Dumpstaphunk: Stankier Than The Rest

We were a little angry about the Hurricane [Katrina] and the state of affairs in this country but MEANWHILE shake your booty! All this stuff's going on but in the meantime have a good time. There's a lot of serious issues but I've learned to not take myself so seriously. I insist on having a good time.

-Ivan Neville


"We've known each other for a long time," says Ivan, discussing the group's origins. "I thought Tony Hall [bass/guitar] was George Porter Jr.'s little cousin. I'm not sure if it's true but it's what I thought. I saw him sub for George, Leo [Nocentelli] and even Zigaboo [Modeliste] with The Original Meters years ago when I was coming up. I think Tony was originally a drummer. And Nick Daniels [bass] I've known since I was a kid. We played together in a band called the Uptown All-Stars, and he eventually started playing with the Nevilles. Both of those guys have played bass with the Neville Brothers. Raymond Weber [drums] played with Tony in Harry Connick Jr.'s funk band. I knew him as a New Orleans drummer but until I played with him I never knew how good he was. Ian, I've watched him for the past 10 years sit in with the Funky Meters and whatnot, learning to play guitar, and eventually he joined the Neville Brothers and we became partners in crime."

Ian Neville & Trey Anastasio
"I had the opportunity to play Jazz Fest in 2003, where I'd played on my own in the past including supporting my If My Ancestors Could See Me Now record in the late '80s. I wanted to do something different, and starting in 2001-2002 I had been playing with a lot of bands like Galactic, which were showing up at Jazz Fest," continues Ivan. "I got this idea to put together a band with my little cousin Ian on guitar, and on bass either Tony Hall or Nick Daniels. Then I thought, 'Why not call both of them?' They both play, they both sing and Tony plays guitar as well. And I called Raymond for drums and that was the nucleus of the band. I think we had the Dirty Dozen play horns with us. It took on a life of its own and we did occasional shows as it took on a life of its own. We all had other bread-and-butter gigs - I was subbing for Art Neville in the Neville Brothers after he hurt his back, and Tony was working with Dave Matthews' solo project, Tony and Ray were playing with Trey Anastasio, and Ian and Nick were also with the Neville Brothers - but they encouraged me to go deeper into Dumpstaphunk, which was originally supposed to be a side project. But when the Hurricane happened it changed a lot of things for everybody."

Despite funk's intrinsically simple core, there can be terrific complexity and variation in the hands of really skilled musicians. Dumpstaphunk has the stupid high-level skills one associates with Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson's Midnight Band or Herbie Mann's unreal assemblage on 1971's Push Push, as well as the aforementioned Family Stone and Funkadelic.

"Just by us playing it, dudes are going to play their mind," observes Ian. "Tony and Raymond, just by doing what they do, are gonna up things a little bit, give it a shot in the arm. Anytime I'm just listening on stage it's because somebody just did some crazy shit that branches out into something else. Most of the tracks on the EP were born out of soundchecks, somebody starting jams and everybody falling in. It's great that everybody in this band will grab on a lick or whatever and give it a nudge."

Ivan Neville - Dumpstaphunk by T. Voggesser
Their jams can get seriously weird, something most orthodox funk units fear or simply can't grasp. Dumpstaphunk boldly French kisses strangeness.

"If I'm soloing Raymond feeds off what I'm doing, then I'm listening to him and that dictates where I'm gonna go," says Ivan. "On any given night we can stretch in many different directions. It's what we like about the brand of funk we play: it's not contained funk, it's not metronome funk. It's funk that can go haywire sometimes."

This springboards into our mutual appreciation for mad hatter keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell, who writes elegant constructed lines but when a wild hair gets him can take off to parts unknown. "He goes in so many directions that you wonder, 'How the hell did you get away with that? I don't think that's musically correct but it sounds good.' He did some amazing stuff," waxes Ivan.

When they have both bassists going at once it's like a rough version of the two bass configurations on Andrew Hill's '60s Blue Note albums – an ocean of low-end wow that's neither cluttered or fussy.

Continue reading for more on Dumpstaphunk...

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