Q&A:Tryezz

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Tryezz is a Modern Funk producer who hails from the musically unassuming city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. He’s a ten year veteran of the music game whose recognizable, synth-heavy sound is spread across a growing number of dope, independent releases. Apart from several self-released projects he also has two official label releases under his belt, including 2012’s “Night Driven” on successful Los Angeles label Soulection.

Tryezz’s deep, soulful grooves have been featured here on the site a few times, so it was only natural that we reached out to him to hear more about his background, artistic vision and plans for the future. A thoughtful and articulate individual, Tryezz spoke to us about the current resurgence of funk music, the music scene in Tennessee and the blessings and challenges of independent artistry.

Can you give a short introduction of yourself?
Yes yess. My name is Jonathan, a.k.a Tryezz. Spreading Wisdom and Vitality with the Arts and the Groove. Hailing from the Scenic City: Chattanooga Tennessee.

Always Humble.
Always a Student.

How did you get started making music?                                                                                                 I got into playing the keys when I was real young. My cousin had an old Casio SK-1 with missing keys that got handed down. And I was fascinated with the sounds it could produce. That’s what started it all. It was an instant connection, and it was something that was meant to happen. It was in my blood…a curious and creative soul at the core. Over the years, the passion grew, and in 2004, I chose to make music/arts my career path officially.

 

What’s the music scene like in Tennessee?                                                                                           Well, where I live, it’s very interesting. It’s somewhat quiet at the moment in some ways.
But at the same time, there are some underground and new sounds emerging. There was a huge electronic music scene at one point. Real big. You had events like, “The Boombox” and “Bangerz Ball/Nightmoves” that brought DnB, Electro, House, Dubstep, etc.

At the same time, there was also other emerging scenes popping up during that time.
DJ K7, a local DJ now located in NY, brought global/funk/soul/Latin sounds that picked up some good momentum. You also had collective DJs played that classic house. Nowadays, it still goes on, but it’s more dispersed. And newer sounds are being introduced. Life & Culture, a local collective, is pushing future beats. And there’s also the local hip-hop and rock scenes that has always been going on. So it’s interesting at the moment.

What influences your music?                                                                                                            Anything and everything. An event, people, stories, different genres, etc.
But mainly, scenery plays a big influence. A huge influence. Different environments and settings either in my imagination and dreams, and/or in reality.Often times both. =)

How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it?
I would describe it as Scenic Grooves: Heavy, smooth and rejuvenating groove-based tunes that you can *see and experience* as well as hear.

What equipment do you use when making music?                                                                            Not too much at all to be honest:
-A Laptop with Windows xP on it
-M-Audio Oxygen Keyboard
-A Behringer Xenyx 802 Desktop Mixer
-Headphones

Sometimes I might use a mic to record addon rhythms/vocals. Also an electric guitar every now and then.

Any preferred weapon(s) of choice when it comes to production?
The main Weapons:
-MuLab: A beat sequencer program on which all the tunes are made. A highly flexible and versatile program.
-Cool Edit Pro 2: Audio Multiwave Editor. Even though it’s old…it still gets the job done real nice. These are the 2 core programs used to lay down the grooves.

There seems to be quite a Modern Funk phenomenon going on at the moment. Your thoughts on that?
I think it’s great to see. I feel that, because Funk in general has such a strong history and foundation, it will always be around. And as new genres come and go, the Funk will remain consistent. Funk, Jazz, soul, etc. will always have longevity because they aren’t genres that
one can just pick up and play. It takes effort and life experience amongst other things.
Because of that, there will always be a reach. People can recognize effort. People can feel the vibe y’know? So I think it’s cool.

Do you see yourself as a part of that movement?
I would say more-so, that this movement, amongst others, is something that I would naturally end up being apart of, y’know? Because the Funk, amongst other things, is naturally apart of who I am. So it would only be natural for me to end up being apart of the movement. I think any artist playing this genre would be apart of the movement if they truly have a love for it. No matter how well-known they are or not. If they feeling it and got dat’ funk in em’…then they will be apart of it. =)

You have a release on Soulection. How did you link up with those guys?
Someone had posted up the song “Solar Winds” up on their soundcloud page. And it just so happened that Joe Kay had came across it. So he ended up hitting me up via e-mail. That’s how it started. It was a blessing indeed. This all happened a little after I had self-released “Odyssey“. And “Night Driven”, would end up being my second label-based release.

What’s most challenging about being an artist today?
Pshhhhhh…..could write a whole book on this question. Hahaha. One of the most challenging things to do is to establish yourself. Especially if you have a unique sound and you’re totally independent. But yet, those challenges are what make it all worth it. That’s where the good stuff is, even though it sucks going through the hardships.

It takes time to develop and establish yourself as and artist. And it takes a lot of patience and consistency. It takes a lot of self-reflecting and educating yourself artistically and business-wise. I’ve been in this game 10 years, and I’m still not too well-known right now. There are artists out there that are miles ahead of me even though they’ve been in the game for only a fraction of the time (and that’s cool btw).

Oftentimes, it can be difficult to see down the line, thinking long-term. So it might take 10-15 years for some. But if you stay consistent, once you get to where you want to be, you will have a wealth of experience and knowledge. We ultimately all have our own paths to walk and we have to learn to walk it…learning about the peaks and valleys along the way. Staying true and not bending…not veering off the path.

Then, of course, there’s the money aspect, funding yourself through it all. And making sure your time is fairly valued and compensated for. It can be hard for many. But if that love is there, and you push through…it’ll all work out. Again, I could write a whole book on this, but I’ll spare the readers. Hahaha. =)

What’s next from Tryezz?
There’s always some newness in the works…up in the lab. I’ve just finished up a song and video I’ve been working on for 2 months. I’ll be posting it up here soon. It will be interesting to see how people vibe to this one. But whatever I’m doing in the future, one thing is for sure….I will always be learning. Indeed.

 

Tryezz discography:

Official Label Releases:

-Amezakura: SWAMP Records (JP) – 2009
-Night Driven: Soulection (USA) – 2012

Self-Released Releases:

-Sonic’s Poppin’ Groove (2009)
-Don’t Trip (2009)
-Dreamstates and Area Codes (2010)
-The Electric Chill (2010)
-Solar Winds (2011)
-Odyssey (2012)
-Atmospheres: Art of the Scenic Groove (2013)
-7 Flow (2013)
-Skylines (2014)

Selected remixes:

-Portformat – Bitter Sweet
-Dam Funk -I Don’t Wanna’ Be a Star
-The Jets – Crush on You
-Miles Davis – Mystery
-Nina Simone – See Line Woman
-Nights – Jack the Mantle (feat. Digi Valentine)
-FF7 Victory Fanfare Remix

Q&A: The Funky Drive Band

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It’s not often these days that you see big funk bands like you did in the past. In the 70s larger bands were common and some of the greatest music of the time was made by large groups such as Earth Wind and Fire, Parliament and Slave. Sometime during the 80s, however, the size of funk bands started to shrink and they never really made a return on a large scale.

There are still some big, funky bands around, however, and to find one look no further than Lyon, France. The city is home to the Funky Drive Band – a group of twelve musicians who are dedicated to making funk music the old school way. They have been together for about five years and are keeping the spirit of the boogie alive in a country that doesn’t have much of a funk tradition. We caught up with the founding member Kâshif Kroche to a chat about the band’s musical influences, living in the funkiest city in France and the challenges of running a large funk band this day in age.

How did the band get started?
Well at the beginning in 2008 we were only 3 guys: Bumpy T.T., Kongbo Godogo and me. I 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 neighborhood, so they were the two singers and I was the composer.

We needed to find female voices to add another touch in our band so we searched at the gospel choir of Lyon where we met Oumy. After that, Bumpy & I created our own label, R.$ J.Recordz & Tapes (specialized in releasing unreleased stuffs from the 80s), so we could release our own productions too. Then the other musicians of the band were added very quickly. Now, we are twelve members, but for live shows, we play with eight of the members because it’s not as easy to find a big place for a big band like ours!

In 2011, we recorded the track “Lost Generation” for a French funk compilation called “Weird Jam Project” on Funkysize Records. Then, we started to record the songs from our first album called “Dance Or Die”. The LP was released in February 2012 and contains nine songs, with “Funky Drive’z Me Crazy”, which was the success of the album.

 

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, radio or TV, only in small funk parties and they are rare! The older bands 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 80s and the two other guys maybe in the 90s.

I don’t think that we have a big funk/soul scene in France.  It’s in our history because in the 70s France was shrouded in bad disco music everywhere and in the 80s French people changed their style into the opposite with rock music. So France missed the 80s funk period and it really is a shame!

What is the music scene like in Lyon?
Lyon is the funkiest town in France because it’s 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 70s soul and hip hop.

In Lyon we’ve got artists like Nickee B  – a beatmaker and there are bands like Charlie And The Soap Opera who play soul/rock/funk music and are starting to have success in the city.  They have a great brass section, they sound very 70s and it’s funky!

When it comes to making concerts here it’s 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 contacts in this circle like us it’s much harder ! But we try to make one concert per month.

Who are some of your inspirations. Any of the great funk bands from the past?
For myself my inspirations are great producers like Kevin McCord from the Detroit band One Way, Oattes Van Schaik (The Limit) , Rick James, the Solar & Prelude Records Sound, Roger Troutman (Zapp), Jellybean Benitez and underground artists too, especially the 80s 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.

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 especially the Nigeria Boogie sound!  We have a song called “Midnight Lagos” – a tribute to this 80s period in Nigeria. The song was composed by him and written by Bumpy & Me and is played in Nigerian Funk radio stations (Unleashthe80s & IGroove Radio). He also loves artists like Patsol, X-tasy, Chris Mba, Dizzy K and Veno. He loves Italo-Funk music too because he originates from Italy.. ahah.

The influence of Push are movie soundtracks from 70s & 80s, jazz music and of course the sound of the 808 drum machine 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.

What do you think about the soul/funk scene globally at the moment?
With artists like Daft Punk or Bruno Mars’ success, people have started to be interested in “Funk” music, but I don’t know if they will try to search hard to find underground bands like us or the original Funk artists from the 70s & 80s. In the US there is a big Modern Funk scene with artists like Dâm-Funk, Xl Middleton & Moneiqua, Benedek, K-Maxx, Psychic Mirrors, Eddie Funkster, Throwbakk Muzikk and Loose Shus.

Independent labels like PPU Records, Cherry Records, Mo-Funk Records, Funk Freaks Records, Sound Boutique and Voltaire Records are here for the New-Funk scene and its good to see that !

You don’t see that many funk bands these days. Why do you think that is?
I think that today’s music goes like fashion, but since the 90s 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 and funk music.

There are less funk groups than before because nowadays with new technology everybody can do “music” simply by using his computer. The problem with beat makers 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 synthesizer but it’s a complete whole with guitars, bass, brass section, percussion. And of course the singers are important, that’s also a reason to explain why it is hard to create a band.

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Is it challenging to have this kind of band in the music business today?
Yes it is! We’ve created 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 is Boogie Times Records (closed today), 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 sell 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.

For the first Funky Drive Band album, we were very lucky because my friend Dj Debo (Funk Freaks) from the US, made a big promotion of our LP in Californian clubs and played our records in all his shows. The LP “Dance Or Die” was out of stock very quickly and many people still ask me if there are rests copies for sale. So, be ready for the next project: only 300 copies too!

Most of us have a “real” job or are searching for one. We try to save money from our records or gigs to realize new projects records, new shows and 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 a strictly vinyl base is touching only record collectors, deejays or “fans”. Nevertheless,  today the CD is disappearing and for funk music the best support stays wax !

Stay in touch with what The Funky Drive Band are up to here and here.

Q&A: Terry Tester

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For our first interview here at Soul Digital we caught up with Terry Tester – a talented producer and DJ based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Terry’s soulful, sample-based instrumental hip hop has previously been featured here on the site because quite frankly we dig his style.

So far he has released two solo projects, had placements on compilations such as Brownswood Bubblers and contributed to Nobody Beats The Beats – a respected Danish hip hop collective who have worked with the likes of Madlib, Erick Sermon and Guru. I spoke to Terry about his musical background, his creative process and what’s happening on the Danish beats-scene

How long have you been doing music?

