Monday, December 17, 2007

Wot Do U Call It: Funky?



A few weeks ago, I headed down to Rinse HQ to interview funky/funky house DJ, Supa D, for the sleevenotes to his new compilation, the third in the series of Rinse mix CDs. What began as a simple fact finding mission decended into an unplanned, remarkable, state-of-the-'nuum discussion.

While the conversation began between myself at Supa D, key influential players began to contribute. First in came Rinse's Geeneus, then Ammunition's Soulja. Finally, with delicious timing, Bingo's Zinc wandered through to make a cup of tea.

Between them is a massive wealth of history and influence on London urban music in the last decade or more. Having DJed jungle, UK garage and bit of grime, Supa D is currently one of the, if not the, biggest DJ in the rising funky/funky house/Wot do u call it 2? scene.

Soulja began raving to UK garage, before embarking on a career in the music industry. She's signed the publishing of acts such as Ms Dynamite, So Solid, Dizzee Rascal and Wiley, spotting their talent at street level long before her peers. In 2001 she co-founded Ammunition promotions, Tempa and started Forward>>, the first club designed to showcase the then emerging underground sounds of dark garage/proto dubstep, breakbeat garage and proto-grime.

Geneeus was there at Rinse's inception, the day in the 1990s it first went on air, DJing jungle, and later UK garage. Having grown up with friends like Slimzee, Wiley and Target, he played a pivotal role in the birth of grime, as part of one of the genres' three founding crews, Pay As U Go. He's continued his involvement with grime and Rinse but has recently discovered a passion for funky.

Zinc made his name as a jungle and drum & bass pioneer and continues to producer and DJ d&b worldwide but has also collaborated with Geeneus on funky tunes as Moonshine. Around 2000 he inadvertently altered the course of UK garage with "138 Trek," taking d&b sensibilities and energy levels to a garage audience.

It was a halcyon era, where a tempo plateau around 138bpm saw multiple genres and scenes mixing and interacting, with the old school UK garage guard meeting the upstarts of raw proto-grime, dark 4x4 beats like DJ Narrows being mixed with Zinc-inspired breakbeat garage rollers, housey Todd Edwards-style 4beat mixed into proto-dubstep like El-B, Horsepower and Zed Bias.

Since then the various factions have either diverged or fragmented, occasionally interacting but seldom truly engaging in sustained dialog. Until summer 2007. Seven years on, suddenly it felt like there was another tempo plateau appearing again, not in London, but in Ayia Napa, the holiday destination of multicultural urban Britain, both north and south. Forced to entertain all types of ravers in the same rave, entertainers like Luck & Neat, Heartless Cru and most of all, Boy Betta Know, began mixing London grime with bassline house, London funky house with dubstep. Suddenly Coki and Benga's "Night" was the biggest tune in funky, and T2 found himself at number 2 with "Heartbroken."



It's with this backdrop that I met Supa D. While much has been written about grime, bassline house and dubstep, there is a real sense of energy and enthusiasm around the funky/funky house scene. While house is in itself nothing new, with it's roots in the late 1970s Chicago and a massive global dance industry long since established through the superclubbing era of the mid to late 90s, the confluence of house beats with an urban audience seems like a change. While this first seem to begin summer 06, the momentum and enthusiasm around the scene is both refreshing, infectious and familiar. The key players dont even know what to call it - and history tells us Wot Do U Call It moments mean something's afoot.

While many of the players have seen all the recent nuum phases, funky feels uncannily like UK garage again. Watching it begin to unfold gives you deja vu, and not just because Supa D started on... Deja Vu.

This sense of familiarity, of a series of linear events leading full circle, is unmistakeable. Interviewing Supa D is like having both telepathy and visions of the future. You feel the echoes of the past and are able to predict developments.

There's a new urban scene in London: it's warm and housey, you can dance to it, it's vocal, girls love it, the clubs are all "no hats, no hoods, no sportwear," it's massive in urban london, there a big raves with 50 DJs on the lineup. The old guard love the US stuff but the new breed wanna make UK beats. So what's next? is the average age of involvement going to drop when the "youngers" get involved? Will the beats then get rawer? Will the MCs begin to dominate the vocal tracks before taking centre stage? Will the majors snoop around to sign vocal chart hits? Will the music mutate and become rawer? Will the chart hype kill eventually kill the scene?

Am I talking about UK garage circa 2000 or funky circa 2007?

It could be either.

A few people might have read my dismay when funky first reared it's head, summer 2006, not least because the chance for UK urban music to have a groundbreaking and popular genre of its own was being challenged. Furthermore the 4x4 kick is often a musical dead end, that once conditioned ravers will accept no alternative. Listening to Supa's CD, musically it's not that groundbreaking. But the excitement around the scene from it's players is infectious and the odds that it will evolve into something interesting, via its own "Pulse X" or "Capsule," are high - early bets are on Apple with his percussive, soca-ish sound.

