Bamboos interview – circa early 2000s

Tell us a bit about how the band got together. Who was responsible for starting the group? 
The Bamboos and the Bamboo Shack record label were initiated by myself. I formed the Bamboos midway through 2000
Could you introduce the group…who plays what…
The line up of the group is… Lance Ferguson – Guitar (28) Ben Grayson – Hammond Organ (25) Scott Lambie – Drums (34) Stuart Speed – Bass (36) – (group members ages in brackets!)
You guys are out in Australia…why make a funk 45? What influenced the idea to form a funk band and put out a 7″ single? I mean, this wouldn’t have worked on a CD single…!? (No two track funk releases would…would they? – maybe Snowboy or the Longo All-Stars would correct me there)
I have been a freelance musician for 8 years – predominantly performing and recording music drawn from the Afro-American tradition (Funk,Jazz,Blues etc). Through my own record collecting, DJing and friendships with other DJ’s I was exposed early on to all the big tunes that your average musician wouldn’t have heard about. I decided it was time to put a group together to perform some of this music live and expose it to people who might not have checked it out. I got a group of guys together who I knew would play without ego and also groove their asses off. This music is deceptively simple – It takes a certain type of player to lay down something solid and have the mindset to think of the group as a whole. Though I realise that many classic tracks were recorded by musicians who evidently had remedial skills on their instruments, I don’t subsribe to the notion that ‘funk is easy’ – or ‘just anyone’ can get up and do it well. That opinion undermines the efforts and abilities of the master players like Clyde Stubblefield, Zigaboo Modeliste and many others.The musicians in the Bamboos are all accomplished players in their own right, and they have the musical maturity to know when and when not to play. The thing about the loose and rough recordings is that they often have a great spirit about them – and that was also something I wanted to get happening in the band. After doing a bunch of gigs through 2000 and early this year, the band was sounding great and I thought it would be good to document this on a recording. The idea of doing a 7″ came out of the records I had been listening to (Soulfire, Desco etc)and my desire to contribute in a tangible way to the global Deepfunk scene.
Where does the influence of the sound come from (i.e: is there an era that particularly attracted you in terms of a funk sound)
As has been said many times before the ‘golden period’ of ’68 -’73 is the time when the heaviest stuff was done. This time period heralds the restructuring of soul music to include heavy, repetitive and syncopated rhythmic figures. The Bamboos are influenced by The Meters (as if you didn’t guess), James Brown’s rhythm sections, and a whole slew of old 45’s. I think this ‘inverted snobbery’ of criticising acts such as The Meters and James Brown because their records are more common is ridiculous. They made lots of ’em because they were so fucking good! The thing is is that James Brown is like the wellspring. He influenced everyone and there’s no denying it. JB is to funk what Charlie Parker is to modern Jazz.

Give us your top five groups or tracks which influence your current material…
Here’s 5 tracks from the Bamboos live repetoire that we’re digging at the moment… 1. ‘Same Old Thing” – The Meters 2. ‘Tighten Up’ – Billy Ball and the Upsetters 3. ‘Rootdown(and get it) – Jimmy Smith 4. ‘Inner city blues’ – Reuben Wilson 5. ‘8 counts for Rita’ – Jimmy Smith
How large or small is the scene in Australia or the response/following to ‘old’ funk, and The Bamboo’s?
The funk scene in Melbourne is very marginal – partly due to population but also a cultural thing as well. The only people who bought funk back in the 70’s were probably musicians and maybe the odd collector. Hence there’s very limited stuff to dig for. During the late 80’s the DJ’s involved with the Rare-groove thing and also the hiphop producers basically bought up everything that was around locally. I think one of the big differences between us and the U.K is that you have embraced Afro-American music since back in the sixties so you actually have a culture of it yourself to draw on. This said however, we do have some very knowledgable and astute DJ/collectors such as Dave Sinclair, Kano Hollamby, Kaman Tsoi, Takse, Johnny Topper and John Idem. This lot have all in their own way promoted Funk in one way or another via resident nights and radio shows etc.’Cocoa Butter’ at Lounge was a very popular Funk/Latin/Jazz night which ran in Melbourne for years(Kano,Takse,Ennio Styles).There’s also ‘DeepFunk’ Wednesday nights at Cherry(John Idem).As far as the live thing goes there are several bands working the Jazz/Funk/Fusion vibe – but The Bamboos are really the only group devoted to straight-up raw instrumental Funk. (I am hazy on the Sydney scene but I know that there is definately atleast one Funk night going.) The local response to the 7″ has been very positive, due in part to the fact that its something very different and unique for here. Local DJ’s have really got behind the record and we’re also getting a bit of Airplay.
Some people have raised the issue that many, if not all ‘new-old’ funk tracks are simply being made to fit into the existing ‘Deep Funk’ scene. Tailor-mades. My argument is that you only have to look at anything from indie-rock to chart pop to see that musical formulas and styles have been recycled, copied and adjusted to fit with whatever interested market exists in the present. With the luxury of time we have been given the cream of a particular sound which, in retrospect, has be formed into a tidy, unified whole. At the time of making the music very few (if any) of these acts were creating music for a ‘scene’. Do you think that a group with real instruments, deliberately making the music sound ‘old’ and issuing the results on seven inch vinyl is ‘relevant’ in an age obsessed with ‘progress’? Are we all living in an idealistic past?! 
The lessons of the originators of funk have been absorbed and applied to many of todays styles. I hear funk today in Minimal Techno, Drum+Bass, House, HipHop and a bunch of other things. Funk is a feeling – a rhythmic propulsion. It can’t be limited by any rules or instrumentation because how can you limit something that you can’t accurately explain? The thing we are doing is distilling it back into its original raw form – its essence….

We are no more tailor-making funk tracks now than they were back in the day.The benefit of hindsight has enabled us to consolidate our views on what musical elements we want to keep or omit to best get our message across – and that message is…Shake your ass! I make funk records because I love funk – every live show we do there are people dancing and smiling, and if having fun ain’t relevant then what is?
For the techno-heads, describe the studio set-up when producing and recording the two tracks on the current 45…
BR-001 was recorded and mixed over two days at ‘The shed’ studios. We recorded the tracks on a Teac A-3340 4-track reel to reel. Blackfoot was recorded in one take, Eel Oil two.I ran my Guitar through a Fender Twin head into an ancient speaker box designed for film projectors. Ben Grayson plays an L-series Hammond Organ through a Leslie speaker. Stuart speed plays a ’68 fender Jazz bass with Bartolini pickups. We also used a bunch of old low-fi mic’s.
I assume the 45’s were pressed in the US…where there any other realistic alternatives or was this a deliberate measure…what I’m talking about is the fascination with large centre ‘Jukebox’ 45’s…whether new or old.
I went with United Pressing in Nashville Tennessee to do the record. If you want quality mastering, plating, printing and service then don’t skimp on price – do it right the first time.
Finally…What do you make of nearly everybody constantly at each others throats on certain message boards…silly isn’t it…?
I find the ‘in-fighting’ within the deepfunk fraternity sometimes humourous but ultimately a waste of energy. We need to focus on promoting and nurturing the global funk scene – not pointlessly bickering and creating divisions in what is still a very small genre. New acts need to be encouraged and supported so they can build on what’s been started. Personally I will be looking for more Australian acts that fit the bill – So count us IN.