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Holy big beat funk, Captain!

by Simon Bartz

Check him out now, the funky captain. Check him out now, the F-U-N-K-Y captain. Ch-ch-ch-ch-nu-nu-na-na. (cue big drums) . . . . There’s a new superhero in town, folks. His name is Captain Funk. He’s touching down in a disco den near you. His manifesto is simple:

“I’m here to make people happy. I’m here to make them dance. That’s all I desire. I love parties and I make party music. It’s as simple as that.” Captain Funk’s debut album “Encounter With” might have set dance floors ablaze last year, but his latest, “Bustin’ Loose,” blows discos to smithereens.

Lord of Big Beat Norman Cook (a k a Fatboy Slim) sent this fax to Captain Funk’s home at Sublime Records after hearing the EP: “What a f***ing insane record. I love it. Can I have two more copies so I can play A1, B1, B2 without forgetting. Will road test tonite at the end.”

When our dear Cap’n isn’t in the studio he’s bouncing behind turntables, whipping crowds into frenzied hopping and proving the flawless mixing on his new “Bustin’ Out” mix CD (packed with hip hop, ska and Latin happily riding on funky big beat) is no fluke.

The week before we meet, the Cap’n (born Tatsuya Oe) DJed in Okinawa, Hiroshima, Sendai and, oh, he then popped over to London for a night to play a three-hour set at the Turnmills club.

He got back from London late last night. He’s spent the whole day doing TV interviews and after drinking cheap Spanish red with me in a smoky Shibuya bar surrounded by gawping brown girls he’s gonna rush off to remix new French popsters Antibiotic, who are being pushed by some mighty multinational as the next big thing. It believes the Cap’n is the remix wizard who can help make this happen.

He’s late for the interview, but, under the circumstances, we can forgive him, especially when he promises five pairs of complimentary tickets to lucky Fuzzy Logic readers for this Saturday’s funkfest at Tokyo’s Liquid Room (see end). So when and where did the Cap’n discover the funk?

Cap’n: “In high school I played hard rock and jazz fusion on guitar, but then I heard the cutting sound of the funk guitar like James Brown and I was fascinated by this style. That’s how I got into funk. My bridge between rock and funk were artists like James Brown and Prince.”

Where did you get the rank Captain from?

Cap’n: “I used to like Captain America and, in Japan, Captain Ultra and also Captain Tsubasa who is a football (soccer, American friends) hero in manga comics. I liked their characters and wanted to characterize myself. I make techno and dance music, but my roots are in funk.”

Actually, he’s got it wrong. Techno is far too regimented and droll a description for the colorful street-festival kind of craziness the Cap’n rustles up. He makes groin-gyrating, foot-thumping, mad-as-a-hatter disco music layered with heaps of funk and driven by a souped-to-the-stars big-beat engine that often leaves Fatboy Slim choking in clouds of speaker smoke.

And, anyway, Captain Techno doesn’t sound so cool, right?

Cap’n: “Hahaha. The originators of techno are people like Jeff Mills and Derek May. I respect them so I can’t use Captain Techno. And there’s not so much funk in techno so this is quite new. In the ’70s funk was made with guitars and drums. I use samplers and synths. It’s my way of making funk for the next century.”

Don’t you think it’s a little arrogant calling yourself Captain Funk, like you’re the chief of some scene or whatever?

Cap’n: “Arrogant? No, no, no. Funk was made by black people and black people are now making hip hop and R&B and I respect that scene, but, for me, my name is a bit of a joke. If I DJ or play live in front of black people they might say ‘why are you Captain Funk and how do you interpret funk?’ But my funk is my own original funk. It’s electronic and it’s funk from Japan.

“So the funk of the black people is not exactly my funk. There’s different genres of funk. Prince has Prince’s funk. George Clinton has George’s funk. My funk is my funk.”

How do you go about laying down a track?

Cap’n: “I get pictures in my mind so first I make a mental vision of the track with no music. I might think I’m riding a motorbike, swimming or in a ’70s disco. Then I collect items such as a guitar phrase, vocal and bassline which I think fit the scene in my mind. I’m soundtracking my thoughts.”

You might be one of the best, but don’t you think even my pet cat could put together a half-decent funky big beat track if I gave it a sampler and a large collection of ’70s funk records?

Cap’n: “I’ve played guitar in a band so I know how each instrument works together in a band and I think this is crucial. Experience and knowledge of a band has been very important, I think, in making my dance music.”

Your music is all about fusing past genres, like techno and funk. But what about the future?

Cap’n: “Dance music is very versatile. People tend to think it’s just house or techno, but it has a long history. From Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Sam Cooke. I don’t just make straightforward techno or house dance music. I’m making the music which I think is good for right now.”

But isn’t this funky big-beat thing just going to be another short-lived trend? People are going to get bored of it. What then?

Cap’n: “I don’t know the future. Funk is very versatile. My funk is not the normal funk. If I make rock ‘n’ roll the track will be funk. I can make a Latin funk track or a Brazilian funk track or even a Russian funk track. Hahaha. Whatever style I adopt the track will still be funky to me. Funk is my base.”

Don’t people who go and see Captain Funk expect plain old afro-bouncin’ ass-wobblin’ funky disco?

Cap’n: “People might think that, so I get some fun out of surprising and betraying them.”

Ooooh, what a funky little devil he is.

The first five readers who fax (3453-4787) or e-mail ( fuzlog@hotmail.com ) Fuzzy Logic will each receive a pair of complimentary tickets for Captain Funk’s all-nighter at Shinjuku’s Liquid Room on May 22. Include your address and telephone number and Sublime Records will mail you the tickets. But be quick — the event is this Saturday. Joining the Cap’n will be an all-star lineup including America’s Freddie Fresh, Yasuharu Konishi from Pizzicato 5 and Susumu Yokota of Sublime.

Captain Funk also headlines an all-nighter at Osaka’s Grand Cafe this Friday.