Introducing : Dam-Funk
LA funkateer Dam Funk is hot right now. The funk and boogie obsessive – “music man first, selector second’ – has just released his debut EP on Stones Throw – featuring the killer ‘Hood Pass Intact’ – and is currently joining unlikely dots between Animal Collective and Hudson Mohawke. Tom Beary went the full 12 rounds.
How would you describe the difference between the music you make - future funk - and the music you DJ which is boogie? Is there a difference?
Yes, there is a difference, but they are definitely connected. My 'original recordings' are coming from deep inside my heart without biting (copying) anyone else's style/s. Influenced? Yes, but never biting. The funk that I create from scratch (and 99.9% of the time without any samples whatsoever) is about pushing the envelope in 'funk' music as we know it, yet without forgetting about the past (funk-related artist contributions to the sound and state of mind).
The boogie-funk' and related styles from the early to mid 80's that I play out is the music that I've been collecting on wax for many years now. It's the sound that I love very much and I just really enjoy sharing it with the people on the dancefloors and in the clubs worldwide. Hopefully by exposing this sound (boogie and 'mid-fi' moderns oul obscurities on wax), it can show music lovers that there is more than just house and hip-hop styles that you can party to in the clubs again.
This was the whole point as to why I started spinning my collection out in the first place. There was a lack of 'the sound' being played in an 'un-cut' manner, at least here in LA. Someone had to give it to the people here in LA in this fashion. I guess it ended up being me (along with my Funkmosphere selector partners; Billy Goods, DJ Randy Watson aka RON and LaRoj) puttin' it down in this way... 'uncut'.
When did you first start playing and making music?
When I was around six years old. First tackling drums. Then later keyboards. In high school is when I really started to take music creating serious. Ditching school to make my own home recordings on two cassette players and a mixer. I still graduated though on time with good grades actually! It's all in how you navigate things to end up with a positive result.
When did you first start DJing?
Actually, about a few years ago 'professionally' (I'm sure that's a surprise to some people, but maybe not to 'some others', as I've seen some petty nit-picking out there about my blends or what not.!). You see, lemme tell you somethin'; I'm a 'musician' first man and a 'selector' second. All this was ever about was to strictly share my wax collection with the public and not just the bedroom! I mean it just happened. It wasn't planned. I never had and still don't have any aspirations to become your favorite 'juggler DJ' or 'turntablist'.
I just wanna have some fun, man, with this music. The serious DJs were too busy cuttin' up ‘Apache’ all fuckin' night while the rest of us wanted to hear actual cool songs and grooves in the clubs here in LA.. This is where I stepped in on the scene, coincidentally. It is what it is. The people voiced what they wanted and (thankfully) gave approval to it. That's all.
How did you first get into the boogie funk sound? Because people this side of the Atlantic would associate that sound with DJs like Norman Jay in the UK rather than DJs from the US?
I got into the sound when it was actually happening when I was a kid man. I mean, we didn't call it 'boogie' over here. (To this day, tough guys are still scared to say that word.) It was just considered funk & 80s-based soul/dance/R&B/and skate-jams which was mainly rocked in the clubs and on black radio stations like KJLH, KACE and KDAY (playing Prelude Records, Salsoul, Westend, 'late' Brunswick, SAM etc.) over here in the U.S.
While I was already into groups like Slave, Aurra, Mtume and Loose Ends and the like, the internet came into many people’s hands later on in the late 90s. Websites started popping up that focused on this music. Fantastic sites such as Soul-24.7 and Solar, which were both based out of the UK. Upon my discovery of those sites and their great forums, I built great and special relationships with like-minded music lovers and record and sound 'diggers' from all over the world. This provided me with great knowledge of the music that we now call ‘boogie' or boogie-funk (which I prefer to call my particular taste and sound within the genre). It was a great time - I treasure those days when the prices weren't so astronomically high on eBay etc. It's still fun though (collecting), but the game has kinda changed a bit. There are still some great wax pieces being discovered these days though. You just gotta look/dig harder and pay more now! That's all.
