The Revolution – The Story Behind Prince’s Band

prince and the revolution

Almost everyone has heard of Prince, but perhaps not everyone has heard of his tighter-than-otter’s-pocket band, The Revolution.

With Prince being as famous as he was, it’s easy to overlook the backing band that played alongside him. But the members of the Revolution were all very talented and contributed a substantial amount to Prince’s music.

Sly Stone, frontman in the band Sly and the Family Stone and notable funk musician, used a diverse backing band during his musical career. Prince, being a huge admirer of Stone, took a page from his book and assembled an equally diverse backing group. The Revolution became known for its diversity.

Prince formed the band after his first album. The band was mostly assembled in 1979, however, at this point, they were not yet known as The Revolution. 

The Revolution was made up of musicians of different races and different genders which contributed to a rich and varied sound and a full musical experience.

The original members of the band were as follows: Prince on lead vocals, guitar and piano; Dez Dickerson on guitar; Andre Cymone on bass guitar; Bobby Z. on drums; and Gayle Chapman on keyboards and Matt Fink (also called “Doctor Fink” as he was known for wearing scrubs on stage) on keyboards.

However, the lineup would see some changes over the years.

The Revolution’s Members

Let’s take a brief look at some of the longest-standing Revolution members.

Bobby Z

Bobby Z

Bobby Z (Robert B. Rivkin) was the original drummer of the Revolution, from 1978-1986. As Prince was adamant about the diversity of his band, he was in search of a white drummer. This was when he decided to audition Bobby Z.

In later years, Bobby Z had to adapt his drumming techniques in order to play electric drums, which Prince was using more and more of in his songs. Talented drummer that he is, Bobby Z was able to master the electric drums as well, in studio and on stage.

Bobby Z also contributed to the composition of Prince’s albums “Purple Rain”, “Around the World in a Day”, “Parade” and “Sign O’ the Times”.

Here’s an awesome interview with Bobby Z by thefivecount, taking you all the way back to the beginning.  Super interesting stuff!


Matt Fink (Doctor Fink)

Matt Fink was the keyboardist for the Revolution.

He is better known by his stage name, “Doctor Fink”, because wore doctor’s scrubs on stage during performances.

Originally, he used to wear a jailbird outfit in the live performances around 1979. However, musician Rick James was also wearing this costume on some of his performances.

Dr Fink

Fink, not wanting to copy this, started looking for a new outfit to wear. This was when he came up with the idea of wearing scrubs. Prince loved the idea, and from then on, he was “Doctor Fink”.

Doctor Fink also helped co-write a handful of songs with Prince. These songs were “Dirty Mind”, “Computer Blue”, “17 Days”, “America” and “It’s Gonna be a Beautiful Night”.

Here’s an interesting interview going deep with Doctor Fink with Prophets Of Rock TV.


Lisa Coleman

Lisa Coleman was only 19 years old when her good friend who was working with Prince’s manager introduced her to Prince. Up until this point, Coleman had  been playing keyboard in her bubblegum pop band, Waldorf Salad.

Coleman auditioned and won Prince over. She was hired to the Revolution in 1980 to play on the “Dirty Mind” album, as well as on his upcoming tour.

Coleman replaced Gayle Chapman as one of the keyboardists.

Lisa Coleman

Soon after, Prince met Coleman’s partner, Wendy Melvoin. Upon hearing her play guitar, he asked her to join the Revolution as a replacement to Dez Dickereson.

Coleman and Melvoin also started their own duo. They called it Wendy and Lisa and over the course of the years released 5 albums. 

Lisa Colemand and Wendy Melvoin

Check out Our Destiny by Prince & Lisa Coleman from the channel PRINCE 4EVER.


Andre Cymone

Andre Cymone and Prince were friends from childhood. In fact, Prince stayed with their family for a while when he had conflicts with his own father at home. 

In their youth, the two were in a band together, also with Cymone’s sister.

In the late 1970s when Prince released his debut album “For You”, he recruited Cymone as bassist for his tour. This would be his last tour with Prince, however, for the two later had conflicts.

Although they were resolved, Cymone continued to work on his own projects, and the Revolution continued on without him.

Here’s a way in depth interview with Andre Cymone from the Prince Podcast.  Check it out!


BrownMark

Brown Mark played bass guitar for the Revolution.

He was especially known for his unique style of funk-influenced bass guitar playing. He played with the Revolution during the recording of “Purple Rain”, and left the band in 1986.

He rejoined, however, in 2016 when the band reunited for their tribute and reunion tour. He now sings most of the songs during performances. 

Here is a sweet interview with BrownMark from Bass Musician Magazine.


Purple Rain

Purple Rain album cover

The members present when Prince and the Revolution released the album “Purple Rain” were Bobby Z, Doctor Fink, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin, and BrownMark.  

“Purple Rain” was Prince and the Revolution’s best-selling album. It was released in 1984 and instantly went to the tops of the charts.

“When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, and “I Would Die 4 U” all made it to the top 10 of the Billboard’s top 100 list.

You can listen to the title track below. In the music video, Prince gives some credit to Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin for writing the song. 

The album “Purple Rain” won two Grammys. The first was for the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The second was for Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture. The album was written by Prince, but with valuable input from his band members.

“Purple Rain” was a milestone for the Revolution, because it was the first album that Prince recorded with the band, and the first album in which he credited them.

Because the album was recorded with the band, it had significantly more focus on the full band and their different instruments and sounds, resulting in a more intricate album than Prince’s previous one-man albums.  

Guitar was a huge focal point of the album, as well as keyboard and synthesizer. The album was R&B but with rock and psychedelic touches, influenced by the Revolution. It was praised for its stylistic experimentation, crossing over many genres.  

For example, “When Doves Cry” was an experimental and unique song because it didn’t have a bassline. Dr. Fink says that when he first heard the song, “my immediate reaction was ‘Hey, there’s no bassline in this song. Aren’t you going to add one?’”

He continues, “I wasn’t ready for it and it tricked the hell out of my ears. But […] when you listen to “When Doves Cry” today it still sounds so ground-breaking and unique. It never gets old.” This song really has stood the test of time. You can listen to it below.

The same lineup featured on the “Purple Rain” album plus some new additions performed on Prince’s Hit N’ Run Parade Tour.

These new additions were Miko Weaver, Susannah Melvoin, Eric Leeds, Matt “Atlanta Bliss” Blistan and Jerome Benton. They played the jazzier side of things during the tour, such as the horn sections.

The Rebels

In 1979, the Revolution and Prince experimented with a side project. Although it wasn’t named at the time, the side band has since been called the Rebels. It featured vocals by original Revolution members Dez Dickerson, Andre Cymone and Gayle Chapman.

The side group recorded music in Colorado during 1979. However, the project was abandoned, perhaps to focus again on the Revolution. Years later, two of the tracks from the Rebels were rerecorded and given to other artists by Prince.

The track “U” was released by Paula Abdul on her album “Spellbound” and the song “If I Love U 2nite” was added to the albums of both Mica Paris and Mayte Garcia. 

The Revolution Today

The current band members include Bobby Z. on drums, Matt Fink on keyboards and vocals, Lisa Coleman also on keyboards and vocals, Brown Mark on bass and vocals, and Wendy Melvoin on rhythm guitar and vocals.

the revolution today

After the sudden death of Prince in 2016, the Revolution reunited and began performing Prince’s songs together again. It started with them playing tribute concerts to their friend, and gradually turned into a reunion tour that has lasted the past couple of years and will continue into the foreseeable future.

