Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Feature

Dr Rubberfunk: Funky Sensation

Dr Rubberfunk @bluesandsoul.com
Dr Rubberfunk @bluesandsoul.com Dr Rubberfunk @bluesandsoul.com Dr Rubberfunk @bluesandsoul.com Dr Rubberfunk @bluesandsoul.com

Itâs with almost perfect timing that Simon Ward prepares to drop Hot Stone on big freeze Britain this week. A third album from the Londoner under groove-administering alias Dr Rubberfunk, Hot Stone sizzles with the kind of funky, jazzy, bluesy, soul-driven pep that will surely melt hearts and minds chilled by all this doom-and-gloom, sub-zero weather.

Appropriately, too, Hot Stone gains its release via funky, feisty, super spicy London imprint Jalapeno Records, a label the good Doctor joined in 2008 following the release of his first two albums on his own label GPS. The First Cut appeared in 2004, grabbing instant attention from the likes of Norman Jay and Groove Armada, not to mention glowing headlines via Time Out and the Telegraph. Come 2006, and Rubberfunkâs âdifficult second albumâ My Life At 33 was out-and-about, gathering more great headlines and influential fans; this time round it was Gallic DJ legend Laurent Garnier and much hyped boogie boys Yam Who.

So here we are now in 2010 and expectations, understandably, are sky high for a third Rubberfunk record that has taken three years to complete, and follows some amazing material already. This has to be that âdifficult third albumâ does it not?

âI donât know reallyâ the Doc opens. âI am drained; Hot Stone has taken up a hell of a lot of time. But then again, the recording process has been more about me developing my sound and studio skills than struggling with any kind of writerâs or producerâs block. Itâs been a much more intense, involved process this time round but I really think itâs been worth it. There are things, talking to you now, that I still want to tweak but, in reality, only I can hear them when the final mixes are played back; no-one else will probably even notice. I donât like things too polished anyway; so theyâre probably happy accidents! I am happy with the record; itâs a real continuation from my previous work and I hope people like it.â

The initial buzz is certainly re-assuring. Early DJ rotations, blog postings and radio broadcasts suggest Rubberfunk will be bouncing back louder than ever this year. âIâve been experimenting quite a bit, working with a wider sweep of vocalists and musiciansâ he explains. âIâve come to realise you canât just sample everything if you want fully developed and cohesive songs. Itâs been about developing my songwriting craft; Iâve tried to do a lot more from scratch on this one.â

As such, Rubberfunk is the centre-piece of an expanding, kaleidoscopic collective of musicians, singers and DJs that offers plenty of food for thought â rich food - when it comes to the business of music-making. Hot Stone features veteran singer Roachford, Dutch chanteuse Sitzka, Breakestra hornsman Todd Simon and rising Geordie soul boy John Turrell among many - ably conducted by Rubberfunk, the extended line-up helps strike up a truly panoramic, widescreen sound that eclipses anything our boy has released to date.

Moving from soul-jazz (Magic Beans) and psychedelic (Theme From Hot Stone) instrumentals to bullish funk, deep tribal and springy hip-hop vocal numbers (Sitzkaâs appearance on the feisty funker Youâre No Good is a particular joy,) Hot Stoneâs variety is impressive, so too its consistent quality. Itâs a blueprint that should transfer effectively to the stage; something the Doctor is only too aware of.

âI DJ a fair amount; in fact, I was spinning a long time before the first Rubberfunk album. But thereâs something about the scope and scale of a live show that surpasses anythingâ he confesses. âI normally play with a core team of three or four guys; a couple of them are friends from school. Depending on the time of year, weâll then see who else can play with us. That makes for something unique with each show; but thereâs always a lot of preparation with tours beforehand. Getting live vocal arrangements spot on, what with backing vocals and horn sections in there as well, is bloody difficult; and the rhythm section needs to be hot. The key to live performances is good, tight rhythm sectionsâ¦.â

Which all begs the question of when the next shows are due? Rubberfunk quite clearly lives and breathes the stage, so itâs impossible to imagine there wonât be a new live tour soon. âWellllllll, I canât really say a lot at the momentâ he teases. âBut we are looking at some stuff in the capital and some more radio sessions with the BBC too; thereâs stuff in planning, put it that way. Gigs are the most direct and exciting way to gain reaction to your musical visions; of course we want to do moreâ¦.â

In the meantime, Dr Rubber funk continues to rinse all mediums and channels at his disposal in order to ensure Hot Stone burns as brightly as it deserves to. Whether itâs hitting file-sharing sites and internet radio or supervising hard-copy, and comparatively old-skool mixtapes and vinyl runs, the good Doctor has it totally covered. âYou canât be a musical ludite; itâs a contradiction in terms. The music industry is evolving so quickly and us smaller, underground producers simply have to go with it; we have to be flexibleâ he concludes. âAt the same time, I donât think we should abandon the past. Thereâs a lot to be said about having a hard-copy presence in this digital age of ours; having a healthy balance.â

Spoken like a true doctorâ¦..

Dr Rubberfunkâs new album Hot Stone is out on Jalapeno Records on January 18, 2010
Words BEN LOVETT

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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