Catching the Beat: The Funk Hunters

One of the biggest coups for the 2015 festival is the addition of West Coast DJ Powerhouse . Duncan Smith and Nick Middleton are two DJs based in Vancouver, BC that are fast rising the ranks to become MVPs in both Canada’s EDM scene and festival circuits. To describe them merely as ‘EDM’ or even ‘Funk DJ’s’ would be doing them a disservice. These two produce a sound that borrows from genres as diverse as hip-hop, soul, disco and classic funk, not to mention the remixes they have been banging out! Everything from Bran Van 3000’s Drinking in LA (remember them?) to Gotye to Neil Young have been given The Funk Hunters treatment, the results of which are smooth, beat-laden delights to your eardrums. Regular collaborators with the legendary Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, the Funk Hunters often accompany their live sets with live musicians — which, when you experience it live, makes sense and leaves you thinking why do more DJs not do this?!

In a town with a small EDM following that is growing year after year, The Funk Hunters are an eagerly-anticipated highlight of the event of the year. Yellowknife is finding its feet in the EDM stakes, with new promoters Aural Borealis Soundsystem and Midnight Sound Club bringing big names such as Mat the Alien up North to satisfy a new demand for events of this kind. The Snow King Festival even got into the groove this year with Bushleague DJs holding an EDM event in the castle! The scene is ever-expanding and is thrilled to be catching The Funk Hunters halfway (or thereabouts) on their rise to sold-out stadium gigs and an impending status of Canada’s most sought-after DJ outfit.

We talked to one half of the DJ duo, Duncan Smith, about what’s in a name; and what to expect from The Funk Hunters at Folk on the Rocks 2015:

FOTR: It’s very important to the Funk Hunters that your music, and music in general, not be labelled or classified. “No rules, no genre constraints” are constant themes in your work and projects, yet you have ‘Funk’ in your name. Does it ever pose a problem when it comes to audience expectations?

Duncan Smith: We push this idea simply because we do have Funk in our name. Our sound is funky above all but we create and curate so many other styles of music that we want to avoid being pigeon-holed as simply Funk DJ’s & producers.

FOTR: How would you explain to the uninitiated what to expect from one of your shows?

DS: Party-rocking beats mashed up on 4 turntables with custom synced visuals often with live musicians, vocalist & MC’s in the mix. Our shows are a journey through contemporary electronic dance music, fused with classic funk, rock, disco, golden-era hip-hop, house, drum & bass, a plenty of phat basslines.

FOTR: What has having your own record label – Westwood Recordings, done for Funk Hunters? Was this more about good business or good art?

DS: The label definitely caters to both aspects. Having a place to release our music officially and push our sound further with proper distribution as well as licensing opportunities helps better our business. The label also allows us to support other artists and producers from around the world and help give them much needed exposure.

FOTR: You recently posted on your Facebook page a link to an article on the ‘Five Core Values of DJ’ing’. They were: Skill, Practice (paraphrasing this), Knowledge, Creativity, Respect. If we take Respect out, assuming it’s a constant, which of the remaining four core values do you think is most responsible for The Funk Hunter’s success? Can you explain?

DS: Without taking away from any of the other values, I think our creative path has really helped to spread our music. Initially we tried to set ourselves apart from what others were doing by DJing together to create something that was larger than an individual. That concept has continued to grow with the likes of adding live musicians, MC’s, vocalists, and custom visuals to our show. The idea has always been “what can we do to be different? How can we set ourselves apart from what others are doing?” And in this process we got very creative, making our live shows, music, and mixtapes unique.

FOTR: Is Folk on the Rocks the furthest North you have ever played a gig? What are you expecting?

DS: Yes, we are very excited to check it out! Its hard to know what to expect going anywhere new, but we’ve often found that people in more isolated communities such at Yellowknife are very grateful when you travel a long way to perform and that in itself is a great feeling and one of the reasons why our job is so rewarding.

You won’t be disappointed guys…

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