Interview: Davos T Funk

Davos T Funk at Edit Records Party Launch
Davos T Funk at Edit Records Party Launch

Could 2013 be unlucky for some? Not for my interviewee. If you have not heard about Davos T Funk, you must have been hiding in a cave over Christmas. This musician, by fluke, has created an online presence that went viral and is continuing to grow. I found out more about him.

 

 

 

Claire Griffiths: What is your background?

Davos T Funk: I’m a grammar school educated, but 100% working class, lad from Blackpool. I say from Blackpool, I was born in Lytham so that makes me Sandgrown, but I spent the first few years of my childhood all over the world, starting in Bahrain, then Beirut, then Rotterdam, and numerous places all over the UK. My mum was a cabaret jazz singer in the Western bars in Bahrain, and her bloke, the nearest thing I have to a Dad, was an oil worker for Amoco back in the 60s and 70s, so we went where the work was. The most interesting part of my childhood was being airlifted out of Beirut in the early seventies by the RAF and taken to Warton.  I don’t remember it, but it sounds cool.

I consider Blackpool my home town, even though I only started living there when I was maybe six or seven when my mum got sick with MS, and went off to Lancaster to school when I was ten, shortly after my mum died.

My first job was on the donkeys on Blackpool beach aged twelve. Yes I am a genuine, bona fide donkey lasher.

And proud of it.

Since then I’ve been a fairground ride operator, arcade keyman, insurance underwriter, stall tout, fast food crew, restaurant manager, stage crew, spotlight operator, pub cleaner, waiter, kitchen porter, shop assistant, beggar (I was homeless for a while), barman, cellarman, Mac operator, data clerk, dancer, digital media technician, graphic designer, print finisher and every other kind of job you can only get when you’re stuck to the bottom of the pile. I now work as a freelance graphic designer and copywriter.

Through all of that I’ve been a party animal, proper raver, and there was a time I was quite notorious for partying hard. That’s who I was. Now I’m a bit quieter – being a parent can be sobering.

Oh yeah, and I’ve always been a musician, though this is the first time I’ve ever thought I might make a living from it. I had my first piano lesson aged ten, and my last aged thirteen (they cost money we didn’t have), but have stuck with it. Through endless repetition and obsessive noodling I think I’ve become quite OK at it. I’ll never consider myself amazing when people like Kenny Kirkland and Hiromi Uehara are there to compare to – I’ll never be that good, but I’ve always said it’s not about technical skill, it’s about no one doing it quite the way I would.

CG: Who are your influences?

DTF: Musically, I belong to every genre. I grew up listening to Jonny Mathis, Carole King, Andy Williams and the like, along with salsa and bossa nova stuff like Girl from Ipanema, but there was also a strong influence from my Granddad who was a classical violinist and worked for D’Oyle Carte Opera Company, so whenever my mum’s back was turned he’d take the ‘modern rubbish’ off the record player and have me listen to Holst, or Die Fledermaus, or some Gilbert & Sullivan.

I remember first waking up to music properly when new romantic stuff started happening. Before that it was all Abba, Brotherhood of Man, Chanson D’amour (ratatatat), Dooleys and You Picked a Fine Time To Leave Me Lucille.  I remember Duran Duran’s Girls on Film, Depeche Mode’s New Life,The Human League and Heaven 17 totally blowing me away in the 80s. So much so that I stopped listening to my beloved ELO albums for a while. I can’t remember when it happened, but there was a point at which my head did another flip and I woke up to disco music – Earth Wind and Fire, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, Kool and the Gang. Anything with a funky bass line. As far as keyboard playing goes, back then I thought Howard Jones was the absolute shit, and that’s who I wanted to be. Him or Rick Wakeman, but Rick was dismissive of me when I waited for his autograph once, so I went off him.

Then I saw Farley Jackmaster Funk on the Tube, the same day Madonna first performed Holiday, and got really excited about this new kind of music. They called it house. Luckily, my mate Chris was an enthusiast, and introduced me to Steve Silk Hurley, and the rest is history.

Can I say ‘all of the above’? I suspect there’s a little bit of everything I’ve ever heard in the music I make nowadays, but I suppose the strongest influences are the orchestration and melodic beauty of ELO, Doobie Brothers, Steely Dan, the funk and grooves from all the disco tracks I love, the strong rhythmic sensibilities from house music and electro (I used to hang around with break-dancers when I was home from school on holidays). In truth I have no idea, and I don’t think about it too heavily.

I suppose a better way to look at it would be to say ‘who do I currently admire the most?’ but the problem is that in the last few years there’s been such a sea of releases I’ve got lost in it all and have given up trying to keep track. Almost everyone I know is a house DJ of one kind or another, and for the most part DJs are tireless evangelists for the music they support – consequently I don’t have to look for music, I just have it thrust at me, but having not hunted it out for myself I don’t really remember the names of the artists. In summary, I think the best way to look at it is that I have soaked up a little bit of what everyone has been playing to me lately.

