Pitchfork Profile: DâM-FunK

The LA DJ brings the funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk.

Raghav Mehta

Funk: George Clinton defined it, Dr. Dre revived it through rap music and the Red Hot Chili Peppers brewed their own brand of it. Funk has earned its rightful place as a permanent fixture in the annals of American music but despite the genreâÄôs far-reaching influence funk has lost some of its steam in recent years. But LA DJ DâM-FunK wonâÄôt have any of it. His five-disc debut LP âÄúToeachhizownâÄù is a collection of space-themed synth grooves that he describes as âÄúmodern funk.âÄù A&E hit it off with the affable funk connoisseur to talk about space, music festivals and Animal Collective. So what happened to the funk man? It got forgotten about in the last ten or fifteen years and here I am just trying to remind people itâÄôs not about silly, shake your booty type lyrics. ItâÄôs about deeper stuff but you can still party at the same time. ItâÄôs what urban America still has in it, itâÄôs just not being expressed in music. IâÄôm just trying to continue it, IâÄôm not a retro artist, IâÄôm just trying to continue it. What do you think about the emergence of rap music? Rap definitely helped in the nineties and the late eighties. A lot of the sampling that they did, the bed of music they used was a lot of funk tracks, Ohio Players, P-FunkâĦ but what I did was tried to give listeners original, newly made material that you can actually identify as funk which I consider to be modern funk. I had to put the modern tag on there because I didnâÄôt want people to think it was a James Brown style of funk. Which is great, heâÄôs the godfather of soul but the godfather of funk to me is George Clinton and I wanted to continue that strain of sound and take it into new avenues. WhatâÄôs it like adapting to an outdoor festival for your music? Interesting. IâÄôve been doing it lately. ItâÄôs been cool and weâÄôve been going all over so IâÄôm getting familiar with the festival vibe now. You know the outdoors is fun. Do you like it more than clubs? I canâÄôt really say I like one or the other because most of the club stuff is solo and thatâÄôs a combination between DJ-ing and doing my live material on synthesizers but the festival has been with the band. Master blaster is my backing band, it consists of J-1 and Computer Jay. I like the festival vibe; it can get a little messy. A lot of us urban cats, we donâÄôt like to get dirty. ThatâÄôs the only difference but I relate to both. You know sometimes a lot of those concerts I go to, they get dressed up to go to and they wouldnâÄôt dare step in dirt. But I love getting used to Sasquatch and Pitchfork and these kinds of things because itâÄôs not about looking good itâÄôs about enjoying the music and thatâÄôs what its all about for me as well. So big up to the festivals, IâÄôm down. Your music seems to have a space theme behind it, are you into space? I am, very much so. Definitely read a lot and my mind is always in tune to different things that arenâÄôt being talked about on regular TV or regular outlets of information. I do know there are ways to experience different things through music and take you different places mentally. And without going too far into it thatâÄôs the kind of things IâÄôm interested in doing with my musicâÄì sparking that kind of interest in other ways of thinking like space and travel and Astro travel. I havenâÄôt touched on it quite yet but I gave them five records for my debut. IâÄôm saving some stuff for later [laughs]. I know you released your debut as a five-disc album, were you afraid of alienating listeners by doing it that way? I know weâÄôre in an ADD atmosphere but I wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to make an album that can creep up on people, not the first week that it came out. So I feel great about the decision that me and Peanut Butter Wolf and Jamie Strong and so and so came across because itâÄôs been out for a year and people are still talking about the album. So I think I made the right decision. It gave people a chance to sit with and get into it without all the hype. I think it outlasted the hype. What are some artists youâÄôd like to work with in the future? IâÄôm really open to working with people but my thing is I came up on artists man. IâÄôm a Generation X cat. I came up on artist like Prince and other people who didnâÄôt have collabos, who didnâÄôt have all of that. You know I produce people but I donâÄôt want to necessarily have to do [expletive] callabos my whole career. I wanted to give the audience where IâÄôm coming from, I donâÄôt want to have to do something business-influenced. I only work with people I have a genuine connection with. Not someone calling me on the phone saying âÄòhey I think itâÄôd be a great Idea if you worked with so and so because heâÄôs hot right now and he does this style of music. No I want to work with people I care about like Steve Arrington from Slave, who im working with now and also Ramona of Nite jewel. Those are two projects im very excited about as far as collaborating with people right now. Is that why you worked with Animal Collective then? Animal Collective was definitely because I like the group. It wasnâÄôt about coming together because I was like âÄòOoo IâÄôm going get some blog hits today if I get with Animal Collective.âÄô it was real and sincere. I felt like I could do something to their music to have the fantasy and now I know its not a fantasy because somebodyâÄôs told me, to ride down Crenshaw blvd in LA and listen to Animal Collective but to my remix. So now theyâÄôve been exposed to a whole different audience. Do you feel out of place being amongst all these Indie bands? ThatâÄôs interesting, man. Someone asked that kind of question but I donâÄôt feel out of place. A lot of people donâÄôt know this but I worked at a record store called Koombas records in Pasadena before it became what it is now. I was one of the only black guys and young guys working at the record store and I got turned onto so much music and the owner believed in me because I would ride my bike to the record store when I was a kid and he saw something in me and he knew I had something to offer. From that learning experience I was into all types of music man, I mean I got into Depeche Mode âÄúGet the Balance Right!âÄù 12 inch when it came out as a promo. So youâÄôre not dealing with some bozo who doesnâÄôt know what heâÄôs doing. I know it means a lot to be participating in indie surroundings but IâÄôm an indie artist too man. IâÄôm on Stonethrow records, how indie can you get? TheyâÄôre just one of the more high-profile indie labels out there. But my aesthetic is indie and I still want to go further with it worldwide and not just be the guy in my basement making songs for three guys. But IâÄôll never sell out. IâÄôll never ever sell out man, thatâÄôs my promise.