Its also refreshing in contrast to the status quo. Frankly I've been sick of attending clubs this year to hear, formulaic, noisy, comically aggressive, soulless "dubstep" records made by faux angry boys, or not being able to attend grime clubs (with performances by men who's anger I dont doubt) because the Metropolitan Police have the powers to pre-emptively strike the chances of someone possibly committing a crime. If funky comes along and shakes all this up, I'm all ears.

There's been a lot of wingeing from the dubstep community over the adoption of funky into the Forward>> line up this summer. That winging is woefully shortsighted: I think it's a very smart move by Soulja and Geeneus. Whatever you think about the sound - as I've said, right now, sonically it doesn't seem that innovative - history has shown that the momentum generated by London's nuum is unstoppable, that when the community moves as one like this or like it did in the late 90s to switch from jungle to garage, it can't be prevented. You just have to go with it.

Now perhaps this might seem a little strange to people who haven't witnessed the pendulum swing like this before, but I've lost count of the people who've discovered dubstep in the last two years and now regret writing off UK garage. I've lost count of the number of times there were 15 of us on the Forward>> dancefloor - just as there is now when DJs play funky at FWD>> - raving to dubstep DJs who now fill stadiums. I've lost count of people who dismissed dressy UKG clubs as fake, too-girly or shallow, without truly understanding the communities that filled these clubs or the music that they made, who now play silly money on eBay for MDubs 12"s just because Kode9 dusted them off. What I'd say now is, don't make the same mistakes twice.

London has fertile musical soil and from it many exciting sounds and scenes have grown in the last twenty years or more. Their fate, however, has not always been the same. Jungle grew in this soil, but in the late 90s it cut its own roots and withered, so that now it's formulaic, noisy, comically aggressive and soulless made by faux angry boys (dont just take my word for it, ask Burial).

London has an uncanny ability for mutation and growth. By playing funky at Forward>>, the roots are being preserved and new seeds are being sown. "Moving forwards>>, never backwards," is the club's motto, not "dubstep til I die."

CD TRACKLIST BREAKDOWN:

At this point it's interesting to break down the producers on the tracklist:

Perempay was once Bossman from Essentials, Dee is Davinche from Essentials, Moonshine is Geeneus (sometimes Geeneus and Zinc), Donae'o used to do UKG and grime.

DelaCruz is UKG's Deliquent, Jay's Kitchen is garage's MC Viper and Simone sang an old garage tune.

The rest of the CD are new to me. They include Rinse DJ NG, Tadow and Fingerprint from south London's Invasion records, 1Xtra's Footloose, Matic a South London producer, Apple, MA1, Fuzzy Logic, Funky Junkies from east London and Naughty, a new DJ, part of HLC Entertainment.



INTERVIEW:

Blackdown: So looking at the Rinse mix selection, it's all UK producers. What's the thinking behind that?

Supa D It's something different. there ain't that out there, in the shops. you can't go to HMV and get a whole CD of up and coming producers.

B are they all London producers?

S Yeah, everyone's from London. That ain't been done before. It's something new.

B So, what would you call it - how would you describe the sound, loosely?

S To me personally, there ain't no special sound for it, cos it's just "house" to me. You might have the odd few tracks that you can say "that ain't house" and then you'd have to find a name for that - but the majority of it is house

B House has been going on for 25 years but you've definitely picked a particular set of tracks...

S It's a new era of it.

B it feels like it. The energy I get off you guys [Supa D, Soulja, Geeneus] feels like it's changing a lot quite now.

S Yep, it is. It's always something every week that sounds different. Each tune everyone makes, gets better.

Soulja Do you think they think they're making house?

S Yeah.

B What speed is it at?

S Between 126 and 130 bpm.

B OK. So when those guys play [originally-dubstep-now-crossover anthem] "Night" do they pitch it down?

S Yeah, they should have to, it's 140 bpm. What speed did you do your mix at Geeneus?

Geeneus 127bpm I make tunes at.

Soulja What do you think the ravers are calling it?

S They're all calling it funky house. Because that's how it all started and that name stuck into everyone's head.

G When see people saying things, they never say the word "house" though. They say they're "going to the funky dance." So I just call it funky now. Because that's what everyone knows it as. But it is true what he says, some of the tunes on the CD are house tunes and people like Fever would say "it's not house." But if Masters At Work made it, they would say it's house. Do you get what I mean? Because they make some tunes like us, like that tune that goes "ai! ai!" - that's the kind of tune we'd make.

