Interview: FunkinEven

Armed with a studio of vintage gear, FunkinEven’s productions have yielded music that acknowledges a long linage of funk and hip-hop, but is not captive to it. His music runs along the same timeline as his predecessors and influences such as Warren Harris aka Hanna and Big Daddy Kane. He regularly collaborates with the Swedish vocalist Fatima of which their latest studio session produced a piece of contemporary funk bliss – “Phoneline”. And who can forget last year’s iconic (and woefully limited) “Chips / Sweets” 12-inch? This year is shaping up to be just productive as he prepares edits and readies his label Apron Records for outside artists. We recently spoke to Steven “FunkinEven” Julien over Skype at his home in London after a few days of gigs including one at Amsterdam’s Tape. As expected, he was relaxed and forthcoming about his collaborations and future plans. Over the course of our conversation he opened up about his musical upbringing, former occupation, and first trip to New York. He teased more than enough plans, projects, and side-projects, so needless to say we’re excited for what the future holds for him.

Stream: Funkineven – NTS Apron Records show (August 2012) 

Hey Steven, what have you been up to lately? “I’ve been traveling quite a bit, to be honest.”

You’ve talked about your background in previous interviews and on a couple of occasions you’ve mentioned your uncle and how he introduced to house and hip-hop. What were some of the artists and records you were listening to at that time and are they still relevant today? “Yeah, it was a natural introduction, it wasn’t like I had to listen to this and think about that. It was just what they were playing in the house, what I heard, and what I picked up. They were playing things from house, rare groove, ragga, hip-hop and I just picked up on those things, especially Big Daddy Kane’s “Set It Off”, Inner City’s “Big Fun”, and those sort of classic house tracks. I just picked it up as a child growing up..” Are those tracks you still go back to day for source material or DJ sets? “It’s just an influence from the sound; I don’t really play those tracks.”

We’ve seen your MPC and production videos and those were popular pieces of gear at that time. Were there any particular producers that you looked up to or idolized from that era? “Not necessarily, I first bought that MPC in the nineties, so when I was making beats that was the way of making beats. It wasn’t really software based as much. I would dabble with some software but it was more drum machines and hardware, so that was a natural thing that I would use anyway. There weren’t really any producers that influenced me into using that stuff it was just what we used. I would borrow my friend’s synth, shitty keyboard, and borrow another friend’s drum machine and just record to cassette tape.” Are you still using the same setup? “I use some of that stuff, but I use more stuff that I’ve bought over the last three or four years like the Roland stuff – 707, 606, and 808. Those are pieces I’ve bought with the last four years or so. I use software along with it though.”

When we listen to your music it sounds really jam orientated, but is there something that you look for in your tracks that lets you know it’s finished? “I don’t know how to explain when a track is finished; it’s just a feeling. I mean there are different projects. There’s more production and there’s more of a jam. For instance “Roland’s Jam” is a straight jam that I recorded two tracks into Logic, edited after, added stuff in, mixed it down, and made it sound more full. Then there are tracks that are actually produced around vocals like “Phoneline”, which is more production based. It was a jam to begin with in terms of structure, but overall it’s fully produced around Fatima’s vocals. It all depends on what I’m working on, but it does usually start with a jam and I just work along that.”

You just touched on Fatima and you guys had the “Phoneline” EP last year, what else can we expect from the both of you? “We always will work with each other there’s no doubt about that. She’s working on her album as we speak, so she’s going to submit that at some point next year and I need to do a track on that album for her. That’ll probably be the next thing we work on together.”

Stream: Funkineven feat. Fatima – Mad Swing (Eglo Records)

Staying on the Fatima line for a bit longer, we’ve seen you both do live PAs together. Do you guys have any plans to put together a live show? “Not necessarily. I have worked on a few tracks with her, but it’s probably not enough to do a full show. I can always do one or two songs live, but she does have a proper band that she’s working with. She’s done a few shows with them and for her album I think she is working with that band a bit more closely. She has other material by other producers like Floating Points. It’d be cool for her to use that band to project those other songs as well as mine.”

Eglo Records seems to be a close-knit family. Between Fatima and Kyle Hall last year, they proved to be full of collaborations for you as well. Are you and Floating Points planning on working together? “We haven’t spoken about it, so there’s nothing planned at the moment. He’s been really busy with his studies anyway, so he hasn’t really released much. Who knows? I can pop by his studio one day and something might happen and vice versa. There have been occasions when I’ve been in the studio just jamming and he’s jammed on top, but we haven’t recorded anything. Maybe in the future we can press record on some tape recorder or software.”

We’re curious about your work with Kyle Hall. You mentioned in an interview a couple years back that you wanted to work with him, at that time were you already talking with him? Did you know him? “I probably met him by then. He’s friends with Sam and was before I became friends with him. That’s how I met him, through Sam. He was a fan of my music and bought my records. I heard his music and thought it was crazy. Then we finally met each other and we had the same taste and really looked up to Warren Harris, who is a producer that really inspired me and my sound and vice versa. We just became friends and it happened naturally that we worked together.” Do you have any particular goals for the project or are you just going with flow? “We’re going with the flow, but we have plans. It’s exciting so we’re just gonna continue with that project. We’ve already got another 12-inch in the pipeline.” How does the project work? Do you go to his studio or does he go to yours? Do you schedule time to work together? “I’ve never been to Detroit. When Kyle comes to London for a gig or whatnot he might stay for an extra week, stay around mine and we’ll jam. So most of the work is done in my studio.”

