Forever the funkateer, Damon ‘Dam-Funk’ Garrett Riddick makes future funk while paying homage to its past and keeping guests on record strictly organic, stressing to Rip Nicholson that it’s just not in his DNA.
DAM-FUNK interviewed @ 09:00 AEST Tuesday, December 7, 2015
For Street Press Australia [READ HERE]
“Man, why don’t you just stand on your own two feet and make a goddamn song? Nowadays it seems like everybody is turnt to always having to do collaborations,” insists Riddick over endless Twitter requests to collab on tracks. “I’m like,‘Damn! Can I just do my art?’ It only should happen where it’s organic. Me and Snoop happened because it was very organic, it was natural.”
Before releasing his latest album Invite The Light this September off Stones Throw Records, Riddick collabed with Snoop Dogg on the joint funk-rap album 7 Days Of Funk. As both natives of Los Angeles, California, born in ’71 and artists of about the funkiest shit to ever drop from the West coast, Riddick insists the coming-together was strictly organic when Snoop dropped by his digs alone. No management, no label interference, just Snoop and a fat bag of weed.
“The first song we ever did was Hit The Pavement in my house and he came over in his Porsche. We put the microphone to him and he just spit,” regales Riddick. “A lot of weed was smoked and what was left behind inspired other tracks he did later on for my album.”
Invite The Light, while presenting as a futuristic album through its innovative funk exploration, begins by paying back to the origins of funk on which it was based.
“This generation it seems like everybody thinks they came up with everything and they just don’t care about the past. I’m not old school or new school — I’m just a timeless cat, and it’s like where I was raised in my neighbourhood you’re supposed to give back to the people who opened up doors for you. You are not supposed to just start doing stuff and just forget who helped you get to the point where you are at now.”
The new LP opens to an intro from Junie Morrison of The Ohio Players, famous for their G-funk inspired Funky Worm, in an holistic homage to the roots of funk’s historied journey.
“A lot of weed was smoked and what was left behind inspired other tracks he did later on for my album.”
“So with Junie Morrison it was very important because his song Funky Worm was the biggest influence to G-Funk and is attributed to a lot of hits. It was an honour to have Junie Morrison on the album. A lot of people always go to the expected funk guest, if you will. But for me being authentic I knew that Junie was the one who would anoint my records in the right way, so I chose him specifically.”
Riddick is touching down in January for the Sydney Festival. No two shows of his are ever alike, insisting he never plans a set — instead feeding off the vibe of his audience which presents as a very raw and authentic output of Dam-Funk live.
“Every show is unique from itself. I never have, like, a pre-recorded show waiting for the crowd. It’s always different and spontaneous.” He continues, “it can be a trick, very much on your heels type situation like a rollercoaster. But, that’s the thrill of it. I wanna stay as an artist where I feel it’s fun and intriguing and challenging. Not where it’s easy. ‘Ah, let me go up here and do the set I did in the last city’ — I can’t do that because I’m still enjoying this as well. I’m still finding it exciting for me so I try to make each city a special experience.”
Images by Matthew Scott
Conversation with Dam-Funk
Invite The Light (Latest album) – As active as you’ve been as a funk prophet, it’s been six years between solos. Good to get back in the driver’s seat alone?
It’s good to be back, yes, In every sense. Each to his own. Seems like a lot of people have finally accepted what is goin’ on, even journalists, as far as modern funk music with a good soul connection and that kind of thing. So I’m just happy to be a part of it and to contribute a brick in the wall to this overdue respect it’s finally getting right now. In the mainstream is kinda picking and plucking things from it. It seems a 50/50 out now where funk is finally getting the backing.
You mention your perseverance of upholding the future of funk, however, having The Ohio Player’s Junie Morrison open the album is this a tying in of the old funk to the direction you’d like the funk to head?
