With his new album 'Persuasive Funk', Phuture-T has taken jazzy, live-sounding drumfunk to a new level. Dave Jenkins finds out more…
He’s a dub, funk and jazz lover who came from gabber and speedcore. He’s released on labels such as AKO Beatz, Alphacuts and Inperspective. Besides a Soundcloud page he’s got barely any internet presence and seldom does interviews. He’s based in Amsterdam. He co-runs a label called Eastern Promise Audio label.
He’s Phuture-T, and he’s just dropped one of the most refreshing, funkiest and gosh-darned unpredictable drum & bass jungle albums of the year. All hail Persuasive Funk!
Released late July on pioneering drumfunk label Inperspective Records, it’s the album D&B sorely needs right now. Rooted somewhere between the freeform foundations of jungle, jazz and that powerful mid-90s Bristol melting pot, Persuasive Funk is a raw, loose-limbed collection held down by peppy sax blasts, slinky bass guitar walks, smoky dulcets from singer Sofi Mari, frenzied tempo changes and drums that could shave a sailor at 50 paces.
The culmination of three years' work, and very much willed into existence by Inperspective Records founder Chris Walton, for fans of the original jungle sound and spirit very little persuasion is necessary. But just in case, we called up Phuture-T (real name Tom Van Zeytveld) to find out a little more…
You’ve been on this for a bit now, haven’t you?
"I have. I started DJing in 1999 and was happily into gabber and speedcore, which I guess is reminiscent to someone listening to punk music when they were a teenager. From there I moved into UK hard house, then techno.
"But around 2003 some friends of mine were really into drum & bass and they had a little label, Reactor Studios Amsterdam. From there I fell in love in D&B, and it was around that time I started to take music production seriously."
I can hear the extremities like gabber and speedcore in your influences. A track like 3000, especially – you can really feel those experimental roots.
"Ah, cool! It’s funny to hear that. I think I hear things differently when I’m producing, it’s interesting to hear how other people listen to my music. I do feel it’s important to do your own thing rather than jumping on any bandwagons.
"For me, it’s listening to lots of different music outside of D&B that gives a certain palette of taste which I then try to make my own when making music. It was that early melting pot of styles in early jungle and D&B that got me interested in the genre."
Plus many Dutch DJs, producers and clubbers have a gabber chapter in their past…
"Oh, totally! It’s a phase many of us go through in life. It was the aggression and the energy, and of course those sped-up breakbeats which I found really cool. I always felt you could hear those influences in tech-step, too – it was a very natural progression."
How about other influences? I want to say you have a musical background, because the album’s so damn funky!
"I played the piano for a year when I was very young, a long time ago. I clearly remember not liking it at all, so I quit it and never pursued music theory again.
"I think that’s why I really got into production so much, it was a revelation to understand that you don’t have to do any music theory to make music. So it’s playing around with samples and VSTs to create crazy effects and sound design and listen by ear."
So a lot of the album that feels 'live' is purely sample-based?
"Yes indeed. I have used a few VSTs for keys and synth-bass riffs. The saxophonist Dan Goode did some beautiful live takes. Tom Mason is featured, too – he plays live bass on five tracks on the album. But otherwise it’s all pretty much sample-based, with lots of playing in the piano roll."
And the Jungle Drummer! He’s on the opening title track…
"Yes he is! It’s funny because that particular track was made prior to the album. He got in touch with me after hearing some tunes on Soundcloud and we took it from there.
"The track was finished for a good while and Chris Inperspective asked me three years ago to go and make an album. At first I said no, because I really didn’t think I was ready for it. An album is a very special thing to be asked to make. But eventually I got into it and I knew that track would be on there because it’s got such a nice vibe and raw funk to it.
"I wanted that funky live sound going through the whole album. I’m a sucker for brass sounds too. So I thought going for live bass instead of screaming Reeses, nice keys instead of annoying leads, just a proper groove. It’s showing more of a personal side of me, which I hope translates to people when they hear it."
Well, it certainly translates to me. It’s got that Breakbeat Era vibe to it: late 90s, Talking Loud-era Bristol sounds. In fact I’d say El Ritmo Mundial is more jazz than jungle or drum & bass!
"Thank you. A lot of people seem to dig that very track, which I’m really pleased about. I was playing around with a break from a song by The Bamboos (Side Stepper) and I had so much fun cutting it up, it had that jazz groove feel to it. Then I found those vocal samples and added that mariachi sound. I remember laughing at first, because I found it sounding too cheesy, but it just came together really nicely and has a nice uplifting flow to it."
You don’t seem tied down by formula at all. You let the tune take you where it needs to go…
"Yeah, that’s totally true. Well, I always start with the break and look for a certain groove, to then later add other elements to interplay with the drum patterns. I might have a theme in mind – that’s always a good idea when you start a tune, I must say – but yeah when I’m working it’s 90% ideas from what I’m making and going with the flow. That’s the wonderful thing about making music. Getting ideas on the spot and just vibing with it."
