“New fusion. Not jazz fusion, but a mess…organised confusion.”
“Different sounds. Especially the things I’m working on at the moment: I’ve got an acid bassline and a dirty distorted funk synth with it, but then the beats are all over the place. I’m not using one style of kick, I’m using four different kicks in one pattern. And nothing’s quantized. But there’s still a groove, it’s not messy. It feels like I’m free.”
Insightful words from West Londoner FunkinEven, and a beginner’s guide to understanding where his music comes from. Though there’s always a precise crispness in FunkinEven’s beats, his songs have a carefree, loose roughness about them. With masterfully crafted drums, effects and instrumentation, his productions are clearly the work of an avid listener and music obsessive, merging studied, fine-tuned sounds with his own electric personality.
The result is a unique take on fusion, blending a mountain of influences from the spaced-out synths of Zapp, the jackin’ swagger of Mike Dunn, jazzy broken beat jams a la Kaidi, the full-bodied soundsystem feel of Dillinja, Todd Edwards’ florescent bounce, the improv-fuelled soundworlds of Roy Ayers and George Clinton, Model 500’s percussive builds…and everything else that’s got the funk. “I let a lot of things happen – not by mistake, but by experiment,” he explains. “It’s almost like being in a lab and thinking, ‘I wonder if you add this potion to that,’ and see what concoction comes out of it.”
The tallest member of Eglo’s close-knit family (other members include label bosses Alexander Nut and Floating Points, and vocalists Fatima and Shuanise), FunkinEven creates colourful sonic cocktails that transport listeners to somewhere between outer space and the future. Choose your own adventure. On the title track of his debut EP, Kleer, a cracking snare propels a sky-high groove in a fitting nod to ‘70s funk pioneers Kleeer, while the four-to-the-floor groover ‘You’ incites a future-funked Akufen or a G’up Cornelius and a climbing bassline winds through the boogie-fuelled grind of ‘Mad Swing’.
His latest 12”, ‘She’s Acid’/’Must Move’ goes in deeper, with slamming 303 workouts and glittery metallic grooves, while the bright astral pop of last year’s ‘Orally Fixated’, Even’s collaboration with Roisin Murphy and Seiji become his first, but hopefully not last, dip into the mainstream. “I did the instrumental about 3 or 4 years ago, the whole instrumental was sitting in my hard drive,” he shrugs modestly. “Seiji rearranged it to make it a bit more poppy for the album, and the rest is history.”
Effortlessly cool and laid-back, FunkinEven is a man of few words; a little says a lot. It’s when he speaks about his diverse musical influences that his eyes light up and his narrative comes to life…music has been the leitmotif of his story since day dot. Raised on vibrations from his family’s soundsystem parties (his uncles and cousins were DJs), Funkineven first cut his teeth in the music world as a hype dancer in school – think Kid N Play in their infamous dance scene.
After the two-sided trousers got binned, he moved on to dabble in jazzy hip-hop joints (think Gangstarr, L.O.N.S., A Tribe Called Quest) and, in between “raiding the vinyl bins at Sugar Shack in Hounslow, where Ras Kwame worked, every single Saturday afternoon,” he started rapping with two friends. “We used to call ourselves The Dungeoneers – you know, London Dungeon. I didn’t really rate myself at rapping, but my friends were really good,” he tells. “I was always into the sounds of beats; I always heard things that I wanted to do. So I borrowed a friend’s keyboard and an old drum machine and I just started messing about from that – making tapes, recording whatever came to mind. The production started from there, I started messing about from the age of 13 or 14.”
Amongst a sea of bedroom laptop warriors that are born overnight, FunkinEven rises above as a true original; he’s no newcomer to this game. His productions have been patiently building into a vast back catalogue over many years, ready and waiting to be unleashed on unsuspecting ears. “I’ve just got loads and loads and loads,” he motions with his hands winding around each other in a circular motion, “of tracks just sitting in my hard drive. I keep trying to rearrange them and bring them up to date. But it’s really early days; I want to take my time.” Though hype could easily sing its siren song, trapping him under spotlights and inside headlines, he’s single-minded and steadfast. “I don’t want things to blow up and then have to stay at that peak. And that’s the same thing we’re doing with Eglo.”
His words glow as he discusses working with the imaginative imprint put together by Floating Points and Alexander Nut. “I’m happy there,” he reports. “It’s growing, we’re growing. It’s an adventure together. And I’ve got a lot of freedom as well.” With that freedom comes the ability to give attentive love to every little detail – his impeccable artwork, for instance, infuses elements of his stellar sound (cosmic skies, candy-painted chrome), and ‘Kleer’ was released, rightly, on clear vinyl.
As for his connection with fellow Eglomate and Shafiq Husayn collaborator Fatima (a wondrous vocalist fated to join the ranks of Erykah Badu, Georgia Anne Muldrow and Jill Scott), the two of them have found a visceral magnetism in each other creatively. Even claims that he plans to work with her, “always, for the rest of my life.” Most recently, the pair appeared in their vintage-infomercial inspired music video for Fatima’s ‘Soul Glo’:
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As the heat builds, FunkinEven’s presence is being required on more and more dancefloors – from Shoreditch to Sweden, to possibly even Tokyo by the end of this year. An avid club-goer since his teenage years, FunkinEven’s witnessed a long list of London movements across genres (Inspiration Information and the early days of YoYo at Notting Hill Arts Club, Metalheadz at Blue Note, Garage’s Voodoo Magic, Co-Op at Plastic People). His deep understanding of crowds and sounds, and how to read a club, explains why his DJ sets have such esemplastic power. “I only enjoy DJing when I’m comfortable, you get the best sets out of me when I can play what the fuck I want,” he says. “I work with the crowd, so if the crowd’s just standing there I can’t really do much. If the crowd’s with you, you can just go on a journey together.”
And it’s that same journey-inspired, evocative feeling that runs through his productions; it can be heard on each key he hits. “It’s all self-taught. I wouldn’t call myself a keyboard player but I can play what I want. It comes out how I want it to come out. It’s not written, it’s all vibe and feeling. I just love it, I love doing it.”