Four years after the release of the classic ‘Hit The Floor’, Funk band Breakestra is back in full effect with their new album ‘Dusk Till Dawn’. Currently they’re touring through Europe with their fusion of Funk, Soul and Hip Hop. Brian Pollock hooked up with founder and musician Miles Tackett of Breakestra to talk about the band, touring, music and everything in between.
Four years after the release of the classic ‘Hit The Floor’, Funk band Breakestra is back in full effect with their new album ‘Dusk Till Dawn‘. Currently they’re touring through Europe with their fusion of Funk, Soul and Hip Hop. Brian Pollock hooked up with founder and musician Miles Tackett of Breakestra to talk about the band, touring, music and everything in between.
Preview: Breakestra – Get It Right
What’s your schedule like these days?
Just revving up the engine to be honest. Over the last couple monthes we’ve done a couple shows around the LA area, festival type things. I don’t have a manager right now, so I’m juggling an insane amount of things. I promote two parties, one called The Rootdown and another one called Funky Soul, which I DJ at as well. And just preparing for the tour. I’m putting a new show together as well which is pretty insane.
No doubt! Sounds like you’re busy grinding. So you guys are leaving for Europe at the end of October, is that something you look forward to?
I’m looking forward to the places we haven’t played before. We have some new material out now. We were in London last year as well as France and Ireland. Should be cool.
I’m an underground hip-hop fan and I know that when those type of artists go over to Europe they usually get much better crowd response as opposed to back home, is it the same for with the type of stuff that you guys play?
I guess so. I will say that sometimes there have been shows in England and France where crowds have been really really enthusiastic. You definitely get your crowds that are too cool.
Preview: Breakestra – Back At The Boathouse
I was introduced to you guys from the live mix series. Somebody played me the live mix part 2 and I was like this is fucking BANANAS! The way you guys went from breaks to breaks and kept it continous was really amazing. Did you grow up around those breaks?
In actuality I did grow up around some of those breaks. My Dady did play stuff that had funk roots in it like Miles Davis Bitches Brew and Live Evil which do have funk breaks in them. I grew up with those records being played in the house along with Marvin Gaye, Steely Dan, and Little Feet. I did grow up with some hip hop breaks as well because my Dad was a contributor to the band Little Feet. They did a song called Fool Yourself which A Tribe Called Quest sampled the drums for Bonita Applebum. I realized that had a drum break in it after I had gotten into hip hop in the early 90’s and I actually sampled that before Tribe Called Quest did but I didn’t put it out. So I definitely did grow up around hip hop breaks, but not in the same way a kid in the Bronx who goes to a block party. It was a very country rural way because of where I grew up in the Bohemian hippy community. My introduction to hip hop was very fitting for where I grew up.
So you were introduced to hip hop and rediscovered the funk?
My Dad played in a band that played New Orleans style funk, the Neville Brothers/ The Meters covers. I’d go hang out at these gigs and i didn’t know anything about it. One time I met the guitar player from the Meters when I was 13 when he was sitting in with this band my Dad played in. I was around the funk and didn’t even know, I mean it wasn’t like I grew up around the house with alot of James Brown.
Was it more of a thing like “Ah these are my Dad’s buddies, they’re just coming over and hanging out.” Does it seem kind of surreal looking back on it?
Yeah it was. It was moreso looking back on it later on like, “Oh wow I met leo nosintelli from the Meters when I was a kid” after I had gotten into his music outside of my Fathers…I didn’t get introduced that well, I just knew about the Neville Brothers. and then I realized (later) thats where the Meters came from. But yeah it was casual.
Can you break down the history of Breakestra?
The original breakestra stuff was all covers. When I first organized it I was getting musicians together to play these breaks. It was almost all improv, I knew the basslines to alot of the songs. I knew the basslines to alot of these breaks, actually I originally played guitar but I couldn’t find anyone who played, so I picked up the bass. I knew Kool & The Gang, Bob James, and Meters from way before when I was growing up. So we would freestyle these kind of hip-hop interpreted covers, all these classic underground breaks. So as it got more organized, but we were always just doing covers. Eventually we brought in a vocalist MixMasterWolf so that we could do some Bobby Byrd/James Brown kind of funk covers and it expanded. I basically compose the music, alot of it I compose all by myself the way someone would compose a hip-hop beat one track at a time. When I came up with the first Breakestra single that ended up on stones throw I was just experimenting in my home studio. I played the drums, guitar, bass, keys and built a basic funk track. I gave it to Wolf and he came up with vocals over it. So the closest thing to a collaborative effort would be with Wolf. 90% of it is written by myself.