Can you tell us about your weekly night in LA, Funkmosphere?
It’s is my Monday night at Carbon Bar and Lounge in Culver City in west LA. I founded around three years ago, initially after another night I did with my partner Billy Goods dissolved into some 'trying to make more money with a hip-hop night' on a Thursday replaced it. That was briefly called 1983. The night was cool but, the owners wanted to try the 'hip-hop/jiggy' thing on our Thursday instead of the 'purist' night that 1983 was. After bumping into the owners of Carbon one day, they voiced to me that they enjoyed and always remembered the sound I was playing at 1983’. On the strength of that, they offered me a lonely Monday to try out some thangs. I was like, “Man. Monday is a death nail night! I'm not gonna be able to get anyone out on a Monday!" But, I learned something a long time ago and that was to listen to the whisper in your head first and the loud voice in your head that comes shortly after. The whisper in my head said, “Just do it... you never know what God has in store for you". So there it was - I listened to the 'whisper', accepted the offer and two weeks later I started Funkmosphere to a great opening turnout! I simply had a couple of my friends help me with flyers, invited a few selectors to get down with me (one who was even featured on the flyer but, never ended up showing up that night, due to his lack of faith in it) and just strapped myself with my funk and boogie wax and gave it a go! Since then, we've been packing Funkmosphere now almost every Monday night to 'full capacity'. Beautiful music for beautiful people. I defied all the murmuring naysayers. This is what it is. It all worked out for the best.
Can you please give us 5 spacey 80's boogie records that we should check out?
Sure. I don't ever mind sharing the grooves with folks. In no particular order:
1. The Rah Band ‘Messages From The Stars’ (From 1983 - a funkmosphere classic!)
2. Vaughan Mason and Butch Dayo ‘Feel My Love’ (1983)
3. Cliff Dawson ‘I Love You Better’ (1982 - more for ridin' but still has some 'spacey' synth lines on top for good measure.)
4. Verticle Lines ‘Theme From Beach Boy’ (Instrumental) (1982)
5. Side On ‘Magic’ (1983)
Can you tell us how you ended up releasing records on the legendary Stones Throw label? And when is the album gonna drop?
Me and Peanut Butter Wolf both dug the group Slave and Steve Arrington a lot. Upon vibin' with each other via the internet, we started inviting each other to one another's shows/DJ sets around LA. One night, he did a set at a now defunct hot spot up in Hollywood called Star Shoes and he dropped a set there that consisted of ALL1983 jams that he actually owned. The dude blew me away! Hittin' heads with joints by Aurra and D-Train (but,not the obvious tracks!)
At this point, I was sold on the 'legend' of Peanut Butter Wolf. No more playin' around. We connected that night in a real ‘music appreciating’ way. A true DJ who had deep crates and wasn't just fixated on strictly 'hip-hop, hip-hop, hip-hop', but, all good music! Then, to discover he also liked the obscure 'outsider music' of the great Gary Wilson (whom he eventually put out a record for via Stones Throw) was just the icing on the cake man.
From that true musical connection, we just began vibin' with each other, naturally. I gave him some CDs that I had been providing for 'free' for the attendees at my Monday nights, which consisted of rare joints from the original wax pressings and he really dug those various joints. He gave me some of his that he'd collected on wax and burned to CD for me to bump and the 'musical appreciation relationship' just kept blooming.
Soon after, he'd heard some of my joints on Myspace and liked them. He also noticed that I dug the Baron Zen project (after he saw a positive comment I'd left on BZ's page). Upon seeing that, he offered me a chance to remix a Baron Zen song for an upcoming remix album of the Baron Zen ‘At The Mall’ release. I did it. That was ‘Burn Rubber’. It became a surprise ‘LA banger’ (if you will) upon its release and the rest is history man. Now, I have a multiple record deal with Stones Throw. See, it was natural, not forced. It wasn't like, “Hey dude, please listen to my demo”. The secret is, most deals don't happen like that. Respectable deals and musical relationships happen 'naturally'. This is how it went down with Wolf and me getting down on Stones Throw. So far so good. My official debut album/project will be dropping this summer of 2009. I'm happy, humbled and blessed to be a part of the Stones Throw roster.
