“I Just Want to Go Further” — An Interview with Dam-Funk

Currently on tour with 70s psych-pop star Todd Rundgren, Dam-Funk talks about how it came together, his favorite unsung musicians, and selects some of his favorite Rundgren cuts.
By    April 16, 2015

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By night, Dam-Funk operates as a messiah of modern funk. By day, he operates one of the world’s most inspiring Instagrams, smashes on busters, rolls through the Westside of Los Angeles looking regal in an old school, and drinks the occasional Cadillac Margarita.

Between feats of funk, he’s accumulated abyssal crates that expand far beyond boogie and disco. His tastes and knowledge branch out deeply into the discographies of obscure cult heroes like Prefab Sprout, prog legends Rush, and proto-metal rockers, Kiss.  Yet the most prominent strain of his non-funk DNA might be Todd Rundgren, the inscrutable 70s psychedelic pop star.

Because the universe is a strange and occasionally wonderful place, Rundgren selected the Pasadena-born funkster to handle musical direction on his two-month spring tour—which stretches from now till June. It’s a warm-up to his sophomore full-length, Invite the Light which drops this July on Stones Throw. He has new songs out with E-40 and Ariel Pink, and on Tyler’s new album. It’s a fertile era for the funk.

Shortly before hitting the road, I spoke to Dam about how he got into Rundgren’s music, what gives it its timeliness, and a few of his favorite cuts from one of the greatest living songwriters. — Jeff Weiss

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I guess the first logical question is: how did you end up on tour with Todd Rundgren?


Dam-Funk: Peter Agostin, my booking agent since day one, knows Todd’s camp and was reaching out about maybe getting Todd to come to Funkmosphere to check out the club. So Todd’s camp checked out my stuff and I guess the previous tour plan was for Todd to tour with a backing person who can play keys, DJ, and trigger samples, instead of taking a full band. I got the call from Todd one night right before a gig and accepted.


Do you remember when you first heard Rundgren’s music?


D-F: I remember hearing it when I was a kid, vaguely, in the background. The scenes of my life. I remember his productions first. I listened to KROQ a lot as a kid and the Psychedelic Furs had a song called “Love My Way” in 1982 and I was really intrigued by that song.

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With the advent of digging, you’d see these Todd albums popping up all over the place. I remember The Initiation cover, the A Wizard, a True Star cover — both of them had such great artwork. You picked them up and were just blown away. I still remember the feeling of opening the album with its gatefold.  If you were into Prince or Zappa or those artists, you can see the lineage of what he was doing as a one man band. Once you got into, I really got into it heavy.


What was it about his music that drew you in?


D-F: For me, it was the chords, the fact that he was doing the music himself. The Something/Anything album and the A Wizard, A True Star record were my first two. I loved the drum machines. The different types of synthesizers he used; at the time, rock cats weren’t really using synthesizers until you got to like Yes. He was doing soulful blue eyed soul mixed with rock and jazz and it always felt unique and very LA. It felt very LA. He only lived in LA for a little bit of time, but for a guy raised in Philly, it definitely had a West Coast feel.


Did his music inspire you to do the one-man band thing?


D-F: I just starting doing it on my own because of Prince and necessity. As I was digging more, it was a confirmation that other artists were doing the same thing. Stevie Wonder was doing a lot of the same things too. I think a lot of artists were always doing it that way until record labels realized that it could be kinda cool to promote it as just one person.

slyWhen Sly Stone was making music, he wanted to make it seem like the Family Affair was playing and you realized eventually that it was him playing most of the shit. Artists are always ahead of the times. When I got into Todd’s music, it was a confirmation of some of the stuff that I was starting to do in my bedroom in ’88.


Why do you think his music has held up over the years?


D-F: I think it’s the ideology and the sincerity in the production. It seems like he got disenchanted by the business aspect of things and the rules. This is the same guy who had the same manager for 40 years. He’s stuck with the same cats. He was really big in the 70s and was on a lot of magazine covers like Circus and Cream. He was a serious star, but when times change, he held his middle finger up and they still haven’t inducted him into the Rock Hall of Fame. That goes to show how this game is.


Who are some of your other favorite artists that might not have gotten their due.


D-F: Patty from Prefab Sprout is one of the best songwriters ever.  in years.  Happy the Man was a great group. You’ve got to check out the 1977 album on Arista — it’s very soulful. There’s also Leon Sylvers the III, who is one of the best producers ever, and opened the doors for Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and LA Reid and Babyface and whole R&B super-producer thing.