Keyboardist and vocalist Lisa Coleman says that at the beginning of their tour, the Revolution tried not to stray too far from the original arrangements of the songs.

However, as their tour has progressed, the band is starting to go in new directions, shaking things up now and then. Coleman says this was always the way when they used to play with Prince on stage.

She says, “When Prince was around, every night was a different show, really”.  Bobby Z adds, “Every time you play it, there’s something you can add”. Here is a video of them performing live at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

This creates a really complex and exciting performance. Every show is authentic and genuine.

Conclusion

The Revolution continues to be an influential band.

Their diversity and talent make their music unlike any other band, because each member brings their own original style to the table.

They continue to share Prince’s music with the world on their reunion tour, and are well received by their innumerable fans.

Connect with The Revolution on Facebook

Bent Beats – A Brief History of Funk Music

James Brown

What is funk music?  Funk is an earthy, rhythmic genre that blends jazz, soul and R&B. In this article we’ll take a brief look at the extensive history of this groovy and influential music.

Here’s a funk drum loop called “Funky Drummer” that originated from James Brown’s band and has been used many a time on hip hop songs, but it was born out of funk.  Maybe you have heard it?  This will hopefully set the mood for this article…

Etymology

The word “funk” comes from the latin word “fumigare” which means “to smoke”. Funk was originally introduced into English to describe a strong smell and was first used around 1620.

About a century later, the adjective “funky” was derived, meaning musty. This word was then picked up by the jazz communities in the 1900s and used as slang to describe something that was earthy or deeply felt.

By the 1950s and 1960s, the use of “funky” to describe jazz was common, and this is how the genre “funk” got its unique name.

Characteristics

Funk is a very danceable genre. It is upbeat, rhythmic and, for lack of another word, undeniably funky. Funk puts more emphasis on bass line as opposed to melody. It incorporates a variety of rhythm instruments, with bass and drums playing an important role in most funk songs.

Funk usually doesn’t limit itself to the regular verse/chorus structure of most songs. The song goes where the music carries it, and often each section of the song is given fairly equal weight and importance.

Funk was the voice of a generation in the 1970s. It expressed the struggles of the working-class community, giving them music to share and identify with.

Here’s a band called The Meters that you’ll become familiar with if you stick with the funk.  Cissy Strut, 1974…

Beginnings of Funk (Late 1960s)

Funk was born in the African-American communities of the mid to late 1960s. It was heavily influenced by (you could even say it was started by) a musician named James Brown, AKA the “Godfather of Soul”.

James Brown

James Brown was an innovative singer that started out in blues and gospel-based forms of music, singing in the group The Famous Flames in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Later in the 1960s, however, Brown decided to try something new, and so he shifted to an Africanized style of music. This change in style was launched by his hit singles in 1965, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good)”.

Check out this clip of James Brown performing live in 1965.  If you haven’t heard him before, this will help you understand the meaning of funk.

Brown’s signature groove developed into an accentuated downbeat, with emphasis on the first beat, as opposed to on the backbeat which was typical of most African-American music at the time. In other words, his signature groove went like this: one-two-three-four, as opposed to the typical one-two-three-four.

Brown’s style of funk can be seen clearly in his songs such as “Ain’t It Funky Now” (released in 1967) and “Mother Popcorn” (released in 1969), in which he uses strong bass lines, drums patterns and complex grooves to make a rhythmic and danceable song.

Brown also used his voice as a percussion instrument in his songs quite often, by making rhythmic exclamations, laughs, or grunts throughout the music, as a drum might do. 

This type of percussive vocals is something the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, adopted later on.  Here’s a clip of Jackson doing what he did best back in the 1980’s.

Speaking of drums, another large contributor to the funk genre was Clyde Stubblefield, a well-known drummer who worked with James Brown. Stubblefield was largely influenced by the R&B genre that arose from New Orleans after the second World War.

This played an important role in the development of the funk genre. Stubblefield took up these New Orleans R&B drumming techniques and turned them into the groundwork of funk.

According to Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, another musician who worked with James Brown, “Clyde Stubblefield was just the epitome of this funky drumming”.  For an example of his funky style, you can listen to the audio clip we added at the beginning of this article.

Clyde Stubblefield drumming

The Rise of Funk in the 1970s

After James Brown pioneered this new and exciting type of music, many musicians began to adopt his style. Dyke and the Blazers released one of the first albums to have “funky” in its name: the album “Funky Broadway” in 1967.

In 1970, the band Tower of Power (TOP) released their debut album, “Easy Bay Grease” featuring songs such as “The Price” and “Back on the Streets Again”. The band was a break-through for modern funk because they popularized the genre and spread it to a wider audience.  

The band Sly and the Family Stone released the song “Thank You” which hit #1 in the charts in 1970, and their song “Family Affair” reached #1 in 1971.

The Meters, whom we mentioned earlier, was another influential band who brought funk to New Orleans, making it popular in that area.

Another significant funk band was The Isley Brothers, who came out with the hit song “It’s Your Thing”. This group was one of the stepping stones that lay between the jazzier James Brown and the psychedelic Jimi Hendrix.  

The 1970s is undeniably when funk had the most time in the limelight. You could say that the 1970s were the “heyday” of the funk genre. It was played on the radio and enjoyed by many people.

Some other big names in funk at the time were Stevie Wonder, Rufus & Chaka Khan, and the Bar-Kays.  Here’s Stevie with a funky number called Master Blaster (jammin’).

Jazz-Funk-Fusion

The 1970’s were also when jazz musicians began blending jazz with different genres. Jazz-funk arose from this experimentation: a blend of jazz and funk. Jazz-funk used electric bass and electric piano, as opposed to the traditional jazz of the time, which used double bass and grand piano.

Herbie Hancock, a jazz pianist who played with the Miles Davis Quintet throughout the 60s, decided to break out into the world of funk in the 70s with a new band of his creation called The Headhunters. Their debut album, “Head Hunters”, was released in 1973 and became an instant hit across audiences, though it was criticized by some jazz musicians because it felt more like funk than jazz.  

Here it is!  If you want to feel funky, put this on.

Jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, one of the most acclaimed jazz figures of the 20th century, decided to release a jazz-funk album in the 1970s, like so many other jazz artists.

The album he recorded was “On the Corner”. He wrote it during the summer of 1972 and released it later that same year. It was an attempt to recapture his young black audience, who were turning to funk and rock instead of jazz.

“On the Corner” is rich with layers and textures, with instruments such as the Indian tambura and tablas, as well as the Cuban congas and bongos. There is also heavy funk drumming and a funky groove played on the bass.     

P-Funk (Parliament Funk)

In addition to the blend of jazz and funk, some groups began to develop a funk-rock style. The two bands of singer George Clinton, Funkadelic and Parliament, started experimenting with jazz and psychedelic rock in their funk music.

P-Funk

These two bands are often referred to together as Parliament-Funkadelic, because they shared many band members.

From these two bands, the subgenre P-Funk arose, referring to the music of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.

The P-Funk groups became quite popular in the 1970s, due to their exciting new brand of funk and their live performances. Starting in the 1980s, samples of P-Funk were also incorporate throughout many rap and hip-hop songs, including Dr. Dre.

