Damon Garrit Riddick, aka Dâm-Funk, is perhaps best known for his own brand of spacey, modern brand of funk music.
Signed to the legendary Peanut Butter Wolf-founded LA label Stones Throw, the man himself will be visiting Australia in early 2016 to perform at Sugar Mountain Festival in Melbourne, alongside Hot Chip, Total Giovanni, Kelela and more. We had a chat with Riddick about his new record, life in LA, choice gear and inviting the light into your heart!
What have you been up to lately?
Yep, I started a US tour for the "Invite the Light" album out September 4. We did a little west coast tour, and now I'm headed to Europe on October 6. The first show is on October 9 in Milan.
So how did your car boot sale go the other day? I thought that was a really interesting idea!
It was great, yeah, just came up with it from an initial idea from Twitter. I Tweeted about selling some stuff from my car and it did good, so we just did it again and made it more official. It was a way to bond with the community, and just have some fun as well. It wasn't really about the money that was made, it was mostly about doing something good, and then tying it into a more synthesiser/funk-oriented record - as opposed to the other type of funk, that's all live guitar scratches, hoots and hollers. This type of funk is more synthesiser-based, so it was a way to kind of get people to enjoy that type of gear, and to remind people that there is more funk than the kind they are used to.
Any prized synths you got rid of that day?
There was a harpsichord that you hold on your shoulder, a couple of nice drum machines from Roland... Most of it was really vintage gear that you can use in the bedroom to create sounds. Casio keyboards, things like that. It wasn't anything super high end, it was just some things that people can add to start working with analogue instruments again as opposed to plugins. That was the whole mission of it.
Are any of these instruments on your new record?
I've used some of those things on my records, but on the new record it was new stuff that was used. Still vintage, you know, I decided to keep it old, but some of the things I used previous years when I was a kid - I sold that stuff.
Just moving on to talk about your new album, "Invite the Light", could you tell me about your concept if there is one?
The concept is about inviting more positivity into your life, instead of going down the whole negative, trendy road. Everything is a problem, everyone's sad, everybody is sitting on a corner moping around. It was, 'get past everything you've been through and come out on the bright side'. That's what the record is about.
The last five years when I was making the record, I experienced a lot of different things, and I could have been through the negative outcome on this record. I could have joined in with everybody else, with the darkness or what have you, but I decided to take this record into a more positive direction. There are a few different dips in there in the middle, exploring different relationships, different fantasy stuff, but the 'end all be all' is a positive vibe that I wanted to leave on.
It's a challenging listen man, it's not for everyone, that's what I want people to understand. It's not your regular, like EPs that are out there, quick-flash-in-the-pan 30-minute albums that people get watered and bowed down for out here in the press. It's an 80-minute record, it's a challenging record, it's a challenging listen! People just have to be ready for it, you know what I'm saying, take their time. It's not easily digestible, but it's still new funk music that people can check out!
How would you compare "Invite to Light" to "Toeachizown" 2009?
"Toeachizown" was more like an introduction from a full scale. I had already done a few things, like rhythm tracks, and a couple of different things like that, and a few 12" - but it was more a collection of tracks I had been recording around that time period. It just didn't have a concept. "Toeachizown" was all that you could call it, because it was a statement; "Toeachizown". When I was coming up in that period, around me was a lot of different styles in LA. Actually not a lot of styles, it was a particular style going on in LA at the time. It was almost strong-arming you into participating, because the media and the journalists were only covering a certain part of LA, a certain style, a certain output of electronic bass music. Especially if you were black - not just that, if you were urban-affiliated, you had to be either doing some gangster rap shit, or you had to end up doing some intelligent beat stuff. I was right in between.
Me being in between, having a sound that was totally different, but still harkening to a memory of the past, and then also striving into the future, I was kind of left alone out there. Journalists didn't know what to do. They didn't know whether to lump me into the whole beats scene, they didn't know whether to lump me into the G-Funk stuff, so "Toeachizown" was a statement saying to each his own, my own style, I hope you guys like it. So now with this record, over time, people have gravitated to the whole future-soul vibe as far as the album covers - some of the same filter sweeps and bass-lines, which of course, nobody wants to end.
Now with "Invite the Light", I'm still in the model of LA, but this record was more of a fully realised producer album where I invited some cool friends of mine, and then also went more into vocals and developed a concept with the acts at the top. As far as the concept, as somebody who starts with their life in shambles, the challenge to the record was to get a light within themselves. That's what the concept of "Invite the light" is, to invite the light in your life. "Toeachizown" is more a collection and a statement. "Invite the Light" is more of an expression of what has been going on the last few years.
Who would be your favourite collab on the new record?
I don't really have a favourite, I just appreciate all of them being on. I picked them for different things that contribute for different reasons. I don't really have a favourite, I just appreciated all of them; part of it in the way they intertwined with it. The main focus was to not get lost in the collaborations, it was more to nuance the vibe of the record and also to reach out an olive branch: to anybody who is out there, who might like some of these artists, to maybe open up their doors to something like this, with their favourite artists on this type of music. That was the whole purpose.
Favourite piece of gear? (Digital/Analogue)
My favourite pice of gear right now was a man-made drum machine. It was a flipped Alesis drum machine, it has chips built into that aren't in the old Alesis HR-16. This particular drum machine is man-made, it was called the DR-909 Rhythm Composer. That's my favourite at the moment.
Favourite old school car?
Oh I have my old school right now, mine is an '85 Pontiac Grand Prix, that's what I enjoy riding around. That's what I step out in. Pontiac 1985 Grand Prix. That's my favourite old school right now.
Any shout-outs/final comments?
I'm playing Sugar Mountain Festival, hopefully everything is going to be cool, I'm really glad to be coming back to Australia in their summer. I'm looking forward to checking out that and a few other places, so it should be a fun time down there!