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.

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Expansion?

In fact, this self-produced guide to clubs and promoters, radio stations, and record stores (information I had accumulated from Swamp Thing work) was the only Flaming Pie project to make any money. Without any distribution, we still sold enough by mail order and in record stores to actually make a few hundred dollars. No other project had earned us a penny. Anyway, around this time the landlord forced us to take the apartment above the club. We were making too much noise, and the tenants had moved

out, and we were told we had to move in. With the extra space, I got a bedroom, Flaming Pie got an office, the musicians got a dressing room, and there was even one extra room.

We offered a live-in-internship job for Flaming Pie Records (of course, we had no money to offer): The intern could stay in the extra room, see shows at the club, and drink-all free. Jerry Liebowitz took the job and started hustling for the label. During the day, he and I would call radio stations and record stores to drum up interest in our product. We were surprised to discover that they were much more interested in getting recordings of the John Zorn or Cecil Taylor concert at the Knitting Factory than Swamp Thing’s latest single. So we started recording the shows, hoping that if we ingratiated ourselves to radio stations, we could get them to play our Flaming Pie records. Well, over time we realized that nobody really cared about Swamp Thing or Phil Gnarly and the Tough Guys-people were really interested in what was happening at the club.

So we committed ourselves to recording. Our first few live tapes were quite extraordinary. They were made by Louis on a new $2,000 Nakamichi cassette deck I bought from a guy on the street for $50. It was the only item not stolen from us during the break-in-it had been in the repair shop. We then moved to a four-track Tascam cassette machine that we borrowed from Swamp Thing (this I believe was stolen too). This improved the recordings enough that we felt compelled to start our first Live at the Knitting Factory radio series. We were gathering quite a pile of tapes.

The first series was eight one-hour shows and included John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Fred Frith, Arto Lindsay, Steve Coleman, Ikue Mori, Alva Rogers, and many others. We persuaded 30 radio stations to pay five bucks a week for the cost of duplication and mailing. We called Lucy Sumner, a friend from Madison, who was working as a DJ at WNYC in New York to do voice-overs giving a little history of the artists. It was a great way to start spreading the word of the scene and the Knitting Factory to interested music fans across the country. (Eventually the radio program got sponsored by TDK Tapes, and we had more than 200 stations carry the series in 1990.