Influence on Disco

Disco music was heavily influenced by funk. Many of the disco hits of that time were sung by artists who started off in funk.

For example, the funk band Rufus & Chaka Khan launched the solo singing career of Chaka Khan, who went on to sing the hit disco song “I’m Every Woman”.

Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” was also inspired by funk rhythms, as was “Kung Foo Fighting” by Biddu and Carl Douglas, and “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross.  

And let’s not forget the funkiest disco band of them all, Chic.

1980s Synthesizer Funk

Electronic instruments, drum machines, and of course, synthesizers, began to trickle into funk music in the 1980s. Saxophones and trumpets were given less time in the lime light of songs, and synth keyboards became popular instead. Synth keyboards were also used for the bass lines that were originally played on bass.

In 1980, the band Yellow Magic Orchestra became the first band to use the programmable drum machine known as a TR-808.

Rick James was another artist of the time experimenting with synthesizer funk. With his hit 1981 singles “Super Freak” and “Give It to Me Baby”, we can see that the 1980s brought a change not only to the sound of funk but to the lyrics of funk as well; they became more explicit than before.

Prince was another icon of the 1980s, writing adventurous music with sexual themes and funky instrumentation. Some other synth-funk artists of the time were Cameo, the Bar-Kays, Zapp, and the Dazz Band.

Afrika Bambaataa, a band inspired by Yellow Magic Orchestra, developed electro-funk in 1982 a genre driven by electronic sounds woven into funk beats.

Late 1980s and Onwards

Funk declined greatly in popularity with the arrival of hip-hop, rap and contemporary R&B in the late 1980s. However, it was still used, and is still used today, for sampling in many hip-hop songs. 

In fact, James Brown and Parliament-Funk are said to be the two most sampled artists in all of the hip-hop genre. Dr. Dre has said that he was greatly influenced by the psychedelic funk of George Clinton and P-Funk. 

Dr. Dre

Rock bands also used certain elements of funk in their songs. Bands such as Jane’s Addiction and Rage Against the Machine were influenced and inspired by funk.

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, when they first began, took a page from punk funk acts like Defunkt and The Contortions. Their debut album, “The Red Hot Chilli Peppers” featured back-up vocals by Gwen Dickey, the singer of the disco funk band Rose Royce.

Even modern R&B music has been touched by the splendours of funk. Beyoncé’s 2003 hit “Crazy in Love” samples the funk song “Are You My Woman” by the Chi-Lites, a funk quartet from Chicago.

The song “Get Right” by Jennifer Lopez samples the funk song “Soul Power ‘74” by Maceo Parker, a trumpeter who worked with James Brown in Parliament-Funkadelic.

Women of Funk

Often, the history of funk focusses on men, and on bands consisting mostly of men, but there have been notable and influential funk women as well.

Chaka Khan, for example, who started in the band Rufus and Chaka Khan before pursuing a solo career, has been called the “Queen of Funk”.

Her 1984 album “I Feel For You”, brought her much success and became a platinum album. The title track of this album features a harmonica solo by Stevie Wonder and a rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel.

Dawn Silva and Lynn Mabry are another two big names in funk. They started off as back-up singers for Sly and the Family Stone, and then began working with Parliament-Funkadelic. They then began their own career under the name The Brides of Funkenstein, which was named by George Clinton after the P-Funk album “The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein”.

 Their 1978 debut album, “Funk or Walk”, was a huge success, selling thousands of copies in the first week.

In 1979, Lynn Mabry left and was replaced by Sheila Horne and Jeanette McGruder. Their second album, “Never Buy Texas from a Cowboy” won them an award for best new female artist.

Here is the title track from that album. 

The Pointer Sisters, made up of the four sisters Ruth, Anita, Bonnie and June Pointer, were a quartet that performed music spanning the genres of R&B, pop, be-bop, soul, and of course, funk.

They strived to create original music that combined jazz and be-bop rather than follow the mainstream trend of pop.

Some of their top singles include “Fire”, “Jump (For My Love)”, and “Yes We Can Can”.

Conclusion

Although there is so much more to be said about the intricate and extensive genre of funk, I’ll leave it here for now.

Funk has certainly been a very influential genre since the get go, getting its roots from blues singer James Brown and quickly spreading across North America.

It became big in the 1970s and was fused with many other genres to create sub-genres such as funk rock, jazz funk, electro-funk and psychedelic funk.

Its earthy sound, danceable beats, groovy bass lines and drum beats continue to please and inspire many audiences.  

We’ll leave you something with something that comes from a more electronic direction, that being some music by Luke Vibert.  Adios and stay funky y’all!

Alex Gage’s Flagship Leaves Port For Proverbial High Seas of Art Rock

There’s a lot of bands out there trying to make it today – maybe now more than ever. 

Some of these artists are cognizant of their trajectory to where they would like to be in the scheme of things, whether it be becoming a solid live act with a local following that simply pays the bills, or aiming to be the… yes, the “greatest rock band of all time”.

This aspiration to be considered some of the greatest musical geniuses that ever walked the earth is a level of ambition that some artists seem to possess, and which is more common than the self-identified plebeians among us might imagine.

As well, there are – and these are probably the majority of artists to be frank – those that really have no clue what they’re trying to achieve career-wise or in terms of some grand artistic vision, if anything. 

These ego-less noodlers are content to play a song or two in their bedroom with an old dusty guitar, or serenade aunts and uncles at family reunions.  This, perhaps, is preferrable to these modest music makers.  Not everyone wants to be Bono and The Edge.

Either way, there’s a lot of people making music these days, on various scales.  Some care a lot about what they’re doing, considering it rather important, and some don’t care much at all, considering it transitory and trifling (even if they don’t know what either of those words mean). 

Musical expression – it’s all interpreted on an individual basis, of course, just like everything else in life.  I’m not here to judge!

Just kidding, I’m a bitter, jaded blogger hiding behind a screen, of course I’m here to judge.  🙂 

Also, let me stress again that there are artists out there on the musical landscape who clearly have more drive than others to create forms of expression which try to say more, with bigger artistic goals in mind.  Artists that think that Bono and The Edge are merely “ok”, or might even say “they suck” (gasp!).

These more ambitious people may simply have an undeniable artistic vision that they are pursuing, while still others want to make a grand artistic statement and also get handed a big bag of cash and hang out with the Robert Palmer girls (or Robert himself if you are a girl, I guess).  The fame!  The fortune!  The cars!  The yachts!  Simon LeBon!  Yes!  Yes!  YES!

In any case, there’s really no denying that some artists seem driven to achieve something on a level that perhaps few artists can muster.  And kudos to those people, because without them, we would get some of our favourite albums.

Alex Gage’s Flagship Introduce “Lifeboat” EP Via Live Debut

Enter Alex Gage (pictured below) and his new musical project the Flagship, and their new “Lifeboat” EP.

Now there’s a little word called pretentiousness and you hear it when people speak of what is sometimes called “art rock”. 

Alex Gage, a member of the funky trio The Magnetic Revelators who generally kick out the crowd-pleasing jams in their hometown of Kitchener, Ontario, has now crossed the line into a new realm of expression, which is…I dare say…art rock. 

Could it be that Alex Gage is pulling a Prince, mic’ing his entire home, and recording a concept album on the toilet with a Tele and the red light on?

