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We introduce the 'Ambassador of Boogie Funk' , DâM-Funk
words Ali Raymond / images Romain Kedochim
To be known as the ‘Ambassador of Boogie Funk’ holds unusual diplomatic weightht in this musical world. Highly respected amongst the musical elite, In his words and those of many others he’s here to represent the inhabitants of Funkmosphere and after hearing his debut ‘Eachtoizown’ it’s a citzenship we should all be applying for.Dam-Funk: Searchin' 4 Funk's Furture
It’s truly amazing the hype that has been generated around this release but then again his Funk is futuristic, mind opening and all unique. Dam (pronounced Dame) has spent the last few years cultivating a musical renaissance rotted in the early 80’s styles known as Boggie, Modern Soul and Electro-funk pioneered in his native Los Angles. When you listen to what Dam is making, you find it hard to compare it to anything else.
Effortlessly gliding through retro-futuristic trend-transcending funk, he has not only carved his niche, he owns it. Charismatic, warm and with more swag then Michael Jordan with Rick James hair and Spike Lee dunks, we’re excited to get to finally meet the impressionable funksta in London’s East end. As we sit down over a round of fitting Cavasia, we begin with the standard question, his main inspiration.
‘Prince. When prince came to the scene along with Craft Work and P-funk. They created a whole electro funk scene.’ Although Los Angles was home to the leading Techno-Hop label as well as groups like LA Dream Team, The World Class Wrecking Crew (Dr Dre) and Ice T’s early work which was riddled with electro funk, Dam stands affirmative that the seven times Grammy winner was his biggest influence then and now.
‘That was a short-lived period in LA. And you know I use to buy those records Egyptian Lover, Uncle Jams Army those kinds of things. I remember those parties. I was too young, but right when they fell off I was able to get in and it was just explosive. People would actually dance and party. It wasn’t like you moved and just nodded your head. That’s definitely where I came from, that early to mid-80s vibe. But when Prince dropped records like 1999 and Controversy it was just inspirational.’
And it’s more then admiration. Along with the hair, the way Dam orchestrates, vocalizes synthesizes his vibrant album you can distinctly draw similarities with the artist formely known.
‘People really do get it twisted, because he’s known for being a pop artist right now. But really, he was a true funk artist that actually progressed after the P-Funk, Rick James Bootsy era. Prince kept it going. Yes he always looped into the Michael Jackson thing, but really he was a Funksta. I admire him for the subject matter, the musically he brought to it, the length of the songs.’
This could be the main reason Dam’s debut also is a lengthy listen. His biggest pet hate though, like many, is comparing Prince to MJ.
‘I don’t really understand why people compare the two. He was so much more then Michael. Michael, rest in peace, was more off an entertainer who chased the pop hit. Prince was more of a musician and innovator in the true sense if the word.
Prince took me to another world!’
Ironically or maybe just a consequence Dam’s music also, like Mirrors, has the ability to sonically transport you to a different planet.
‘It’s one simple hook on the song.’ He smiles ‘Never lose control, look inside your soul, mirrors.’Definitely a stand out track, like dam says the song has the power to revitalize and get people partying.
‘That’s what mirrors is about. Sometimes you look into the mirror and it can remind you of a dream you had. Mirrors bring out things. It’s not just about vanity. There’s something in mirrors that interests me. So that’s what the song is about.’
Dam-Funk holds an unusual sound and you have to be willing to open your mind to really absorb his music and therefore understand the true brilliance of ‘Toeachizown’. With fans across the world including top UK DJ’s Benji B and Giles Peterson we aren’t alone in thinking his music is something special. What’s also amazing is how he smoothly moulds the classic West Coast funk tradition into a sound for 2009 creating his own rendition of boogie, a sort of renaissance funk. A term though he doesn’t want to be misinterpreted.
‘My shit is not retro dude. I don’t make retro music. There are other cats that are making retro music righ now, trying to reduplicate. I just use the influences when I’m trying to take it to the future.’
This Futuristic idea is evident throughout his release especially on the appropriately named ‘Searching For Funks Future’.
‘My stuff is made on analogue equipment that was made back in that period but I’m still trying to progress it into new types of chords and drum patterns, tweaking it equalizer wise so I get different tempos. Like ‘Searching For Funk’s Future’ that’s an up-tempo track but then you have more laid back stuff like ‘Love Is Here With You and Me Tonight’. I’ve tried to keep that aesthetic from the past but at the same time push it to a new level where you can still enjoy it in a melodic way.’
Also known as the ‘man to go to for synth’s’, in order to realise this album he has leant on his ridiculous library of plug-in’s and synth’s’, which he has horded with squirrel like discipline over the years.
‘Yeah. I collect them. I collect drum machines and synth’s. It’s an addiction. Man it’s a good question that you asked because I’ve been moving away from collecting records to collecting instruments now. I’ve already got a lot of my wish list records, so right now I’m more interested in collecting instruments to make the music I always wanted to make in my head’
Lacking modern techniques and nurturing this obsession has meant that ‘Toeachizown’ still has a retro sound. It also means time wise it would have taken forever, highlighting Dam’s passion for the cause.
‘It is important to me man, I wanted to make this record just like I was recording back in the day. Like when I was recording on two tapes on a mixer in a radio shack. I wanted to record this record without Protols, without any of the high-tech technology. I have Protols, it’s collecting dust on my shelve right now (laughs).This record just paid tribute to the struggle I went through, throughout all the years I’ve been recording. I wanted to keep it just like that.’
As we get closer to our time with Dam, his welcoming persona like many top musicians who are passionate about their art, makes you wish you could talk lengthly about the inspirational possibilities of music. Signed to the legendary Stone Throws label, the very successful long lasting independent, dam affirms again what really drives him.
‘We are doing this for the love of the art. When you’re on an indie like myself it’s mainly about the art. I consider myself an artist. I didn’t get into this thing to be a baller. I do it because it fulfills me when somebody really enjoyed that particular song. That’s worth more then gold. That’s what it’s about.
‘I don’t want people to ever get it twisted I’m Hip-Hop lover and part of that generation. I’m on Hip-Hop label for gods’ sake (laughs) but it’s like I just consider myself a funksta within it. And what I’m doing is continuing where funk left off. Like where there was that last gasp of funk.’
It’s certainly a promising new chapter for Southern Cali Space Funk and as the last of the Cavasia is sipped I am sad to have to leave the man of immense style. Unfortunately running out of time, I bluckle on asking how he keeps his hair so silky and instead close with one last question. What do you want the listener to get from the debut?
‘I appreciate you asking that man. I go back again when I use to ditch school ‘cos a prince record was being released that Tuesday afternoon. And I would go to the record store. I’d run home, open my windows and sit on a chair and jus go into another world. It was powerful to listen to. What I tried to with this project was make an album. Some songs might not be hitting as hard, but it’s part of a lineage story being told loosely. And that’s what I was trying to bring with this album. Enjoyment and healing.’Dam-Funk: Do U Feel The Same Way I Do