In a way it is, I’m glad you recognised that. With me, I’ve always been someone who doesn’t leave out the past and leave the people who actually opened up doors. But this generation it seems like everybody thinks they came up with everything and they just don’t care about the past. The way I came up, I’m a timeless artist so it’s like, you know, I’m like not old school or new school I’m just a timeless cat and it’s like. My motto by which I was raised in my neighbourhood you’re supposed to give back to the people who opened up doors for you. You are not supposed to just start doing stuff and just forget who helped you get to the point where you are at now. So with Junie Morrison it was very important because Junie Morrison with his song ‘Funky Worm’ The Ohio Players literally with that synth-line used in that song was the biggest influence to G-Funk and is attributed to a lot of hits. It was an honour to have Junie Morrison on the album. A lot of people always go to the expected funk guest, if you will, but for me being authentic I knew that Junie was the one who would anoint my records in the right way so I chose him specifically other than the tried and true and stable cats that everybody runs to when you want to have a funk guest on their album.
The album and indeed your entire catalogue has been classified as G-funk, I wanted to ask whether that’s a label or term you would agree best describes your work?
No it doesn’t. G-Funk was something that I enjoyed and liked partying to and I really respected the style of music and I consider myself funk and now it’s modern funk so, before G-Funk I was into funk. That’s why I consider myself a funkster first-and-foremost. But I love all styles of music. Prefab Sprout is one of my favourite acts of all-time and I think Pat McAloon is one of the greatest living writers alive right now. So it’s not just funk but that’s what makes funk unique from a lot of other genres that are out right now because funk is anything, guitar solo or screaming on top of the track or just do whatever. And, with that lineage it allows you to work with anyone like Todd Rundgren who I just went out on tour with this year or Red Hot Chili Peppers or whoever and all of that is mixed up into the funk spectrum and all i try to do humbly is continue the funk and not let it be stagnant because there is a lot of tribute bands and a lot of nostalgic situations going on in funk and I just didn’t wanna represent funk in that manner. I want to continue funk because a lot of funk artists never really stopped. It’s just that the music industry when hip-hop came as they usually – based on dollars and trend – they only focused on that side of life from a funk perspective as far as music coming from an urban venue and what’s going on. So, funk bands got dropped from the labels and some of them were forced to go to different jobs but there were still people like myself, and others, who really love this music and want to see it continue and now with all the new labels coming up even in Australia and different places around the world there’s a whole new scene now for funk and that’s what I am trying to let people know that there is something they can choose from. Even DJs they can put something different in their record crates, or rather now, their serato or tracklist. They can play modern funk now and that was really one of my only missions that I was about.
‘I’m Just Tryin’ To Survive’ you invited Q-Tip to add lyrics. What brought about a connection with such a general of East coast hip-hop?
I met Q-Tip in Amsterdam one-time after a show and he expressed a love of my music and I of course knew of his. The first couple of Tribe albums I was heavily influenced by because during that time when I was growing up in LA you were either the NWA kid or the Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul kid and I, surprisingly, drifted towards the Native Tongues vibe because they were using more unique samples and some of the stuff that NWA and them were doing were fun and cool but it just didn’t appeal to me as much as some of the innovative things that Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul and that crew was doing. So I grew up on Q-Tip’s production which was very underrated and when we kept an open communications back and forth I sent him a track and the next day he sent it back totally done because he loved the sound. That’s how that song came about. I didn’t expect him to do it that fast. And that’s always from what I hear, a compliment when someone sends the song back fast. I’m guilty myself of not sending back songs fast enough because I’m busy but the fact that he did that shows me that, you know, you don’t have to be on the Top 40 charts or hugely popular on radio. I think artistically a lot of artists’ peers respect each other in the game even if they’re not hugely successful as far as monetary levels or chart status. It was really flattering that he was able to return the song that fast as an actual guest on my record.
what makes a track worthy of giving to a rapper to drops bars on and what is worth you retaining as a instrumental for your own solo work?
Because I sometimes think of the artist when I’m recording it and then I think of what my idea is for other songs. So, adept and mature enough to know and not an egoist enough to know that every song I do is going to be for another artist. Sometimes my stuff is more personal and sometimes the other songs are for others and the market place as far as what they might feel sounding on top of. But for the most part I just record things to compliment that and others I just do for myself.