Having known Alex for a little while and spoken with him many times, I’ve really never known Alex to really ooze pretentiousness.  Musically skilled, yep.  Energetic, quite.  Full of ideas, indeed. 

But now, having revealed to me a new side of himself which I must admit is rather musically progressive and experimental in nature, there is always the fear that art rock will cast a spell of smugness on this normally beautiful, free-spirited soul who seems to love music for its intrinsic values, and isn’t hell bent on being the next Kanye West.

Curiosity piqued, I had to know what was up with the project Alex has referred to lately as Flagship, or rather Alex Gage’s Flagship, as he is the project leader of a host of talented musicians coming from diverse musical backgrounds.  The more I heard about the project, the more I gathered that it was rather ambitious in scope. 

Here is a recent pic of the Flagship working on material.  

From the sounds of it, these people know what they’re doing.  I began to wonder – is Alex on his way to creating the next “Lulu” (Metallica meets Lou Reed, if you recall), or is this going to be something really cool that will blow our minds?

With a debut live show at a venue called The Jazz Room in the Canadian university town of Waterloo, Ontario imminent this Saturday, July 14th, the time is coming to see what Alex Gage has in store for listeners in terms of his new EP. 

In the meantime, I conducted an interview with Alex to see what he had to say about this new project, which he has been working on diligently with his new band, but keeping things under wraps…until now. 

Enjoy our chat!


YC: So, Alex, I hear you got a new band together.  What’s that all about?

Alex: Well, truth be told, it’s been a Chinese Democracy years in the making. By that I mean it was something I was theoretically getting ready for – personally – for a long time before I was capable of the business of actually pulling it off. I write a decent amount and the majority of it isn’t fit for what The Magnetic Revelators (my regular band) do. I’m only a third to a half of the personality in that group so I wanted to create something to serve as a flagship (beg your pardon) for my creative personality and this armada of compositions I’ve accumulated over time. I was craving an unmediated vehicle of expression. It started this time as a recording project. This band was – and still is – my conception of a solo project, but the ideas were bigger than what I could pull off alone – especially live now; it takes seven people to pull off this music without drastically reducing the complexity of the arrangements. I mean, I played a lot of the parts you hear on the album but, even so, I needed a rhythm section in-studio with the chops to hold my ideas together from the outside and the objective curiosity to humour flights of fancy that, honestly, only work in theory  (or the fancies that make no theoretical sense but worked anyways). I guess I’m lying when I say I didn’t want my creativity mediated in any way – it is far more exciting, both in the final musical product and in the process itself as artist, to have collaborators to spark in-the-moment inspirations. But what my Flagship is about is giving me a chance to really captain the ship (again, apologies) and put myself out there artistically; to write whatever I want, for the band to play what I feel strongly about, to be uncompromising live – and to have final edit on everything! to be able to decide what kind of environment, what kind of chemistry, I want to set off. I multi-tracked the hell out of the recordings all by my lonesome but every bandmember really has contributed so much to the live incarnations of these songs. We’re not “playing the album” that’s coming out at the launch show, just its songs. I get to do the mad-scientist thing now with my pick of the elements I think best reanimate my music. Here, that means putting seven very different musicians into one cramped rehearsal space with the songs and…. seeing what happens. I still reserve the license to make executive decisions afterwards about what experiments live and which ones to take out back behind the shed to be shot and never spoken of again. That’s with respects to the “band” aspect of the project.

YC: I hear what you’re saying with recordings vs. live band – they’re two different things, really.  In terms of the live band, who do you have on board, what do they do, and where’d you find them?

Alex: With one exception, these are all Toronto-based musicians, people I met in the music program at York University.

Lennox Campbell-Berzins is one of our guitarists – he’s the one doing all the structurally-necessary guitar parts on the EP – I guess you call that rhythm guitar. He’s my oldest schoolfellow, we fell in fast over prog rock in first year and have played in a few bands together over the years. He’s teaching just about every instrument now, gigging, and just recently retired his main band to work with me on the Flagship and start his new Broken Wolves band (which I am reciprocally a member of). Thick as thieves we are, even if we can’t cowrite a damn thing because of how much we bicker over musical nit-pickings.

Sarah Thawer’s the drummer – and I mean THE drummer. I met her through our other guitarist, Laurent, for a band Lennox and I tried to put together in a past life. We did manage one show together before folding. She’s one of my favourite drummers (and not just of “people that I know”) because of how deeply her inventive playing speaks. She has folded so many genres and cultural traditions into her musical voice. She played the TD Toronto Jazz Festival with her own group last month, she’s sponsored, she plays full-time around the world – actually, I think her arrival from what I believe is two weeks of touring in Portugal is only the day before our show.

Laurent Bergeron isn’t on-record but his guitar playing is indispensable to managing this beast live. I actually met him first at an IMC rock camp when I was a teenager. I was impressed by his speed with highly technical riffs, even then, and he thought I had a good voice. Him being a couple years younger than me, it wasn’t until a few years later that we tried that aforementioned band (though I did sing one show with a band he had as a high school senior the fall after that camp). He and Sarah were quad-mates in residence at York; neither minded the other’s practicing coming through the walls. I knew I needed a gunslinger and since I’d already used up Lennox, Laurent was top of list.

James Atin-Godden is another wizard I met in my first year though we didn’t start to hang out at all until later on. He’s playing bass and keyboards/piano in the live band. I knew him then as a zany piano player and composer of wonderful, quirky, rich fusion tunes for a band he had called Copycat. He’s really a stylistically versatile multi-instrumentalist. He’s savvy on the other side of the studio glass as well; he mixed “Lifeboat” and did a bang-up job, I think. To top it off, the guy loves playing bass and it just so happened that I needed somebody able to switch between piano and bass to take the instrumental pressure off me during songs that were difficult to sing. In addition to composing and teaching he also tours playing keys for The Pick Brothers Band.

Aniqa Qadir, same year at York. She’s a dedicated singer. Again, we were on good terms but didn’t hang out much outside of crossing paths in class, at shows, or on the 196 express bus between campus and subway (a commuter’s run-in which happened surprisingly many times, now that I think about it). A deft singer. As a person, she’s modest but factual, compassionate but takes no shit. Her technical ability, her ear, and her vocal range are of such breadth (how low she can sing is truly mortifying coming out of her small frame) that, since she can sing pretty well anything, she’s spends more time than most singers deciding what she ought to sing. Call it an impeccable exercise of taste rather than dumb muscle, even when she uses plenty of muscle. Recently she released two beautiful albums as the group Aniqa Dear (A project James was also central to).

Luke Griffin is the hometown exception to this Toronto roster. You’ll hear him singing, playing acoustic guitar, and even holding down a little bass. My oldest friend with whom I still maintain an active friendship with – I won’t do the math on how long. He’s basically my arch-foil. We’ve had a theoretical band for years. One summer we did actually gig as an acoustic duo; we had a residency at The Little Bean (R.I.P.) which led to me working there for a season. Most of our playing together was in high school in jazz band and the like. He’s a self-described “saxophone enthusiast,” he plays tenor and we used to take over rehearsals by inciting endless jams of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon.” Luke has an annoyingly great pitch awareness and is one of the few male singers I know who’ll follow me almost all the way up into that soprano register. Our voices are so similar when we sing in harmony it really feels as if we become a single sympathetic instrument. I lose track of which voice is coming out of my mouth. It is a difficult experience to describe but it’s a beautiful sympathy.

