A chat with Defunk during his Electric Forest debut [Interview]
Hailing from Calgary, Canada, Defunk is the prime symbol of pure experimentation in both live and electronic bass expression. With a deep sonic catalog under his belt, it’s no surprise that the inspired rock artist is hardwired to innovate. Equipped with a dynamic passion for heavy bass, groovy fusions, and a respectful mindset, Logan Shea delivers impressive live sessions with extensive collaborative influence.
He’s paving the way in terms of performance and the way sound continues to evolve as his experience as both a multi-instrumentalist and producer influences his path. Having played an eclectic array of festivals and tours, along with solid releases on multiple collectives, his next tour dates have just been announced for this Fall with Marvel Years.
Defunk presented an unforgettable experience at Electric Forest at the Jubilee stage as well as two renegade sets. We caught up with Defunk for a chat during the weekend to see what’s on the horizon for the artist, his artistic inspirations, what it’s like to work in the industry, and his Electric Forest debut.
CE: What inspires you on a daily basis?
Defunk: I’ve always had an overactive imagination. I’m an artist. I went to art school where I did painting, graphic design, I’ve done illustration, and I’ve always been inspired by music. I’ve always just kind of thought and interpreted music, I think, more so than your average person and I’ve always been inclined to write and create. I don’t know where I get my constant inspiration from – it’s just the need to create and be better. I take in a lot of art and culture, watch a lot of movies, play a lot of video games, listen to a lot of different kinds of music, and through that, I think I just interpret my own idea of what I want my music to sound like.
CE: Give us a little bit of background of your artistry. Before electronic music, did you play any instruments?
Defunk: Yeah, haha. I was like in a metal band in my early years and was into like hard-rock and metal and punk. I was a bassist and I also did some vocals, but I can’t really sing anymore. We were just having fun jamming out to some classics and stuff like that, but it never really went anywhere. I was really passionate about it, but the bandmates where just kind of doing their own thing, and so, when I found out about electronic music…it was in 2010.
One of the first artists was Bassnectar. He kind of got me into this whole world and you know, I’ve always been into that, that kind of – that intent, that heavy kind of bass music, even from the beginning, but that really started me down the path of just discovering a lot of electronic music which opened up into an entire world. Then I just started to write.
CE: Electronic Bass music.
CE: Do you still play the bass and translate your melodies through the bass?
Defunk: Yeah, sometimes in the studio and into my production where I record some of that, yeah I do. Now I play keyboards, I play keytar, and I kind of translate it to – it kind of has this rock kind of vibe to it. It’s kind of coming full circle back to where I started and it actually makes a lot of sense if you kind of think about where I was first inspired. So now, I’m bringing back, you know…I’ve got a rock guitar thing that I do live.
Defunk: So yeah, I have actually performed with my bass before, I always switch up what I do. Normally every year, I try different approaches and I try to bring something else on stage. I’ve had a bass guitar, I’ve got two talkbox, I’ve had drum pads, I’ve had guitar players come on and I’ve had saxophone players come on. Basically, every show I try to do something different which is kind of fun.
CE: So you like mixing the whole live and electronic experience, just collaborating.
Defunk: Totally, yeah.
CE: Where do you see music headed? We were just talking about, you know, rock music, electronic, then it both blending together. Where do you see it headed in the next, I don’t know, five years?
Defunk: The next five years. Well, Hip-Hop is extremely popular right now. Hip-Hop, Rap, or whatever – I don’t know what the proper term for it is, Trap, So it’s kind of made a huge comeback. I think that is gonna just keep being integrated in electronic music a lot more.
You already see some big collaborations, people working with Marshmello, you see Red Man and Method Man working with bass artists, which is pretty cool. I guess it’s an outlet for them to kind of get to the younger kids and younger kids can get that more of the old school vibe brought into it. So that, I think is going to happen more often.
I think with the integration of live elements performing making it more of a show, maybe, you know, less and less of just the DJ world and more and more of – how do you make electronic music into a full live show I think is probably where I see it going. It seems that people are kind of expecting more and more when they go see a show with the lights, the production, and things happening – people coming on stage, like guest spots, could coexist, which is kind of what I envision, from what I’ve noticed anyways.
CE: Cool, that’s a good perspective. What would you like to see less of and/or more of in the music industry?
Defunk: Hmm, that’s a good one. Obviously in any industry there is always bad apples, there’s always jerks that are kind of on the bad wing and they’re doing something for the wrong reasons..fame or whatever shit that happens in rock n’ roll, hip-hop, and whatever, but you know, there’s people that I’ve seen that are kind of in it for the wrong reasons.
Just maybe keeping genuine and honest people who really want to do it and that’s what I want to see more of, just honest talent and honest motivation. Hard working people that are really working for the right reasons and not just for money and fame.
CE: Let originality flourish and break out of that whole stigma of like that whole, that particular sound that…
CE: They know what people like and they kind of run with it instead of running with what they like.
Defunk: Yeah, yeh exactly. Yeh, so you know that’s a good question but it’s also a very tough question – there’s a lot of angles to it.
CE: It’s a tough industry! I mean, the more authentic anyone is, the more you will further inspire and connect and flourish, so yeah just keep your heart open.