It's not like standard house (hums 4x4 beat), so if that's house, then what we make is house. But then Apple: you cant really call that house. Even when I showed all the house people, even Dennis Ferrer - I emailed all the house people and gave them "Emotions" and that - and they say it's not house. They like it, but it's not house.

B The extra influence with the rhythm, feels to me like either soca or broken beat.

G It kind reminds me of garage. It's gone forwards and then jumped backwards. Because [UK] garage come from [US] house didn't it? It's gone off but it's coming back around again.

B But it's not come back around again with all the swing and syncopation though. The beats and snares are different.

G Everyone went back to the 4x4 kick. Whatever it is right at this minute in time it's house, but it's progressing into something else.

S I would say some of it, but not all of it. Because you've got certain UK producers you couldnt tell if they're UK or US.

G This is why I say it has got to be two musics: two musics are getting played at once now. Fever and that wont call what Apple and that make, "house."

B Is that because they like all the US stuff?

Soulja Yeah. They say that but they all play it because it gets such a big reaction in dances like Circle.

B Didn't we have all this infighting about seven years ago with people not wanting to play UK garage or breaky/Deekline-style garage instead of US?

G It's like a big circle

S They have to play it because they dont want to get left out.

G You can not play it and the dance wont get smashed.

Soulja I've still got the letter from Norris "The Boss" Windross calling everyone [in the UK garage scene] together. This was when it was UK garage and 2step and then Deekline and Zinc came along.

B Is there a loose divide amongst the funky DJs as to which style they'll play?

S Yeah they'll say so, but then play both anyway.

G You can't not play [the UK stuff] now, it's got to the stage where it's like these are the tunes that are smashing the rave and so you'd just be playing to a dead dancefloor.

Soulja Yeah because after that [funky house DJ] meeting at Rinse that time, it was the first time I'd heard Fever play all those tunes. He'd stood in Rinse and said "I dont want to be associated with it" but then played it. So Martin, when you get a label of a genre, do you think it's the scene it's labelling or the music? Because it always seems to me that, say when they tried to label "UK garage," there was so many different tunes from different areas being played...

B Mostly, there's not one rule. Sometimes it's the style of music and sometime's its just a collection of people. I always felt that grime was much more versatile if you said "grime is a given bunch of people [ie community/demographic]" than one actual sound.

G When they went from garage and started to change the names, it wound me up. First of all they called it "8bar." I said, "I can't say that I make '8bar'." You can't call a whole music scene that. And then it changed to grime and i think that there was a few of us who said, 'nah i dont make grime' but it wernt producers or DJs who called it grime it was journalists or something.

B I know people get really fixated on names and it's not what I'm trying to do here, but the problem is that house already is an existing genre that's been going since the 1970s Chicago Warehouse club, so how can we describe what's happening in London right now?

G The thing I've noticed from the general public is that they call it "funky" ...

S But it's not...

G ... you [Supa] would say it's not "funky" because it's not funky house [as the term is already known in mainstream dance circles]. So i'm saying there's a whole different thing, called the word "funky". People are losing the word "house" and calling it "funky." People say they're "going to the funky dance" or "that funky tune." So the public are naming it just "funky."

B It's always the best way when the public name things [and journalists dont force a label on a genre]. It's also the case that in my experience when there's something going on that has no name, its the best possible moment. It means the rate of change is the greatest, like when people were making "8bar" - the foundations of grime.

G You see my tunes like "Emotions," what would you put that under, house or funky? Because people say its funky...

S You can't say that to me because funky to me is all Hed Candi stuff.

G Nah, that's funky house. Forget the house thing: people are just calling it funky. The thing is, music evolves and every time the music evolves, the name changes. So this music that you're now the leading DJ of, is evolving. So by abbreviating it, it becomes its own thing. What you don't want to do is say you "only play house" and then the whole thing evolves, because actually you're at the front of it.

S I'd rather say that.

G I'd say, go with it, wherever it goes. You can't change what the public do. Like with dubstep, at first everywhere I went people were saying it was called "Forward>>".

S The name "funky" is already there though.

G Funky house.

BB My only problem with it is it sounds like you mean all the filtered disco stuff. It's all gone a bit "Wot Do U Call It" which is always a great moment.

Soulja All my friends say "I'm going to a funky dance."

G ...and it's going to be harder to convince them that its house than to just go with "funky" and be the leader of that. Because no matter what your feeling of it is, you can't change the change. It's impossible.

S What I'm trying to say is for me, not everything comes under that bracket. Only certain tunes can you say 'that ain't house.' The Rinse CD is a mixture. It's all UK: some of it you can say, yeah that's proper house.

G It's like a new sound that's evolving. Tunes like "Emotions" and what Apple makes is getting further away from what Dennis Ferrer and all them make. But Masters at Work make kinda similar stuff to us, which is why it all gets kinda confusing.

