Steamboat Springs Duncan Smith and Nick Middleton are redefining retro with a powerful glitch-funk electronic sound. The duo out of Vancouver, British Columbia, started spinning records together about five years ago and now has international tours under its belt, taking over clubs and festivals with an old-school turntable approach to bass music layered with catchy samples.
The DJ and production duo will appear in Steamboat Springs for the first time Friday with a special audio/visual set at The Tap House Sports Grill starting at 10 p.m. The cover is $5.
Before leaving for Colorado, Middleton took few moments to chat with Explore Steamboat.
Explore Steamboat: How did The Funk Hunters get its start?
Nick Middleton: We met on a small island off the West Coast here (in British Columbia). We started playing just for fun to entertain our friends, and from there it grew into entertaining the community and that really contributed to the diverse styles of music we play. We got into music in a different way than most people, but from the very beginning we played together, it’s a natural thing — it’s always been our thing.
We’re not playing a two-hour funk set. Everything that we’re playing — if we’re playing a drum and bass track — it’s a really funky drum and bass track.
I’m hoping that will never change. Regardless of what music we play, we’re always looking to bring it back to the funk and that, of course, translates to the dance floor.
ES: What exactly defines funk music from a technical standpoint?
NM: That’s the million-dollar question. Even when I’m sitting in the studio writing a song, it’s this mysterious thing called the funk. To me it’s a groove. It’s all about … yeah … there’s a bit of a groove. From that, there’s usually horns or some funky bass guitar. But it goes back to that groove. It’s not straight and lifeless.
We like to joke if you can’t listen to funk you can’t be on the dance floor. It puts a smile on people’s faces, it’s fun, and it’s accessible to everybody.
ES: Has the recent surge of bass music and dubstep influenced your music?
NM: Yeah, totally, big time. Especially on the West Coast, and I know from friends and what is happening out in Colorado that it’s really big there, too.
As a whole, it’s fantastic. Whether you want to argue that you’re in the underground music scene or you’re in the mainstream music scene, wherever you’re sitting, electronic music is becoming so big. With it that mean parts of it are becoming more commercial, but that’s fine. It just means there’s a broader audience for all of us. It means there’s going to be more festivals happening, and more clubs or music venues are booking electronic music. It’s a really interesting time to be involved in music.
I feel optimistic for the people on the dance floor. They don’t necessarily want to hear dubstep anymore, but they want to hear bass music.
ES: Why stick with the turntables?
NM: It’s hard to imagine not playing on turntables. Obviously, there’s something about the aesthetic of there being two of us up here playing on four turntables.
But there’s something nice about the feel and the touch, and at the end of the day, you have to have fun with what you’re doing. There’s something about feeling the record and feeling like you’re in the mix and doing something.
We have a really hybrid kind of style. We have turntables, but we also have MIDI pads and controllers. We can loop stuff and sample stuff. And now we have this new thing where we’re doing audio/visual stuff.
ES: So you’re doing an A/V set at the Tap House. What exactly does that entail?
NM: We didn’t want to turn it into being music video DJs. Personally, I find that really boring. We’ve basically turned all the content we’re playing into custom video content. We still set it up in a way that it can be live and improvised.
Maybe Duncan would go to play a vocal or a sample over music that I’m playing; now, he can do that but with a video on top of it.
We’re just going to create and produce our own videos to match the music we already have. As soon as I finish a new tune, I give it to Duncan, and he creates a new video with it.
The foundation of the video set is the live video of that song or that band. We’ve gone in and added our own video effects, and we’re controlling the video right from our turntables.