Interview: Funke and the Two Tone Baby

If you’re into a bit of sassin’ high octane beatboxing blues, this is the young man you should have on your playlist. Funke And The Two Tone Baby is a seriously energetic dude with a raspy voice and an addictive soul. Having seen him live, he comes highly recommended for a guaranteed bopping-in-your-seat/dancing-like-you-be-crazy time. Soft Concrete’s Marianne caught up with him midway through his UK tour…

Marianne: Sooo, I gotta ask, what’s the story behind the name?

Funke: It’s actually a really mundane story. I’m currently in the process of inventing an exciting anecdote… It’s not going well. All suggestions welcomed.

M: What makes you so Funke?

F: The Two Tone Baby, I’d be nothing without that little guy. And possibly the trilby, people don’t seem to recognise me without it.

M: How would you like to be described?

F: ‘A one-man mechanical blues band, using a multitude of instruments of pedals to put a modern twist on a classic genre’. That’s the press release anyway. Pretty much, I’ll shout at you, harp at you, stomp at you, make you dance, make you sing and run a small marathon whilst doing it.

M: I heard that you got some prize funding of some sort for your album? Could you tell us a bit more about that?

F: It was private investment by ‘Hand on Heart Arts’, a new venture started by some very close friends of mine. I was in no position to afford to record my album, so they funded a few days in a studio and gave me their backing. I don’t really know what I would have done without them. Its one of the kindest, most generous acts I’ve ever experienced and they have my eternal thanks and gratitude.

M: Are you currently with a label? If not are you looking to get picked up by one?

F: I’m currently not on one, and I’m not actively looking at the moment, though I’m always open to offers! I seem to be heading in a pretty good direction at the moment but there are some aspects that need a boost. If a label could help me with that, then great, but I’d be looking for someone to put in as much work as I do.

M: Complete the sentence: My favourite thing about playing a gig…
F: is the look on peoples faces when I start playing, the ‘what the fuck is that’ look. It can be interpreted in many different ways.

M: Complete the sentence: If I wasn’t a musician…
F: I would probably be a doctor, or a lawyer… or some sort of executive.

M: What can we expect from your debut album? Is it any different to your EP Injustice & Queen?

F: The album (I hope) is a more mature and crafted body of work. The EP always felt rushed, and I look back on it now as a stepping stone of some sort, but of course I always get a buzz off anyone telling me that they listen to my CD in the car on their way to work. My musicianship, songwriting and arrangements are now at a level that I’m really happy with, and I hope that’s reflected in the album. I’m very pleased with the results and hope you guys will be.

M: When you’re playing live I see you have a lot of gear with you, what exactly do you have on stage with you at your gigs?

F: My guitar, 1 sub-mixer, 2 mics, 5 pedals (EQ, loop, delay, tremolo, and octave), 1 stompbox, 6 harmonicas plus rack, 1 tambourine, 1 shaker… Yeah I think that’s it.

M: Which of your songs has the most musical instruments used to play it (and how many different instruments are in there)

F: I’d have to say Cecile’s Song, the video pretty much sums it up –

M: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take your guitar or your harmonica, which would you choose?

F: My harmonica… I’m pretty sure, with enough time, I could hollow out a tree and make a guitar. Then I’d have both.

M: If you could learn to play another instrument, what would it be?

F: Something in the trumpet, trombone, saxophone area. I’ve had a go a few times but don’t have enough breath, that’s why I play harmonica. I think it’s a poor (or asthmatic!) man’s sax!

M: What/who would you say are your musical influences?

F: I spend pretty much all of my time listening to psychedelic electronic music. Some real favourites are Black Moth Super Rainbow, Holy Fuck, Add N to (X), Bonobo, Kelpe etc., but my roots have always been more bluesy; guitar based stuff like The Black Keys, The White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, The Kills and Captain Beefheart. The list is massive!

M: Has there ever been any ‘accidents’/funny stories at one of your gigs?

F: I played a gig the other day to a private school staff party, I mean, who’d book ME for that? And they hated it… I started getting heckled by pissed 50 year old, female, maths teachers. It was really bizarre.

M: What does music mean to you?

F: Everything. It’s my career, hobby, social life and passion. Not a day goes by when its not taking up a massive chunk of my time in some form or another and I can’t see myself ever getting bored of it.

M: What kind of mood do you try to evoke with your music?

F: I try to make the dance songs dance-y and the story songs stories. I’d hope you’d be able to take different elements from my music depending on how involved you want to be with it. If you want to dance and have a good time then great, but if you want to pull my songs apart, then there’s a lot of time and meaning gone into them.

M: Would you rather fly a plane or drive a submarine, and why?

F: A plane! I’d rather be in a flying coffin than a submerged one!

M: What else is coming up for you in the future?

F: I’ll be releasing my debut album ‘Battles’ this summer. I’m currently arranging a five-month stint of touring the country and some of the continent having already secured 60 shows and festivals across the UK and France this year. You can next see me on February 21st, at The Music Room, Pizza Express in Maidstone. Doors 7pm, Tickets £7 and only available in advance. This will be a seated, though informal, evening of music and a ‘one-off’ show performing my back catalogue like you’ve never heard before. A very stripped down and intimate performance. I will also be playing at loads of festivals this year, to name a few- Maidstone Fringe Festival (Kent), Leigh Folk Festival (Essex)
Pilton Greenman (Devon), Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival (Gloucestershire) and Celebration Days Festival (Paris, France).

To see more of Funke check out his Facebook and Twitter. You can also get a free download from here.

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