S Me I'd rather just call it "house."

G The only problem with you calling it house is the serious house people, when you call the UK stuff house, wont take you that seriously because the big people are big already. But if you were the leader of a thing that's not got a name, you'd be the biggest in that whole scene. But you can't be the biggest in [mainstream] house, because they're already the biggest. No matter what you do, you're not going to beat them.

Soulja Supa, are you the biggest DJ in the scene that you're part of?

S Yeah...

G But you can't say you're the biggest in house?

S Nah, I wouldn't say that.

G If you accepted it to be called "funky" you'd be the biggest funky DJ there is. You'd be the top boy and no one else could touch you. But as soon as you call it house, you go from up there to down there.

B You've been through this before with grime v UK garage, haven't you gee?

G I have been through it and had to fight it as well!

S I just wouldn't call it funky...

G Thing is they called it "grime" but what the fuck does that mean? Doesn't mean nothing. But the name just becomes a name for the music - and what does the name actually have to do with it anyway? It's just like a label, an identification. So I'd say call it "funky" because that's what the public call it and in a minute someone will call it something else, like "ghetto house." For a minute someone thought what we were doing was called "bassline house?" And we get put into that, and we're nothing to do with that.

B That's a north or south of the UK thing.

G Journalists will start to call it something if we don't quickly say what it is. I say call it "house and funky" because you do play house but when you play Apple, people like Fever say we have no right to call that house. So it's "house and funky" like it was "house and garage".



B Can you tell me about some of the parties?

S The majority of the time everyone's movin', everyone's bubbling, getting down. I enjoy a rave called Circle - the last one was in Brick Lane. Some of the places are dark and dingy, but they're the best atmospheres, like certain after parties. You can play new tunes. There used to a place called Jam Bar and Monestry in Forest Gate. They're dark but they have the best atmospheres.

G There was a bit of trouble in there, it got locked off.

S They try and put a different afterparty on every week, all over. More east and central. There might be afterparties at Departure (in Whitechapel).

G I find the ghetto-y ones, the dingy ones, have better atmospheres. I played an r&b event, with people all dressed up and looking nice and I couldn't wait to get out of there. The atmosphere was dead.

I went to Papermill on Curtain Road in Shoreditch and it was grrrrimey in there, bare ghetto people in there, but the atmosphere was heavy, just shocking out to new tunes and everything.

S When you go to certain places where they have newcomers, just come from the r&b scene, you know what you have to play. You have to play commercial, what they want to hear. But the people who rave to funky every week, they're more open to new tunes.

B So Circle - where else do you like going?

S There's Rinse's new rave called Casa Funk. That's going to be the new big one.

G That's paving the way of the [old, large UKG raves] kinda Costra Nostras and Sun City's.

S Funky Love, that's normally alright. It's all over the place. It started off in Hackney Central but that venue's closed down now.

B The after parties bring another parallel with the birth of UK garage because didn't lots of UKG start in after parties near Ministry? The after hours parties for the people who couldnt get into Ministry.

S It's like a big circle isn't it?

Soulja A lot of people talk about Grays Inn Road. We should do a dance called that.

Soulja Grays Inn was so important. If that club wasn't on... it was a different audience, served up in a different way. It was every Sunday for at least a couple of years. it was all based around a couple of DJs and they kept playing for hours and hours - Funky Smith, Daryl B sometimes. And Charly Brown used to MC, but he's dead now. And Gemini. I used to go there every single week, religiously. You
didn't even bother to go out on a Saturday night. You'd get up at 5 and go to that all day - amazing.

B While lots of the elements of house have been around for a long time, it feels like things are evolving and changing a lot right now. But why now?

S It's just like when everyone went from jungle to garage. This is the next thing, innit?

Soulja Is it boredom, do you think?

G Do you know what i think that is good about this music, that we havent seen since garage, is that it's actually dancing music.

Soulja It's just raving, more sociable.

G Grime: when we got involved we kinda pushed it further and further away from dancing. Tunes like [Danny Weed and Cage] "Creeper" and all that, you can't dance to them. People just stand there.

B Or Wiley's devil mixes...

S No beats! But this, you have to dance to it.

B So do you think funky is a reaction to grime being more like a show that you watch than something you get involved with and dance?

S Yes, with the people that crossed from that side of things, but not everyone in funky came from there. I've spoken to a few people though, and they're like "there's no grime raves away."

G There's no raves and no girls. And grime's all about MCs.

S You dont have to have MCs in funky, you can play music all night.

G And you get the same response.

B It's definitely a shift to return the power to the DJs again.

G It's a DJ based music.



[After the interview, the issue of why there were so many white girls on the flyers. It was generally agreed that white girls were used because if they'd used black girls, stylistically it made the flyer look like it was for a bashment rave.]