Some of the names of your tracks have some wickedly descriptive titles like 'Kill Dat Mutha...', 'Hood Pass Intact', '10 West' and 'Burgundy City'. Can you tell us what inspires them?
The music; the chords, the beat, the day I recorded it, what was happening to me at that time, real life experiences (in LA) and various thoughts ALL inspire the titles.
I can hear influences of early Prince and Stevie Wonder in your music but I can also hear the sound of Juan Atkins, tracks like 'Clear' and 'Alleys Of my Mind'. Have you also been influenced by the city of Detroit in your music or am I totally crazy?
Most definitely and you're not crazy. Juan Atkins is one of my favorite artist. Not just a 'beatmaker', but, an artist! There's a difference. Just look at his back catalogue. Look at his titles and subject matters and sounds, for crying out loud! He is a true 'modern-funksta'. As far as being influenced by the city? No. I'm influenced by my city; Los Angeles, because this is where I've been all my life. But, music has no boundaries, as far as comprehending it. Juan's music (the Cybotron era) was very popular in Los Angeles. It made an impact on me while growing up.
Who else has been a big influence?
Musicians and producers such as, Leon Sylvers III, Kashif, Steve Washington (the leader of Slave), Kevin McCord (of One Way), George Duke, Barry White, Patrice Rushen, Angela Winbush and so many more. Even groups that aren’t funk, such as Todd Rundgren, Frank Zappa, Tania Maria, Allan Holdsworth, Prefab Sprout, New Musik (produced by Tony Mansfield), Gary Numan, Rush, Kiss and Van Halen (David Lee Roth era) are influences.
Your first set in the UK - Deviation in 2008 - has gone down in London clubbing folklore as an amazing and inspirational night. Just how many rewinds did your remix of 'Burn Rubber' and the amazing boogie track called 'Messages From The Stars' get?!
Wow, that was one incredible night that Benji B put together ,man. I would have to say that was my best and most fun and special gig to date! The rewinds; I couldn't even keep track of. It was pure mayhem in there! Yes, those joints were so much fun to share with my friends in London. I'll never, ever forget the people I met and had the opportunity to party with on that special night of pure boogie and funk magic! Much love to Deviation and the city of London for that beautiful experience.
Can you tell us what to expect from a Dam Funk set?
A party, good vibes and the artist names and tracks that were played. It's just something I like to include in my sets, without making the partygoers skip a beat, of course.
Where do you find you are best received – the US or Europe?
Right now, I would say Europe and Funkmosphere are tied. But, the rest of the US is just slow. That's all. They'll catch up soon. It's all good.
Who cuts your hair?
Ha, ha! I don't get it cut anymore these days. I just jump in the shower, get it wet, pull it back and roll! Real simple stuff. Also, contrary to some beliefs, I don't rock a jheri curl. There are no chemicals in my hair whatsoever. It's all natural. My hair is naturally like this. Wavy. I was born with it. But, when it's time to get into 'superfly' mode, it's then hooked up by a young lady named Dionne at Blessed Hands on Crenshaw Boulevard. here in South Central LA Yeah, with the hair...it's just something that has a deep history here from where I come from. It's almost up there with our cars. We, even the fellas, keep shit 'fly'.
What is next for you?
My debut full length album, 'Toeachizown’ on Stones Throw Records. Also, more remixes, like the recent Animal Collective one I just completed. Vocals on a new Hudson Mohawke joint. Plus, some side projects I'm working on as well. Basically, just more of the sharing of this particular style of funk and boogie with the people who enjoy the state of mind and listening to it. Stay up and stay free y'all.
‘XXXX’ is out now on Stones Throw.
Please register or login to post comments.