The past 18 months for Five Alarm Funk have been their most vital and exciting in their fifteen-year career as one of Canada’s greatest touring funk acts. Lead cowbell player and janitor Ricki Valentine provides insider knowledge on the wild and wonderful world of Five Alarm Funk on the eve of their second JUNO nomination for Best Instrumental Album of the Year.
The band’s latest record Sweat is a testament to the vitality of the creative partnership that they have formed with producer Ben Kaplan (Mother Mother, Biffy Clyro) and visual artist Noah Stacey. Kaplan’s monstrous mix combined with Stacey’s dramatic imagery perfectly capture everything that Five Alarm Funk personifies as a live band: a high-powered funk assault. Kaplan himself received a JUNO nomination for Engineer of the Year in part for his work on the song “Widowmaker,” a track that Valentine says the band knew was special as soon as it was written.
2018 has seen Five Alarm Funk partner with none other than funk legend Bootsy Collins for their recent single release “We Play The Funk.” In an experience that Valentine compares to recording a track with Led Zeppelin, the band couldn’t be happier with the results of their collaboration with the Parliament/Funkadelic’s iconic bassist. “[Bootsy] is funk. He’s a pioneer, he’s a legend. I think he did great work on the track. I think it sounds contemporary, I think it sounds fresh” Valentine reports “That’s the funny thing you think people would just retire but everyone is out there still working. Everyone is available if you can talk to them. We’re going to work with a bunch of other artists now going forward.”
Five Alarm Funk have a jam-packed summer season ahead of them with dates stretching as far east as Thunder Bay Ontario and as far south as Santa Barbara California. With a dynamic and energetic show featuring all manner of props, costumes, and critters, a successful performance comes down to one key moment for Valentine. “A successful show is the moment when a member of the audience points and laughs. They’re enjoying the music and then they burst out laughing and then they have to elbow their friend to get their attention” Valentine explains “For me it’s humour. To me it’s what people want, they want to have fun. It’s worth it to go to the show and lose themselves in a fantastic adventure. I’m searching for a wonderful, fantastic adventure all the time.”
For Five Alarm Funk, the fantastic adventure is just getting started.
Five Alarm Funk play the Commodore Ballroom April 20.