Kâshif Kroche member of The Funky Drive Band, musician, compositor, songwritter, record collector and deejay was interviewed by
Fabian Hansen from Denmark for the music review blog Soul
Here the complete interview, good reading!
how did your band get started?
Well at the begining in 2008 we were only 3 guys Bumpy T.T., Kongbo Godogo and I Kâshif Kroche. I 've met Bumpy at a private funk concert of Howard Johnson, if I remember, and we had the same friend who introduced us. Kongbo was a guy from my neighbourhood, so they were the two singers and I was the compositor. We needed to find femal voices to add another touch in our band so we searched at the gospel choire of Lyon (our town in south-east France) where we met Oumy, After that, Bumpy & I created our own label R.$.J.Recordz & Tapes (specialised in releasing unreleased stuffs from the 80's) so we could release our own productions too, then the other musicians of the band were added very quicly: Tams the sax player is from my neighbouhood, Omar the bass player is a records collector like me, Jenny Lord (composer and synthesizer player) is Bumpy's friend who brought Azzdeen (the guitar player) & Alan Push (at synthesizer too). From the begining, The Funky Drive Band was only a studio band, we record our songs in my bedroom so, yes The Funky Drive Band is a real underground street-funk band (ahah)!
In 2011, we recorded the track "Lost Generation" for a french funk compilation called "Weird Jam Project" on Funkysize
Records. The song was composed by Jenny Lord and I wrote the lyrics.
Then, we started to record the songs from our first album called "Dance Or Die". During the recording sessions, Oumy left the band for medical reasons but her voice appears on half of the songs from this album. After that, we found three new femal singers: Kuky Kamanda, Sooheer & Dawn Eyes, also from the gospel choire of Lyon, So, we could finish our work. The songs of the first album were composed and produced by me and written by Bumpy & I. The Lp released in february 2012 and contain nine songs, with "Funky Drive'z Me Crazy", which was the succes of the album. It's funny because this song wasn't supposed to be in the LP; when I did the instrumental of this one, I didn't think about the lyrics, and it was hard to find good lyrics to write on because the instrumental is very free, the melody and rythme change everytime. If I remember, a week before sending the songs to the wax factory, lyrics came in my head, so the day after, the singers were at my studio to record the voices and the songs has been added in the album at the last time! After the release, we were thinking about starting to play on stage for the promotion of our album and obviously, for the pleasure to play together! So we met a very talented drummer called Rich' but he left the band to live in Paris. At the moment, we're playing with a drum machine and if we find a good funky drummer, he will be very welcome! We're taking our time to find a drummer with the same vision of music and a funky style as us! But it's hard!
In 2012, I've met my wife Hadia, she's from Belgium and she's a singer. When she came to live in Lyon with me, she entered naturally in the band. She brought to us many things especially concerning the vocal part on harmony and flow,... and she's a good songwriter too!
Now, we are twelve members: Bumpy T.T. (vocal & songwriter), Kongbo Godogo (vocal), Hadi-A Hadi-O (vocal & songwriter), Kuky Kamanda (vocal), Sooheer (vocal), Dawn Eyes (vocal), Omarr (bass, synth & composer), Azzdeen (guitar), Jenny Lord (synth, guitar & composer), Alan Push (synth & composer), Tams (sax & flute) and I, Kashif Kroch' (percussion, synth, background vocal, composer & songwriter) but for live shows, we play with eight of the members (the musicians and Bumpy, Kongbo & Hadia for the vocals) because i'ts not as easy to find a big place for a big band like ours!
We've worked two years for our live shows, doing rehearsales every sunday afternoon at Push, that's why we haven't released something yet since the last album, but we keep on recording so we maybe have enough projects to do four albums! We are working on records project that we want to come out soon, there's a mini EP with 3 songs (and different remix of them) called "French Kiss' Craziness". This mini EP is produced by Jenny Lord, Omar & Push, the three other composors of the band. And then, we'll release another album. People only know my style from The Funky Drive Band because I produced the first album, but you will discover the other faces of the band with the productions of Omar, Jenny Lord & Push! About Jenny Lord's style, you can really get how it sounds on the song "Lost Generation" and people loved that one, so I think you'e gonna apreciate the next record projects with those three producers! Oh and a 12'inch limited press of "Funky Drive'z Me Crazy" has been released in July on Funk Freaks Records in USA with extended, album and instrumental versions, and on B-side a new song called "Love Guarantee", cover of a theme in the movie Colors with Hadia on lead vocal, written by Moniquea, composed by Omarr & Jenny Lord and mastered in California by Chit Chat Records.
Is there a big funk/soul scene in France?
Funk is very underground in France, we've got artists but our music hasn't been played in clubs, radios or tv, only in the small funk parties and they are rare!