Defunk: Well you know there’s a backside to this whole music industry, but generally people don’t know about it. Some artists are brands and they have had teams that have invested like hundreds and thousands of dollars into these artists. Some of these artists, I mean, I’m not mentioning any names, but I know that there’s people out there, not just in bass music, but in the trance world, the house world where they don’t even write too much of their own music. They become like somebody with a pretty face that people could invest money into, build up a social following, they can get ghostwriters to write music for them, and then they can go on tour under this false…like they haven’t even really done anything to deserve that but they’ve had hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing, and it happens all of the time.
There’s a lot of big artists who have done this, and so, you know, how do you separate people like that from people that have been doing it for 15 years that have worked their butts off to get there? You just don’t know who’s done the work and who hasn’t. There is that room in the industry for that kind of credibility I guess, which I don’t agree with, you know, because I’ve worked my butt off to get to where I am. You see somebody who’s been doing it for a year that’s got a million followers and it’s crazy.
CE: From a fan perspective too, it’s hard to tell. It’s hard to tell who’s actually, unless you really dive deep in the history of that person, versus like Nectar, it’s like he has a history of…
Defunk: You can trace it, you can see all of his albums and that makes sense. It’s hard to tell, it’s really hard to tell, but knowing that it’s just frustrating because they’re almost lying to their fans, but we haven’t gotten to that point, but yeah I think that answers that question.
CE: Yeah, that feeds into another question I had in mind. What advice would you give to any artists?
Defunk: It comes with a lot of hard work obviously and you gotta be willing to give up part of your social life, you gotta be willing to give up even some friends who don’t understand, who don’t understand how much hard work and dedication it takes to get where you need to get.
You need to work your butt off and you just have to be very persistent, consistent, and motivated through the whole process and stay true to yourself. You can keep in mind the trends and what’s happening, but you know staying and trying to write music that you want to write all the time..and I think making music for yourself is always the key, you know. Some fans might get frustrated along the way, but honestly, if you’re writing music for somebody or that you think people want to hear then you’re almost kind of blinding yourself. You gotta be genuine, write things that really inspire and excite you. That’s the key, I think, to being successful. Honestly.
CE: So is this your debut? Your first debut at Electric Forest?
Defunk: Yeah, yeah! It’s my first year, I have never really attended.
CE: Where are you from?
Defunk: I’m from Calgary, Canada. Yeah, that’s where we flew in from yesterday. It’s nice, it’s a lot drier than here…this is very humid for me. It’s a little far from home but I love American festivals, they’re so much fun.
CE: Especially in nature, Calgary is full of nature, yeah?
Defunk: It’s incredible, it’s 40 minutes away from some of the most gorgeous mountain ranges. You can just go and escape, you can get on a road where no one is on, it’s just unbelievable. Like you can just disappear.
CE: Are there festivals near you?
Defunk: Yeah, yeah. There’s some smaller ones, we have a couple of bigger ones. Shambhala is one of the bigger ones so that’s about a 6 hour drive from where I live into the mountains and it’s just like one of the coolest experiences. I’ve heard that this is very, very similar so I’m excited to go and kind of explore today. Go walk around.
CE: Outside of music, what are some of your other hobbies?
Defunk: I’ve been getting back to reading a little bit. I love reading, I love documentaries, learning. I love bike riding, I love getting outdoors, I love exercising, I love getting into the mountains and going hiking.
CE: You live in the best place for that!
Defunk: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
CE: I’ve always wanted to make it out in Canada world.
Defunk: It’s gorgeous. It’s just, much less people. People are great but you can get away from it all pretty easily.
CE: What books would you recommend? What kind of books are you into?
Defunk: I’ve been reading biographies lately, like rockstar biographies about the rise and fall of these people that got into bad drugs and stuff, it’s sort of depressing.
CE: Like which artists?
Defunk: Well, the Motley Crew one is really good. I’ve read the Red Hot Chili Peppers and it was just really interesting. It’s just interesting you know cuz some of these people that you idolize, you see how rough their life was at one point and what inspired to make their music and it’s quite, quite interesting, so. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
CE: Now that we’ve been talking about metal bands and rockstars, you love rock music, who’s your favorite rock artist?
Defunk: Yeah yeah, well I grew up on…I love some of the southern bands, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac, those are always at the top and then like from the 80’s, I love some of the hair metal bands, like Motley Crew, Boston, Def Leopard, obviously guys like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones – all the classics.
I listen to everything from Reggae from New Zealand to a little bit of folk music, punk rock, The Black Keys – I love those guys, so good. Gary Clark Jr. is like really cool blues fusion. All the bands from the 90’s, like Sublime and Foo Fighters, all that.
CE: Oh! Foo Fighters, that’s my thing.
CE: I love how what’ his name, drummer, David..
Defunk: Ah, omg.
CE: He kept the vibe going after Nirvana
Defunk: Yeah I know what is his name, ahh, oh my god. Dave Grohl.
CE: Yeah, Dave Grohl, yeah yeah.
Defunk: He’s incredible – drummer, guitarist, singer, his bass, he does everything.
Defunk: Yeah I’m all over the place musically.
CE: Amazing, it shows in your music.
Defunk: Yeah it’s very experimental and sporadic yeah, haha.
CE: Yeah, well we’re very happy to connect, thank you.