Dâm Funk Interview

Once again Mr Pepperell has Given the Hip Drop the inside Scoop. This time a little chat he had with man of the Moment L.A Funkster "Dâm Funk!!!" Get your Tickets for the Wellington Show!

Los Angeles official ambassador of Modern Funk, Dâm Funk might look and talk a touch like Snoop Dogg, but he is anything but just a G thang. In preparation for his imminent New Zealand debut, performing two exclusive shows in Wellington and Auckland, Martyn Pepperell caught up with Dâm Funk for The Hip-Drop to dig a bit deeper into the unconventional mindset of the wavy haired dude who’s got everyone’s lips flapping.

Martyn Pepperell: Well, what I wanted to do is, do something a bit different to the traditional interview, what was the first instrument you ever owned?

Dâm Funk: Drums!

And how old were you?

I was six years old

What are your recollections of that first kit?

You know, just playing along to different records my pops had bought me, with a drum kit he bought me from the church up the street. I would just play different records and play along, songs like ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’ by Iron Butterfly. I would play that whole song, the drum solo, note for note. I would practice on those kinds of records while playing them. Marvin Gaye stuff, he was a drummer you know? I would play some of his stuff, you know, there was various stuff that I would learn on. Then I started getting into groups like Rush and KISS. I would play a long to a lot of the Rush albums, the Moving Pictures album, I would just play note for note drum wise. All the hits, licks and riffs. That is how I got my chops up on drums. Then I moved onto keyboards later.

Can you remember what sort of drum kit it was?

Yeah, it was a Slingerland.

Did you have it in your room, or a practice room?

Yeah, it was in my bedroom. I had drums in my bedroom and would practice to the record, with the stereo playing.

Do you think that gave you an advantage with DJing? You know, matching rhythms?

You know, it could have, but I’m not the best mixer DJ actually. I’m more of a selector. I consider my strength in the DJ world as maybe just choosing a particular song that I would like to connect with the audience and make it feel a certain way. I’m not a turntablist, you understand? I never aspired to be a turntablist. I just wanted to play the records I had in my collection out to the public at the clubs I was going to.

Later on, it was just always hip-hop trance, house and those kinds of styles being played. I would notice that when they dropped something that was a bit more funk, the crowd would eat it up. Then they would go right back to some hip-hop, some boombap stuff, but the crowd would be starving for Vaughan Mason and Crew's ‘Bounce, Rock, Skate. I just said, man, I got to start injecting this type of music within LA. Sure enough I met this cat named Billy Goods. We met at this record shop. He said, come on down to the spot. He was playing, playing the older style of funk, like James Brown and ah, boogaloo influenced stuff; and things like that even. Whereas I went in with D-Train, Prelude Records and that style. We just connected. From that point I just kept DJing and sharing the record collection out. And here we are now, still sharing some of the music.

In any format, I’m always going to be vision first. I’ve just decided to nurture the vision side of my creativity within my DJ sets, so that is where we are at now.

Looks like its working out for you?

Yeah! It’s cool!

So, I gotta ask, because I know you got some deep knowledge. Could you talk about some of your favourite LP’s?

Hmmmm. Records that make me happy? Stuff from Uncle Jam Wants You, Funkadelic, ‘Knee Deep’, which is just fifteen minutes of, what is one of the best recorded moments to me, in funk and all of music. Also ‘Family Affair’ by Sly Stone; that, to me, is a fantastic song. Prince! A lot of the things he did were very strong for me; but my favourite group has to be Slave. And that is when Steve was fronting the group. With songs like, ‘Just A Touch Of Love’ and the Watching You album and Showtime are just fantastic long players to listen to; in my humble opinion.

How did you discover Slave?

Slave. I discovered Slave when I was growing up. My next-door neighbour was older then me. Him and his friends would be laying those records. Earth Wind and Fire, Slave, P-Funk, P-Function, Maze, Cameo, you know; all these groups! Which is what I was hearing coming out of the windows, with weed smoke coming out of the doors.

