DUMPSTAPHUNK: THE SOUL OF NEW ORLEANS

Words by Nathan Rodriguez :: Images by Tobin Voggesser

Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Cervantes' Masterpiece Denver, CO


Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
Dumpstaphunk. The name may lack curb appeal to the uninformed, but a rose by any other name...

Master of the keys Ivan Neville jumpstarted the group a few years back in New Orleans. Recently, he brought his brother Ian (guitar), the versatile Raymond Weber on skins, and bassists Tony Hall and Nick Daniels along with him for an extended Colorado jaunt dubbed the "Cold as Funk tour."

While a shared passion for music may have initially brought the band members together, it isn't the only thing now keeping the group intact. They are each living on the road without a permanent home to greet them after the tour ends.

Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of millions of people in a variety of ways, and its final toll is incalculable. Lives were lost, homes were destroyed, and public trust in their local and federal government evaporated long before the floodwater.


Ivan Neville :: Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
While a disaster in any locale is horrible, it stings a bit more to realize that a culturally and spiritually vibrant city like New Orleans is currently a shadow of its former self. Witnessing it on the news is bad enough - having your family, friends, and home caught in the middle of it is unthinkable.

Bad weather seems to follow the band. They had just arrived from a hellacious half-day van ride from Aspen with ice and snow blanketing the roads leading out. We caught up with them directly after sound check at Cervantes' Masterpiece. The band invites us backstage for a bit after sound check where the mood is surprisingly jovial.

We take a seat and are casually flanked by the band members: Ivan and Ian on one side, Raymond and Nick on the other. The conversation starts off with talk of the treacherous driving conditions, as the band is scheduled to play in Crested Butte tomorrow night:

 
I think it made it stronger in my heart. Being from there, being raised there, and soaking up all that for our entire lives, it just makes the need to play music that much more urgent - to share that. Because the New Orleans that I know and love is never going to be the same. The New Orleans that we all know is done. It will never be the same. Hopefully, they can rebuild, and the people will go back there. But it's changed, and all we can do is go out and play. It's in us. We just go out there and try to express that.

-Ivan Neville on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

 

Toby: "You'll probably love Crested Butte once you're there, but getting there... may suck."

(Laughter)

Ivan: "Oh Lord!"


Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
Ian: "How long will it take to get to Crested Butte - for real?"

Toby: "I think four or five."

Nathan: "I was about to say six, at least, with the roads."

Ivan: "Well with our flights back that means we're probably going to have to leave at like three-four in the fuckin' morning! So that's all to be put into consideration... not like we're really gonna ditch a gig or some shit though."

Ivan: "Just as long as that thing's not -- oh shit! That thing's on! (Pointing to recorder.)

(Entire room erupts with laughter)

Ivan: Oh no! Oh no! On tape tryin' to ditch a fuckin' gig!

(Continued laughter)


Daniels & Ivan :: 12.13
Nathan: "Well that's cool guys. I think I've got what I need here - Toby, you ready?" (Getting up, grabbing the mic, and heading to the exit.)

(Laughter)

Ivan: Oh no, man!

(Laughter)

Nathan: "So you're getting us into the show for free tonight, right?"

(Laughter)

Ivan: "Oh fuck yeah! Man, you are in for life on this one - both you guys!"

(Laughter)

Some time elapses, and the group discussion fragments with a bit more small talk before the inevitable -

Nathan to Raymond: "So what's it like playing on the road and not really having a place to return to?"

Raymond: "Well man, I lost everything - my house, all my gear. Right now my family is in Austin, Texas. We're getting ready to move to Houston - my wife wants to be there around friends and everything. Then look around and maybe buy a new house. But for right now, I'm just going to be on the road a lot - instead of buying another house!"


Ian & Hall :: 12.13
Toby: "So where are you looking?"

Raymond: "Well I don't know. I'm thinking about getting back close to New Orleans, but I don't want to be back in New Orleans until they build the levies up to at least a (category) 5. 3 is like a sitting duck, you know? It could happen again. So that's the thing - I'm trying to make up my mind and what my wife wants for me to do, 'cause she's the one holding the fort down. You know the saying - if mama's happy, then everybody’s happy! (laughs)

Raymond: "But it's great, man - I've been blessed. I've been out working, so I can't really complain."

Nathan: "Yeah, it's a pretty rough situation out there."


Raymond Weber :: Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13
Raymond: "I tell ya man, we were actually in Brazil when it happened - the whole band was when it hit, and we had to do a gig in Hawaii. So we were stuck in Hawaii, and I couldn't even enjoy it! (laughs) Turn on CNN and it's like, 'Man, look at my house!' (laughs) So we're sitting around in Hawaii in all its beauty, and we couldn't even enjoy it."

"So I lost stuff, Ivan lost stuff, Nick lost a bunch of stuff, but we're still striving. We're still pushing. It's a blessing to be working, that's for sure."

Nathan: "So is the structure for your house just completely gone, or is there massive flooding in it?"

Raymond: "Well, I had about seven feet of water in my house, so everything was completely destroyed. The water just sat in my house for about three weeks. So the normal stuff that I do around the holidays - there's no more of that right now. But the family all held in good, so that's a beautiful thing. You've just gotta hustle and rebuild, that's all. And buy another house. Or hit Ivan up for a loan, one of the two!"