The older band in France are Ameega (Dijon), Magoo (Toulouse), Thomas G (Paris). I think these three guys are the oldest artists still playing here. Ameega started in the 80's and the two other guys maybe in the 90's. I don't think that we have a big funk/soul scene in France, it's in our history,because in the 70's, France has been shrouded in the bad Disco music everywhere and in the 80's french people changed their style into the oposite with Rock music, so France missed the 80's Funk period and it really is a shame! There were at least peoples who played Funk/Soul music in pirate radios or parties and records collectors searching the american Funk import records, but it was hard to find and really expensive. Funk music was very underground in the 80's, the people who were listening to it were the one from the street, it went like Hip Hop...
What is the music scene like in Lyon?
Lyon is the most funkiest town in France, because its in our street culture here we listen to Funk music since we are very young and always have till today! Paris & Marseille are much more into 70'sSoul & Hip Hop I think (but they're funkateers in all city in France too !!!). In lyon we've got artists like Nickee B a beatmaker (you can listen to his music on youtube or soundcloud) he was in the "Weird Jam Project" compilation too. And there are bands like Charlie And The Soap Opera who plays Soul/Rock/Funk music and is starting to have success in the city, they have a great brass section, they sound very 70's and it's funky!
When it comes to make concerts here its hard because the scene in France is a Rock scene so the bosses at night clubs and bars don't want to try something new like having a funk band or funk night...and for sure if you don't have a contact in this circle like us its much harder ! but we try to make one concert per month, its our objective. The sunday 15 June we had organised our own funk event in a club/boat call "La Marquise" with The Funky Drive Band & Ameega for opening the show, its the first time we got the stage to ourselves and we were headlining because before we only openned up for bands, like for B.B.&.Q. Band ("On The Beat"/"Imagination"/"All Night Long") last November, Carmen ("Time To Move"/"Throwdown") and Ago ("For You"/"Stop Your Life") in California we made shows and concerts in small pubs and cafés but no with stage. Our friend Dj Debo from the californian deejay crew Funk Freaks was to deejay before the show, and we organized a little record fair on the boat also, it was a very good party with many of our friends and families, great time, and step by step we will try to make something bigger...
Who are some of your inspirations. Any of the great funk bands from the past?
For myself I'm record collector and deejay so I listen a lot of music, my inspirations are great producers like Kevin McCord from the Detroit band One Way, Oattes Van Schaik (aka The Limit) dutch producers, Rick James (I composed a song tribute to Rick, maybe I will release it in a future album), Prince team, the Solar & Prelude Records Sound, Roger Troutman (Zapp), Jellybean Benitez...and underground artists too, especially the 80's Detroit scene. I love Brit-Funk music also! I think this is my favorite funk style because the british artists worked a lot on the melodies and I like the mix with the Funk, Jazz & Caribbean music, I work on project of this at the moment...I love Light Of The World, Second Image, Total Contrast, Freeez, The Cool Notes, Direct Drive, Intrigue, Central Line, Nick Straker, Paul Hardcastle...
For the other members of The Funky Drive Band, they have been inspired by other types of funk and music. Omar is influenced by the Italo-producers Jacques Fred Petrus & Mauro Malavasi (Change, BB&Q Band, High Fashion...) and Italo-Funk artists like Ago, Armed Gang, Flowchart, Tom Hooker, Rainbow Team...Jenny Lord is influenced by Afro-Funk music specialy Nigeria Boogie sound! We had make a song called "Midnight Lagos" a tribute to this 80's period in Nigeria, the song was composed by him and written by Bumpy & Me, this song is played in Nigerian Funk radio stations (Unleashthe80's & IGroove Radio from Lagos) and we made an interview for one of this radio station after they had listen to it! This song will be released in one of our future album don't worry ! (ahah), so for Jenny Lord he loves artists like Patsol, X-tasy, Chris Mba, Dizzy K, Veno are the famous artist of this time ! He loves Italo-Funk music too because he originate from Italy ahah, the influence of Push are movie soundtracks from 70's & 80's, Jazz music and of course the sound of the drum machine 808 like Loose Ends ! For Bumpy, the big voice of the band, his influences are Booker Newberry III, Isaac Hayes, Barry White, Luther Vandross, Lew Kirton...We listen to Soul, Funk, Boogie, Modern Soul, P-Funk, New Jack, Jazz-Fusion, Gospel, World Music, R&B, G-Funk, Hip Hop...
What do you think about the soul/funk scene globally at the moment?
With artists like Daft Punk or Bruno Mars succes, people have started to be interessed in "Funk" music, but I don't know if they will try to search hard for find the underground band like us or the original Funk artists from the 70's & 80's.
