Some people—including this columnist—believe that if you don't like funk (that libidinous genre invented by James Brown and honed to a sweet science in the four decades since), you probably don't like sex. Miles Tackett, leader of Los Angeles–based octet Breakestra, is as funk-savvy as any musician toiling in the nation. But he ain't buying my theory. "Um, not necessarily," Tackett replies, laughing. "Just go to a record-collector swap meet on a Sunday morning and see whom you find."
Point taken; there are some fugly virgins among funk's fan base. Still, I'm suspicious of those indifferent or hostile toward funk. And if I had to recruit evangelists for spreading the funk gospel, I'd recommend Breakestra.
Exhibit A would be the ensemble's 2001 debut album, The Live Mix Part 2. With a fanatical accuracy to detail for funk circa '68–'75's steamy, thrusting steez, Breakestra breathe new life into nearly 30 famous and obscure gems in 51 minutes. These songs have formed the basis for hundreds of hiphop tracks. If they're hot enough for the RZA, DJ Premier, and many other stellar producers, they're certainly worth your time and sweat. When the Roots' ?uestlove discovered the truth about Breakestra, he remarked, "I sampled that shit myself! The first time I heard their cuts, I didn't know it wasn't recorded in 1972!"
Which leads one to wonder if it takes great effort to re-create the sounds and vibe of '60s/'70s funk. Do today's musicians need a studio full of old analog equipment? "It just takes an ear and a little experimentation," Tackett says, as if it were as easy as baking a chocolate cake. "[Our] studio is a mix of old gear, new gear, whatever works."
Perhaps Tackett has a genetic advantage, as his father Freddie plays guitar for oddball funk-rockers Little Feat. This Kid Named Miles, as Tackett calls his solo project, shows him mastering bass, cello, guitar, drums, keyboards, and vocals, proving he's not spending all his time in search of dusty vinyl. In fact, he spent almost four years penning new material for Breakestra's new album, Hit the Floor (Ubiquity). Knowing so much funk history proved daunting to Tackett, but he and his crew delivered a vital slab of retro-fetish funk that's all about moneymaker-shaking and baby-making grooves.
"The greatest difficulty [in writing original funk tunes] is having a love for this kind of music and having heard the bar that's set by the other music—the challenge of being able to do anything that's up to that [level] has been in the back of my mind," Tackett admits. He needn't worry: Hit the Floor will inspire folks to do just that—and other more carnal activities. DAVE SEGAL
Breakestra play with Ohmega Watts and Electric Ill Tues Dec 20 at Crocodile, 2200 Second Ave, 441-5611, 9 pm–2 am, $15, 21+. They also perform live on KEXP (www.kexp.org) at noon on Tues Dec 20.