Satoshi Tomiie: Frankie Knuckles Changed My Life


Over 25 years ago Frankie Knuckles met a young Japanese producer in Tokyo named Satoshi Tomiie. Add legendary Fingers Inc. vocalist Robert Owens into the mix and the house-music classic “Tears” was born. In the annals of house music, few songs are as impactful and impervious to the test of time as “Tears.”

Talking to Tomiie about the details of his upcoming second album, New Day, due out May 20 on his Abstract Architecture label, Tomiie recalls how he learned about the Godfather’s passing a year ago today.

“I was at my friend’s house in Buenos Aires just chilling out,” Tomiie remembers of the say day. “Hector [Romero of Def Mix] called me. Nobody really calls me on my phone, except for a few people. I thought it had to be something urgent. The news was quite shocking.”

How did Tomiie deal with the loss of his mentor? “I didn’t,” he says flatly. “I couldn’t deal with it, basically. There was no way. It was impossible. I hadn’t spoken to Frankie in years, and that made it more difficult. Nobody expected this news.”

The globetrotting Tomiie says putting together an event last May at Air in Tokyo allowed him to keep busy and pay tribute to Knuckles in his own personal way.

“One way to ‘deal with it’ was with the party I did in Tokyo, which is where I met him,” Tomiie says. “His performance in Tokyo changed everything for me. I wanted to do a party in Tokyo to pay my big respects for what he’s done and what he did for me. He changed my life.”

Tomiie called upon DJ friends DJ Nori, Ko Kimura, Kenji Takimi and DJ Kent to spin at the party. Robert Owens, who also played a pivotal role in Tomiie’s early career, flew in to perform with Tomiie. (Listen to a podcast from the event here.)

“Some of the classics I listened to at his first performance in Tokyo from Fingers Inc., well,  nobody had the instrumental,” he says. Tommie spent several days recreating the songs so Owens could perform the songs at the event.

“It was a part of the process of dealing with it,” he estimates.

All these years later, how does Satoshi Tomiie, who went on to craft future club classics like “Love in Traffic,” look back on “Tears” and the impact of his debut single?

“It’s my first record and my starting point. It came out in 1989, 25 or 26 years ago. My attitude to music is to look forward and do new things. I’m not someone who looks back a lot but this was a whole different time to make music. It’s a symbol of when house music was introduced to the world. It was a symbol of a good time for that style.”

Look for an in-depth interview with Satoshi Tomiie about his second full-length album publishing next month. Listen to Cevin Fisher’s exclusive Big Shot Guest Mix tribute to Knuckles here.

Darren Ressler

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