In USA there is a big Modern Funk scene starting with artists like Dâm-Funk, Xl Middleton & Moneiqua, Benedek, K-Maxx, Psychic Mirrors, Eddie Funkster, Throwbakk Muzikk, Loose Shus, Enois Scroggins...Independent labels like PPU Records, Cherry Records, Mo-Funk Records, Funk Freaks Records, Sound Boutique, Voltaire Records are here for the New-Funk scene and its good to see that ! We had make a tour with a part of The Funky Drive Band in California last summer for the Funk Freaks Festival "I Am The Funk Tour" this festival is made for the new and old Funk scene, for us it was an amazing experience! our album "Dance Or Die" had much succes in California bigger then France! we made the tour with the great Italo-Funk artists Ago and the Modern-Funk deejay and beatmaker Orly Sad from Italy as well, before us this festival had recieved Ameega and I think for the next summer they will have Dogg Master (a great talkbox player from France) & Brian Ellis (Egyptian Lovers keyboardist), XL and Moniquea, Diamond Ortiz, and the famous singer Howard Johnson.
I'm happy they are funkateers players all around the world too ! in UK Old School artists like Junior Giscombe, Light Of The World work on new albums and its always funky ! Georgie B and other members of Second Image have made a new album call "3AM" (the band now is call The Groove Association) and they had released another one called "Let's Break The Ice" in 2012. Their is also Cool Million and The Lovetown Orchestra who work with international artists. Also Richard Alexander Davis, Sure Thing...In Spain the great Carlos Coupé & Black Nylon Corporation has released a 7'inch called "My Sexy Robot" and Fanateek One (a french artist living in Spain) feat Rach B (british singer) work on his first album "Cool Cty Nights", the more famous groupe Chromeo in Canada, Confection in Australia, Oh yes and Amadeo85 from Paris had released his first LP "Narvaloïd From Cosmos" featuring the german talkbox Funkmaster Ozone, the old school deejay Dee Nasty (famous in France) & the crazy Blowfly !!! Its an Old School Electro P-Funk album and I love the art work!
So yeah we are not alone in this planet and I hope we will be more in the future ! Actually we work on the vocal parts for a new artist from Brazil (he live in Paris now). He's name is Teddy Mike and he is amazing! He plays bass, synth, guitar, drum program... he asked us to work on the lyrics and the vocals for his album project. We will release it on R.$.J.Recordz & Tapes and it will be a bomb!
You don't see that many funk bands these day. Why do you think that is?
I think that today's music goes like fashion, but since the 90's, Soul and Funk have had a rebirth with all the samples which have influenced Hip Hop, G-Funk, R&B, House and Garage music too... If you hear music of today, you can notice a lot of samples from Soul & Funk music. People say that Funk is a passed music, has been, but we can't escape from Funk, a lot of artist use it sometimes without saying because it's groovy, we can dance on it. There are less funk groups than before because nowadays with new technology, everybody can do "music" simply by using his computer. The problem with beatmakers is that they compose their instrumentals but without vocals and it's like an impression of "not finished" music; they forget that Funk music isn't only using a drum machine and a syhtesizer but it's a complete whole with guitars, bass, brass section, percussions... and of course the singers are important, that's also a reason to explain why it is hard to create a band.
Is it challenging to have this kind of band in the music business today?
Yes it is! We've creates our own label because in our city, except ours, there is no Funk/Soul label and it is a shame for a funky city like Lyon, in the north there are Boogie Times Records (closed today) and DD Lahouve Production, in Paris Funkysize Records and that's all! We're doing underground music so we need to do everything by ourselves: recording, covers design, promotions, we distribute and sale our records on our website and during gigs because we do a limited press of copies of our music that's some of the reasons why we don't work with distributors. The first two released of our catalogue were unreleased 80's projects with Grand Slam, an unknown band from Chicago; we've made a 7' inch with two killer boogie sounds "False Alarm" & "Shyness", written by the great Bones Jones in the began of 80's. Then, we released the LP of HB Concept, from Canada. For the first Funky Drive Band's album, we were very lucky because my friend Dj Debo (Funk Freaks) from U.S.A, made a big promotion of our LP in californian clubs and played (still plays) our records in all his show. The LP "Dance Or Die" has been out of stock very quickly and many people still ask me if it rests copies for sale! So, be ready for the next project: only 300 copies too!
The Funky Drive Band is a huge band so we can't winning our lives with our music, most of us have a "real" job or are searching one... We try to save money from our records or gigs to realise new projects records, new shows, buy new material... It's very hard but step by step we'll reach a place in the musical circle. We're aware that doing strictly vinyl base is touching only records collectors, deejays or "fans", nevertheless, today the Cd is disapearing and for funk music the best support stays wax !
I want to thank you for being interested in our music, that was a big pleasure to answer to your questions.
FUNK THE WORLD !!!