Interview Dâm Funk – 2009/03/11

Just before the Antwerp gig on the Stones Throw Europe Tour 2009 I sat down with Dâm Funk to talk about his music, influences and more. It was a true education in humility and having an open-minded approach to music. Here’s the full transcription of the interview. Excerpts of it have been aired on our radio show and Alex from made a little video report about the night with chunks of this interview in it (which you’ll find at the end of this interview).

How has the tour been so far ?
It’s going pretty cool. Been to a lot of places so far. We’ve been to Paris, London, Nottingham. We’ve also been to Amsterdam and Manchester. Some pretty good gigs. It has been fun.

I almost went to Manchester one.
That was a good gig. Manchester was one of the standouts for me. It was kind of a small place, or medium size, but it was a good gig. The people felt the music. It was packed. It was definitely one where they felt the music I play which is Funk and Boogie. The Manchester crowd felt that, the London crowd felt it and Paris did as well. But London and Manchester were my favourite ones so far. Amsterdam was special too.

You play mostly vintage 80s Funk in your dj-sets while the music you make sounds more modern – you call it Modern Funk – what is the difference between the two ?
Modern Funk is the Funk that I like to do, influenced by the earlier greats of Funk, but I’m not trying to duplicate them. The respect is paid within my music and with Modern Funk that term comes from putting the Funk into our generation. A more futuristic soundscape. It’s talking about different concepts. Extraterrestrial type things, … . Long instrumentals kinda like the Prog Rock era. Everything is analogue keyboard. There are no keyboards purchased new in the stores right now. I use all the original equipment that the cats back in the early to mid 80s and late 70s used.

The Modern Funk term comes from the fact that I’m doing newer Funk but it’s made with instruments from the past. Not looped or sampled based. Even though sometimes I loop things and very rarely sample. On the album there’s no looping or samples involved. I play all the way from beginning to the end. And that’s the way the funksters that I respect did it. Prince, P-Funk, Slave, Mtume, One Way, Loose Ends, … they did electric music but the it was played all the way through. That’s where the Modern Funk comes in to play.

You always name your sources, you publish your play lists, … . You do a lot of promotion for the older artists. Do you think that’s important because a lot of dj’s are more protective about their sources  ?

You’re right. I always get these questions like “How can you put that playlist up?”. My reasoning is that a lot of dj’s and selectors, not all of them, they attach themselves to the music like it’s theirs. It’s not theirs, it’s the people’s music. So when people cover up their labels I know that’s a tradition with some people. Much respect, to each is own – which is the name of my album (Toeachizown) – I like to give everybody a fair  shaken to do things the way they want to do things. But universal law; that’s not cool.

I give the artists name because that guy might be a schoolteacher somewhere doing something else in his life. Down and out or a rich guy or lady, who knows. It’s just that those artists deserve to have the name spread the sound so that the kids can go “Oh yeah, Superior Movement – Wide Shot, I wonder what that sounds like. That sounds like a cool name” Then they go find a 12” on C.I.M. Records and be blown away by some great sounds. That’s my mission; to give homage and respect to the elders that brought Funk down to us. Dj’s should let that be a part of the people. That’s one of the reasons that on my sets I tell them what song, what year, what label. Not all the time, but 99% of the time I tell people the names of the artists. Because I want that universal karma to come back on the artist and myself for doing what’s suppose to be done. Not being the egotistical maniac dj who cover up their labels and don’t want people to know what they are playing. I’m a different cat.

I respect that. It’s always a real education for me. Andrew Morgan from People’s Potential also does it the right way. Giving the old guys their props.
Andrew’s a great cat. Yeah.

I’m doing an interview with him too.
Just a secret. Well, not a secret anymore (laughs). Andrew Morgan is putting out a 45. Another pseudonym of mine. It’s called WaveLength. That should be out next month. It’s a 45, small bullethole and the tracks are going to be called “Funk Dreams” and the b-side is going to be called “Life Terms” and it’s going to be on Glydezone records, distributed by People’s Potential Unlimited. I’m excited about that too. It will be produced by D-F, all things done by D-F. I won’t go any further. But Wavelength so look out for that on Andrew Morgan’s label.

Are there other labels or artists we should know about with that sound ? I know about Rhythm Based Lovers.
Oh yeah, they are good cats.

And I read something about Citinite records.
Citinite records is a label in London. Manny Z runs that label and he has a really good output. It’s kind of under the radar right now but I’m doing my best to let people know about it. Because he really respects the electro-funk side of it. Prince, the Detroit sound, Minneapolis, … that type of thing. Some of the artists on there like Gosub, John Davis, Robert O’Dell and even the Dez Dickerson project was nice. He did a song from Prince’s Purple Rain record and movie. He did remixes of that and he, Manny Z, put that out on his label. I might be doing some stuff with them down the road as well. We discussed some things. But right now doing my thing with Stones Throw.

