Redbull Music Academy - The many faces of Larry Heard
Redbull Music Academy Daily offers up a brilliantly written exploration into the varied aliases and consistent excellence of the storied house producer Larry Heard...
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When Larry Heard first started making music in Chicago in the ’80s, what was called “house” still had a relatively rickety frame. The roof wasn’t reinforced, and the insulation was haphazard. The “Jack” character, later superimposed on Heard’s seminal release as Mr. Fingers – “Can You Feel It?” – didn’t have much space to wander in this house. But with dozens of scene-shaping releases over the ensuing 30 years as Mr. Fingers, Fingers, Inc. and a variety of other aliases, Heard became one of house’s most significant architects, beautifying a gritty structure and building several new additions to boot.
Growing up in Chicago, Heard was a musically multi-talented teen, playing guitar and bass before settling on drums. From 1977 to 1984, he worked almost exclusively as a drummer, completely unaware of what was forming around Frankie Knuckles and the Warehouse. He only began producing music with those nightclubs in mind in 1984, when, fed up with bands ignoring his ideas, he quit his gigs and bought a Roland TR-707 and Roland Jupiter 6. While fooling around with this kit, someone told him, “That sounds like what they’re playing at the Warehouse.” The rest was history – the first electronic production he ever shared publicly was “Mystery Of Love,” with two of the three original acetates given to Knuckles and Music Box resident Ron Hardy.
“Mystery Of Love” and “Can You Feel It” were actually recorded on the same day. At the time, Heard attributed the former to Loose Fingers, a name that had come about due to a quirk of Heard’s, where he would pick up an instrument and mime playing it by moving his fingers quickly up and down the instrument’s body. It was modified to Mr. Fingers within one release and then to Fingers Inc. once Heard formalized the partnership with his vocalist of choice, Robert Owens, and Ron Wilson, a colleague of Heard’s at the Social Security Administration office in Chicago. Fingers, Inc. were veritable founding fathers of house, with 1988’s Another Side providing a sleazy, powerful argument for the artistic legitimacy of the music beyond club 12"s, even as tracks like “Mysteries of Love,” “Distant Planet,” “Never No More Lonely” and “Bring Down The Walls” remain capable of inciting dancefloors three decades on...