Clearly, I don’t feel I can say enough about the musicians I’ve roped into this endeavour. I got my first picks across the board and it’s excitement itself to witness and hear the result of them finding their individual voice’s place in the ensemble and within each composition. I approached each person for a reason and have not once been disappointed by a single member.

YC: Sounds like quite the line-up!  How many shows do you plan to do around this album, and when might that happen?

Alex: So, here’s the thing about a line-up like that: It’s really hard to coordinate and schedule. Right now we’ve got two shows booked; The Jazz Room show in Waterloo to officially fire off everything with a solid hometown show (even though I’m technically from Kitchener), and one show in August about a month later…. the 18th, at Duffy’s Tavern, to introduce the band and the album to what still feels like my adoptive city – and is the legitimate HQ of 5 members. I plan on getting more shows booked in the fall but it’s a lot to manage, putting out an album independently, so I’ve pushed that task into the after-launch future. It was important to launch with this lineup for the sake of the EP and some of the live members’ contributions to it but it was always in my mind to give this music the “living document” treatment in stage conditions. For practical considerations I’ll be doing shows with varying configurations of the current band based who I can get at any given time. Otherwise, we’d never perform. It was hell just to book the first two shows and, even then, Duffy’s Tavern will see us slightly leaner and meaner! I have an LP follow-up half-baked on my computer, I was going to try and have it out in September, but I’ll probably push it back to give this album more breathing room and to keep its motif going for the live shows a bit longer. But the live set is honestly already about more than just the album. 30 minutes is long for an EP but makes for a weak live set, so we’ve extended the live show with songs you’ll hear on the LP and some carefully chosen covers, including a wicked medley I won’t spoil (but I will tell you, it’s liable to make the Grand River Jazz Society’s tech – GRJS does the sound/light at the Jazz Room – weep disdainful tears of sorrow while delighting any old prog fans in the room).

YC: I’m sure it will be quite the event!  What styles / bands are you taking influence from on this whole thing?  Like, is this supposed to be a jazz thing, a rock thing, a jazz-rock thing?  A Yoko Ono wacky art project thing?

Alex: It’s a rock thing. I’d call it a prog rock or an art rock thing. “Prog” these days seems to imply what I’d classify as, like, prog metal – and we’re definitely not a metal band of any description. But for me, it’s always important to take inspiration or influence from as many places as you can understand and make coherent. So, I mean, more directly influences you’ll hear will be bands like King Crimson and Queen but, stylistically, you’ll hear wisps of a few “popular music” genres like soul and folk and a snatch of the Brill Building, even. You can smell jazz chops a mile away, regardless of the genre (think of To Pimp A Butterfly or Blackstar) and, like I said, I’ve got a bunch of jazz cats playing in the band. But there’s also a lot of really subtly “classical” music influence in the way some of the songs are put together on a more technical level, the way we manipulate tempo in the recordings (no click), some of the harmony stuff in voicings and voice leading; I put some very oblique nods to a few of my favourite composers and one of the songs we do live but that I wrote just too late to make it on the record makes a pretty obvious nod to Beethoven. Ha! I’ve also been told there is a part or two of the EP that sound not unlike Nobuo Uematsu, best known for his work as the composer for the Final Fantasy games. But it’s definitely a rock thing in its simplest sense, hands down. A rock blender.

YC: So, for this Jazz Room show, how did that come about again?  Why the Jazz Room?

Alex: It turns out the Jazz Room doesn’t really care who you are or what you do. They just ask that your audience be thirsty and/or hungry enough to consume a grand in revenue for them. Which is alright; it’s attached to the Huether, so I for one am ordering supper towards that end. I kind of assumed there was a jazz bar (no pun intended) you had to live up to in order to play there but when I checked it out, I discovered they were really open-minded to whatever I wanted to do. I picked the Jazz Room because I wanted a venue that was geared towards live music, towards performing and listening to live music at a high level of engagement. This isn’t a band that’s going to work in a dive sports bar where half the people want to just watch the game and hear some Lynyrd Skynyrd (as much as I’d enjoy hearing some Lynyrd Skynyrd, myself), where we’re running our own sound – or off a basement or café floor where we don’t have a proper PA. There’s too many of us doing too many different things and the music is complex enough that the band cohesion would become dangerously tenuous in a bad sounding space – not to mention, I would feel like I ripped-off the audience if we came out to play some of these intricate arrangements and we couldn’t hear each other, and all the audience heard then was a gigantic fart of noise for an hour, coming in six-minute chunks. There are bands that do music that sound good anywhere and under any conditions, or sound even better in shitty conditions; where it’s way more enjoyable for everyone – the whole point really – to trash the space or make wherever the band is a dancefloor. Unfortunately, that’s not us – hopefully we can still move a few people bodily onto the dancefloor but, sound-wise, we’re needy when there’s seven of us! A place that’s experientially calibrated like The Jazz Room makes the night more fun for this kind of music, both for performer and for audience member, because everything will still be intelligible by the time the sound leaves the stage and reaches the listeners’ ears. Plus, it wasn’t prohibitively expensive for me to put a show on there!

YC: Ah that makes sense!  Well, I look forward to the show then ?  Anything else you’d like to add in closing here?

Alex: About this music? Nah, hopefully the rest can speak for itself in more than words on Saturday. Though, maybe in closing – can I get dense for a second? – I will say this on my own account, personally: that I hope this whole project can represent the fact that we, as individuals, must be free to be artists, and to be artists over craftsmen of cultural products (unless, of course, that is, in fact, your calling). Not unlike scientific pursuit, the best art is a manifestation of the process of asking a question, which is the earnest attempt at genuine engagement and understanding with the world and our existence within it, within ourselves, and within others – and all the vice versas of that network. The connection is a true one, an active one – whatever one says of the content transferred over it – so I think it is of the utmost importance for us to make quality art. In philosophy, East or West, the greatest questions tend, as a rule of thumb, to lack definitive answers. Therefore, I’m not saying we’ve got to have any profound solution to make quality art – just live in your question. It can be anything, so long as you mean it. It speaks to the fundamentally political element of art too: it’s not always about including pro- or protest lyrics; politics is all about the organization of relationships in society between people and resources and what-have-you. Well….so is art! so, by extension, all art is political in this way – even in its most abstract and absolute forms – through our engagement with it, (the same can be said of art’s relationship to its creator) when we encounter a work of art and ask it (as best as we can in the context of our individual matrices of being-in-the-world) ‘what the hell are you?’ There is a lot of political and existential disingenuity getting put out there – these days especially! – and that’ll really fuck a body up if you get trapped in the net of false connections that gets strung together. It’s incredibly hazardous to one’s mental, physical, and species’ health to become disconnected, insular, and unengaged (or engaged under false pretense). You don’t need a movement. Just ask good questions; make good art. This EP and our live show represents my best efforts. It’s a matter of survival.

Jane’s Addiction – A History of The Band that Pioneered Grunge and Alternative Metal

Jane's addiction

Jane’s Addiction is an American rock band created in the mid-1980s in Los Angeles, consisting of Perry Farrell (vocals), Dave Navarro (guitar), Stephen Perkins (drums), and Eric Avery (bass). They significantly influenced alternative music in many ways great and small, and the band is widely regarded in alternative circles as a pioneer of grunge and alternative metal. Their most popular songs include radio staples “Jane Says”, “Been Caught Stealing”, “Mountain Song” and “Just Because”, but they are generally not considered a pop band. 

