By Paul Rodgers
VANCOUVER — Hearing the name Funk Hunters, one might jump to the conclusion that the duo is little more than a pair of funk music enthusiasts, and that their live sets would contain little else. On the contrary, the Vancouver-based duo have so much more that they bring to the stage and the studio, as anyone who has attended one of their performances can attest to.
Nick Middleton and Duncan Smith have been active in the West Coast bass music scene for many years now and collectively have an immense wealth of experience and musical knowledge. Festivals like Shambhala and Bass Coast have provided unparalleled venues for pushing their sounds to the limits and have helped elevate them to remarkable heights. The duo has played all over the world and collaborated with jaw-dropping music industry legends. Over the past four years, they’ve added an astounding visual aspect to their already incredible shows.
“We really just love so many types of music,” says Middleton. “We’ve managed to be able to build live sets that encompass everything we love. It’s all constantly changing, the one common threading of it is usually funk and soul and just trying to find the funk and soul in all genres and putting a set together that doesn’t feel random but still has a lot of diversity to it.”
Similar to their live performances, their studio work also reflects this stance. When it comes to remixes they are able to add their own funked-up take to any track, whether it be putting their own spin on a tune with its own pre-existing modicum of funk such as “Under the Bridge” from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or more recently, injecting a great deal of funk into a tune that previously had very little, like their huge remix of Selena Gomez.
Having two members in the group creates a number of advantages, as each bring their own strengths and experience to the table. For instance, Middleton produces all of their music, while Smith creates all of their visual content. Furthermore, the live video element is substantially more of a streamlined process with two people on four turntables.
“With a lot of EDM, the kind of improvisation is removed because the artist, or the DJ or the performer; they’re tied to the visuals and the lighting cues, so it takes out the spontaneity of the set,” says Middleton. “And the sets are preplanned and predetermined and sometimes even pre-mixed and so the thing that’s really cool about our audio-visual set is that we’re controlling the video ourselves while we’re DJing.”
Smith and Middleton are constantly challenging themselves to up the ante in all aspects of their music. They have continually been building upon the live element of their shows on the visual side of things, as well as incorporating live musicians, giving their performances an increased organic energy. This has culminated in “a dream come true” collaboration with Jurassic 5 member Chali 2na.
“Surreal is the right word. Sometimes things are happening so fast it’s hard to take a minute and reflect back on it,” says Middleton. “It’s also just really humbling being with Chali. For someone who’s been in the game for so long, I think it’s a big inspiration for us. He might not be a DJ but we’re all in the same game, we’re all in the same industry and to see him having been doing it for 25 years and still being so humble and excited about what he’s doing and excited to go on stage and meet bands every night. [He’s] a great role model and inspiration for us”
A further testament to The Funk Hunters’ conquest is their upcoming performances at the Commodore Ballroom in their hometown. The venue holds a special esteem for Vancouver musicians, and the group has played there twice before. However, the fact that they sold out their upcoming show and had to add a second demonstrates the level of support the duo have garnered.
“Obviously that’s an amazing feeling but I think that support from our home town has just driven us to push what we can do for a show even further,” states Smith.
The duo also just divulged that they will be embarking upon a massive tour starting in Europe and ending in Australia with Chali 2na. Based upon the success the Funk Hunters have experienced in recent years, the future is an extremely exciting prospect for fans eager to see what else they can come up with.
The Funk Hunters perform at the Commodore Ballroom on December 22 and 23.BC, British Columbia, Commodore Ballroom, The Funk Hunters