B Tell me about the dress code - because again, this feels like garage. No hoods, no trainers etc.

S It's to keep it like a nice environment. The only place you're going to get away with hats and hoods is them afterparties. But when you go into the places where you have to wear [smart] trousers but no trainers, it looks good, you feel like you want to dance, everyone just behaving themselves.

Soulja The girls dress up more.

G People make more of an effort because the girls are making an effort. There's definitely more girls.

Soulja Bare girls. What's the ratio?

G At Casa Funk, I thought we weren't going to get no men!

B No men?!!

S Coupla girls were moaning at me: "there's too much girls". I'd rather too much girls than not, because it stops guys from looking at each other. Girls aint going to start fights... well they do, but not as bad.

B The mainstream house scene has a long association with ecstasy, which you dont see in grime. Is there any of that going on in funky?

S Yeah, a bit. More in the after parties.

Soulja They seem like they're drinking more, in the main events. Wine, champagne, getting tipsy and cracking up laughing. Seems like a drunk thing.

S Afterparties are more e's and sniffing.

B The grime boys never seemed to be into pills, ever.

Soulja It was more about weed. Same as dubstep really.

S Thing about funky is you got to keep your energy up, to keep dancing for six hours.

Soulja I was suprised at Casa Funk how the energy levels were really hype and everyone was really happy, a bit drunk, but its because of the tunes.

G When we went to Circle the other day, I felt not good, I wanted to go home. But 20 minutes in there and I was shocking out. I didn't wanna go home.

Soulja Everyone's acting like it's a celebration, going out to dance.

B In a grime rave, audiences would never allow themselves to let go, go crazy, shocking out.

G Garage going into grime kinda got lost, because it went into Sidewinder. Our main focus [in Pay As U Go] was to smash that rave and Slimzee would smash it. And the MC's main thing would be to say a lyric and get a reload. Whereas the house thing it's not really about reloads. It's just continous dancing.

B Are there no reloads?

G Very occasionally. A couple, here and there. But in grime every other tune's a reload. But nothing gets a reload in house because there's no MCs asking for it. To get a reload, the tune really has to smash it. For reload you'd see the whole crowd shocking out.

B With grime at Sidewinder, MCs could make a tune big just by getting a rewind on that tune with their biggest lyric...

G This is the otherway around. Big tunes are just big tunes.

B So with this weird symmetry, with us being able to see where garage went with grime and yet feeling like we're back, before all that again, do you think with people like Apple going raw and percussive, will it be too long before people go darker in funky?

G Yeah I've made a couple of dark funky tunes, with grime sounds in them. But i still think it's not about the sounds but the drums. The drum pattern keeps you dancing. The monotonous sound of the 4x4 kick keeps you dancing all night, and while there's load of other things going on around it - percussion and different snare patterns - in this music it's always about the 4x4 kick, in the way dubstep always has the snare on the third beat.

B Mainstream house already had it's kick-hat-kick-hat-kick-hat-kick-hat formula but funky doesnt seem to be going down that pattern...

G The main focus is that we all keep the 4x4 beat. But everything else is: do what you want. There's no other rule except that 4x4 kick.

B That's healthy.

S If it ain't got that 4x4 kick...

G ... then it aint really nothing to do with this.

B So this year, although it's been around for a while, a lot of the media have picked up on northern bassline house, ie from Sheffield, Leeds etc. Do you have any interaction with that scene?

S I don't. But funny enough, I play out up north more than before. From now until the end of the year I'm out every week up north.

G That's because of Ayia Napa crossover though isn't it? It's the place that crosses all the musics.

B Thanks to Boy Betta Know...

S As soon as people came back from Ayia Napa, people were asking me to play T2s "Heartbroken". And I'm thinking, "that ain't house..."

B And [Benga and Coki's] "Night?"

S In certain raves, people call that funky house.

Soulja Major labels have been ringing me to get funky house remixes from Benga and Coki! I'm like, "you've got the wrong people..."

S You could probably play a bashment tune in a funky house rave and it would get called funky.

Soulja It's like that point in UK garage when Azzido Da Bass was called garage. Or Zinc's "138 Trek," and then there's people saying "this isn't garage."

S At the time, I would have called that garage myself. So what was it?

Soulja It was just a cross genre tune.

B Slowed down drum & bass?

Soulja It was just an experimental tune that many different people took to, same as with "Night." Drum & bass DJs are playing "Night" but they wouldn't call it drum & bass.

[with great timing, Zinc wanders through to get to the kettle...]

Zinc: I play "Night" in the middle of my sets, and then I play my remix.

Soulja Shy FX is playing it.

B I can't think of anything else in drum & bass that's 140 bpm...

