Be specific: Dam-Funk on staying true to his sound, the generation gap and Todd Rundgren
By David Malitz
In today's Weekend section I wrote about four on-the-rise acts hitting D.C. this month that I'm expecting big things from in the future. Those include Free Energy, Dum Dum Girls, the Soft Pack and funk lord Dam-Funk. The last of the bunch provided me with the best leftover material, so enjoy more morsels of knowledge and catch him in D.C. on Saturday night.
On staying true to his sound...
I've always stood for something. And that's the difference with some of the musicians out there right now. The whole cute little thing is to say that you're not about genres -- which I'm not either -- I like all styles of music. One of my favorite groups is Prefab Sprout. Todd Rundgren is one of my favorites. The musicians of today, it seems that they just don't stand for anything and I think when you stand for something, people can grab onto that.
Like, "I know what this dude likes, I know what he's doing." An artist like Too $hort, the Oakland rapper, people can criticize him for sounding the same over and over again but at least you knew what he was representing. What you were getting into when you got the album. Not that one song was going to be like this and the third song was gonna be a rockabilly track. That kind of thing.
When people listen to my stuff, I want them to know what they're going to be getting. Just like a movie. You go to a horror movie - I'm going to get scared by Wes Craven. It's not going to be a comedy from Wes Craven this time. Like, oh no, what am I getting into? I don't want to be that kind of artist. I want to be someone who people can count on. And that's the difference between what's going on with the situation that I'm into.
(Too many collaborations, after the jump.)
On the clash of generations...
I am a Generation X artist. I'm not Generation Y, I'm in between. Generation X, we saw the Internet coming but we also remember the days of no cable and no Internet. And whereas the newer generation, they don't even know what it's like to have UHF TV. That's the kind of feeling I'm coming from. Very technicolor type things with fuzzy late night experiences. It's just a certain zone, man, and I think if people just listen and look in between the lines they could have a little bit of fun with what I'm trying to express as opposed to just so new school. Generation X -- we embrace technology, but we remember and embrace analog as well. That's where I fall in.
It's weird that some cats came out way before me and they're considered old school and I'm considered not old. I worked at record stores. I know the game. I saw how to do certain things, how to talk to people, how not to talk to people. My motto was to treat people the way you want to be treated. It's like, you never want to be too desperate. Even with the Twitter thing, the reason why I'm involved in that ... at first I wasn't for it. If people can remember the early days when I was on, I was always doing this tug of war, where, man, I don't even know if I want to do this. And I almost got off one time when some [expletive] said something. Man, I don't want to be involved in some [expletive] like this.
So cats are like, "Don't go! I'm telling you this is a great medium!" So sure enough it turned into something positive. I just wanted the music to do the talking, not to do any more interviews. But you don't want to be that kind of cat, it can be misconstrued as diva-ish type behavior. And that's far from what I am. Even at the shows, when people want to come and talk about a track, I'm not that dude who's like, "Man I gotta go." I know how it is when you walk up to somebody and you're like, "Damn, should I talk to that dude? He might turn his back on me. Ahh, I don't know!"
I know what that feeling is and I never want to be that guy. That guy might have listened to my album and experienced a great day. And here I am at this show, he paid to get into this show and all of a sudden I'm acting like an [expletive]? That's not what I want to do. And that's why I'm involved with Twitter and letting people know what I'm about. Not everything what I'm about. That wouldn't be fair to myself. But at least try to talk about music, show links about the style of music, just little tidbits here and there. I just feel like that's a part of the new technology. I embrace both.
The lines have been blurred. I was talking to someone else about how the new thing today, if you befriend anybody, or just have a good conversation with them, the next question, especially with producers and musicians is, "Hey, wanna do a collabo?" Back in the day, if I was to buy a Todd Rundgren album and I wrote a letter to Todd, just because I do music too and I bought his record, does that mean I should be going up to Todd Rundgren and asking him to do a collabo? Or Rush? Or KISS? "Hey man I got your poster -- can I do a collabo with you?"
I would have never thought about doing a collabo with Todd Rundgren or KISS or Rush or Prince when I was growing up. The entitlement is so prevalent right now. "Can we hook up, can we do a song?" Not to say that you wouldn't do that collabo, I know we're all equals, I never think I'm better than everyone else. But there's protocol, man. That's what this new generation doesn't understand. There's this new attitude, it almost is a put your foot down, entitlement thing. "Hey, I do music, too! I do beats, too!"
You gotta be careful. Should I say yes? This social networking thing is making you think that you actually know the person. I get messages, Have you listened to the record yet? I'm waiting to see if you'll remix it." I'm not even finished promoting my debut album that I've been waiting 20 years to release! And I have to entertain you wanting me to remix a track? I just got to goals that I've been working on for 20 years! And you expect me to give an answer right now? It's just interesting, that's all.
On some of his unlikely favorites...
Prefab Sprout, "Steve McQueen," that's one of my favorite albums. A lot of Ariel Pink stuff. I like Frank Zappa a lot. Of course Todd Rundgren is a very slept on -- well, when I say slept on people are like, "What are you talking about?" But that he is an underrated artist.
What I like about Todd is that in related to what I'm doing I've heard that criticism, "Man, that stuff sounds the same!" Todd Rundgren sounded the same too but it was how own style. No one else could do it. You see what I'm saying? You could count on buying his record and hearing certain chords. That what makes you an artist. Just like a painter, like Picasso. You can tell the painting from the next painter that's on the wall next to him. That's the key. So what if it sounds the same? It's supposed to sound like a certain pizza flavor or blue cheese is a certain taste. What are people asking for? That's why I like people like Todd.
March 12, 2010; 2:20 PM ET
Categories: Be specific | Tags: Dam-Funk
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