Steamboat’s Intergalactic Funk Cowboy finishes trilogy
May 20, 2011
Steamboat Springs — With campy synthesizer sounds and a proclivity for deep bass grooves, local musician Todd Leestma wraps up the saga of the Intergalactic Funk Cowboy in his new album, "Funk Forever."
In the final installment of funk opera trilogy, guitarist and producer Leestma layers a comic attitude and playful story over much deeper observations about the place of music in the universe.
"It's kind of like another way to communicate," he said. "It can unify people, you know, so everyone's not so splintered and easily manipulated.
"We've got all our heartbeats, so we're all synced up to the same thing."
And at the heart of that beat? For Leestma, it's funk.
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The first installment of the funk opera, "Octopus Plus," came out in 2002, followed by "Operation Kaoss" in 2008.
Throughout the series, the main plotline follows the simple good vs. evil narrative, pitting the Intergalactic Funk Cowboy against the Pirate of Unfunk, who is out to destroy the love and freedom that music stands for.
"He wants to destroy funkiness and dancing," Leestma said.
At the end of the second album, the Funk Cowboy was banished to a space station. In the beginning of Part 3, however, the protagonist manages to commandeer several satellites and send his message back to Earth with the track "Milky Way Galaxy."
"Funky is the only way to be/In the Milky Way Galaxy," Leestma sings, before launching into a spacey funk jam.
The antagonist, voiced by Justin Glaza, isn't going down without a fight, however, and a series of songs leads to a final showdown somewhere in the vicinity of the sun.
"I'm not going to let the Pirate of Unfunk have his revenge," Leestma said about the storyline. "I'm going to fight for the funk."
The pirate stands for the ignorance, superstition, censorship and other enemies of free expression, said Leestma, recalling how he once watched a documentary about a man in North Korea who was put in a labor camp for simply playing a song that the government didn't like.
But such a serious approach to music is exactly what Leestma is fighting against, so he avoids pontification and weaves in his love for science fiction, characters like the Mushroom Octopus, words like "boogie," "woogie," "booty," and even a fictional super funky party at the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge to celebrate the end of the Pirate of Unfunk.
"Laughter's the best medicine," he said. "People get so crazy and serious these days, you have to stand back and just laugh a little."
Leestma recorded the album in his basement using only his synthesizer, bass and a few samplers and sequencers. His equipment, he said, was probably state of the art about a decade ago.
But it's his way of paying homage to retro funk stars such as James Brown, Frank Zappa and Prince, all while adding a futuristic twist with playful effects.
He said he's "cleaned up" this album so it's kid-friendly; many of his friends who like the albums have shared them with their children, he said.
Leestma, who is the booking agent and sound engineer at The Tugboat Grill & Pub as well as a cook at the Old Town Pub, held a CD release party last month at the Tugboat.
He plans to play there again this summer and is entertaining the possibility of an animated video featuring his characters.
And although the album took countless hours during the past two years, Leestma gives all of his music away for free. All three albums, along with videos, are available at http://www.funkcowboy.com.
"I hope people will laugh and have a good time and listen to it again and again," he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@SteamboatToday.com