Zinc: People have been playing dubstep records for a while. Marky plays Mr Oizo's "Flatbeat."

S Now, I'd play that in a house rave, still. It's house but some people think of it as garage.

G We played "138 Trek" and thought it was our scene that made it massive but it was getting played in all these other scenes, that we had no idea about. Like Benga's tune, we know it as dubstep but a lot of people think of it as funky.

S Same as certain electro tunes like Bodyrockers people were calling it funky but it's an electro tune. But it's only certain tunes that cross over.



B Do you get booked by the commercial house clubs? Are they interested in what you're doing, Ibiza and all that...?

S More out of London, not in London.

G Big record labels have been sniffing around though. Since Ayia Napa - everytime it happens it changes everything. Every year.

B This year seemed like a bigger change than most though.

G Yeah yeah, the past three years it aint really changed that much. It's because the [northern] bassline and the [London] funky house got mixed into one, and they're both quite underground, ghetto kinda thing and they got to see each other's scenes.

S Now, when I get booked up north, I get booked at one of those Niche raves and I'll be doing the house set.

G It's good because it means the music is spreading outside of London.

B It's good because grime never really got a strong foothold up north did it? They didn't start crews that really went anywhere...

G The thing about Niche is was a kind of leftover of garage as well. Everyone was telling me about bassline about two years ago. Agent X were saying "up north they love bassline." Sammy B from Boy Betta Know was saying it.

S There's certain tunes from ages ago that you can play in a Niche rave now.

B Narrows?

S Yeah. Even that Dynamite tune, "Ramp."

Soulja Gemma Fox's "Messy" is big there too.

B With the funky stuff, how often do you play with MCs?

S Occasionally. There's only a handful of MCs. Probably about four. And I dont have any tunes with MCs on them.

B I've seen (grime's) Jon E Cash's name on funky house flyers...

Soulja What was he calling funky?

G They were calling it "future sounds". It's the same thing he tried to do with "sublow".

Soulja That worked OK with sublow for a bit

G They had a little meeting with Slimzee, Cameo, Jon E Cash. Slim told me about it: they had it in Nandos. They discussed the future of the music and what it's going to be called. Cameo said "sublow." Wiley said "eskibeat."

S He told me he had this "future sounds" tune for me. I've been waiting a year.

B Guys are definitely leaving grime to do this. How do you think this is going to affect grime?

S All of them in grime are trying it at the moment.

B So there's Jon E cash, Bossman, Wiley, Target, Danny Weed, JME...

S Jammer's trying it. Da Vinche.

G I could see Da Vinche working though.

S All their stuff is good quality.

G Thing about garage was it was all good quality production. Steve Gurley and all them...

B There were lots of bootlegs though. So Supa, do you play CDs or vinyl?

S Mostly CDs, though I know most of those tunes wont have been mixed or mastered. Certain places dont even have decks.

G The other day I went out without a record bag for the first time ever.

B There's definitely going to come a point when that's standard.

S Yeah.



B So you've been on house for a while, how do you react to lots of people coming in from different scenes?

S I just look at them like they're following fashion, but more the better, innit?

B And what will you do if it follows exactly the same path as garage into grime, with the MCs jumping on it and taking control?

S That's where it comes down to the DJs to put a stop to that.

Soulja Ahha, I've heard this before as well!

B That's exactly why I'm asking, it feels like we've seen this before!

S There's been times when I've had to take mics off people. And if they come on my set they know it's not about MCing, but talking, because he knows what man will say to him, because we've had to do that.

Soulja Currently, thankfully, the MCs that are around in funky have been around for a long time.

They were in the garage thing. Spidey and Gemini, who's been around since Gray's. I was so shocked when I went to a Red Carpet rave two years ago to see Gemini on the mic. The same dude. That rave was a different crowd, weren't at Grays, similar performers with similar style of MCing, the afterparty style to a bigger audience.

B Is this an older or younger crowd?

S I'm seeing the new generation coming up, listening to funky now. Where before they used to be on the grime all the time, they're moving starting to go to funky.

G Girls would rather listen to funky than grime.

Soulja Girls are not going to go to grime and rave, are they? Never really have.

S I see it getting younger and younger.

G I dont think the MC thing is going to happen so quick with it anyway. If Jammer went into a funky rave and started doing "Merkle Man" the crowd would go into stand still mode. They wouldnt like it at all.

Soulja At least there's an outlet. When So Solid and Pay As U Go came about in garage, there wasn't another outlet for the MCs. Whereas at least now grime's still fairly healthy.

G Grime's got it's own weight, it dont need to run over to funky.

S But a lot of them do try it in a rave, MCing. I see it, but you have to put a stop to it, straight away. Bare times had to unplug mics and stuff. "The mic doesnt work." But if the main DJs dont let them do it, then it wont happen.

