Chicago House Label Trax Records Issues Statement Over Frankie Knuckles’ Royalties

screaming rachel frankie knuckles trax records

With the death of Frankie Knuckles on Monday, his musical legacy — specifically his days pioneering house music as a DJ and producer in Chicago — has been celebrated by fans and peers. While Knuckles’ work for Trax Records is legendary, he maintained that he was never fairly compensated for his work on the label. Screaming Rachel (pictured above) and Jorge Cruz issued a statement today, defending themselves and their relationship with Knuckles.

Wrote Rachel, “I have decided to give my share of all monies collected for the sale of ‘Your Love’ To Frankie Knuckles estate, or to a proper charity. I hope that others involved will do the same and I’m doing my best to encourage that.”

Here is the statement in its unedited entirety.

I want to thank people around the world, especially those in dance music culture for honoring Frankie Knuckles. There is no doubt that his music, and the love he shared has changed the lives of so many. Though tragically we have lost him in the physical sense, his legacy and the music he created will never die…House Music would not exist as it does today without Frankie Knuckles. He inspired and championed the pioneers and new generation to continue making house music and building DJ culture. I humbly admit that I don’t have the words to really say what Frankie means and represents to many. With his passing we are all reminded about his contribution to music. I only wish he had more of this appreciation and attention from the industry during his lifetime… Though Frankie Knuckles was not on Forbes top ten highest paid DJ’s list, he meant a lot more to his fans than money. Unfortunately there are those who judge talent by those standards. In 30 years from now will those DJ’s be remembered and loved as he… Only time will tell but I think not.

I first became aware of Frankie when I was in the Punk scene at the Space Place. Coincidentally, was around the corner from the Warehouse. It was during a raid for having what was termed as an illegal party by authorities that someone came up to me and said that Frankie Knuckles was mixing my record down at the warehouse. It was the song Fantasy that I recorded with Jesse Saunders and Vince Lawrence. I had never heard the term mixing, and I was intrigued by the name Knuckles so I decided to find out what that was all about. The moment I entered the warehouse and heard him spin my life was changed forever. The way his music moved the crowd was truly spiritual.

I am so personally saddened by this loss that up until now I’ve been unable to collect my thoughts and decide how best to honor Frankie both personally and on behalf of Trax Records. Due to matters beyond my control I can only speak for myself. I have decided to give my share of all monies collected for the sale of “Your Love” To Frankie Knuckles estate, or to a proper charity. I hope that others involved will do the same and I’m doing my best to encourage that. I’d like to see a foundation set up in his honor, but I can’t do it alone and frankly would not know where to start. I know that our distributors are doing their best to honor Frankie and to show appreciation. We would like to receive any information about Frankie’s estate or ideas for what can be done to preserve this great man’s legacy. It goes without saying that he can never bereplaced.

From Jorge Cruz, artist, and Trax Records’ ex-creative director:

Over the past five years of working with the label, I can only speak from what I know, have done and seen. And unfortunately, for most “fans” they have not cared enough to pay attention to the things that have been going on with the label for almost over 10 years – some only care to listen to hearsay. When I began there was literally nothing being done mainly because there were legal battles. What was occurring was that all control of all the catalog was taken over.Though things are better now unfortunately litigation is still ongoing.

We can’t pretend that money was not being made, but the reality is that it was going towards fighting to retain the rights to the catalogue here in Chicago. Not elsewhere. The overhead of the label is way above any of the money coming into the label. For years the overhead has been out of pocket thanks to Mark Suchoki, Rachael’s Husband, and all because Rachael can’t fathom the idea of the label being bastardized and taken away. We have been fighting people, literally, to stop them from profiting from the catalogue but it’s nearly impossible because the reality is that legal problems are expensive, let alone when you are fighting major corporations.

The artists I worked with who are close to the situation will all tell you that since Rachael has taken over the label as President there has been nothing but fairness and a fight to help out the artists, who sold away their rights, was implemented. Over the years I’ve seen countless times Rachael trying to help people out by providing what she could, all while other companies were profiting from our hard work. Most of which could never see the light of day as companies feared involvement as they were threatened with lawsuits. When I began at Trax I made sure to include all these people in everything that I could, and I hope that someday all misunderstandings with some of the artists can be resolved. When Darryl Pandy passed away both Rachael and I made sure to attempt to raise money for Darryl by giving all the profits that we could from his music. But unfortunately, we never even made a dent because people were buying his music from the powers that were in control. The same thing occurred when Paul Johnson was sick. What people fail to realize is the reality of the size of the actual label vs the influence that it has on the world today. Because people think that fame is money, and they see a lot of TRAX all over the world, they believe that we are sitting here making money til’ high heavens. But the reality is that the Trax Records name is making money but much of the money is not reaching the label or the artists. We cannot change the past or the legal battles that are tied to it. And Rachael and I both as independent artists feel nothing but passion for artists’ rights.

In 2010 to help combat this issue I set up our official Trax Records’ Bandcamp. Proceeds from sales of Frankie’s music bought through our bandcamp will go straight to Frankie’s estate.

Independently of anything, I am honored to have been able to work as closely with Frankie’s music and am honored to have been able to learn about and expand the sound of the people and of Chicago. Without people like Frankie we would not have had half of what we know, or been able to live many of the experiences that this music has created for us.

Darren Ressler

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