What I’m doing is sharing the funk around Europe. We have other artists on this tour but my mission, as the days have gone by, has been to put the brick in the wall representing the Funk. James does eclectic styles of music, Mayer Hawthorne is more of a Soul vibe and Peanut Butter Wolf does a lot of things with videos and all genres but me I just want to show Europe that the Funk is not dead. The Funk got dirtied up, the word got dirtied up the last few years. My mission, if you want to call it that, is to let people know this is not dead. We got forgotten about it. The Hiphop generation. They sampled the Funk but they didn’t really pay homage to the funksters. Like Roger Troutman. He should definitely get more love than people are giving him. They want to pay tributes to all these other cats continuously and Roger Troutman is just being forgotten. Every time when I play, every night when I go on stage, I’m playing something from Roger or Zapp just to let people know you can’t forget about this magical music. And that Funk is alive and it’ll always be alive no matter what fad, no matter what genre comes, the Funk is going to be here represented is some way or shape or form.

I feel that the word Funk has been hijacked by the Deep Funk guys but I really like that 80s sound.
Yes, the 80s sound gets a nose up from some of those cats. Those early 70s dusty 45 styles. It gets a nose up and I’m like you can’t give a nose up to some good music just because it wasn’t James Brown, rest in peace. But just because it wasn’t an obscure 1973 southern type of sound Funk records with a drum break in the middle that every rapper and their mama would sample it doesn’t mean the 80s Funk is not cool. The 80s and late 70s Funk groups like Slave and Steve Arrington, they had more melodic chords, more mellow tempos. And even the groups that weren’t picked up by major labels. That’s my mission as well to find rare tracks. Tracks like from the Hulk ??? brothers band, which Peanut Butter Wolf turned me on to. But there’s a lot of groups that came out in the 80s that got forgotten just because they had a jehri curl or because they didn’t look like a Soul guy in a suit. They might have had a jump suit with flashy diamonds on.

Rick James, everybody likes to make fun of the Dave Chapelle thing with Rick James. Which is cool because that was a great skit. But Rick James is a serious musician. He had some problems but to always see the Dave Chapelle picture it muddies up the Funk because the importance of these kind of artists. Prince, very respected among the funksters, and like I said Roger Troutman I feel they need a little more attention and that’s what I’m going to do through Europe to remind people that the Funk is here to stay. Even if it’s not as visible as it used to be because of the Hiphop movement. We all are the Hiphop generation but I don’t want to forget about that rare 80s and that type of funk that’s out there.

Hiphop took a bit of their thunder in the beginning of the 80s, isn’t it  ?
If it wasn’t for the West Coast. The East coast invented Hiphop in America and I love sampled based music like DJ Premier and the cats that started things. The whole genre. I read books about it. I do read and I do keep up. I feel like I’m a musical crazed cat because I get into all types of styles. Its not that just Funk, Hiphop or Soul but the one thing I will share with you is that if it wasn’t for the West coast, the 80s and the late 70s part of the Funk would have probably never have intervened in East coast Hiphop except for EPMD when they did some of the Zapp sampling.

I read something from Larry Blackman from Cameo. They were an East coast based Funk band. They got no love on the East coast because hit hard on the Funk. That’s why some of them ended up moving to Atlanta. For some reason East coast is more cosmopolitan. They like Disco. They have Disco roots on some of the radio stations out there. And that’s cool, I like Disco as well. But the Funk based on the car culture, the temperature, … . We like more laid back type of stuff. If it wasn’t for cats like dj Quick and Dr Dre, Snoop with his whole delivery and his steelo Funk would be a different thing. Thank god for that G-Funk era that kept the Funk alive. Warren G and things like that. I even sense a slight G-Funk revival. So Stay tuned (laughs).

I’ve seen in your play lists that you play stuff like Mr Fingers and other late 80s House music. Are you still following House music ?
I still follow House, I still follow Techno but the Detroit Techno preferably. I like what they are doing, Omar S,  Theo Parrish, those guys are doing some good stuff. Of course Moodymann and even some of Larry Heard’s newer material. But my favourite is the older style of Detroit and Chicago House. Mr Fingers and Fingers Inc. are my absolute favourite groups that put out House. Soulful. Out of the Detroit stuff is the number one Juan Atkins for me, Metroplex label and the things he was doing on that label.

It’s funny you mention Omar S because I read somewhere he likes your music and he’s big on analogue synths too.
Oh, that’s cool. Much respect.