Jane's Addiction band members

L.A.’s Favourite Sons

Jane’s Addiction took influence from the hard rock of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as funk, which really set them apart from the pack. In particular, their music calls upon the spirit of bands like Led Zeppelin (to name one big influence) in terms of monster riffage.  At one point in time, the band came across more like a California hippy drug damaged surrealist version of some of the 60’s and 70’s biggest rock bands, who, to be fair, were pretty drugged out to begin with.  Additionally, they often used world music stylings in their music (a la Zeppelin) and for this are often considered a precursor to the crossover genre that birthed alt rock, along with Boston’s Pixies and a number of other rock weirdos.

Jane’s Addiction combined all these different styles of music with semi-religious sacral symbolism, giving them a pagan vibe that made them seem uniquely “culty” for lack of a better term.  They were decidedly freakier than many of the L.A. bands of the 80’s when they arrived on the scene, and this oddness made them different from normal shredding rock bands of the time.

Album covers, song lyrics and concert performances often displayed sexual representations based on home made artwork, and for this reason some covers were censored. The albums are still available in censored and uncensored versions.

Nothing's Shocking album

Read our review of Nothing’s Shocking


History of Jane’s Addiction

The band emerged in 1985 from the cast change of Perry Farrell’s first band, Psi Com. He initially sought a new bassist, whereupon he met Eric Avery. However, Psi Com broke up before the band made an appearance with Avery. Soon after, Avery’s sister introduced the two to drummer Stephen Perkins, who in turn brought in a guitarist, Dave Navarro.  The band quickly fell into place.

Jane's Addiction

Navarro was a former band colleague of Perkins’, and it was Navarro who made the name suggestion “Jane’s Addiction” in reference to a roommate of Farrell’s. Two years later, the band released the Triple X debut album Jane’s Addiction, which was followed in 1988 by Nothing’s Shocking

janes-addiction-triple x debut album review

Read our review of Jane’s Addiction’s Triple X Debut Album

After the release of their second studio album in 1990, Ritual de lo Habitual, the band decided to break up and started a farewell tour in 1991, featuring some of the band’s friends, goth greats Siouxsie and the Banshees and metal-funk hybrid Living Colour.

Ritual de lo habitual album cover

Read our review of Ritual de lo Habitual


Lollapalooza

From this tour, the first Lollapalooza was launched. Lollapalooza has since become a popular alternative rock festival – legendary, in fact. 

Read: Holla at Lolla – Lollapalooza and How It Has Evolved

One of the reasons it became such a big deal is because it was the first major outdoor rock festival to invite all manner of rock acts into its midst, from metal, to rap, rock, and on and on.  Bands who would never be seen together were here all on the same bill.

Porno for Pyros / Red Hot Chili Peppers

Singer Perry Farrell and drummer Stephen Perkins soon started the project Porno for Pyros, whose success, however, could not rival that of Jane’s Addiction. The other band members went on to some smaller projects.

Guitarist Dave Navarro joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1993 for five years. The resulting album One Hot Minute sold moderately, but there were murmurings that it was a failure, due to it not out-selling their previous mega-hit album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik.  Of course, we all know that One Hot Minute is an amazing album and a special entry into the RHCP catalog with great tracks like “Warped” and “Aeroplane”, carrying that distinct Navarro vibe.  Be that as it may, Dave Navarro eventually left the band and returned to his “home base” of Jane’s Addiction in time for their ’97 reuinion.

In 1997, the band gathered together for a few live performances with Michael “Flea” Balzary of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass, as Eric Avery had long since left.  They also released an album of unpublished studio and live recordings.  

In 2003, the band reunited with Chris Chaney on bass, releasing the album Strays for a successful reunion before disbanding once again. “Just Because” was their first single, and they played the shit out of it for a while to promote the album.  The song “Superhero” from this album snuck in to popular culture and became the title song for the American television series Entourage. 

2008 saw the original lineup embark on a world tour. They then released their fourth studio album, The Great Escape Artist, in 2011. In 2016, Jane’s Addiction was finally and deservedly nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame…although they’re still not in it!!!

Who Is John Frusciante?

who is john frusciante

Born March 5th, 1970, in Queens, New York, John Anthony Frusciante has donned many toques (literally and figuratively) thus far in his musical career.

These include, but are by no means limited to: producer, songwriter, arranger, collaborator, and of course performer on many of the world’s largest stages.

john frusciante live

The fact that he has fans and is a “big deal” to a lot of people apparently comes as a bit of a surprise to John himself, who, according to his interviews, never really envisioned himself as becoming a mainstream success in the first place. 

Ideologically, it would seem that John has historically aligned himself most with the decidedly punk rock ethos of DIY, and seems to see himself as an experimental artist who is always searching for new creative frontiers to explore.

Early on, John has expressed his love of Darby Crash and the Germs, so his ethos lies somewhere in that realm of musical anarchy. 

who-is-john-frusciante

That said, being a rock star was seemingly on his radar back in his teen years, but just the parts that involved girls and drugs mainly. 

The rest of it he was reluctant to embrace, but he eventually did, sort of.


Joining the RHCP

the-red-hot-chili-peppers-in-their-early-years-1990-111621-1

Much of John’s worldwide renown admittedly comes from his joining forces with one of the world’s biggest bands – the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who he joined up with in 1988 after the death of one of Hillel Slovak, one of John’s personal guitar heroes at the time, and someone with whom he was briefly acquainted with before Hillel overdosed and tragically died. 

Upon joining the band, there were a few stylistic differences between John and his P-funk obsessed bandmates

John was admittedly more of a Hendrix guy – not that Hendrix isn’t funky, or space-y, but he (Hendrix) wasn’t a “funk” player per sé

However, what John actually was was a huge devotee of Hillel Slovak himself, having already learned all his fluid and funk-infused guitar parts just by virtue of having been a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers since he became aware of them in the mid-80’s.

What’s even more interesting in terms of fate, you might call it, is that even before Hillel’s death, John was being drawn in the direction of the Chili Peppers, and, to an extent, almost felt as if he was in the band already in some way.

To elaborate on this point, back in the early days of the Chili Peppers (that is to say the early to mid ’80’s), there was little separation between the band and their audience, of which John was often a part of at that time, being an avid fan, soaking up the band’s energy as a diehard fan.

Mosh pits and the general co-mingling of band and audience was the way of it in those time, John has said of his involvement in those shows where he was in attendance, “That’s great about the band, the audience feels no different from the band at all.” 

This was made possible by the small, intense, and intimate shows the band played around this time. Actually, John used to say that if they ever got big (this being well before it got “big”), it would ruin the allure for him, presumably whether he was in the band or not.

Indeed, it was this distinct tribal magnetism that first drew John Frusciante towards the band, first as a fan, and eventually as a full member who went on to write the band’s biggest hits. 

Here’s a quick clip that seemed to sum up John’s initial reaction to being in the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  🙂

It wasn’t long before he connected with the band via shows that soon enough he met and jammed with Flea by way of D.H. Peligro of the Dead Kennedys, and the two (Flea and John) created a lifelong bond that seemed to extend beyond just musical into the spiritual and fraternal. 

john-frusciante-and-flea

When John was invited to join the band, at the same time roughly that drummer Chad Smith joined, it helped that he was already familiar with most of Hillel’s guitar parts, and practiced his instrument constantly, drawing on influences ranging from Zappa, to Hendrix, to the Germs, and countless others – including the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

For John Fruciante, first becoming a Red Hot Chili Pepper was a day of joy – a dream come true for this young sassy lad.


Recording Mother’s Milk and Butting Heads with Beinhorn

Once John joined the band, it wasn’t long before the band was back in the studio and working on a new album.

Recording Mother’s Milk, which presumably was fun on some level, taught John a lot in the ways of studio technique, and began to show him the nature of the music business in general, as he got to record a bigger budget album firsthand with guitars that sounded like “1000 garbage trucks dumping trash into George Bush’s anal cavity” (or something to that effect).

Red Hot Chili Peppers Ocean Way Recording Studio Mothers Milk 1988-1989

Having never been in such a recording situation as he was then at age 18, it wasn’t long before John had to start to define his sound in the band, which was, in one way, simple as he could follow in the footsteps of Hillel Slovak, keeping that slinky sound he’d already established. 

And yet, there was much jockeying for control of the guitar sound as John was being forced to play in an uncharacteristically “metal” style thanks to the influence of producer Michael Beinhorn, who was obsessed with arena rock sounds, and who had worked on the previous album, the Uplift Mofo Party Plan.  

Beinhorn, was busy trying to beef up the bands’ sound, as many big bands of the day possessed a huge guitar sound, and so this was the direction he was trying to take the band.  This rankled John, who didn’t want to go in that direction and was presumably perplexed by the notion of going in that direction.

You can easily hear that type of super crunchy “garbage truck” sized guitar tone on songs like “Good Time Boys”…

As Beinhorn had experience and seniority, John deferred to what he thought would be best. 

As it was, John was a newcomer in the recording studio environment and just a kid in the eyes of Beinhorn, who wasn’t exactly the band’s biggest fan and the sound he was going for wasn’t exactly “sex funk from heaven”. 

In any case, despite drug issues that were gripping the band at the time, and other problems, Mother’s Milk obviously was completed, and, thanks to an energetic Stevie Wonder cover of Higher Ground that got picked up by rock radio stations, the band was on its way to new heights of stardom.  

It was at this time that they started showing up on big TV shows like Late Night with David Letterman, and capturing the heart of the nation with their kooky energy.


Recording Blood Sugar Sex Magik

Certainly, good times were had periodically in the next few years in the band for John, such as the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, which he has said was one of the best times of his life working on music he believed in. 

With the help of producer Rick Rubin, the band was beginning to define the sound they’d been after all these years.

This was chronicled in the amazing Funky Monks documentary, about the recording of Blood Sugar Sex Magik, shown below. (It’s long and it’s good, would recommend watching)

However, as fun as it was to record BSSM, the band dynamic and cameraderie started heading south once the tour for that album got under way, which was set to be era defining and blockbuster.

Being the temperament that he was at the time, which is to say youthfully idealistic and precocious, it is well documented that John was not prepared for the subsequent years where the Red Hot Chili Peppers skyrocketed to international success. 

Being a huge fan of the small-scale RHCP operation, the larger scale version of the band quickly made John miserable, as is evidenced by many of their performances in support of Blood Sugar Sex Magik. 

What he was apparently hoping for when he joined the RHCP was a cult following, and instead, what happened was mega-stardom. (*note – it was at this time that this author purchased the famous sock-related poster with a friend, having just heard about this new and exciting band of miscreants)

red-hot-chili-peppers-1991-rolling-stone-6d97b2e7-ee71-4cfc-9d35-bace1852bbb1

One performance which always sticks out to fans as John becoming disenchanted with the band is John’s “experimental” version of Under The Bridge that they played on Saturday Night Live.

It was on live international TV where John decided to change the arrangement of the song at the last second, which affected Anthony’s performance, since he was already hard pressed to sing the song due to it being a fussy song with a tricky melody.

Anyway, that’s what Anthony said in his book Scar Tissue, but if you watch the actually performance it wasn’t too bad and obviously did nothing to stifle the bands career. 

If anything, RHCP just got bigger, perhaps in response to John wanting and literally trying to will the band not to grow to the level that they clearly had.


John Quits The RHCP at the Peak of their Fame

As the story goes, John left the band (for the first time) mid-tour, only to find himself face to face with full blown drug addiction, which threatened to erase him from existence.

Things around this time were clearly askew for not just the band, who didn’t stop touring, an for John, who endured some troubled times ahead, infamously holing himself up and focusing on 4-track recording, drugs, and visual art full time in some shack somewhere in L.A.

Being in a band was now out of the question, nor was he in any shape to attempt even if he wanted to go back, and this went on for years, taking him to the brink of death and seeing others die around him from drugs like his friend River Pheonix.

Here’s a glimpse into John Frusciante’s world via the documentary “Stuff” from around this time, which was, as most would say, fairly bleak. 

That said, despite hopping between dimensions and having his teeth rot, John managed to remain somewhat upbeat, saying some rather counter intuitive things about the drugs he was on such as that they were basically no big deal.

Anyway, most of us know what happened next with John in regards to the Chili Peppers. 

He was out of commission for a while and that’s when they had Dave Navarro come in to replace him, from the band’s favourite band at the time – Jane’s Addiction.  

But the band’s time with Dave didn’t last beyond one album, for a number of reasons.


Second Chance with RHCP, Collaborations, and Solo Career

John made his triumphant return in 1999 with Californication, which was definitely a new phase for the band and a new brotherhood was born, as John started living clean and really started to value and love his bandmates with a renewed energy.

rhcp-californication

At this point we want to sidestep the RHCP a little bit, since the story of that band is not entirely John’s story, although it was and probably still is a big part of his life in many ways, being such a formative experience. 

During his drug days, John released a couple of solo albums that showed that he could do an entire album on his own (while on drugs), and, not surprisingly, they’re pretty trippy and low-fi. 

These albums are: “Niandra Lades and Usually Just a T-Shirt” and “Smile From The Streets You Hold”.

When he released To Record Only Water For Ten Days in 2001, the world was re-introduced to John Frusciante as a functional recording artist, and someone who was able to produce music on his own that was different (and some might argue better in some ways) than even his classic output in the Chili Peppers.

Here is an appearance of John on MuchMusic in Canada, playing his single from “To Record Only Water For Ten Days” called “Going Inside”.

And so began a new direction in the early to mid-2000’s for John Frusciante, who was not only producing an inarguably high quality output of music now on his own, aside from RHCP, who produced yet another huge album – By The Way.

This was a time of creative collaboration, seeing John beginning to collaborate with other musicians more, such as he did in Ataxia with Joe Lally and Josh Klinghoffer, as well as extensive collaborations with The Mars Volta. 

His creative output had become very robust, as he released six albums in a six month span, and all this time he was still working with the Chili Peppers, which saw the release of By The Way and then the epic double album Stadium Arcadium in that short span of years. 

Other interests John had at this time included a great deal of multi-tracking, as well as further expanding on his chord vocabulary, harmonic sensibilities, and interest in other instruments including various synthesizers like the mellotron.


