An interview by Julie Horner with Tim Welch of Funkranomicon
When taking nighttime strolls in downtown Boulder Creek, I find it tough to resist pressing a wet nose to the window as I walk past Joe’s to see what’s on inside. On warmer evenings the doors are flung open and the sounds of live music entice. I almost always follow the urge to pull up a stool and check the beats.
One of the regular outfits, Funk and Soul powerhouse, Funkranomicon, is known for their dynamic, high energy, hip, contemporary originals and time-tested old school get-down dance beats – steamin’ local music that one fan called “groovy as hell.”
Band members include Joe “Junior” Neto on vocals, Scott “The Shredder” Polland slingin’ the six string, Warren “WaddyP” Paradise on keys, Anthony “AC” Cannon holding down the bottom end, and Tim “TDub” Welch on the tubs.
I was fortunate to pin down “TDub” for a few questions.
JH: You’ve been around for quite a while and have developed a following. What do people rave about your sound?
TW: The compliments we get are usually about the tightness of the band and the songs we write. They are pretty catchy and have a very funky groove. Our lead singer, Joe Neto, is a great entertainer.
When it comes to songwriting, Joe will usually have a basic melody line and some lyrics and we will start jamming on that and develop it into a song. It usually happens pretty quickly. If it doesn’t we will shelve it and maybe revisit it another time. The best songs usually come together the quickest.
JH: I love your band name.
TW: The band gets its name from “The Necronomicon,” a book featured in the stories by horror novelist H. P. Lovecraft and his followers. If you can’t pronounce the name, don’t worry. Most can’t but, we have a song to help you with that called “Book of Funk.” You will find yourself randomly chanting our name and people will think you are crazy. The only people I have met who can pronounce it are Lovecraft fans. Somebody will say, oh yeah, Funkranomicon, I know you guys and I immediately say, you must be a Lovecraft fan!
JH: Have you gone through a lot of personnel changes or are you pretty much the same guys from the start?
TW: We have had some changes over the years. We started in the late 1990’s and the band went their separate ways in 2001. We reformed in 2009 with original singer Joe Neto and me, the original drummer. There was one other drummer in the very early days but, he only played one show before I joined.
JH: Why Funk? It’s super danceable. What does it for you when you’re playing for a room full of dancers?
TW: Funk had it’s heyday in the late 60’s and 70’s with bands like James Brown (who is also the Godfather of Funk not just Soul), Sly and Family Stone, Tower of Power, The Meters, P-Funk, etc. Artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Prince have incorporated a lot of Funk into their music. Funk has had some resurgences over the years like Bruno Mars Uptown Funk but commercially, it’s usually just a song here and there.
Today’s Funk is mostly on the jam band touring circuit where it remains very strong. Bands like Dumpstaphunk, Galactic, The New Mastersounds, The Greyboy Allstars have all had good success and those groups have spawned other groups from their members. Bands like Jamiroquai have really given Funk a more modern sound in recent years.
In the early days in the late 90’s, our singer, Joe Neto, and Nate Mueller, our bassist and producer at the time, were heavily influenced by Stevie Wonder, Al Green, James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson, Jamiroquai, etc. After playing together as a heavy metal band for a short time, they decided they wanted to switch gears and go into Funk and Soul and they had the talent to pull it off.
Writing some great songs and getting the ladies to dance certainly solidified the Funk and Soul direction of the band. It’s one thing to play to a crowd who is enjoying your music but, it’s a whole other thing to have them bumpin’ and grindin’ to your grooves in a hot sweaty club and everyone is just having a complete blast. It’s pretty addicting.
JH: Are there any OMG moments of wacky crowd behavior or when one of the band members fell off the stage? What are some really great times when you guys were totally locked with the audience?
TW: Well, fortunately, nobody has been hurt, at least not seriously. Back in the early days we played at club where there were a bunch of tweakers who just wanted to hear heavy metal and they were yelling “You suck!” from the pool room between songs. I remember the room being pretty empty since we were playing out of town as a new band and nobody knew us. It was definitely not a Funk friendly venue, that’s for sure.
There was another time back then when our guitarist broke his string and didn’t have another one in the club, so the band continued to improvise while he ran down the street to his car, got a string, ran back to the club, put the string on, tuned it up and finished the song. That was pretty funny because we knew we could not start the next tune without the guitarist and we didn’t want sit around waiting for him so, we did what any good band would do and kept playing for what seemed like an eternity!