Soulja I dont think the ravers would like it.

G I like the MCs that are in it, Spidey G, Dogtaniun. Tippa's quite funny.

S Gemini's quite funny. When a DJs playing a tune you're meant to know he says "these teletubbies, they don't know."

B So when did you start DJing Supa?

S I started off in jungle. That was about 13 years ago. After that I went to garage, getting into a bit of grime and that but as I was playing it I was buying house at the same time. I was on Deja Vu at the time but i couldnt play it. I was scared to play it. Then all the change happened when all the grime lot got kicked off Deja Vu. Then I was playing more old school garage. Then one Christmas Day I did a
whole house set and from then I kept on doing it.

B When was this? Because the MCs getting kicked off Deja was about, what, 2002-03?

G They didn't get kicked off. I phoned them up and told them to come back to Rinse. We were in a studio in Three Flats, so it's got to be 2004.

S Yeah, It was 2004. So I was buying house but couldnt play it. But I've been working in a record shop since I left school, Wired For Sound in Hackney, since I was 16. I used to get everything, garage and then house. I kept buying it, at cost price, but couldnt play house out or on radio.

B So when did the switch come?

S The switch came I started playing old school and then my house collection got big enough I thought I'd start doing that, on radio on Christmas Day.

G Do you think radio has influenced this new rave scene? It couldnt have happened if you hadnt done that radio set - so it started on radio.

B I'm sure grime grew because it was all on radio, with no raves, they could take risks. Get away with anything, without a crowd.

G Yeah. I dunno... it was like a fucking rave up the radio!

Soulja Geeneus and I will like the same big tunes, but I will have had confirmation by seeing them in the rave, whereas he would know just by the heat on the radio.

G So when everyone said "this funky scene wont get big, police are locking off the raves," I say I've seen music get big without raves.

S The raves have been happening even before I joined.

G Like Big in west. And Jam every Sunday.

S Aquarium too...

G ... before it started getting a bit ghetto.

S Now, see the raves like [mainstream, US-centric house club] Soul Heaven, all the people who have jumped on it will start going to them raves as well now.

Soulja I went there a few weeks ago, I was surprised. It was like regular Soul Heaven, commercial, white people, not very good dancers, same clothes, over and over again. Then you have more of a mixed crowd, black people, white people, little bit sharper, better moves - they've decided to go to Soul Heaven because there's nothing on in funky, and they'll hear a few tunes dotted in it. And as soon as the DJ plays the tunes that are getting showcased in funky, they're reacting. Wigman was there.

B So who do you rate as the top funky DJs?

S Me, Pioneer, Kismet, Wigman, Footloose, MA1, I.C., Fever,

G What about Statix?

S See, they're more underground.

G Proper underground.

S Big on the after party scene. When it gets really grimey: it's them.

Soulja Wigman's really an afterparty DJ.

S His name's big still, but more on the afterparty scene.

B But you rate the afterparty scene?

S I do rate them but i wouldnt really wanna play there. I try not to, only certain places. Because they're the places where trouble. You go in there and you think there's gonna be trouble.

Soulja The police are watching them.

B That's funny because perhaps some people might think with funky being all dressed up, kinda the opposite to grime, there wouldnt be any trouble?

S It's just the whole afterparty thing. I think that's like that with every afterparty.

B Has funky had the same problems with the police watching and closing raves in the way grime has?

S Yeah. Cos it's like the new thing, it's happened quicker than in garage. Because everyone's jumped on it quickly and it got all big quickly. And then trouble starts quickly.

B I also think the police are more organised now.

Soulja That Grays Inn Road thing used to be troublesome. At least once a month the whole rave would be fighting. There'd be a massive fight and someone would get dragged into a corridor but there was never any police. The whole of Grays Inn Road, off Holborn, would be full of cars. Complete roadblock.

S But now when they do afterparties they organise it the same day, you'll find out about it the same day. You'll be raving, get a text and go to the afterparty. Text, thought sometimes it will be a cheap little flyer they give out in the rave for that night. They're somewhere different every week now.

RINSE03: Mixed by Supa D is out soon. Casa Funk's 12 Hour Special is on New Year's Eve at Club E3, Mile End.

MYSPACE LINKS:

· Supa D
· Apple
· Circle
· Kismet
· MA1
· NG
· Pioneer
· Invasion
· Butters boy PR
· Wigman
· Statix

10 comments:

dan hancox said...

fascinating read. bit too tired to say anything more insightful for the moment though!

Ian M said...

Really good and informative article. I always enjoy in-depth interviews with artists and key players. This funky/funky house thing definitely has me interested, though being up in the wasteland that is Glasgow I've been finding it hard to find out more about it. The place ain't exactly at the forefront of dance/urban/whatever you want to call it music.