Frusciante’s Electronic Music Love Affair

John Frusciante, always searching for new things to fuel his creative fire, finally decided to abandon conventional rock music altogether and dove headlong into electronic, IDM, and acid house music. 

For some longtime fans, this was considered to be a very confusing move, as by this point John was considered a rock guitar god. 

Of course, lots of people (eg. those on the internet) dismissed this move as being just plain baffling, and did not follow John down this road.

john-frusciantes-synth-gear

On the other hand, electronic music as a whole is a vast and highly creative and experimental field, featuring both introverts and extroverts, and so John basically fit right in, being the iconoclast he is.

Actually, as many music fans know, EDM actually has, in some sense, surpassed rock shows in terms of hugeness, with certain DJs being enormously popular and outselling rock acts by far.

That said, so far as we know, John didn’t start working with sequencers to be the next Skrillex or Hardwell, rocking arenas once again.

By this time, it seemed as though John was drawing away from the public eye and essentially playing by his own rules.  He no longer cared to be a rock star, or even a solo musician who is there to give fans what they expect on a timeline they can understand.

Following his muse was now his main priority, and, as any indie musician can tell you, this is always a tough thing to do when people are telling you otherwise, and so persistence is key.

This is especially true for John Frusciante, especially when he’s garnered such a reputation as one type of musician (rock god) for so long.

This much was clear when Speed Dealer Moms came about in 2010, seeing John collaborate with Aaron Funk AKA Venetian Snares and Chris McDonald – that a new phase was beginning. 

If you were a John Frusciante fan at this time, you could feel the change in the air in regards to what was to come. 

Recorded around the same time as Speed Dealer Moms was Letur-Lefr, which saw release in 2012, and further perplexed fans and delivered the clear message not to cling to expectations any longer. 

Once PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone came out in the latter months of 2012, that seemed to be the end of John Frusciante the funk guitar god that many people knew him to be, although if you listen to his electro sounds, clearly his guitar work informs it tremendously.

As time went on, John did not put the guitar down for good.  How could he?

On projects like Kimono Kult, John once again was back on the guitar, although most RHCP fans would likely never recognize it, as the music was too far removed from anything John was previously associated with. 

Simultaneously, John was fusing his music with hip hop, working with the Black Knights and RZA.

2015 saw the release of Trickfinger, a self-titled EDM album where John Frusciante AKA Trickfinger finds himself producing music that sounds more along the lines of Aphex Twin’s early work than it does any of the music we’ve previously heard from him. 

Even the album artwork has much more in common with the likes of, say, Squarepusher than your typical rock stuff.

At the same time, if you’ve followed John’s music long enough, he has his own melodic and rhythmic sensibility which is quite easy to pick out upon repeated listens to Trickfinger. 

So if you’re a fan of his earlier work, this is still the same guy you know and love – just don’t expect much in the way of guitars.  At the same time, predicting what John Frusciante will do has seemingly become impossible, although,

That said, he is still very much part of the music scene, and he still cares about and interacts with his fans, and loves punk rock.

So, we ask again, who is John Frusciante? 

The man is certainly an enigma on many levels, but one thing is for sure is he will go down in history as one of the best and most creative musicians around.

Visit John Frusciante on bandcamp here

Funkatology Records – Miami’s Soul-Studded Groove Machine

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“Remember Folks – Ain’t Nothin’ But A Groove!”

Words to live by, if you ask Captain Jarvis. 

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When you’re feelin’ the funky soul grooves, you may want to migrate to a place where funk is in the air, in the water, and everywhere else.  Certainly different geographical locales have different musical vibes.  If you believe the papers, with Nashville its hit-factories, Seattle with its flannel.  But where do you go to let your backbone slide a little?

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If you’re in the U.S.A in 2017, and you ask around, saying you’re looking for “beats for days” in the form of a sideways slinky groove that will niggle right up in your earhole, people might point you to New Orleans, or Los Angeles, where musicians are of a very atypical breed.  They put too much mustard on their hot dogs, and they shimmy when they walk.  Just look at them…

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Keep it in the mind – it is a rare thing indeed for somebody to say, “Oh, the funk?  That be way down in Miami Beach, FL!”  It might even elicit a response like “No, sir, you must be mistaken.  The funk never made it down there…”  And that’s when you say, “Are you kidding?  Jesse Jones Jr. is down there…” and that should be all that needs to be said.

See, it actually does make a lot of sense when you think about it.  If the 80’s taught us anything, its that there’s a lot of action in Miami.  Hell, Stitches is from Miami, so, if nothing else, there are illegal substances traveling by way of the postal service.

Moreover, Miami is the home of Funkatology Records, which is, and we quote their website here, “the World’s Premiere Funk, Jazz and Soul Groove Record Label”.  Well, shit.  And you thought that the only good music to come out of Miami is Sam & Dave, 2 Live Crew, and the Miami Sound Machine.  Don’t be so hasty, my lads… Funkatology Records is reppin’ Miami by way of Detroit, so you have nothing to fear.

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Whenever someone or several someones are this serious about funk, great things are bound to happen.  George Clinton had a similar vision at one time, and look what happened!  For one, Parliament gave us the great Eddie Hazel.  But this is the stuff of myth an lore, and who can attest to what really happened back in the ’70’s?  This is the future…

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…and in this day and age, its is people like the fine folks at Funkatology Records that are in possession of the magical flashlight of groove and are showing us the way forward…or backwards, its hard to tell (as long as we’re moving).

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Lead funkster Hugh Hitchcock brings funky people together, and on recent releases from their website such as Funky Mambo Remix by Jesse Jones Jr., Funkatology gives us something that, through expertly executed and authentically groovin’ grooves, conveys to the listener that the style of music unmistakably known as funky soul music is certainly alive and well in Miami of all places. 

Who’s Got It?

Featuring the immensely enjoyable playing of Hugh Hitchcock on bass, as well as Joe Collado on percussion, Ike Woods (rhythm guitar), and Dennis Sierra (lead guitar), you have yourself one flavorful stew of sound bubbling up.  From there, you’ve got Jesse Jones Jr. himself providing lead vocals, his signature scatting, and impolite sax runs that will make your all your great-aunts go home and stay there.  Its a hard thing to ignore – these deep grooves – so you simply just have to get down to the level of the music and get into it.  There’s no other choice, really, once it gets going.  You’re going to need your sequins, your spliff, your crown, and those shoes that have heels that have live fish in them so you can dance properly.

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Dive Deep, Stay Down

If you want to delve deeper into what the Funkatology Records label has to offer, you should check out two, if not three little things. 

One is their Facebook page, where they offer contests and release news about the label.  Throw a like on there and you could end up winning a t-shirt or some other fun prizes. 

hugh-hitchcock-funkatologyYou can also visit Hugh Hitchcock’s Soundcloud (miamimusicproducer), which does have an expanded discography for the label, including dozens of tracks from several artists ranging from funky live jams, slicker pop tracks, and more experimental beats and music.  Definitely a wide variety of things there to indulge in. 

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Lastly, we’ll mention the Funkatology website, which is the motherbrain of the label itself, and currently features “Make No Mistake”, a funky jam with none other than George Bush Jr. himself on lead vocals.  You’ll be surprised how musical of a guy he actually is!

Choose Wisely Bob  – Vote For The Funk 2016!