I’m currently a massive fan of funky and soulful house and I’ve always thought drum n bass to be the most relentlessly forward-pushing genre of all. Having attended the Blackburn raves in the early nineties, while also working at the Adam& Eve in Blackpool, I have a deep love of house, techno, rave, but also soul, disco and fusion jazz.

I had a period when I was genuinely sick of old skool House and rave, but I seemed to have relit my love of it through doing this classics tribute and getting to play out tracks that never got old for me. That, and the fact that the scene seems to be coming alive again in a big way. Yeah I’ve heard all the tunes before, but they seem fresh these days, and watching the crowds going to our Northern Project events and other old skool venues gradually growing, well it’s exciting again – a genuine scene.

CG: There has been a huge interest in you recently, how did this happen?

DTF: My mate Ash and I run old skool revival nights, called The Northern Project, in Lancashire and the crew in the video run old skool revival nights called Rejuvenation in Leeds. A few weeks ago me and Ash went to Rejuvenation to say hi and have a bit of a party with them and we hit it off so well we didn’t go home for a couple of days. Now we party with that crew whenever we can, and what you see in the video is us all getting together for our mate Vicky’s birthday party!

When the Rejuve Crew invited me up for Vicky’s birthday, I couldn’t really afford a present, or some booze or anything. I’ve been proper skint lately. I like to pay my way, especially as they were driving down to pick me up, so I offered to play a bit of piano instead. That was the Monday before.

Then I realized I had to think of something to play. Me and Ash had been loosely discussing an old skool piano mash-up, and with all the attendees being old skoolers, I thought it would be ideal. I already knew a couple of tracks, like Baby D, Electric Choc, Soft House Co, but needed a lot more to fill a decent set, so over the week I dug out all my favourite classics and started to try and figure out how to play them. At the end of the week, I put a basic drum track together, jammed through it about twenty or thirty times until I felt I had the order right, and the rest is what you see in the video.

Somehow it seems to have struck a chord (excuse the pun) with people. I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of messages over the last three weeks from people telling me how the hairs stood up on the back of their necks when they watched it, and how it’s reminded them why they used to like that kind of music. I didn’t plan any of it. This was all just something I did for a buzz for my mate on her birthday. The reaction has completely blown me away.

CG: The last month has been a crazy time for you. What element has been the most memorable?

DTF: I’m going to have to make you a list:

– Arthur Baker saying he wanted me to play at a party

– Big ups from Stanton Warriors, Freestylers, Sister Bliss and Mike Pickering

– Phone calls from Trevor Fung, Pez and Andy Carroll

– Chats with John Kelly, Stu Allan, Rob Tissera

– A booking to play my first gig at Fantazia at New Year

– A billion offers of session work

– A billion messages from people saying thank you for making them smile – that’s the best bit. I love that.

I’d like to tell you I’ve taken it all in my stride, but I haven’t. It’s completely taken my back legs out, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had to stop here and there for a cry. It’s like Christmas every five minutes. I think the best I can describe it is that it’s the opposite of grief.

The absolute highlight is the sense of relief. All I have ever wanted to do was play music live, and write and record in the studio, and it’s looking like that’s now going to be my living, at least for the foreseeable future. I’d like to say I knew I was right all along, but in truth I had given up a while ago and resigned myself to just having a potter around on my keyboards in between grafting like everyone else to make ends meet.

CG: What’s your next gig and where is it?

9 March – State Reunion, Liverpool (on the bill with Alison Limerick would you believe)

16 March – Rejuvenation at the Beaverworks in Leeds

23 March – Clockwork Orange Reunion at Fire in London

29 March – Hacienda Night at Sankeys

CG: What are you most looking forward to in the next 12 months?

DTF: Well I had a meeting yesterday with some amazing dudes, and it’s looking like I’m going to be going further than I thought. I don’t want to say too much right now about that, because nothing is confirmed, but it’s exciting as shit. I slept about two hours last night, most nights actually, and I haven’t felt tired since before all this started.

What I’m really looking forward to is being able to afford to help my son through University now; that is priceless, and something I had given up on.

And I don’t want to sound like a martyr but the last year has been incredibly tough. I’ve been completely broke and homeless at points last year and I’m really looking forward to being able to pay rent and buy food like a normal person.

There’s just one thing I’d like to say that hasn’t been prompted by your questions. None of this would be happening if it wasn’t for the 140,000 hits on the Youtube video. This success is entirely due to all the people who watched the video and passed it on. I owe everything to them, and there are no words for how grateful I am for it. I’m filling up as I speak.

Thanks everyone, you made my life.

 

 

 

  • Show Comments (3)

  • Stevo

    Nice write up Claire

    🙂

  • Nicole

    Fantastically in depth insight into a fantastically in depth man….:-) Well done once again Dave xxxx

  • house music dj

    It is nice to see someone so talented is humble as well. Best of luck to you mate, you deserve a blinding 2013 and I hope to watch you perform live. So please come to London as it’s too cold up north:)

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