And vibing with other people, too? With Sofi Mari, Ruth Corey, Tom Mason, Dan Goode, and Jungle Drummer all on the album, it’s quite the collaborative affair…
"Yeah, this was interesting for me because I’ve never collaborated on such scale before. It was actually Chris Inperspective who suggested these. I was sending him tunes and he was suggesting different ideas like vocalists or live bassists and I’d give them a try. It pretty much worked out every time. I’d just call them up, play them the tune and ask them to vibe off it, I didn’t give them any ideas or direction, I just wanted to hear their idea. They recorded a few sessions, we went back and forth a little, but it was such a good flow and it was just lovely working with them. All by email, too. Big up technology!"
Big up the fact the whole album was willed into existence with that one track, Persuasive Funk. That set the parameters…
"Well, not entirely, it was only later after making The Fugitive Drummer and Cold Sweat that the idea for a live, funk-fuelled feel to the album started taking shape. I was working on a few singles after, just finishing things off, but yeah from those tracks I was pretty much working on the album all the way through for the last two years, in and around my day job: on days off, or the weekend. Actually, when I was on welfare for a while I made some major progress writing new tracks, which was a great incidental bonus!"
Big up the welfare crew! Your sound lends itself to an album format to my ears. There’s a freedom to it.
"Thank you but, yeah, I didn’t think I was ready. It’s a very fulfilling feeling. A big challenge, too. To keep it all on the same level and keep it coherent. The final thing exceeds my imagination to be honest."
Especially with the artwork…
"Oh hell yeah!"
That’s Angus Day, isn’t it, who did the original artwork for your first Inperspective release?
"He did. And he’s such an amazing artist. The artwork for Fugitive Drummer blew my mind already, but this artwork is even more spectacular. When you fold it out and see the inlay, it’s so detailed. My studio cats are in there, there’s some craft beer in there, all these tiny things that represent me. That’s a great personal touch and means a lot to me to be able to present my album in this way."
Nice. You run a label too, right? Eastern Promise….
"Yeah, a few of us do. My friends ran the label I mentioned, Reactor Studios Amsterdam. Then we took things to a new label, Eastern Promise Audio, which is run by two good mates of mine, Reactor Grits and Drome, and myself. Initially it was a platform to release our own tracks and a collaboration project called Dam Nation together with Logikz (RIP), but now we are proud to feature artists such as Rumbleton, Double O, Greenleaf, martianMan, Optimystic and Earl Grey. We don’t have a big release schedule but rather take it from release to release. It’s just good tunes, good fun, good friends, you know?"
Once again, you let the music lead you and not the other way!
"Definitely. That’s how we do it."
The Netherlands are good at doing that. You must know Coco Bryce. It’s too small a country not to know such a musical kindred spirit!
"Yeah, it’s a small country, especially in our niche. We’ve met a few times, not many though. But sure we’re on similar vibes. Especially compared to the rest of Holland which always seems either very tech-based or very jump-up. That’s not really me.
"For me it’s always been about the breakbeats. I can tell you the very night – 2005 at a legendary party called ICHI ONE here in Amsterdam. I got to see Bizzy B and Equinox. Just purely drumfunk and Amens. It was mindblowing. When I heard them, something just clicked."
Like an epiphany?
"Totally. Just hearing the breaks and the drumfunk. It hit me. I was like, ‘Oh yes, this is me, this is where I need to be heading'."
So the Inperspective connection was on the cards from that moment, then? They’ve been a consistent and founding force in drumfunk…
"Indeed! I always looked up to them, Technicality and not to mention, Bass Bin in Ireland. Also labels like Scientific Wax, Alphacut, Subtle Audio, Pinecone Moonshine, Syncopathic Recs, Rupture. Hearing artists like Double O, Rumbleton, Greenleaf, B-Key, Dub-One, dgoHn, Source Direct, Nuclues and Paradox, all with their unique sound in jungle and drum & bass. Very inspiring labels and artists who all led me to this point."
So what comes after this point?
"I have a few releases lined up for Alphacut, Next Phase Records and Guerilla Bass. But after doing this album I’m very interested in the live aspect – the brass, the live bass. I can hear a sound I want to explore and make my own, a long way away from the crazy electronic noises we’re hearing so much. But it will probably be a mix in-between. Let’s see what happens..."
Words: Dave Jenkins
Persuasive Funk is out now on Inperspective Records. You can catch Phuture-T playing live every other Friday at JungleTrain.net
Tags: Phuture-T, Eastern Promise Audio, jungle, drum & bass, D&B, drum n' bass, DnB, D+B, Inperspective, Alphacut, Next Phase Records, Guerilla Bass, Chris Walton, drumfunk, tech-step, gabber, Reactor Studios Amsterdam, Dan Goode, Tom Mason, The Jungle Drummer,