I read somewhere that you are planning a Metal project.
I would really love to do that. That’s like some different stuff I want to get into. I really have a Metal background to be honest. When I was growing up I used to love a lot of the British heavy Metal bands – they used to call it the British Metal invasion coming to America. We had these radio stations called KMET. That was before it got changed to the Wave, which is like a smooth Jazz 24h thing playing the same 5 songs every hour. There used to be a show hosted by a guy called Jim Ladd and it was called the mighty Metal shop. On Friday nights they used to do 5 hours of Metal and they would do albums for a whole hour. They pick like Motorhead for one hour whenever they released a new album. Or Queensryche, or Venom’s new album when it came out. That was some of the hardest type of stuff back then. Saxon, of course (Iron) Maiden every time they released an album that was played like the whole album. Those were just some great times. I used to have Kiss posters on my wall, Iron Maiden, Rush. Rush they are one of my favourite groups because of the drummer, Neil Peart. Like I’ve said I like all types of music. The Metal project that you are asking about I’m thinking about doing the way where it’s going to be synthesized Metal. Not a live band, it’s just going to be myself. I just want to go real hard because a lot of people know me for the melodic stuff but since I’m a gemini there’s a dark side and a light side if you will. I think I’m ready to show the dark side in a minute. We’ll see what happens.

Are you planning on doing concerts ?
Yes I am. I have some players that I have in mind. I just haven’t quite narrowed it down yet. There’s also some other concepts running around in my head where I might not even need a band. It just be a live experience. Still working out the fine tweaks on that. I’ll definitely keep you guys posted on that.

I’ve never seen much 80s Funk styled bands. I missed most of it.
Bass thumping, some live drums and even drum machines. I used to hate when I go to some of the shows like P-Funk sometimes. I hope they hear this, I didn’t get the chance to tell George Clinton when I did a show with him one time. I couldn’t stand how P-Funk was so known for their claps but when you go to a P-Funk concert they sound like a jam band show. Like back in the days Fish or something. Where  are the electric claps ? All they have to do is put a trigger on the snare and you get the clap. Or you have a module and you have somebody actually do the claps. When you come to my show you’re going to hear loud claps funksters, I guarantee you. We don’t forget about the claps (laughs).

Will you do projects with others ?
I work good with people. If you ask anyone on this tour who’s level headed, who’s chilling, who’s kicking back and no problems. I’m very easy to work with. I’ve worked with a lot of bands live. I’ve never had a problem with anybody. I really try to stay positive. The reason I work on my own is because Prince, he’s one of my main influences. Some of his best work was stuff that he did alone. And I’m an only child. I’m used to being by myself. I’m used to being a loner. I don’t need a lot of people to go to a record store or some place to hang out. I don’t need to take 5 dudes with me to get a slice of pizza. I just roll by myself. I feel more comfortable sometimes because I talk to myself, in my head. Work out different ideas.

Definitely a project in the future that I would like to do is Master Blaster. That’s a project I’m working on right now. That has a cat that’s named Computer Jay and J1. J1 is on drums, Computer Jay is on keys and myself, I’m on keys and vocals. That’s one of my first group efforts that I’m going to do where I’m involved in writing the material and vice versa. I’m definitely easy to work with.

Long answer but I wanted to be sure that when you see produced, written, played by D-F it’s no ego thing. I don’t even have an ego. I really don’t think I do. I know we all are born with some sort of ego but it’s like I swear to you the music that I’m doing and even the music that I play out when I dj is for the people. It’s not for me. I feel that I’m doing things for that person that I know that’s out there like me. I know that there’s people out there like me, that feels like me, that remembers the way the sun shines, that remembers cartoons back in the day, that remember pre-internet times or even just good times, the way a sunset looked when you’re driving with your parents in the car. I know that there’s people that can respond to certain chords. I like to play chords that hit your heart strings and I hope that the people out there can relate to it.

Bottom line is that I’m not going to be doing this real long. I’m just going to do 3 albums, hit it hard for you and then let the next man move in. I want to go behind the scenes and do movie soundtracks. Different concept albums under different names. You might not even know it’s me but you’ll know the sound. I just want to hit it hard and then not linger around. That’s kinda the plan. But I’ll always dj and bring out my record collection. The only reason why I got into djing is because I wanted to share my record collection with the people. It wasn’t like I was trying to be a superstar dj or something like that. Because I’m not. I didn’t do it for those reasons. I do it to share my record collection so that we can all enjoy other people’s music.

Dâm Funk will have a 12″ out soon and an album called Toeachizown in the summer, both on Stones Throw.

More Info:
On the Stones Throw site
Dam Funk’s weekly part called Funkmosphere

Other Interviews:
Wax Poetics
Future Vintage

And of course the video report made of the interview above and following gig: