Interview: Isaac Aesili (of Funkommunity)
Funkommunity is another fresh breeze from New Zealand. Soul producer Isaac Aesili and Rachel Fraser are the founders of this progressive collective, which can be considered as a part of the incredible new wave of kiwi artists like Electric Wire Hustle, Benny Tones and Home Brew. We sat down with Isaac Aesili. “It’s all about the fusion.”
Thanks for taking the time to do this interview, Isaac. What’s your background exactly?
I’m a musician from Christchurch, New Zealand. Former member of Opensouls, Solaa, Recloose Live, one half of Karlmarx (with my brother Mark McNeill) and the producer, bandleader of Funkommunity.
What’s your musical background?
I was trained in classical trumpet and theory as a child. After high school I began experimenting with Taay Ninh (of Electric Wire Hustle) in a Christchurch band called Solaa making hip hop and dance music fused with jazz and soul. This is where my music making began.
Who influenced you, musically and non-musically?
I like to read philosophy and history. My main musical influences are Stevie Wonder, Prince and all the old school Masters of Jazz, funk, soul and r&b mixed with hip hop, house and jungle. I’m influenced by New Zealand and Polynesia. Also classical, romantic and impressionist music is an influence. As is Latino, Asian and African, techno and electronic music in general. It’s all about the fusion.
What’s your first musical memory?
Listening to my dad’s classical and jazz records as a kid.
I’ve noticed on your Facebook page that you’re into politics and the injustice in this world. How deep does it go?
I studied politics at university and got my masters in Political Science. It’s been a passion of mine since I was a child.
Any vision of what this world is coming to?
I’m not able to predict the future but I think one can observe the frequency of disasters increasing, war in the Middle East and Far East is looming. Corruption is rife contrary to media is concentrated in Western First World countries. 3rd world corruption is sourced in developed nations. The financial system is at the heart of corruption and the predominant source of poverty in this world as it supports the profits of the few over human rights of the many.
How is our global civilization developing?
The world is permanently in a period of crisis during our current phase of evolution, we have been since the dawn of civilization. One could compare our present state as that of a teenager still wild and irrational but gaining some of the powers of maturity. I would have to say, even as an idealist I fear we are reaching a tipping point in terms of the scale of poverty and inequality that combined with our inability to manage the world’s resources and climate sustainably will likely see much of our species decline if our current path does not change direction imminently. Our intelligence as a species is likely to be dwarfed by our stupidity in not being able to resolve war and inequality and allowing our species to become so out of tune with the biosphere Earth.
Can you tell us more about your Funkommunity project?
Funkommunity is Rachel Fraser and myself. We started out collaborating on a few tracks and then decided to make a full album together in 2010. After the album, Chequered Thoughts, was completed in 2011 we put a band together to perform it live. Now our album is coming out worldwide via Melting Pot Music (EU/USA) and Wonderful Noise (Japan/Asia). We are touring Europe with the band from July until October.
Is it a temporary project or are you here to stay?
It’s here to stay! Rachel and I invested a lot into this album and we believe in the band as something we can work with on a long term. In fact, we have another album in the making already.
What other music styles do you dig?
All electronic music because I don’t really believe in the classifications. I just like to hear how music evolves, especially soul music.
What artists are doing it for you at the moment?
Om Unit, Erykah Badu, Kimbra & James Blake
Do you prefer cd’s, mp3‘s or vinyl?
All, because they all transmit music to the ear. You just need to keep quality control in check that’s all.
The 5 albums you would grab first if your record collection was on fire.
Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life
It’s so rich and revolutionary.
Miles Davis – Milestones
Because I never get tired of it.
Prince – Purple Rain
This album keeps me inspired.
D’Angelo – Voodoo
What can I say. It’s dope.
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part 2
What and where are your favourite record stores?
Galaxy Records in my hometown Christchurch, where I started digging. It was destroyed in the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes. Conch in Auckland is now my local record store because my friends work there and thats where the dope music is.
You spend quite some time in Europe. Can you tell us the biggest difference between Europe and New Zealand?
New Zealand is more laid back and it’s easier to find a beach. Europe has such amazing food, culture and history. I don’t think one could ever see everything in Europe.
How do you feel about the current corporate music business?
It’s way behind of its time! Business structures are archaic and ancient, going back to the earliest empires. We just have a modernized version of the feudal system form the Dark Ages.
What can we expect of Funkommunity in the near future?
Our debut album, Chequered Thoughts is out now on vinyl, CD and digital worldwide and we are touring Europe from July until October. Next to that I’m doing some solo dj gigs!