I want to ask you about working with Snoop for that collab album. When I heard that you both got together with no management, no label interference, just one-on-one sessions. First, how many beats did you both churn through to find what you needed for the records and secondly, how much weed was consumed during this process?
First, not a lot of tracks. He loved every one. I was lucky about that. The first song we ever did was ‘Hit the Pavement’ in my house and he came over in his Porsche and he came on up, we put the microphone to him and he just spit. That was the first one that we did and from there I sent him a few more and then we did some things in person as well. but the first one was ‘Hit the Pavement’. Second of all, a lot of weed was smoked but he smoked more than me of course. The weed that he left behind inspired other tracks he did later on for my album.
What are the chances you could work with other west coast producers like DJ Quik or another favourite of mine, UK’s Dev Hynes from the UK?
At this point, you know I’ve been thinking about that a lot. And I look at people like Todd Rundgren and Prefab Sprout’s’ Paddy McAloon and Frank Zappa what-have-you and even Prince whee they didn’t need to do collaborations. Nowadays it seems like everybody is turnt to always having to do collaborations. It seems like on Twitter all I see is collabo, collabo, collabo, collabo, collabo, collabo! I’m like, ‘Damn! Can I just do my art?’ You understand what I am saying? At this point it’s like, it doesn’t have to be a collaboration all the time. It only should happen where it’s organic. Me and Snoop happened because it was very organic, it was natural. It wasn’t forced. Me and Ariel Pink, it wasn’t forced. It was natural. Q-Tip, it was natural. I’m not one of these artists from nowadays that is searching, digging, consulting with their label to hitting up people on Twitter. You’ve gotta collaborate with somebody. Man, why don’t you just stand on your own two feet and make a goddamn song?! That’s what I’m saying. At this point I don’t even care about collaborating anymore. You know what I’m saying? At this point in my career, my life, when I started off as a kid with a broomstick in the mirror, you know strumming a broomstick, it wasn’t influenced by collaborating with somebody. Kiss didn’t collaborate, Rush didn’t collaborate. I think we just need to get out of the whole mentality of let’s collaborate with somebody. Just express your art from the gut and heart and where you come from. That’s what I say. Then if the collaboration happens and it’s natural, fine. But that is definitely not my inspiration in trying to sustain my career or gear music to the public at large to find the next hot cat to collaborate with. It’s just not in my DNA.
You’re coming over in January for the Sydney Festival. What’s the type of gig that inspires you the most, an outdoor festival or smaller intimate club setting?
I think both are good, you know. There’s a certain energy you can pick up from a large crowd and then a certain energy you can pick up from a small crowd and I enjoy both.
Is It something that you step to differently?
It depends. You know, with the band as far as what we do with a band. I have three configurations; one is strictly DJ, one is solo live which I will be doing in Australia and then the band is the final frontier. But, it just depends on what it is and I just appreciate sharing music overall. I’m one of those cats that is fortunate to have had a lot of great gigs and had no problems I’ve been on stage and they’ve all been great. I just work it out. One thing I will have you know is I never plan my sets or have a setlists as far as doing my DJ sets or solo live. I just go off the crowd and the energy of that particular day. The songs to what I play DJing live are just different to what I choose to play based off of the audience and a certain movement or energy they put out depending on what’s going on. So, every show is unique from itself. I never have like a pre-recorded show waiting for the crowd. It’s always different and spontaneous.
That’s very organic, almost at its most raw.
Yeah, it can be a trick, very much on your heels type situation like a rollercoaster. But, that’s the thrill of it. I mean, I wanna stay as an artist where I feel it’s fun and intriguing and challenging. Not where it’s easy. ‘Ah, let me go up here and do the set I did in the last city.’ I can’t do that because I’m still enjoying this as well. I’m still finding it exciting for me so I try to make each city a special experience.