphries. Thank you for being here Tony!
In your opinion, where was House music born and how has become one of the most famous genre in the world?
Well, in my opinion House music really came from Chicago, so you know, we just adapted and we were lucky to have their music and play together in New York and New Jersey. For this reason, I believe they’re responsible for House music.
The way we listen to music has changed a lot nowadays, many young people and more listen to music exclusively on digital music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, etc. Do you think excessive Technology can cause problems for house music and its professionals?
Cause problems? No, I don’t think so. The more the merrier, the wider it goes the better it is. We were kinda secluded to a certain audience, and with technology the world gets it so easy now, so it’s better for everybody I believe.
During your career as a DJ, you’ve gone from vinyl to CDJ 2000 Nexus 2. What benefits do you find nowadays in the new DJ technologies?
Volume, that’s about it! Just volume of things. Of course, I’m always biased to analogue, and you know, warmer sounding things. But you can’t beat the volume that you’re able to take with you. So that’s about it for me, just volume.
Do you ever wonder about the day you will stop making music? What advice would you give to young people and in general to all fans who have always followed you?
Well, I really don’t make that much music anymore, I just basically play music that I get a hold of and try to pick the best ones that I can.
My advice to younger people is just to do research and of all the things that you want to either sample or use you should check out the origin first. You may have a different opinion after you checked out the original to a lot of things. These people have spent a lot of money to put those things together where you may just take a piece, but these were real musicians a lot of times, people who know music very well and it should be interest of yours to really research music that’s appealing to you, no matter what genre it is. That’s what I feel.
You’re a DJ, producer and also label owner of Tony Records. What’s your current projects?
Well, I was part of Tony Records but now it’s been run by my colleagues here. They have a wonderful catalogue, a lot of new things coming out now! They got Chelsea, they got a whole lot of artists, which are coming out now, so I hope the people would still focus on them, because the train hasn’t stopped.
You have been on the music scene for a long time, and you keep DJing by travelling the world. What do you miss most from your past? Is there anything you could have done that you never got a chance to do?
Not much, really, it’s all been beautiful. There hasn’t been much that I haven’t been able to do. I met and work with famous people, so it’s been really, really good for me. I’m happy.
You have worked and collaborated with so many big names in the international Underground scene. Among them are Louie Vega and David Morales. What would you say to these 2 great colleagues?
I would say to them thank you, that’s what I would say. I’ve worked together with them, and I’ve been also on tour with them as the Kings of House New York City for the last five years. And it’s incredible to be around those guys and just see how professional they are, the quality that they put into their work and the show that they put on. I learned a lot from them and again, what I would say to them is thank you.
Our digital platform, House of Frankie, was born as a project dedicated to Frankie Knuckles, and more in general, as a tribute to House music. Frankie was a good friend of yours, do you have any memories of him you want to share with us?
Too many! He was one of the best friends you could have, respectful, kind, not judgmental… he meant a lot to me, he hired me, he always looked out for me. He was just the perfect human being to me! I don’t know anyone who ever had an issue with Frankie Knuckles. I think that’s all I’m gonna say right now, I don’t wanna get too emotional.
We would like to talk to you for hours, about your history and your projects, but we know you have to perform at the event organised by Take It Easy here in Milan tonight. We want to thank you and we hope to have you back at our HQ someday for a DJ Set. Bye Tony!
Thank you, bye!
Listen to Tony Humphries’ latest releases on Traxsource
Video Filmed and Edited by Samantha Faini.