In 2011, we won a Facebook contest to open for the legendary Ohio Players at the Jazz Summer Fest in downtown San Jose on the main stage. Michael Buble played before us, so we joke that he opened for us. I don’t know how many hundreds of people were in Cesar Chavez park that evening but, we were pumped! We played a flawless set and recorded it with 5 cameras which is on Youtube. That was an absolute blast!
Some of the best gigs that come to mind where we were really locked in would be a couple of nights at Joe’s Bar when it was packed and everyone was dancing and having a great time. It’s always a great night at Joe’s but, some nights are just magical. A lot of people don’t realize the extent that a band or any entertainer feeds off of the energy of the crowd. It’s a two way exchange of energy all night. The more energy the crowd puts out, the better the band plays and the better the band plays, the more the crowd gets into it. We have had epic gigs at Zelda’s for sure. There’s nothing like the summertime partiers at the beach! We have had some great crowds at Moe’s Alley, Don Quixote’s, Hop N’ Barley Fest, and others.
JH: What are your favorite places to play?
TW: The festivals can be fun but, our favorite regular spots are Zelda’s, Joe’s Bar and we recently started playing at the Quarter Note in Sunnyvale which we all really enjoy. Zelda’s is on the beach in Capitola and we always get a great crowd that loves to dance. Joe’s Bar is like home base for us. The crowd is always appreciative. The bands set up along the wall about 3 feet from the bar so, it’s a captive audience and very intimate. People dance right in front of my drum set which doesn’t happen anywhere else.
The Quarter Note is a nice room with a stage, drum riser, full sound system, sound engineer, easy load in and we can play till 1:00 am. What’s even better is people stay and dance till 1:00 am too. It’s really fun. The staff and owners at these venues are great folks as well. We also play San Pedro Square in downtown San Jose which is always fun. We really like the Trout Farm too. They are huge supporters of local music. We have had successful shows at Don Quixote’s as well. Another great venue.
JH: You’ve also played valley festivals like Redwood Mountain Faire and Santa Cruz Mountain Art and Wine. What’s coming up for you this summer?
TW: We had a great set at Redwood Mountain Faire. We were the first band on the main stage so, people were just starting to trickle in, but we had fun. The crowd there is always great. I think it wasn’t even noon yet and people were dancing. We have applied to play Redwood Mountain Faire this year. We would love to play there again. They will be announcing the bands soon. There are a lot of local bands who want to play so, they have some tough decisions to make. We hope to be invited back again for a slot a little later in the day. It’s been awhile since we played there.
We played the Santa Cruz Mountains Art and Wine Festival at least once. It’s always a great time. It’s always fun to play with a bunch of other bands we know and the crowd is always appreciative.
JH: You list a few of your fave influences on your website, who do you most resonate with and why?
TW: Some of our songs sound like P-Funk and others sound like Maroon 5 so, it’s really hard to pinpoint one artist or band as a main influence. Funkranomicon’s rhythm section is really pulling from a pretty large palette of rhythmic influences from the ones mentioned previously to Afro-Cuban, Afrobeat, Brazilian, and Boogaloo. Joe is heavily influenced by singers like Prince, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. He sounds a lot like Al Green, in my opinion.
I think the reason these artists resonate so much with us is because we grew up listening to them and it’s some of the most innovative music in history. They were the soundtracks to our childhood and coming of age years. Many of the songs we write or cover get the dance floor moving but, the melodies reach people on an emotional level. It’s hard to not move your body and sing along. It’s always fun to see people dancing and singing along especially, to songs that we created.
JH: What’s your dynamic together on stage?
TW: Our live shows always remind me of a James Brown gig. They are very spontaneous. We all follow Joe our singer and we never know what he will do next. James Brown would direct the band on the fly and the band had to respond instantly. It kept things fresh and exciting.
When you come to a Funkranomicon show, you never know what will happen. It’s never the same show twice. We might actually create a new song right in front of the audience. It’s happened before. One of our best known songs, Book of Funk, where we chant our name “FUNK-RA-NOMICON!” was created impromptu at one of our first gigs in Santa Cruz. Joe started singing it and we all just came in with something. It was really cool. We recorded that on the EP “Book of Funk.” Joe is really good at making up lyrics on the fly. It’s really helpful when he forgets lyrics too. If it’s a cover tune, people just figure he’s putting his own spin on the tune which, he is! I often like his lyrics better than the original.
JH: You’ve recorded two albums, one at Barry Tanner’s PASS Studio in Boulder Creek.