(Loud laughter)


Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
Ivan: "You must know something I don't know!"

(Laughter)

Nathan: "So what's in store after tomorrow then? Any more shows coming up?"

Ivan: "Yeah, we've got some stuff lined up - some gigs in California - LA on the (January) 4th, San Diego on the 5th or 6th, we'll be going up to New York on the 20th. Some in Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas around the 27th. We may have a Houston date in there too."

Nathan: "Really all over the place, then."

Ivan: "We're really just trying to take it as it comes and keep the name alive. He's (nodding at Raymond) been busy playing with Trey (Anastasio) - so has Tony. Ian's been doing stuff with the Neville Brothers and stuff with my dad. So... I don't know that we even would have been this busy had it not been for the hurricane. But it's been a great time out here. We've really just been trying to keep the thing alive. We had the opportunity to come together for the Jazz Festival a few years ago, and when we were up there, we just knew. We knew it. We played a couple of gigs here and there, a few at Tip's, kind of a seasonal thing. JazzFest, Mardi Gras, whenever."

Raymond: "And all this time we were each kind of doing our own thing. Some of us were teaching classes; Ivan was working on the levy..."

(Laughter)

(Talk then returns to Katrina, as Nick Daniels offers his experience.)


Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
Nick: "So we were on the road and saw all the stuff in the news about Katrina getting ready to hit. My fiancé is still in the city at this time. It's Monday night that I'm talking to her. Tuesday morning, the storm hit, and I didn't hear from my fiancé until five days later, when we were in Hawaii. Turns out they picked up what they could and moved to Austin, and they've been there ever since."

Nathan: "So do you plan on staying there for a while now?"

Nick: "I think I'll be there for a while. I still have my house in New Orleans, but I'm not about to move into it!"

Nathan: "Have you managed to keep in pretty close contact with people back in the city?"

Ian: "We've actually been running into people everywhere. Most people don't really get a chance to be out to as many parts of the country as we've seen lately, but we've been all over the place and have found a ton of people from New Orleans kind of doing the refugee thing."


Ivan Neville :: Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
Nathan: "I just have one other question for you guys, and then we'll get out of your hair. In looking forward, do you think that Katrina's impact is something that saps some of the creative and cultural spirit of New Orleans or do you think that it could act as a potential catalyst for inspiration?"

Ivan: "I think it made it stronger in my heart. Being from there, being raised there, and soaking up all that for our entire lives, it just makes the need to play music that much more urgent - to share that. Because the New Orleans that I know and love is never going to be the same. The New Orleans that we all know is done. It will never be the same. Hopefully, they can rebuild, and the people will go back there. But it's changed, and all we can do is go out and play. It's in us. We just go out there and try to express that. All of us that tour - not just us, but guys like the Brass Band, everyone - we've never been anywhere for too long. When we were home, it wasn't really for that long, so now that we're on the road, it's just a little different (laughing)."

Raymond: "Living out of our suitcase (laughing)!"


Hall & Neville :: Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
Ivan: "So it kind of brings a sense of urgency to it. Not just to us, but to all the New Orleans musicians. And we'll just spread it around. We're just hoping that when they rebuild, that they do it right. That way they can get a lot of the acts back, but also get a lot of the New Orleans people back. That's the thing is the people - so much of the heritage with the Indians and brass bands - everything - is lost right now. It's been spread all over the place. Had the hurricane not hit, there would be all kinds of stuff going on in the city, and that's all pretty much lost. But, hopefully all this will have a happy ending, you know?"

Raymond: "We hope for that."

Toby: "So are you guys on for JazzFest this year then? I saw they announced the show recently."

Ivan: "Man, we know as much about that as you guys do! (laughs) I saw it on JamBase! I was like 'Wow, really?' That's about as much as I know about it! (laughs) No, I honestly don't know how close they are to really being able to do it or not."

Raymond: "And Mardi Gras too, that's the other thing..."

Ivan: "You can be sure the police are gonna have an easy time down there this year. That'll be the lowest arrest rate in Mardi Gras history! Ten arrests!"


Ivan Neville :: Dumpstaphunk :: 12.13 :: Denver
The show that followed featured the thickest of grooves, as would be expected from this famed New Orleans all-star collaboration. Each of the band members had their opportunity to shine during the night, but by far the most remarkable aspect of their sound was the chemistry which found each member congealing with the others to help the sound progress, as opposed to an individual soloing with the others backing.

To delve into a diatribe on the show would obscure the one thing that stuck with me after the night was over. These guys are going through as rough of a time in their lives as anyone could possibly have, and yet, instead of dwelling on the ample negativity, they actively choose to find the silver lining in the situation. Call it a sense of urgency, but when Dumpstaphunk plays, there is an authenticity to their sound that makes most other so-called "funk" bands pale in comparison. The groove is palpable and unrelenting.

New Orleans may be in shambles, but its spirit is alive and well.

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[Published on: 12/23/05]

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Comments

tizzlethis starstarstar Tue 12/27/2005 08:00AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nice piece.. happened to have liked Tennille's "History's Greatest Homeless Band" in Harp magazine last month as well if you didn't see it... check it out. Looking forward to seeing Ivan & the band in Malibu on Jan 4th !!!

Jamayka Wed 12/28/2005 10:54AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

come to Chicago!!!!