I totally agree it does almost seem like you could be talking about UK Garage from 7 years ago rather than funky from today. I hated UKG when it first came out, though in my defence I was too young, listening to too much dodgy punk music and since I lacked the internet, the money to buy much music and I didn't live in London all I ever heard was what was in the charts. Daniel Beddingfield being played at the high school disco didn't make the music seem all that good to my 15 year old self. Only in the past few years have I been able to dig in the crates and find some great tunes.

Admittingly I was one of those who dismissed UKG as too dressy and girly at the time. But through the wonders of the internet I've learned to change my thinking of it all as I've learned more about it's history etc. And after having been to too many dubstep nights that are just massive sausage-fests more classy dressed ladies can only be a good thing in my mind, even if it means I have to buy a fancy shirt.

What it has got me thinking about though, what does the rise of funky mean for dubstep? I've been pretty bummed out by probably the majority of dubstep releases this year, I've just not been feeling what a lot of newer producers are writing(with a few notable exceptions). Will we start seeing more dubstep producers injecting some of the funky sound - or even vice versa! - in their tunes(as we can see D1 doing with some of his recent stuff)? And if that happens will we see an increase of quality in the dubstep scene as it regains the more danceable Garage quality that it originally had and the boring overly aggressive wobble-based stuff that is in vogue this now dies out? The fact that both being played at FWD will surely mean some kind of musical cross-pollination is inevitable? I can't help but think that if that happened it could only be a good thing.

Sean said...

really good read, nice 1!

grievousangelz said...

Magnificent piece, yet again you've nailed it.

I've got a totally non-aggressive dubstep tune you should hear...

pollywog said...

hahaha...

...all aboard the last funky train departing london. please note this is an express route and as such will not be stopping at dubstepville

the route though is cyclic so please feel free to jump on and off at leisure...

...what comes round goes round

Phurious said...

I can appreciate the observations supplied by everyone in the interview, but after listening to the few offerings I've heard from the funky scene I can safely say I will not be converted to this sound.

It's simply very, very dull and doesn't even provoke a strong reaction in me. It simply leaves me feeling opinionless...I don't hate it, but I don't love it.. It's bland, it's 'shrug of shoulders', it's vanilla.

(The following might seem paradoxical after what I've just stated, but my writing abilities have somewhat waned over the last few years...too much texting and not enough reading constructive journalism probably!)

Perhaps the problem is that the 'funky' sound is being roped into the same sphere as dubstep/grime because of it's London underground roots. But I can't think of a music far more removed from dubstep and grime than this so-called funky sound.

Judging by the crowds, record buyers and online debaters I encounter in these scenes, funky house doesn't seem to be a sound that would be incorporated into their vocabulary.

Therefore it appears that the issues being raised about dubstep/grime fans take on the funky scene are irrelevant. The sound does not seem to encompass that demographic at all. Like Geeneus, Supa, and Soulja says it ladies who are biggin' up this movement. And why the hell not. I mean since UKG there hasn't really been any london based underground music on offer aimed at dancefloor fun for girls.

So, I wish the funky crew all the best in their funky 4/4 endeavours and I really, really hope that something original, unique or just 'what the fuck?, happens that will bend my ear, but for the time being I'm more than happy with dubstep, grime and an almost lack of 4/4 in my life.

Culla said...

Great forum and great article on what looks like another strong London-based emergent dance scene. Seems to me that given its social and musical characteristics it might be easier not to think of this having so much of a relation to the rave dance music continuum, although it is very housey. I have expanded on this a little here

Matt Mason said...

Martin just got around to reading this. Great work. What's happened in this scene in the last six months is the only thing that really makes me miss London, this type of thing couldn't happen anywhere else.

Eric Clottey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Spearhed said...

Hmmmm, "Funky". Nice article, and an interesting read. A friend of mine working at Sony told me back in 2006, " You should do an old skool house and Garage CD, it will sell coz all the black crowd are getting into it". I laughed. Why you may ask? Simply put,...it appears that for the black crown it always has to be a thing!! (I am black too btw and listened to Acid house when I was 10 Years old) "Narrr,..allow Jungle, its all about the Garage". Seems like the same thing AGAIN now! "Its about the Funky". And I laugh at the way that the word "House" is not mentioned.

Back in 94 when I listened to house (even Todd Edwards was refered to as US House), it was like a dirty word in the black community. Lets face it, in the black community to be "black" means you listen to certain types of music etc. It seems like now its "ok" to be black and listen to funky house,....pathetic, and oh so late!

It's just creating another box/ bandwagon for people to jump on. Grow up, and stop being all about hype,....its ok to still like a Drum n bass track, or a dubstep track, or a UKG track or whatever. Just love music!!! END OF STORY.