TW: We recorded our first EP, “Blood to Groove,” at Future Rhythm in Campbell in 2001 with Don Budd who now runs Tone Freaq Studio. The “Book of Funk” EP was recorded at Barry Tanner’s studio which, is the old post office in Boulder Creek. Milton Davis produced and engineered it. Milton played bass for John Mellencamp and has produced tons of great artists including Brandi, Aaron Neville and The New Mastersounds just to name a few. His brother is Eric Davis who played with the 49ers. They are both from Alabama and they both ended up in the Bay Area.
Milton is a great producer and he really got the band to gel. He showed us our weak spots and told us how to improve them. He had a very specific sound in mind that he achieved for that EP which, was very different from the first one. We then spent some time reproducing some of that sound for our live shows.
JH: You guys are busy with work and family, how does that influence your ability to perform and practice. You must be pretty selective with the type and frequency of the gigs you choose to do.
TW: Yeah, Joe has three kids, Pete our bassist has two kids, Scott our guitarist has two kids, and I have one. It definitely limits the practice time. We really only get together for a rehearsal three or four times per year, so we have to make the most of it. We still add new cover songs but it has prohibited us from writing new material. We try to keep the gigs to once a month, sometimes twice a month.
Most of us play in other bands too so, we stay pretty busy. Scott plays with a bunch of different people and we host the jams at Joe’s Bar every first Thursday with Whisker Biscuit. Warren, our keyboardist, sometimes joins us. Jackie Turner, our second vocalist has her own band that stays busy – Scott and Warren also play in that band. Pete, our bassist, plays with the local Moroccan band, Aza, and I think two or three other Jazz bands.
I play with a few different bands. In addition to Whisker Biscuit, I am a backup drummer for Shotgun Suitor as well as The Stingrays, and I occasionally do gigs with The Jackie Turner Band and Badenov, another Boulder Creek band and one of the many to form out of Barry Tanner’s studio. In fact, Barry is in the band.
JH: Is it hard getting gigs in general? Are you guys in major demand or do you have to sort of beat the bushes a little?
TW: It depends on the venue. Between Santa Cruz and the South Bay, there are a TON of good bands. We have to stalk the booking agents in the beginning but, once we get in and they hear us, they invite us back. We just played The Quarter Note in Sunnyvale and they booked us for the next three available months, April, May, and June, so that makes it easier than always scrambling to find the next gig. We are on a regular rotation now that keeps us as busy as we can be, given our availability. We would still love to hear about interesting parties, festivals, and clubs, and we will do what we can to make it happen.
The Santa Cruz Mountains, and Boulder Creek in particular, have really fostered music and the arts. People are very appreciative. We consider Boulder Creek our home town as a band because we reformed there in 2009 at Barry Tanner’s studio, and Barry has created a music scene where there wasn’t one before. Barry books the bands at Joe’s Bar that play every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and I don’t even know how many dozens of bands were spawned from that.
Since about 2008, bands have been jamming together first at the studio and then at Joe’s Bar on Thursday nights. I have probably met and jammed with a couple of hundred or more musicians because of Barry. I can’t even guess how many hundreds of musicians he has brought together by creating a scene here in Boulder Creek, and the town shows their appreciation every time they come to one of his events around town. It’s been the most fun I have ever had in music, and my playing has improved 10-fold because of it. We all are grateful to have Barry Tanner in town and for his studio and music venue at Joe’s Bar.
JH: So you host the Thursday night Pro Jam at Joe’s…in fact you invited little ol’ Crooked Road Ceili Band to come jam a few Irish tunes, thanks, that was a blast! How are the Pro Jams going in general, what’s the energy around town? Does the jam bring in a lot of players and fans? Do any of your other band members play the jam?
TW: The jams at Joe’s have been a blast. I host every first Thursday with Whisker Biscuit. Some nights it’s completely packed. Some nights it’s not, but it’s still a good crowd. We have had a real mix of players from Boulder Creek and the Central Coast mostly. It’s a little harder to get musicians out to Joe’s because Boulder Creek is pretty far for musicians on the coast on a Thursday night when they have to work on Friday morning. I tend to do a lot of personal invitations like I did with Crooked Road and that was a lot of fun! We need to do that again.
