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words Fabrice Bourgelles / photography Fabrice Bourgelles
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Miles ‘Musicman’ Tackett, AKA ‘Mister Breakestra,’ is a staple figure in the West Coast’s independent music scene. Self-confessed music geek and originator of the legendary Rootdown Soundclashes, Miles has watched the city’s music scene grow up, whilst holding the flag of the so-called heavy funk-scene with the widely reputed ten-piece Breakestra.
From playing around the world with live shows that make it difficult for the crowd to even catch a breath to DJ’ing every week when back home in LA and putting on events that gave artists like Madlib, Cut Chemist and the then more subterraenean Will.I.Am a platform to express themselves on, there really is no doubt that this man lives up to his title.
Beatnik decided to get our geek on during the Brighton stop of his recent European Tour with Chali 2na—Cut Chemist’s former J5 counterpart—and find out what really makes Miles tick.
Breakestra has been your baby for quite some time now but how did the whole thing come together and how far have things come for you at this point?
“I’ve been doing Breakestra since about 1997, always with different musicians except Mix Master Wolf, who was there from the beginning as a DJ. Within the first year I managed to convince him to get up on the mic and do A Bobby Bird track; he did and it was like, ‘Yep, that’s it!’—like it was meant to be. This time round we also have Afrodyte singing with us she’s be down with us, for maybe six years now, and I have to say that we are also very lucky to have her. We actually met on the set of the video for ‘Get Your Soul Together’ where she was extra playing a bartender, I heard her singing in the background, and again, I was like ‘hold on a second’, and now she features on the new piece ‘Dusk till Dawn’ along side tracks with Mix Master Wolf.
“I say I feel lucky to have people like this involved because making independent music like this, its sometimes difficult to keep people around you know, I can’t say turn down this to come do this, so its actually really people who put in the work through love who have been with Breakestra. At the end of the day, I just feel blessed to be able to play with such amazing musicians and I hope that we can continue for as long as possible.
Live shows seem to be an integral part of The Breakestra, how do you get that to translate on record and how was it being back on the road again with this new album?
“It’s funny, Breakestra started out as a purely live experience and I wasn’t really sure how I was going to capture it on record, because if I did it, I really would have to capture that live energy. It’s something I spend a lot of time on now, and that’s kind of the reason there is usually some time between albums, as I always need to make sure the sound is just right.
“As for having been on the road again, it was great and our first date of the tour was Glastonbury, which was legendary for me, of course traveling around in a small van, you can get stressed out once in while but once leave it, you come always come back to it, and its something you truly feel grateful for.”
Now for those who don’t know the most recent album Dusk till Dawn actually has an even deeper significance for you. As well as being your second record it is in part a tribute to a close friend, musical partner and cherished figure in the hip-hop world, could you enlighten us a little on who this man is and how he might of influenced you in various ways?
Yeah. I mean, DJ Dusk is a big part of my life on many levels, as human being he really set the bar you know, as somebody who was conscious and loving, I don’t think I will ever meet someone like that again, and to me he really was something of an Angel. He’s the one who actually inspired me to Deejay when I started ‘Rootdown’, which then planted a seed which lead to many many hours away from my instruments and deep into the crates and learning to appreciate that world on another level, and for that I can say that he has also massively inspired and influenced The Breakestra, in a majorly positive way. Bringing up Dusk is really hard because there are so many levels to that cat, I mean he was an emcee too you know, it was one of his sort of hidden talents, and I’m glad we got him on the mic on some Breakestra tracks. I mean, he was just special and it’s hard to put that into words.
Indeed you and Dusk are LA heads who have had some part in shaping parts of the various scenes LA has had to offer over the years. The Rootdown nights have featured soundclashes with some of the most interesting heads out there. Recently, the LA underground scene has been echoing around the world in a new way, how have you seen it change over the years?
“I was born in LA, and I could honestly say it used to be healthier, and I wish I had the energy and the resources to put more into that at this point in time. But when I came in to it, it was mainly about underground hip-hop in LA, but it wasn’t even that underground, you could hear good hip-hop on commercial radio, and I was really paying attention to everything, from East to West. I mean for me, hip-hop then was like musical cinema on wax, you know, but it was also very much still hip-hop, and I don’t know if people like Easy E and N.W.A. realized what they were creating at the time.
“So I grew up very spoiled, hearing a new level of music both in its concept and from a production point of view, like first hearing early Dre beats and then going to clubs and hearing that stuff live, as well as checking out the East Coast artists too. I mean this was a time when beats weren’t caught up in the legal aspects of things; people were sampling funk, soul, jazz and rock all over place, which opened up a world to all different kind of sounds that people just hadn’t been exposed to before in that way, through hip-hop, literally!
“Today we have a whole new scene emerging which we could call, diversions of Hip-Hop I guess, you know, Brainfeeder and the Low End Theory nights, FlyLo and The Gas Lamp Killer, etc, who are doing their thing in their own unique way which I always respect. Of course, Stones throw and Now Again are also like a creature unto themselves who also strive to defy categorization, which I also respect a lot.”
For many, if you mentioned deep funk people wouldn’t imagine it still equated with highly active scene, in fact we are seeing bands popping out over the world…could you enlighten us a little on how you see things today?
“I have to view it at an international level because that is exactly what’s happening, Japan, Australia, UK…. I mean Germany, with The Poets of Rhythm, were truly the first people to really re-ignite and do their homework and come off with some real raw sounds, before anybody was paying attention to what was actually missing. They were into to hip-hop too, and again after what was like fifteen years where that real sound was missing, here came this mystical group of German musicians playing the hard, sort of rolling sound, that had been gone for so long. But in general, I just want to say that its got to be something special that there are now so many different people all over the place who show their appreciation for this music, playing and loving it, but doing their own version of it too.”
It’s bit of a general question, but from where you’re standing in general would you say music is in a good state today?
“I can only really talk about what I know about, from the corner of the universe that I reside in, but I try to keep up. I mean I was always around music, my father was a musician and that was my initial experience and that environment hasn’t changed. Though as much as I really do love so many types of music, I always find myself gravitating back to that raw soul music, I can’t help it, people are often like…’its good to be broad,’and I know it is, but it’s like a magnet, I just love it, and every Saturday, when I’m back in LA, I’m DJ’ing that sound that I love playing and sharing with people. I think it’s also something that can really be open to a lot of different people you know…everybody’s got soul.”
What can we expect from the Breakestra in the future?
“I’m not sure really, you know it’s partly something you do out of inspiration, and it’s also something you do out of survival. But making music in general, is strictly from inspiration at every level for me, it’s strictly from the love of it, so I’ll just keep doing what I do and we’ll see.”