Stream: Funkinevil – Dusk (Wild Oats)

You came to New York this past summer for a gig at Mister Sunday, was that your first time in the US? “Yeah, I still have flashbacks. It was really good; I was only there for a few days, but it felt longer.” We didn’t catch your set there unfortunately, but what can people usually expect from you in a DJ-set? You don’t seem like the type of person to play four hours of 4/4 records. “You never know what to expect. It could be acid house, boogie, edits, it all has the same energy. I’m not comparing myself to Theo Parrish, but the way that he puts different genres together is in the same sort of nature that I do.”

So, what would be a record you’d pull out to save a dance floor? “An edit of James Brown’s “Body Heat” or “Where’s Jason’s K” by Syclops. One to definitely save the dance floo with is Lood’s and Donell Rush’s “Shout-N-Out“. Sometimes I’m surprised, sometimes I’ll play something that I think will save the dance floor and it actually doesn’t or I don’t think it will and it actually does. Sometimes I’m quite shocked by what people react to. A lot of the time when I play my own stuff I get the best reaction of the night, especially at Mister Sunday where I played a demo of Kyle and I’s forthcoming track and people went berserk.” There are a lot of walk-ups on Sundays, so a good chunk of the people probably didn’t know who was playing. That’s a really good sign. “I’m sure half the people didn’t know who I was. There were some people from Glasgow who were in New York for a wedding and heard that I was playing there and they came along. I didn’t know until the end, which was really cool. It was quite intimate.”

You’ve mentioned the artwork of Czar and it’s importance, are you connected with the visual arts community? “Visuals are very important to me. When I make music I always think about it. I always look at like a film or a piece of art. She totally got my inspiration. A lot of it is sort of my fault; I make a folder of images and send it to whoever’s doing the artwork for me then they sort of use it as a reference and get where I’m coming from. I send them the track as well so they can understand, visualize, and put that onto paper.” So it’s a collaboration between you and the artist a lot of times? “I never say to them just make anything. It’s always like I have an idea and I try to get that across and they capture it.”

Are there any other artists or films that attract you? “There’s a 1940s film called The Boy With The Green Hair and I think it was shot in black and white, but they colored it in like with The Wizard of Oz. The artwork for that is crazy and I always use it in screensavers and pictures.” What’s the film about? “It’s a no brainer; it’s just a boy who woke up one day and had green hair. I suppose in the 1940s that was quite adventurous – to actually see a boy with green hair on the television. But yeah, there are loads of things that inspire me.”

Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with in the future? Not necessarily musically, but artistically? “I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head, but along the same lines I will probably release a different type of music under a different name. I have so much different stuff that I’ve made through the years and it doesn’t make sense to do it all on one name because it could get too confusing.”

What do you have in store for this year? “There’s the Kyle Hall record that I mentioned and the Fatima thing on her album. I have  an edit called “Dreamz” and another track called “Ceefax”, so I’ll probably release those on my own label Apron as well. That’ll be the fourth release on my label. I think “Chips / Sweets” is what brought me to New York actually. Justin Carter showed me pictures of him playing it and asked me if I’d like to come to New York.”

Speaking of your label, is Apron Records just an outlet for your music or are you looking to release other people’s music too? “There are definitely other artists that I’m looking at. There’s one guy that I stumbled across on Soundcloud that I’d like to release at some point, maybe like a white label. Another artist who is Kyle Hall’s friend called MGUN, Manuel Gonzalez from Detroit. His work ethic is just ridiculous; he spits out loads of tracks, a silly amount of stuff.”

Stream: Funkineven – Dracula (Apron Records)

Here’s a couple of speed round questions. Since you recently played two gigs in Amsterdam, most recently at TAPE, do you have anything to say about the experience? “It’s always amazing to go there and get received. Before I started releasing music I had no idea about the club scene in Amsterdam or that they would pick up on my sound, appreciate it, and back me. Shout outs and thanks for the love basically.”

What would you be doing if you weren’t working in music? “Before music I was a barber, but that was coming to an end. I’m sick and tired of that, so I don’t know if I’d be doing that right now. If I were in that business I’d probably have my own barbershop, but not working in it. Working in a barbershop is ridiculous; you aim to come out at a certain time and you come out five hours later.”

Lastly, what is your drink of choice? “Evian water.”

Jonathon Alcindor

Writer & Techy. My word is bond, whatup doe? Twitter,

1 thought on “Interview: FunkinEven”

  1. Art is appreciation of beauty and life full of sounds and rhythms, find yours. Very interesting interview and the tracks were on level! Our best wishes of great inspirations and wider exposure!
    FUTURE’ Team

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