Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Dr Rubberfunk: Funky Sensation

Dr Rubberfunk
Dr Rubberfunk Dr Rubberfunk Dr Rubberfunk Dr Rubberfunk

It’s 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 Rubberfunk’s “difficult second album” 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 ‘difficult third album’ does it not?

“I don’t know really” the Doc opens. “I 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 writer’s or producer’s block. It’s been a much more intense, involved process this time round but I really think it’s 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 don’t like things too polished anyway; so they’re probably happy accidents! I am happy with the record; it’s a real continuation from my previous work and I hope people like it.”

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. “I’ve been experimenting quite a bit, working with a wider sweep of vocalists and musicians” he explains. “I’ve come to realise you can’t just sample everything if you want fully developed and cohesive songs. It’s been about developing my songwriting craft; I’ve tried to do a lot more from scratch on this one.”

As such, Rubberfunk is the centre-piece of an expanding, kaleidoscopic collective of musicians, singers and DJs that offers plenty of food for thought – 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 (Sitzka’s appearance on the feisty funker You’re No Good is a particular joy,) Hot Stone’s variety is impressive, so too its consistent quality. It’s a blueprint that should transfer effectively to the stage; something the Doctor is only too aware of.

“I DJ a fair amount; in fact, I was spinning a long time before the first Rubberfunk album. But there’s something about the scope and scale of a live show that surpasses anything” he confesses. “I 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, we’ll then see who else can play with us. That makes for something unique with each show; but there’s 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 sections….”

Which all begs the question of when the next shows are due? Rubberfunk quite clearly lives and breathes the stage, so it’s impossible to imagine there won’t be a new live tour soon. “Wellllllll, I can’t really say a lot at the moment” he teases. “But we are looking at some stuff in the capital and some more radio sessions with the BBC too; there’s 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 more….”

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 it’s 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. “You can’t be a musical ludite; it’s 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 flexible” he concludes. “At the same time, I don’t think we should abandon the past. There’s a lot to be said about having a hard-copy presence in this digital age of ours; having a healthy balance.”

Spoken like a true doctor…..

Dr Rubberfunk’s new album Hot Stone is out on Jalapeno Records on January 18, 2010

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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