History
of the
Knitting Factory

Michael Dorf, founder of the Knitting Factory, was the Chairman and CEO from 1987-2002.

He no longer has any operational or ownership ties to the organization.

« back to biography

A Scene is Born

The funny thing was that I didn’t know any of this at the time, and I didn’t really even know too much about what was really happening in jazz, besides what I had learned in my college history-ofjazz class. In Wisconsin we’d listened occasionally to John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, even The Lounge Lizards, but I had really preferred the Violent Femmes, XTC, and Elvis Costello. Now that I was in New York, though, I wanted to have as much of the Jack Kerouac smokyjazz-club experience as possible. Thus the need for “Jazz on Thursdays.” I looked in the classified ads of The Village Voice and found one that said “Jazz band available.” I called the number and talked to Wayne Horvitz, who agreed to play every Thursday for a month at 75 bucks a week. He thought we were a fancy restaurant and brought in a trio to play standards in the background. I put posters up all over the streets advertising WAYNE HORVITZ TRIO ON THURSDAYS AT THE KNITTING FACTORY, and I placed a small ad in the Voice. The first week, eight people paid four dollars a piece and we were on our way. After the show, Wayne sat behind my desk in the Flaming Pie office in back and in a very nice way told me I didn’t know what I was doing. Since he really liked the space, our small sound system, and the acoustics of the room, he offered to program a series on Thursday nights. As long as I guaranteed the $75 and put up posters, he said, he would bring in a much bigger audience. This sounded fine to me.

Wayne put together this poster and introduced all these unknown-to-me-artists. Fred Frith’s name rang a bell, but that was all. The shows were very cool and attracted just enough people to cover the guarantee. They also started to get the attention of a few other musicians. The first night, I was introduced to John Zorn, whom I luckily had heard of. He was working on a new project called Hu Die, which, he explained, consisted of two guitar players and a narrator reading in Korean over the sound of the guitars. He said he was trying to find a place to premiere it and wanted to do it the next week. We were fully booked, but I suggested a midnight concert and he was into it. He made a poster and distributed it. That night we had our first line. The club was all standing room, people peering from everywhere. We had 40 chairs; 95 people paid to get in, and John had 25 guests, mostly Japanese women to fill the room. The 120 people in the room, squished like sardines, hot and sweaty, were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.