“I’ve been in the studio hard,” says the ebullient DJ Funk. Judging by his tone of voice and bass-heavy output, this is a man who doesn’t use the adjective ‘hard’ without intent. The Chicago native literally lives music, as his home is fitted with a three-room studio, once the stomping ground of soft rockers Styx. Come to think of it, Booty Clap and Mr. Roboto do sound like distant cousins. Warning Australia to “look out,” Funk plans to debut some of the new material he’s been working on upon his descent down under this week. “Australia will be the first to hear some of my new tracks,” he says. Referring to something as ‘new’ can indicate progression or change, in Funk’s case if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it. He affirms, “Funk is funk and funk will always be funk.” Well, that clears things up.
The explosive DJ/producer is known for getting buck wild and is expecting his legion of Aussie dance maniacs to reciprocate the madness. Imagine a rave where the female patrons are also enthusiastically encouraged to shake what their mama gave them and you’re on the right track. “Beach girls are always nice too, especially coming from Chicago,” he jokes. While I couldn’t disagree with his thoughts on Aussie women, Chi-Town isn’t exactly a baron wasteland, particularly when it comes to music. The windy city’s roots go back to the blues of the ‘50s (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and the like) and the disco explosion of the ‘70s. It was also coincidentally the home of disco’s symbolic death, where hundreds of people incited a disco record bonfire at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. Above all the classic house sound, pioneered by the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Mr. Fingers, is what the city is perhaps best known for. While his predecessors had their appendage-related monikers it was another body part, specifically the booty, that helped put DJ Funk on the map. Looming an equally large shadow in dance history is the ghetto house sub-genre, otherwise known as booty bass, which he helped introduce in the early ‘90s. Isolating those rich, pulsating grooves and extending them out to their fullest aural extent is what house was founded on. “Chicago’s always home ya’ know, people love to have a good time and wild out,” Funk says fondly about his home city. “However I love touring the world ‘cause I realise everyone has a little ghetto house in ‘em.”
The smutty relative of dance music, the tenets of the ghetto house sound were a synthesis of two sub-cultures, the fast-tempo Chicago juke sound and the disco-inspired Chicago house sound, he tells us. “They blended so well together that you realised they should be in the same category. That category is ghetto house.” Funk sums it up the only way he can, bluntly. Ghetto house, he says is “raw rough ghetto shit with heavy claps and fat ass bass.” Despite its kinship with the equally in-your-face and raunchy Miami bass sound, Funk affirms that ghetto house stands as its own culture. “I love Miami but we on some other shit.” Camaraderie was strong back in the underground days, but there were no lines between cities, he assures us. “It wasn't really about what city you were from, it was about the common love of the music.” When the Chicago house sound is spoken of, it’s mentioned in reverent tones, with words like ‘classic’ and ‘golden age’ being brought up. “It’s real shit from real fucking people,” Funk trumpets. “We developed a sound that influenced a lot of the shit that you hear today.”
Almost two decades after his emergence from the Chicago underground, DJ Funk’s love for the booty shaking rhythms is unstoppable. “Even if only a couple people came to my shit I would still be playing just as hard as a sold out show.” Once the music is with you it sticks apparently. The mainstream proliferation of dance music over the past decade is quite a departure from the days when promoters were wary about sending out flyers at the fear of police opposition. “Now you have brothers bumpin’ dubstep and middle school girls wearing Deadmau5 shirts,” he says sardonically. “I can’t wait to see someone rockin’ a Pussy Ride t-shirt at a wedding or a funeral.” As he astutely observes, the sounds from the underground always seem to filter to the mainstream. One particular performance artist, if you want to call her that, has apparently been looking to tap into that well of uninhibited energy. “Lady Gaga’s people keep calling me to do a new version of [DJ Assault’s] Ass And Titties on her next album with her but I can't fuck with that ‘til she grows some out and can make ‘em clap.” While Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and the like may be riding dance music to new heights, Funk and his compatriots still keep their shit “mad underground.”
Not much has changed from the outlaw days of Chicago house, from Funk’s perspective. Obviously wherever there’s loud music and mood lighting there’s bound to be copious consumption of various substances, both legal and illegal. “I think it’s the same as it was back in the day. People are still doing drugs, the only difference now I feel is some people go to shows just to do drugs.” Regardless, Funk believes, “Real music and real people will shine no matter what year it is.”