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JUNKADELIC Waste not, want not

Junkadelic Brass Band
It’s been a long time coming, but Junkadelic Brass Band are finally releasing their first album. Travelling In The Footsteps marks the evolution of the group from their origins back in 2002 as the Junkadelic Collective, known for their DIY culture in re-purposing everyday items into musical instruments for a unique kind of ‘edu-tainment’, made unforgettable by their high-energy street performances. Now as the Junkadelic Brass Band the group has combined a smoking hot six-piece brass section which they’ll be taking on a national tour hitting Mojos Bar on Friday, September 14, The Prince of Wales on Saturday, September 29 and Clancy’s Fish Pub, Dunsborough on Sunday, September 30. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with founding member and creative director Ken Allen to hear the unlikely story of the group, how they turned their unique take on music into a record and why they are still as passionate as ever about the message behind it all.

Well after 16 years since your original formation as Junkadelic you are finally releasing an album! Why now of all times?

Although Junkadelic has been going as a percussion group for 16 years, the current “brass band” line-up has been together for just over six years. A full length brass band album has been in the pipeline for a while and we actually recorded it last year. I guess it’s just taken it’s time to finally blossom.

And for those who might not be familiar with you, what did Junkadelic look like in the early days and where did the idea originally come from?

We were originally an offshoot of the Sambanistas Percussion Group. However we played “FUNK on JUNK” and were much more inclined to perform for activist causes. We were also a much smaller and tighter outfit – there were just six of us to begin with. We played a lot of environmental street actions and social justice events, in fact the World Environment Day in Forrest Place in 2002 was our first gig. In the mid noughties we formed a funk band called Funk Junktion which still had Junkadelic as the percussion and vocal section and that was when we started writing actual songs, rather than just percussion arrangements with shouty choruses.

Looking back at that time what is more surprising, how different you are as a group now or how the passion and mindset you have as a collective is still going strong?

We spend much more time on the music these days. Our horn players are some of the best in Perth and the arrangements are really quite complex but we still have that funky street sound which I think really sets us apart from other funk bands. We have retained that raw energy but now we have sweet, and sometimes raucous horns on top.

So you have a knack for turning, well, junk, into musical instruments… what is the best work you have created?

Well my own kit has evolved to become a collection of five different buckets each with its own unique sound. We also have a big black bass barrel that has lasted many years of constant pounding, but the jewel of the Rhythm Section is the junk electric bass. It’s made from a wooden toilet seat, a floorboard plank and left over bits and pieces from an old broken electric bass.

In recent years you have included the brass element to become the Junkadelic Brass Band. How did that come about and was it a natural thing to include with your previous style of playing and performing?

Yes it was completely natural. Even as the percussion band we were inspired by New Orleans funk grooves and our noughties band Funk Junktion featured a large horn section. So becoming the Junkadelic Brass Band just meant that we could do the live stage show tunes everywhere – on the street, in parades, at school workshops and more. Everything we do now is ultra-funky!

You are heading interstate on a tour for this album and I was wondering… do you take all the ‘junk’ instruments with you on transit or make them anew upon landing?

If we are touring our stage show we pack my bucket kit up into the big bass barrel and then reassemble it when we get to the other side. When we tour remote areas in WA we usually have a few workshops lined up so we often raid their local tip and ask the participants to start collecting junk before we get up there.

What are you looking forward to about these upcoming shows and what do you hope people experience or take from shows like this that are a little different from regular gigs people might go to?

We are a very diverse band in that we can perform in many different ways. We hope that our album and touring stage show will showcase the best of what we do in that light. We have some amazing vocalists who are a part of the band on stage that we can’t really do on the street as much and they are featured throughout the new album too. We think we will surprise some of our older fans in how far we have come musically and we hope to make a bunch of new fans who just enjoy having a funky good time!

What’s next for the Junkadelic crew? Now you’re touring and releasing some recordings does it entice you to do more or does the size of such an achievement merit a bit of recovery time?

We have many more irons in the fire actually. We are launching our album in Sydney in January and Melbourne in March. We are currently recording some of our workshop tunes for a school audience and currently have a Six Seasons Concert show which we have developed under the guidance and encouragement of Noongar Elder Dr Richard Walley. We hope to record that with him in a studio next year and we are writing a whole new swag of party tunes which we also hope to begin road testing next year.  It doesn’t look like this will be letting up any time soon!

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