Long before the Book of Faces and Das Googlemaschine brought the world into our bedrooms, Brooklyn turntable legend Frankie Bones set out to harness the international power of electronic music—and he used guerilla street tactics, not blogs and email blasts, to do so.
Widely known as the first American DJ to spin a UK massive, the street-smart crate-digger immersed himself in the creative cauldron of the late ’80s rave scene and brought it to American shores. "The entire thing was only happening in England at the time," Bones (born Frank Mitchell) tells the Dig. "And they were dancing to our music—American house music. We weren’t making these records so 25,000 people could freak out to them on ecstasy. I was the only one from America to see that firsthand.
"I figured if I could replicate that, even on a smaller scale, I’d be onto something legendary."
He was right. He launched his historic STORMraves in New York City, sparking a new underground dance movement based on the "peace, love, unity, respect"—PLUR—ethos. His new disc, Scene Starter, due out this summer, references his role as the so-called "Godfather of American Rave Culture."
"I really did a lot for DJ culture in America by taking a risk to do European-styled underground raves in New York City," he says. "I … made events that had multiple DJs in one night. Before STORM, most clubs in NYC only would hire one DJ per night. I changed that in 1991."
Fresh off last month’s Miami Winter Music Conference, Bones brings his old-school, gritty techno to Rise Friday for a rare Boston gig. A vinyl junkie, he’s recently started spinning CDs, but don’t expect him to twiddle virtual knobs on a computer screen. "I’m not into staring deep into a laptop in my own world," he says. "I like to work a dancefloor off of the energy the crowd releases. With vinyl and CDJs, I am able to have more creative control then when I only played vinyl."
He says he was originally inspired by his father’s disco records as a kid in the ’70s, but became mesmerized by the digital experimentation of Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, Gino Soccio, Telex and Yellow Magic Orchestra. His career path was set when his father was murdered just before Bones graduated high school.
"It put me in a do-or-die situation with my music and the career I was going to make out of it," he says. "Up until I was 18, I never had lost anyone. Nothing really changed except the seasons. I loved music, chasing girls and making money. Then in an instant, everything was different."
He focused on his career, touring the globe and opening Sonic Groove, a Brooklyn record shop and label. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the brand, although the shop closed in 2004, and the label’s now based in Berlin.
He’s also working on a book about American rave culture and admits he’s somewhat perturbed by "Frankie Bones," a barbecue joint in North Carolina.
"I used to play down that way a whole lot in the 1990s. I’d bet the owners have kids who went to raves, and they named it after me," he said. "They can’t pretend I didn’t exist and didn’t bother to check Google. I’ve been Frankie Bones since 1981. They want to make food and serve it using my name, fine. One day, I’m going to YouTube [a video of] me demanding free food."
WITH ALAN MANZI,
JAMES GERARD AND
306 STUART ST.
1AM/18+/$20 GUESTS, $10 MEMBERS