Leon had a funk soul edge with pristine production. He produced The Whispers’ “And the Beat Goes On,” for Solar, which was very high quality black music production at the time. They had great funk syncopation and soul, but was glossed over as R&B.  the beat goes on on Solar was very high quality black music production at ther time, with great funk syncopation and soul but was glossed over as R&B.


What made you want to do this tour beyond just being a long-time fan?


D-F: I’m looking forward to being a student and learning and listening for things. This is the guy who produced Bat Out of Hell for Meatloaf, which was one of the biggest selling records of all-time. He produced I’m An American Band by Grand Funk Railroad. I’m looking forward to getting to be a fly on the wall — it’s just me two background singers and a lighting person. It’s going to be like grad school.


What’s the status of Invite the Light?


D-F: After I get back from tour, Stones Throw should have everything manufactured. We’re doing a video this week and we’re going to drop it this summer. I want a summer record and it’s definitely time for another one — enough Soundcloud stuff. It’s time to get out here and show what it really is. That funk with a smile and a tear. That healing but not cornball shit. I’m not skating on the funk because it’s something hot to do. It’s an actual project that encompasses the feel of what someone who actually lives and breathes and walks funk.


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The whole album was recorded in a bedroom with four walls, a laptop, and and actual keyboards from the analogue era. It’s just from the heart. Written from the gut, and from a level of trying to help people to get through something.


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When I listened to the Happy the Man album from beginning to end, I’d feel better — like a different person. I want Invite the Light  to be that kind of album to make them feel a certain way when they’re finished listening to it. I almost thought about doing what Prince did with LoveSexy, where you couldn’t toggle or fast-forward it, but that felt like a little too much. It’s 2015.


What’s next for the rest of the year?


D-F: I just feel the next move is to tour with my band and after that, I’m going to work on a movie. It might start off as a 15-minute thing for festivals. Jeff Broadway from the Stones Throw movie approached me about doing the score for it. I’m looking it as a mixture between Superfly and Purple Rain — maybe not that specifically but something closer to Isaac Hayes doing Truck Turner.  It’s going to be a vehicle. I call it Sci-G, not Sci-funk.


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It’s for cats that  really do have a background and know how to get down on the street level but still love studying UFOs and listen to the Art Bell radio show — the stuff that I don’t think is being talked about enough. All we hear about is murders up the street and police brutality and obviously those are important issues that I don’t want to take away from — but I just want to go further.


Dam-Funk’s 5 Favorite Todd Rundgren Songs (At This Moment)


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• “Intro / Breathless”
Bearsville • 1972



This was from the Something / Anything? album and was recorded entirely by Todd. The “intro” is a sarcastic rundown of equipment / method of recording gear listed, in which it takes to make a proper studio recording (at that time) and then . . . launches into an incredible drum machine & synth based instrumental work out called “Breathless.” For me, it’s one of the highlight moments in this virtually flawless double LP. One of my favorite musical moments from Todd (for my taste in music).


• Tiny Demons
Bearsville Records / 1981



B-Side from the Healing album. “Time Heals” (another excellent uptempo song) was the A-Side. Came as a bonus limited edition single inside the Healing album. But, this atmospheric / dark composition is another favorite of mine from Todd. Super relatable, as I’m sure for many others.


 • Too Far Gone
Bearsville Records / 1979



The epic break-up album Hermit Of Mink Hollow included this song here and it’s so well written and heartfelt. We all know people like the subject in the song. Could’ve well been U, once upon a time (or even now). Classic.


• Hideaway
Bearsville Records / 1982



Great uptempo & melodic number that had a very innovative video attached to it, as well as an album “The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect.” I love the energy and lyrics. It’s about a guy wanting to know the true feelings of a woman and what she REALLY thinks & feels. So good. Has no exact genre. Any music lover would dig it.


 • Does Anybody Love You?
Bearsville / 1973



Such a great pop-ballad. Short in length, yet so well arranged, written, played & sung. Here’s one of my favorite lyrics from the song:

“You’re so lovely, so wise
You could make Venus crawl
But love between the ugly is the most beautiful love of all

Does anybody love you?
Do you think that anybody’s in love with you?

Does anybody, anybody in love with you?”

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