Dâm-Funk Talks Milli Vanilli, Stones Throw, and His New Album With Steve Arrington
Last week, we previewed tonight's performance by Dâm-Funk at the Electric Pickle where he'll be joined by veteran funk virtuoso Steve Arrington of Slave fame, his latest studio partner with a collaborative album to be released later this year on Stones Throw.
With the duo representing funk's old-school and new-school, this gig is bound to be one hell of a funkalicious good time.
We caught up with Dâm-Funk to talk about the roots and future of funk, his stint with Milli Vanilli, and his latest projects.
Crossfade: What did you listen to growing up and when did you start producing yourself?
Dâm-Funk: I listened to a lot of different music: metal, new wave, prog rock, rap and more. But funk was the style of music that moved me the most. I started producing my own music in 1988.
Legend has it that you worked with Milli Vanilli before Dâm-Funk.
I was young (around 1991) and it was merely a keyboard session player gig under Leon Sylvers III, whom I was an apprentice for at the time, who had been hired by Milli Vanilli to produce a follow up redemption project, if you will, after their Grammy incident, which was being recorded in Reno, Nevada that ended up never seeing the light of day. I do still have cassette tapes, though, of some of the raw sessions. Those guys actually really wanted to prove that they could come with it, using their own vocals this time and everything, but the project just never came together. So I bounced back to LA, integrity fully intact.
That whole electro-boogie and indie hip-hop scene in Los Angeles seems to be on fire right now. What can you tell us about living and working there?
It's cool. I'm fortunately able to relate and cross-pollinate with a lot of the different genre's going on in this city within this particular era of music coming out of LA right now. It's also a progressive scene and quite nice to be aligned with. But I do consider myself a worldwide artist and not just solely an L.A. artist. I look forward to keep growing in that direction.
How did you first hook up with Stones Throw?
Through the head of the label Peanut Butter Wolf, around 2006, via going to each others' gigs and finding out gradually and naturally that we share the same affection for the same artists in music, such as funk groups like Slave, outsider artists like Gary Wilson and more obscure recording artists spanning over the years within both of our record collections. He one day heard some of my music on Myspace and offered me a remix opportunity for another Stones Throw recording artist named Baron Zen. The song I eventually chose was "Burn Rubber", which was one of the last tracks on Baron's debut album. From that point, other DJs started picking up the record and spinning it within their DJ sets in clubs and on radio worldwide, and soon after the success of that twelve-inch release I was then offered a multi-project deal with the label. This is why I always humbly suggest to up-and-coming producers to never hold your nose up high to remixes. You never know what may come out of it, opportunity-wise. So, with that being said, here I am, worldwide now. Much respect to PBW for givin' a true brotha (with no funny business or agendas attached) a chance to make true music for listeners all around the world. It's much appreciated.
What can you tell us about the album you're working on with Steve Arrington?
His album is titled Love, Peace & Funky Beats and it's just that. It will be on Stones Throw as well and me and Wolf are excited and very honored to have him re-emerge on the scene with us first. I'm sure you'll be seeing Steve continue to work with other artists down the road (with big names as well) and he still comes with it! He hasn't lost a beat in all of this. He's awesome and a fine human being on top of that. I really look forward to people of all generations getting into his album when it drops. All the music is produced by me (no outside production weigh-downs or confusion) and all the vocals and lyrics are by Steve Arrington himself. It's the continuation of the modern-melodic-funk style that Slave and Steve Arrington's Hall of Fame band are noted for.
What is funk in the 21st Century? Is it purely nostalgia or is it looking forward as well?
Both. More forward, though, than nostalgia. That's been done too much -- the nostalgia aspect of the funk. It's time we move to the future, yet never forgetting its roots and past.
However, there's no denying the nostalgic retro flavor of your sound. Where do you see yourself musically in five to ten years' time?
In five years, I see myself musically moving forward into scoring and more production. Not just musical creations made solely under the Dâm-Funk moniker. There will be more progression from my part within funk and other styles of music.
You're known for your unique M.O. in the studio. What can you tell us about it? And how does it translate to live performance?
It translates in the sense that I keep it organic, yet electric at the same time. I like electronics within my funk. Not that 100-pecent acoustic feel. This is the way I get down within the studio and live.
You've played some pretty big arenas, like SXSW, Bonnaroo and Detroit's Movement Festival. How does that compare to playing smaller intimate venues? And which do you prefer?
I dig both atmospheres. I just appreciate connecting with people in a musical sense, whether it be ten people or 4000. I just always give it my all. I've played in front of five people all the way up to 5,000. I love music and I enjoy sharing it with any capacity of attendance.
What have been some of the highlights of 2011 and what do you have going on for the rest of the year?
Some of the highlights have been playing live with Master Blazter (Computer Jay on synths and J-1 on drums) all over the world, as well as some very fun solo DJ/performance gigs in many cities this year. I've also enjoyed sharing many unreleased recordings via my Twitter and Facebook interaction with friends whom are really into my creativity. I appreciate the bending of the ear to all of it. The rest of 2011 will see a new EP released, a re-introduction US and abroad tour, and the recording of my follow-up full length to Toeachizown, which should be ready for release in early 2012. Also, collaborations with Nite Jewel and other artists I'm carefully picking to work with. Those things and more. Just stay tuned.
What can Miami expect during your performance at the Electric Pickle?
No fads. Timelessness. Truth.
Dâm-Funk and Steve Arrington with Maneuvers and Benton as part of
the Stones Throw Miami Summer Groove. Thursday, July 14. Electric
Pickle, 2826 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The party starts at 10 p.m. and
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