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INSTANT FUNK FEBRUARY 1979 INTERVIEW
THE RETURN OF FUNK
Into the winners circle with a three year old recording, Instant Funk now look set to become 79's major funk success. Read on...

IF EVER a group was aptly named then it is surely Instant Funk. This superbly tight nine-piece band has in the past supplied the music to hits by such eminent acts as Bunny Sigler (their spiritual leader), the O'Jays, Loleatta Holloway, Evelyn 'Champagne' King (they supplied the rhythm on the whole of her "Smooth Talk" album, embracing the smash "Shame" hit)' the Pips and Loleatta Holloway. Now the New Jersey based group are making the headlines in their own right as their "I Got My Mind Made Up" hit explodes around the world.

For Europe it was a natural because of its similarity to the Bo Kirkland and Ruth Davis chart topper there, "You're Gonna Get Next To Me". Now America seems to be turning on to Instant Funk because the single has broken out all across the nation and the band's first album for Salsoul, tagged simply "Instant Funk", is already a chart rider.

Instant Funk's story goes back almost a decade when Kim and Scotty Miller and Raymond Earl (guitar, drums and bass respectively) first got together in their Trenton, New Jersey home and formed a little group they called the Music Machine. No actual recordings came from those first three years but it lead to a chance meeting with Bunny Sigler in Golden Fleece Records' office in Philadelphia.

Although that actual label is now defunct, it did, at the time, house the considerable talents of Norman Harris, Ronnie Baker and Earl Young, the integral core of Trammps.

At the time, the trio were supplying musical support for a local vocal group called the TNJ's but Bunny was so impressed with them that he took over their careers. The first thing he did was to add pianist, Dennis Richardson and percussionist, Charles Williams and to change their name from the Music Machine to Instant Funk.

The TNJ's disbanded soon after but Instant Funk signed with Gamble and Huff's TSOP label and recorded and album, "Get Down With The Philly Jump". The single of that name fared quite well but the album never really got off the floor and no further recordings were made. It coincided with the time that Bunny was planning to leave Philadelphia International to pursue his own ideas and so they all stayed together until Bunny got settled in at Salsoul.

"It meant a three year gap for us in terms of having a record out but it has all be worth it," Kim Miller adds.

Bunny's Salsoul saga is history — he exploded with "Let Me Party, Party, Party" and has never looked back.

"Sure, the basic idea behind that record owed a lot to Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up" because at the time people felt that although Marvin's record was long and released on 12" disco-disc, it really never seemed to get going," Kim recalls. "People seemed to always be wanting more so we gave it to them, you could say.

"We've just finished Bunny's next album and I can tell you it's much, much stronger. There is one cut on there called "I Knew It Was You By The Way You Danced" and we all feel it's going to be the biggest record Bunny has ever had. Yeah, ever! It's the same length as "Party" but much heavier. The album itself is a good cross-section of Bunny Sigler.

"Bunny is such an easy guy to work with — he is, firstly, such a good man. But he relaxes you and never puts you under any kind of pressure. He has also been a good friend to us all and although he has a reputation for being unpredictable on stage — which is what makes him one of today's most dynamic performers — we prefer it that way. Just like the audience, we really never know what's coming next."

In order that Instant Funk become a recording unit again, they added a further four members. They are: James Carmichael, lead vocals and percussion; Larry Davis, trumpet; Johnny Onderline, tenor and alto saxophones; and Eric Huff, formerly of the Ritchie Family, trombone. George Bell has been added as a second guitarist and has effectively replaced Charles Williams, who now only records with the group and doesn't travel.

Are the guys happy with their new-found success? "Oh, sure!", enthuses Kim. "But we are not really that happy with the album itself because we feel it could have been much tighter. It was cut at so many different studios and at so many different times that we really haven't been able to concentrate on getting the right sound that we were looking for.

"Now we have a regular studio and we know that our next album — which is well under way — is so much better. Some of this album is nearly three years old. For example, "I Got My Mind Made Up" was one of the earliest things we did when we first left TSOP."

Trying to define 'Instant Funk' is difficult but I particularly like the way that Salsoul Records' own biography attempts the situation. 'Their sound appeals to music lovers through a weaving of an aural setting that works on many levels with solid grooves intersplicing vocal chants, Arp and keyboard blips and filled with soul-dripping horn charts. The more you listen the more you want to hear. Where this music moves you — or rather what part of your body hears it the clearest — varies with different people but put it on for a few spins, glide around the room and see if somehow your legs and spirit aren't lifted. You'll get your mind made up.'

Incidentally, to stress the integral talents of this group, Kim and Scotty Miller and Raymond Earl (the founding trio) wrote all the material on the album. Bunny Sigler aided and produced the whole project.


  
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