I lived next door and I was like, man, this is some great music. You know what I am saying? I just started realising that this is very good music. It’s melodic, yet sophisticated, yet still it’s black and it’s not something that was lumped into a pop format. It’s like some of these major labels were actually releasing some very good music at that point. Maybe someone was throwing money around, I dunno, but it was definitely a great opportunity to see that vibe and that expression in black music being released, at that particular juncture of music.

What I am trying to do is just continue that thing that got broken off with the emergence of hip-hop, because although I am part of the hip-hop generation, it seems like the labels forgot about some of this funk. All I’m trying to do is continue. I’m not trying to rehash it. My stuff is not retro. I don’t want people to keep saying things like retro, or that I’m a retro artist.

No, your stuff is nextro.

Hahahha, yeah man, I appreciate that, it is dawg. I’m respectfully trying to continue the lineage of those groups that came before me, with respect. I’m not trying to bite on them. I’m not trying to duplicate. I’m not trying to do something that has been done before. All I’m trying to do is complement or continue that which was, uninterrupted if you will.

Just creating a future that hasn’t been yet?

Yeah! That’s what this record is about. It’s definitely something of a sleeper. It’s not two minute beats and an eight song record. It’s a long record and I don’t care what critics are saying. I wanted to make a long record on purpose. I grew up listening to progressive rock albums. Some of these kids man, they have this attention deficit disorder, a colossal ADD situation going on, where they think everything has to be one and a half minutes long, Fruity Loops or whatever. I’m more then that man, and I say that humbly.

I’m not going to just make a beat that is two minutes long and just get up and share it like, yay, I did something great! No, I’m giving you a seven min track to play all the way though, from beginning to end. Some will be three minutes like ‘Mirrors’, but I’m still trying to do something different, where the album will last the test of time. I don’t wanna be lumped into all this stuff going on now. Yeah, we can be friends. We can be contemporaries. We can shake each others hands and like each others music, but let me do me. There have been a few critics trying to diss my stuff, but ninety percent of it has been positive and I thank god.

However, there are a few out there that I see saying the album is too long and that its samey samey. Nobody said that about Moodyman. Nobody said that about Too Short. Nobody said that about Velvet Underground. Nobody said that about those groups and their stuff sounds the same, so why you little punks want to keep messing with me and saying that my stuff sounds the same. I see that there is a little bit of dry hating and splashes of player hating going around, but I just hope that some people that are not used to what I’m doing or is about to happen sit back far far away and let me do me. The story is just being told, it ain’t done yet.

For real! Now, I gotta ask you this cause you seem like a music fiend. Do you ever wake up with song ideas?

Yeah I do! Some of them I can’t recreate from my dreams. Some of them are hard to remember! Sometimes I actually get to the recorder and put it down, but some of the best songs I’ve had are in my dreams. I can’t always remember them enough to lay them down. The ones I have made are on the album, and you guys have got to experience them. It’s pretty much what is in my soul. It’s not something I’ve tried to create and rush and hurry up. That is why I took awhile to make the album. The album was meant to be out sooner, but I told the label to relax and let me get into it, let me do me. Thank god for Egon and Peanut Butter Wolf at Stones Throw. Everything you hear on the album is not influenced by some chairman boardroom meeting “take this song off, put this song on” vibe. They gave me full creative control, so all the critique falls on me. It’s not Stones Throw; I just thank them for allowing me to put it out as is.

No doubt!

I just know that no matter what comes to pass, I can wake up in the morning and feel comfortable knowing I made the album that I want to make. That second CD that is all instrumental, part two is programmed like that for a certain way. The first CD which is all vocals is programmed like that for a certain reason. I just hope people realise I’m coming from the heart. It’s not some kind of ironic thing, or a funny joke, or anything like that, this is just me man. I just hope that people see it for what it is, a contribution to the music that we all made; every single race, every single human. I’m just trying to make a contribution to what we enjoy, that is all!

By Martyn Pepperell


Wed 12th May @ San Francisco Bath House, Wellington w/ D:UNK [Live] & EWH Sound System

Thu 13th May @ Fu Bar, Auckland w/local support


Kaivai said...

ah dammit! got a show that night! hmmmm maybe i can duck out! i'm sure the crew won;t notice I'm gone....

Unda said...

ill interview. Funk dropped some jewels in this.