Dumpstaphunk’s Dirty Word
How did you guys decide who else to draw in for collaborations in that album?
Most of it was pretty much by chance. Rebirth Brass Band — Tony Hall had a song, and it was a more of a traditional New Orleans kind of second line song that we figured we had to incorporate a brass band on it. So it was pretty evident to call up the guys from Rebirth Brass Band to come over to perform on that one. We got Trombone Shorty as well. We called Troy and said, “Hey you want to come play on this stuff?” And he played on that song, and Troy’s on another song as well, and that song was called “I Wish You Would” which is pretty much an instrumental with a little chant and vocal here or there. And we had Trombone Shorty on that. We still needed something and I didn’t know what, so we called Skerik. I said, “Skerik, why don’t you come do something on this song, see what you can do with it.” And we pretty much just left him in the studio by himself, we let him do whatever he wanted to do with it, and he turned it into some monster horn shit between the stuff that Trombone Shorty had done, and Skerik threw some things on there, and it was totally mind blowing, and we loved it and that’s how that song came about.
Ani DiFranco, she’s married to Mike Napolitano. He mixed 9 of the 11 songs on the record. They have a recording studio in their house, and he was in the living room, in the studio, mixing the Dumpstaphunk stuff, and she was probably walking around the house, passing by when she heard some stuff. And we know Ani, we have performed with her before. She sat in with us before and I’ve performed with her and played on one of her records. And she took it upon herself to put some singing, some words, onto the “Dirty Word” track. And we saw that as an instrumental. We had no intention of putting words on it. But Ani, on her own time and of her own free will she went and put something on that song. Mike told me about it and said, “Check it out, Ani came in and put this on that song. Ya’ll like it?” So basically, we liked it, it was fucking killing, so we were like, “Wow.” So it’s on the record. So that was a fun, cool way for that to happen.
And then My uncle Art, who’s Ian’s father, Ian plays in the band — Art came to the studio with us one day, and we said, “Okay you’re here so go play on this song.: So he hooked a Fender Rhodes up, and he played it on that song. So the same song that Rebirth and Trombone Shorty’s on, Art Neville’s on it as well. That’s pretty much a good, New Orleans kind of thing. You’ve got every generation, you’ve got us, you’ve got Rebirth, you’ve got the new king of New Orleans on there, and then you got Art Neville — Papa Funk, you know, the old guard. I mean that’s a pretty awesome thing right there.
Aside from the collaborations, was your approach to the production for this album different from production on the past two albums with Dumpstaphunk?
It was not really that different. The different thing is that we have a different drummer on this record so that’s a different dynamic in there. That brought a different thing to this record. For the most part we did it a similar way as we’ve always done. We were in there and we kind of take turns vibing.
What was it like working with Nikki in the studio?
It was very cool, and she was very good, you know. Everybody was listening 100 percent. You’ve got to appreciate that when you’re in a band, the way that everyone listens. Everybody would bring their A game every day, it was something to look forward to every time we went in there. I was always ready to go into the studio and see what we were going to do.
How did you guys connect with Nikki ?
I really don’t know (laughs). I mean, we know her through our friends from the Royal Family, from [Eric] Krasno and Soulive and the Lettuce family — all that crew. We met Nikki through them around 2004, and we’d known her, and we’d played with her in different configurations, and she had been playing with Beyoncé which was a pretty high profile gig. We knew she could play. And when we had our situation change when Raymond Weber left the band, we only had a few people that were even in mind to play this gig, and Nikki was at the top of the list. And when we called her, she said she was down to do it. So we sent her some music and we got together a couple of times and we started to play the gig. We were like “Wow, this is cool, let’s keep doing this.
At what point do you think you started to see Dumpstaphunk as a band that was a large focus for you after you played that first performance in 2003 [at New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival]?
It was toward the end of 2006 that we really became a full-time band. Prior to that we were definitely a part-time side project, and then that year, ‘06 we played Bonnaroo, which was a fun time. We played a late set in a tent from about two in the morning at Bonnaroo, and that was kind of a big, major step for us as a band, I mean because Tony [Hall] and Raymond [Weber] were playing with Trey Anastasio. They flew into Bonnaroo with him. He was on the super jam that year, and myself, Nick Daniels and Ian [Neville] were playing with the Neville Brothers, and they had played Bonnaroo that year. So we all had a free ticket to get to Bonnaroo. So we worked it out where we got Dumpstaphunk a slot — a late night slot that worked out, and then we played a set, and we had Skerik guest with us that night and it became a performance that was talked about for a while, you know. And that was one of the things that kind of kicked us in the ass, and we said “Wow this is really a badass band, let’s do this.” So toward the end of ‘06 we just went with it.
After Katrina it was all leaning towards us being a band. That show at Bonnaroo and other things kind of aligning themselves — it just kind of turned out the way it did and we ended up, here we are we have Dumpstaphunk, and this is our gig now, this is our main gig, and let’s try to make the best of it.
Your new album release was delayed a few times, could you elaborate on that?
It was. I think it was something to do with the label, we got a label called Louisiana Red Hot. They’re a regional company that does well with retail and stuff and they’ve got some great reach and that’s why we went with them. We put out our prior two records on our own, and you can get them online and you can get them where we were. You could find Dumpstaphunk at a show and you could buy a record, but for the most part, our records were not available to a lot of people that maybe didn’t know about us. But now we’ve got Louisiana Red Hot on board so we may have a longer reach to get to more people so they can know about our band. They [the label] had certain reasons for when they wanted to release it, they had certain dates. It was maybe going to be released in June or late May and then finally for real at the end of July.
Were there any ideas or concepts you wanted to get in on this album since it was your first in a while?
We just wanted to make some good music. We know that we do some things that a lot of other artists out there don’t do, we play pretty nasty, but we’re influenced by a lot of different genres, so we kind of wanted to mix a lot of the things we like. We like to rock out a little bit, we like the bluesy side, we like a little bit of everything, so we wanted to mix it all in. And we also wanted to showcase our vocals — the diversity of our vocals, because we have four people in the band that all sing, and we all have somewhat of a distinctive sound in our voices. But we all work well together, and we wanted to showcase that as well. And now we got Nikki, we got the female voice, that adds another thing to it as well. So that was something we really wanted to showcase.
We’ve got the funk, we know we can funk it out, you know let’s groove but let’s show some diversity here and there but let’s show them vocals off, you know?
Do you plan on playing with the Neville Brothers again anytime soon? Do you have anything in the works with them?
You know I have been doing some work with my uncles, Art and Charles, but I don’t know if there’s plans of them getting together. I’d love to see that, but I don’t know if there are plans of them doing it.
Dumpsta’s played some shows with Art and Charles, and we incorporate what we do and what they do, and we’ve just done some old-school Neville funk tunes and stuff. We’ve done a couple of shows in that configuration, and it’s been called “The Nevilles,” and it’s got four Nevilles: Myself, Ian, Art and Charles, and the rest of Dumpstaphunk. It’s a little something to keep that name going. My uncle Art’s still around, still playing, so we try to help out in that way.
Do you have any other projects you’re working on right now or on the horizon?
I’ve got some stuff, but nothing I want to mention just yet. But we always have stuff that we’re working on on the side. Everybody in Dumpstaphunk can do all kinds of stuff, but right now we’re trying to focus on the Dumpsta’ you know?