For about 13 years. I’ve been buying records for a long time, so eventually I started doing a little music on other peoples gear, finding samples, looping stuff up etc. But it wasn’t until 2001 that I bought my own sampler. That’s when it really started.

Were you always into hip hop and black music?

Yes pretty much. It started with Michael Jackson. And when I was about nine or ten I started listening to the radio a lot and they were playing things like Public Enemy and other successful late 80’s hip hop stuff. That’s the rap music I was first exposed to and I thought it was really cool and it kind of took over.

And I understand you also DJ. Do you mainly spin vinyl?

Yeah, I’ve DJ’ed a lot. Especially when I was younger. And yeah, I got on the whole Serato trend pretty late. I have Serato now, but I mostly use it to play my own stuff when I’m out gigging. I’ve scratched and beat juggled a lot and I wanted to be a battle DJ when I was younger, but gradually that gave way to beat making.

 

You were a part of Nobody Beats The Beats?

I became a part of it just as it was fading out actually. They made two albums and were supposed to make a third, but it never came out. So I only did one track for them. This was with a rapper named Jahi on a record called “Soul Hop”. It had the American soul singer Dwele on the hook which was really cool. It was my first ever release with my own production so it was pretty awesome having such a cool and established soul voice on there.

DJ Typhoon, who was behind the project, actually did some more songs with some of my beats. He had people like Planet Asia, Rasco and Oh No rap over them, but they’re still in the demo phase since a third album never materialized.  But I’m hoping they will come out some time.

You’ve also been featured on a couple of compilations including Brownswood Bubblers. How did that come about?

The first time I was contacted by Marc Mac (4Hero. Reinforced Records)  who asked me to do some remix work for his project The Visioneers. He found me in cyberspace somehow and one day he sent me an e-mail. That project opened a lot of doors for me in The U.K. and that’s how I eventually got featured on the Brownswood-compilation.

What’s your creative process like? Do you have a certain method when crafting beats?

Yeah, I pretty much always go about it the same way. I don’t really see myself as a composer as such. It’s more like I’m trying to communicate  a certain vibe or a mood. I’ll start off with a sample , whether it be a a drum break, a nice chord, a cool sound or whatever. That’s usually what triggers it. And then I’ll take it from there.

So most of your tracks are built from samples?

Yes. I buy a lot of vinyl, so I have a huge arsenal to sample from. Pretty much everything is sampled, except for the bass lines which I usually play myself. It’s kind of hard to find good clean bass sounds on records.

 

What gear do you use?

It’s a mixture of hardware and software. I use the classic MPC2000 XL from Akai which has a real nice sound and swing to it. Then I also use the Roland SP-303 which is kind of toy sampler. It was originally made for fun, but a lot of electronic producers use it.  Those are the center pieces of my set up really.  Afterwards I use Ableton Live for arranging and mixing.

Who do you look up to in terms of production?

When I started making beats I really looked up to guys like Pete Rock, J Dilla and  DJ Spinna. Those are probably my three biggest early influences. My learning process actually involved trying to make exact copies of those guys’ beats. No one will ever hear those though! But that’s a good way of developing your own style which I did eventually. I still think you can hear my influences though.

 

What other music inspires you?
Well, I sample a lot from older jazz and and funk, so obviously I listen to that a lot. But I’m also listening to a lot of house music at the moment. It always changes though.

Would the term “instrumental hip hop” adequately describe your style?

I do see myself as a hip hop producer, but one who can also do other things. I don’t really want to be stereotyped as being just one thing. I also like the idea of letting go a bit and challenging the usual form. I think it can get a bit boring just making straight up hip hop all the time, so I try to  challenge myself  to do new things and come up with new ways of approaching the genre.

Whats it like making this kind of music in Denmark? Is there much of a scene for it?
There is actually. It’s not that big, but there are some good things happening. Some guys who call themselves SoundEsc are especially helping to grow the scene here. They arrange concerts and also have a record label where they release artists. So I think the scene is growing and it has a lot to do with those guys.