Who is your favorite musician to play with?
I’ll tell you right now my favorite drummer on the planet is this guy named Pete McNeal. I just think he’s like the funkiest drummer alive right now. He was on the last record and comes on tour with us.
How long have you been doing the Soundclash parties?
About 6 or 7 years. The Rootdown is a club I promote. I started doing it before I even began DJ’ing, which was right after I started The Breakestra. Right when I started the party we didn’t even have a name for it. We had DJ’s and we had a few different locations for the first year. We finally came up with a name for it and called it The Breaks. It was really amazing. We’d have Breakestra play a set, then a DJ like Cut Chemist or J-Rocc play nothing but rare groove funk for the b-boys and just for the people to have a good time. And then we’d have a hip-hop group like Jurrassic 5, Dilated Peoples or Black Eyed Peas (back when they were a little bit more of a different kind of sound). And then the Breakestra would get up behind these groups and they would freestyle over Breakestra and then the party would end with the DJ rocking out. That party was called ‘the Breaks’, which is where Breakestra got it’s name from.
When that was party was all done the keyboardist Carlos and I got together and decided we needed to keep something like this going on in LA just for the party aspect. The music needs a place to go and theres nothing else going on like it so we started the Rootdown. During that time a DJ was brought in by the name of DJ Dusk to be our resident. He inspired me to really bring out more records and get on the turntables to practice because I saw what he was doing. Being around that I got that bug which lead to buying more records for DJing, which lead to buying more records for collecting.
I saw the documentary that was made about the Rootdown Soundclash, how did that whole thing come about?
One day we were hanging out and he was like we should do a Soundclash at Rootdown where we have two beatmakers go head to head on stage beat for beat like a soundclash in Jamaica. Instead of doing one track they’d do their beat. I was like that’s amazing and no one in LA is doing anything like it and we did it, we handled it. the first one was Cut Chemist and Madlib which was just…and I have to say Cut Chemist, for what he put into it. It was exceptional. We just did one with Dibiase and Haircut, and we just did our sixth with Free The Robot and Computer J which was really good, probably my favorite.
Can you talk about your relationship with DJ Dusk a little bit?
A true b-boy, a real b-boy, they have style. And Dusk had style for days. He had a very unique style. Just watching the way he approached DJing. His overall way of how he tried to engage the crowd. I always had an excitement to dig deeper into funk music and on one hand I wanted to develop myself as a funk DJ and him along with Cut chemist and Egon definitely inspired me to improve that. He was just an all around b-boy, a party rocker, an emcee, and he had done graff. He had a very unique way of taking the crowd on a trip through a variation of sounds, latin sounds, jamaican sounds, salsa, funk sounds, classic hip-hop. He really had an eclectic variety and he never brought too much of the same sound. I would have never bought a salsa record before I met Dusk.
That’s the true testament of a DJ when they can maneuver trough genres seamlessly and make it sounds relevant and appropriate.
I believe he was a master at that.
He will definitely be missed. Do you have any aspirations to do a hip-hop compilation in the vein of Mushroom Jazz?
What kind of stuff do you play out when you’re DJing?
I have a funk party where that I take very seriously. I’ll play James Brown type of stuff to more obscure things like afro funk, funkier jamaican sounds, funkier latin sounds. I’ll take em on a trip. At the Rootdown I always try to bring a variety of sounds. I think that’s what the Rootdown is all about. I’m kind of leaning towards retiring from the Rootdown. Not enough time to put into it.
I read on your MySpace that you’re a big Deadwood fan. Who’s your favorite character?
Ian McShane’s character. He’s such a good actor, he actually made that character endearing. You could empathize with him and kind of understand where he was coming from. I finally debated in my head whether or not he changed the character over time or if your understanding and appreciation for him grew. I think it’s a little bit of both. I absolutely burned through that series.
Words by: Brian Pollock
More info: Breakestra