Q&A with The Cactus Channel
Australia’s The Cactus Channel are bringing some of the most authentic funk and dance floor music to the world in 2012. In a renaissance age where musicians are soaking in the deep sounds of the founders of the funk movement, The Cactus Channel present their music in a way that hits me the heaviest. As musicians who are not even legal to drink in many countries, it’s a little depressing to any musician out there who can step into a bar who can’t even come close to what this group does. For those of out there who humbly accept such a reality, it’s music that burns through your soul and gets down right to business. Live entertainment is always expanding and changing and The Cactus Channel are torchbearers in the standards of today.
When we got their debut full length LP Haptics from HopeStreetRecordings, it was an instantaneous moment of falling in love with a record. As I read through the press sheet I was stunned on many accounts: origins of these musicians, their age and how fast they are making their presence known. I couldn’t resist but asking for an email with anyone from the band and The Cactus Channel’s guitarist David Thor graciously gave some of his time for this exclusive interview. Some of the best dance floor music around from a band who of course still has a lot to prove to the world.
SCV interview with The Cactus Channel
Conducted by Erik Otis
I wanted to first start off by saying that I absolutely love what your group has achieved on Haptics. It’s something I am playing in my house all the time and still can’t believe what you all achieved. How long did it take for The Cactus Channel to really compose and record the songs on Haptics to the way the band desired?
Thanks a lot man, really glad you dig it.
The songs on Haptics are a collection of our strongest compositions that we built up over the past few years. We didn’t exactly have an album in mind when we were writing, but when HopeStreet posed the question of recording one, we just sat down and had a long think about what ones were strongest and what ones we enjoyed playing the most.
Once we got into the studio it took 3 or 4 days to get down the rhythm section tracks, and the week after the horn section came in for their turn.
There are so many originators of the funk and soul sound that I can hear in your sound. What records and artists are records that everyone in the band immediately connects with and loves just the same?
We started listening to funk/soul from two compilations named ‘New Orleans Funk & Soul Vol 1 & 2’ which featured artists such as Eddie Bo, The Meters, Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey and Porgy Jones. The songs and artists were a massive inspiration. At first we started covering songs from these comps, later realizing they just did not work. After some luck we were successful with our own rendition of Porgy Jones’ ‘The Dap’, which you can hear on the B side of our first single.
Another major influence that inspires us most now are the bands and sounds coming out of the Daptone record label in Brooklyn, New York. Their guitar sound is something we have tried to emulate. Bands such as The Menahan Street Band, The Dap-Kings and The Budos Band are always on rotation with what we listen to. But saying that, we listen to plenty of other genres such as hip hop electronic, pop, jazz, folk, surf etc which all take some form of influence in our writing and/or individual playing.
Funk is a sound that has evolved over many years. It’s a sound that is one of the hardest to copy, let alone present an authentic form of it. You guys definitely present funk to me that is very authentic and extends the body of this foundation. What does funk music mean to the band and where does it stand to you in context of all music?
First and foremost it is dance floor music. The best funk, in my humble opinion, is the funk where the band is super tight, but still has a looseness about them. We are trying to capture that, keep the dance floor happening, but still trying to push funk in a new direction. We want to create new sounds, new rhythms, new vibes and have a somewhat fresh look at the genre, but still remain loyal. Essentially its just feel good music and we just want the audience to have as much fun as we’re having.
When you were all constructing Haptics, what was the biggest goal that everyone agreed to get across and through to the people?
We’re a live band, we write almost all our songs thinking ‘how will people get down to this live’. So we really wanted to be able to translate that onto record. We needed to keep the energy of our live shows but not forget that a record is a different medium and needs to be treated as such.
When I heard how old the members of your band are and your origin of Australia, I admittedly was blown away considering the fact that funk is one of the last genres I’d think about with these factors in mind. I love that type of mind expansion where the shoes fit and that’s all that matters regardless of origin and age. What type of history does funk have in Australia and what have been the greatest elements of the music community in Australia?
Everyone seems to be surprised by the fact that we’re all 18 and 19 and that we recorded the album while all 17… but at the time we didn’t think twice about it. It’s funny to think back and know we’ve recorded our first album underage. It’s a great feat!
For us, the history of funk in Australia started with The Bamboos. They released Australia’s first heavy funk 45 in 2001 and have since released numerous albums with their own take on funk and soul. I think seeing them live when we were 15 was one of those moments that pushed us in the direction we’re in now. Other bands such as The PutBacks, The Bombay Royale, Deep Street Soul and Saskwatch who popped up over the past few years are now adding strongly to Melbourne’s growing funk/soul scene.
DJs have also been a great help to us by playing our stuff on their shows, hosting us for live to airs and spreading our name around. It’s a big funk/soul community in Melbourne where everyone in the scene knows each other.
Melbourne is also home to the WORLDS longest running soul night called ‘Soul in the Basement’. 12 years running, it features some of Melbourne’s finest funk/soul DJs and a different band every Thursday night in the heart of the city. For the history of Melbourne funk & soul this night has been a great success in spreading the sound amongst the more general public.
How did the band link with HopeStreetRecordings and how has the experience been working with a label whose as dedicated as they are?
Our bass player was receiving lessons with the bass player from aforementioned 4-piece The PutBacks and he had ties with all the HopeStreet dudes as they recorded a 45 back in 2009. Mick Meagher (PutBacks bassist) saw us live and liked what he saw and then told HopeStreet manager Tristan Lydowyk that he should check us out.
Tristan liked what he heard and then decided to record a 45 with us. The label has been so great to us. They’ve provided recording, printing and all these other services which we would be nowhere without so we’re all so stoked they persisted with us.
Will the band continue down the same melodic territory of sound in the next release or will the band show a different side of what the Cactus Channel does?
As with any band, the sound will progress and mature so I’m sure you might be hearing something slightly different next time round. We’re all learning more about composing and experimenting with other sounds etc, but when it comes down to it, we’ll still be producing genuine dance floor funk and soul because that’s what we love most.
We really want to write the next album as a more cohesive record, I’m looking forward to it.
Thanks for your time, we really love what you are doing and look forward to seeing you live if you come to the States soon. Before we go, we wanted to ask, who are your favorite modern funk bands out today?
No worries, thanks for asking the questions. Hopefully we’ll be up your way soon… would love to do that! Favorite funk/soul bands: The Menahan Street Band, The Dap-Kings, The Budos Band, El Michels Affair, Saskwatch, The PutBacks, Hiatus Kaiyote, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields and The Expressions, Will Sessions, The Bombay Royale and Antibalas.