We have been doing theme nights. We had a really successful Reggae night and Jam Band night. We are planning a Funk night for March or April. We get musicians of all levels. We welcome everybody. I only host first Thursdays, but there is a jam every Thursday with a different host. Just ask the band to sit in. It’s best if guitarists and bassists bring their own axe. There’s usually a drum set and sometimes a keyboard to sit in on, depending on the night. People really love it and we always have fun. You never know what will happen next!
JH: You also helped kick-start KBCZ, Boulder Creek’s new radio station. How’s that going?
TW: The station is on the air and streaming on the Internet at kbcz.org. Check it out. Support them any way you can. It’s a small town and people have busy lives. This is the perfect opportunity for kids in school, retired folks, etc. I have been super busy with music but I hope to put together an interview show soon. KBCZ is very supportive of local music. I have heard quite a lot of it and I’m sure they are spinning Funkranomicon,but it doesn’t hurt to call and ask…hint, hint!
JH: So many really great music icons have passed recently…were there any in particular who influenced you growing up?
TW: Joe just posted about how much Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire inspired him. He said they were best show he has ever seen. Nobody makes music like that anymore. When David Bowie died, we decided to do Let’s Dance as a tribute to him. It’s not really a Funk song but it’s definitely funky and easier to pull off than Fame which is definitely a Funk song! We didn’t have time to rehearse it either so we played it for the first time together in front of the live audience at the Quarter Note and it was as if David was guiding us. We pulled it off perfectly and it will now be a part of our shows. It was really cool but it’s really sad to lose such a great talent.
I am a big fan of Scott Weiland, Allen Toussaint’s writing and producing, and of course BB King. We also lost the lead singer for the Ohio Players recently, Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, who we opened for at Jazz Summer Fest. It’s strange how we are losing so many great artists so quickly. That generation of music innovators are all in their late 60’s and early 70’s now and I’m sure they did their share of partying!
JH: What advice would you have, given the fleeting time we have on the planet, for anyone playing live music or who aspire to play live music?
TW: I think what made the biggest difference for me was playing live in front of an audience with as many different musicians as possible and not being afraid to play a lot of different styles and practice, practice, practice of course! And always use a metronome. Once you play live with lots of musicians over and over again, you get really comfortable and confident and your playing improves dramatically. That’s probably why we all play as often as we can. It’s pretty addicting. In Funkranomicon, we all have interests outside of Funk so, we do a lot of other things and it keeps us sharp.
JH: What’s next for the band? You’ve got a cool gig coming up at the Quarter Note…what do you want to tell potential audience members about what’s not-to-miss about the experience you provide?
TW: Well, like I said earlier, we improvise a lot. You will never see the same Funkranomicon show twice. It’s always fresh and we always give it everything we have no matter how tired we might be from the kids, work, life! Joe is one of the most energetic frontmen I have ever seen. You really have to see him in action.He is truly inspired. He is on fire!
Scott is well known in the area for his incredible lead guitar playing. He has been playing for well over 30 years and it shows. Every guitarist I know at every level is impressed with him. Pete November is just an absolute Funk monster on bass. It is such a pleasure to groove with him as he lays down the sickest, fattest Funk lines. I seriously think he knows every Funk line ever played. It’s amazing.
Warren, like Scott, is schooled in music and he is a great musician. He really knows his theory as does Scott. Warren went to Berklee and Scott studied at UCLA, I believe. These guys really know their music and help us navigate tricky parts and string things together our own way. Warren covers the big chords, all the horns and the funky clavinet type stuff that is a huge part of the Funk sound. He even does some cool vocal stuff on the vocoder. The audience loves it!
Our most recent addition is Jackie Turner on vocals. She does all the harmony stuff and sings some lead too. She is a lead singer in her own band and brings such a soulful sound to the band and gives Joe something to work off of. She is a real talent and we are lucky to have her. One of the bartenders told me she is the best singer they have ever heard in that bar. I would say that would go for just about any bar. Come see us. You won’t be able to sit still! We post our gigs on Facebook and our website www.bookoffunk.com We also have a mailing list you can join on our website.
JH: Would you consider yourselves to be really focused and serious or more laid back and fun loving?
TW: We are always having fun, cracking jokes and generally goofing around and I think it comes across to our audience that we are having a great time, although we can probably look pretty serious at times with our Funk faces on. Funk can be serious business. You can’t fake the Funk, baby! Come see us.You won’t be able to sit still!
Funkranomicon plays The Quarter Note in Sunnyvale April 1st at 9:00 pm and Joe’s Bar April 29th at 9:00 pm.
On the Web: www.bookoffunk.com
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/funkranomicon