ahead of his show at The Stache in Grand Rapids, We had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Calgary bass music artist Defunk about his genre bending sound, past influences, and future collaborations.
Colin: For anyone out there who doesn't know you, would you mind introducing yourself and giving us a little background?
Defunk: Yeah thank you, I'm a Canadian artist and I've been doing this for about 7 years now. My music is best described as a mash of funky bass, a little bit of blues, and a little bit of soul. I've been trying a lot of different things over the years and I like the direction my music is going.
Colin: Being from Canada, have you noticed a substantial difference between the electronic music scene there, as opposed to here in the United States?
Defunk: There's some differences, like in West Canada there's this culture in turn-tables, and there's a great appreciation for the act of DJing and mixing. I find it more so in west coast Canada, in the Shambhala area. A lot of people are doing more live and jam interactions with crowds, and some people do more "midi" control and more Ableton sets, but it's interesting to see people's approach. These people have different and reasonable backgrounds and are from different regions of America. It's kind of cool to see that come together in the bass music scene. I think for the most part the crowd is quite similar, some are there to dance and get down and some people are there to have a few drinks and just nod their heads.
Colin: I'm a big fan of the mixes you made for All Good Radio and Shambhala. Can you tell us your approach when creating a mix like that?
Defunk: Yeah, I make a lot of remixes, specifically for some of the mixes I do I go in and make small edits of similar tracks and special remixes that sometimes don't even come out. They're only a couple minutes long, but they are perfect for transitions and filling the gaps between certain songs. I try to approach it like a journey, so I like to go through different moods and different energy patterns when I'm making my sets. I like going from funky to heavy and then into chill music or uplifting, but then also put in some surprise drops where people don't really expect it's coming. I think it's a fun way to move the crowd and that's what I like to do more than anything. I like to keep people guessing and keep people and on their toes. When I do my live shows now, I kind of have a little bit of improvisation with some jamming on the keyboard. I'm able to include some sax and guitar, and I like to keep it fresh. Every time I go out and play I play a different set. I don't keep sets for more than one or two shows. It's something completely different and It's something that I really cherish being able to do.
Colin: So you played a live set at The Other Side in Colorado. Can you tell us a bit about what preparation goes into a live show as opposed to a DJ set and can you describe how that show went?
Defunk: It was excellent actually! It was the first time I've played with a live drummer, Chris from Sunsquabi. He did an amazing job. When you have a drummer, you need to rehearse and go through exactly what you are going to play because he needs to know all of the tempo changes, drum pattern changes, and when to slow down. That was actually quite interesting. It reminded me of my band days when you are getting together with your friends and you are essentially going through the songs and writing down the notes and stuff. The whole thing was super cool. We were in Denver for a couple days before, and we got a chance to practice twice. He listened to a pre-recorded version of what I was going to play, just so that it was easier for him to figure out his whole set, and then he nailed it! I also had Kevin Donohue from SunSquabi, as well as SoDown. They played saxophone and guitar, so we pretty much had a full live show, but it was generally on the spot. It was generally just us jamming and playing music and not really practicing other than me and the drummer. It was a lot of fun..
Colin: That's great! That kind of improvisation really adds to the uniqueness of the show.
Defunk: Yeah! And you would never know as a fan or someone in the audience. You never know what's really going on. It's always interesting to find out that it's all on the spot and those people are up there and just playing off one another. It's a lot of fun and different than a DJ set because with a DJ set I can pick and choose what I want to be the next track. When I DJ, I want to play and really hone in on the energy of the set. The drum samples are all clean and crisp and as soon as you add in a live aspect it kind of opens it up into a new realm.
Colin: How was it touring with The Floozies and SunSquabi - can we expect any collaborations between the three of you?
Defunk: Yeah that was a lot of fun. It was my first real bus tour, and being on a tour for two weeks was quite an interesting experience. It was a lot of guys in a small area and it got pretty sticky after a while. It was crazy because you would play your show and you would come back to your bus around two or three in the morning, then you would fall asleep and wake up in a different city somewhere. It was a weird experience in that sense, where you were always moving and you never had a home base. Your bus was kind of your home base, but we all made really good friends. Those guys are amazing. I really kinda struck a chord with SunSquabi. We did some jamming synths and we talked about doing a little bit of a collaboration, so that's something that I want to try to pull off with those guys. We are really big fans of each other's music and it was a really nice time with them.
Colin: I noticed you include a lot of classic rock in your mixes. What rock artists have inspired you as a musician and can we expect to hear more remixes of classic tracks, like Ramble On?
Defunk: I've gone through so many different genres. I got into swing music and then into electro blues (old 40s and 50s blues music), then I got into funk. It's kind of what everybody assumes I do nowadays, but I really experimented with everything, even Middle Eastern music and Spanish music. For me, I'm kind of going full circle when I go back to my rock roots, because I've always enjoyed classic rock and I've always been inspired by that. I've grown up listening to bands like Nirvana and other 90's grunge. When I look back, some of my favorite bands are Lynyrd Skynyrd, CCR, Led Zeppelin, Guns and Roses, and some of the 80's hair metal bands. I also love Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and all the classics. I don't think enough people are touching on that and it's still sort of untouched. There are maybe 4 other artists I know of that are doing this rock infusion of bass music. It's almost an open invitation to kind of go and explore and I really like the vibration of the rock guitar. So, not only am I going to be trying to do more remixes like that, but I'm going to try to craft new original music that is like a fusion of rock music and bass music. I've got a couple songs that are pretty wicked and that I'm stoked on. They're going to be on my new EP that I'm slowly building up.
Colin: Thanks so much again for talking to us, we love the direction you are going in! Looking forward to your show May 5th at The Stache.