Interview: Ivan Neville

Ivan Neville is a legend well beyond New Orleans. From Nov 2nd thru 5th, he and his band Dumpstaphunk, Anders Osborne and a slew of special guests (Keller Williams, Amy Helm, Luther Dickinson, John Kadlecik and more to be announced) will hit the East Coast for the “HeadCount Participation Tour.” This unique pre-election concert series, presented by Magic Hat, aims to make the upcoming election a true celebration of democracy, while also getting fans to think about how their votes can impact New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. HeadCount and Jambands.com sat down with Ivan to talk about the upcoming tour, recording with Flea, and his favorite New Orleans-related topic: The Saints! (The tour will visit Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York. For more information or tickets please visit www.NolaFunk.com)

Dumpstaphunk and Anders Osborne are playing a few shows as part of HeadCount’s Participation Tour.  What is the Participation Tour and how did you guys end up getting involved?

Well basically—first of all any time you get a chance to play, you know, no matter what—you play.  And especially with our fans, and then in conjunction with Anders on the field as well, that just makes it all the more special.  And now you add in the fact that now it’s also to promote voter registration and things of that nature, it’s obviously a slam dunk.  It’s a great reason to be out there playing.

So how does a tour like this help raise awareness about voting and about New Orleans in general?

Well you’ve got guys like Anders and our band who are kind of making noise about the city and out sharing the New Orleans vibe all over the place, and be all—as performers and songwriters you gotta, you have a chance to say things sometimes.  So, we say things in our music, and also you get a chance to be a little vocal, as well as—not only in the songs, but we get to say a little something extra by participating in something of this nature.

Cool.

And promoting is using your voice.  You got a voice, use it.  And we’re blessed to get to do that.  You know what I’m saying?  We get to use our voice.  So basically, it’s promoting the fact that—everybody, use your voice.  You got one, use it.  Don’t stop complaining, use your voice.  You know what I’m saying?

Definitely.  So, I’ve seen Dumpstaphunk playing at a bunch of, what could be described as Jam Band-oriented festivals over the last few years. Do you think that you guys and other New Orleans acts in general have gotten a lot of love on that scene?

Oh yea yea yea, absolutely.  That scene has given us a big audience.  When you have people who are music lovers, you gotta dig that.  You know what I’m saying?  People appreciate music, they appreciate all genres of music, it’s kinda cool to get to be a part of that scene.  So, we love the fact that we’re welcome to many of these festivals, along with a lot other New Orleans bands.  We get to share what we do, so it’s a blessing.

Is it different playing for crowds outside of New Orleans?

I guess so, yea I guess so.  When you play in New Orleans, people know what to expect to a degree.  So I guess that factor is in there, when you play outside of New Orleans.  A lot of people don’t know what to expect sometimes.  So, it’s more a treat to them or more of a surprise and whatnot.  In New Orleans they kind of know what to expect, but it’s still a blast either way.

Awesome.  So I know that when you guys first started Dumpstaphunk full time, you had to abandon some other projects.  Do you think the band has been able to come into its own since then?  How are things different now since you all first started out?

We have, yes.  We have evolved in many different ways.  We have, over the past year and a half to up to 2 years or something, we have had a new member, another drummer that came into the picture.  We started out with a guy named Raymond Weber and now we have a young lady by the name of Nikki Glaspie, she’s a member of the band and she’s been with us coming up on 2 years.  So that’s changed some of the dynamics of what we do.  And also, we’ve evolved as far as our music.  I mean, we hung on as a funk band, and we all definitely funky.  But we all influenced by many other different genres and music, so recently been merging a lot of other new styles into our thing—not intentional, but it just kind of happens, you know?  And then, we’re now working on a record that we’re hoping to release by the beginning of next year.  We’ve been working on it for a while actually, we’ve been working on it for quite a while.  We’ve been doing it like piece meal.  We’d go into the studio for a few days here and there, when we’re off the road, and we write some songs and record some songs, and then we leave it at that and then we come back a month later and we got 2-3 days off and go back into the studio.  So we’ve done this off and on since—I mean we started this project in December of last year and we’ve done a little bit here and a little bit there.  We’ve probably actually recorded probably 3 weeks worth of stuff in about a 7-8 month time period.  So, we’ve been in the studio probably actually 3-4 weeks total in that period of time, it’s just not been in a row.  And this is how we’ve been making this record.  And we’ve been going into the studio—some of the stuff we write on the spot, some stuff we had an idea and then turn it into what it can become, Dumpsta mode.  And it’s mostly different from some of the stuff we’ve done, so I hope people dig it.

 I know Flea was watching you guys at Bonnaroo this year, and there was some talk about him maybe helping out on the new album.

Ya, well you know what, he happened to be in New Orleans right before Bonnaroo, maybe a couple weeks before that.  And we went around, got some food and stuff, and we ended up bringing him into the studio and we got him to play a little bit on the songs.  So right now we have him on a song that’s going to be a part of this record.  So we got Flea playing on a tune, so that’s pretty cool as well.  But that was awesome that he was at Bonnaroo man, that was killer that he came to our set.

The first time I ever saw Dumpstaphunk was when I was a student back at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, in 2008.  I was a student in Steve Reynolds Media Arts class, and he brought you guys in to teach us what the funk was and…

Oh god, Yea, Steve Reynolds, yea, yes I remember him.  You were a student?  You were in that class?!

I was in that class, yea.

Get the fuck outta here, that’s crazy.

So I guess I just want to ask you, what is the funk?

 The funk is where the notes are not. (Laughs) The funk is the spacing, the space between the notes.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s what the funk is.

Other than funk, are there other styles of music that you enjoy playing?

We play a little rock and roll, we play some blues—it’s all in there.  A little gospel, it’s all mixed in there in what we do.  In our band, we’ve played with all kinds of different folks.  The people in our band have played with—like Tony has played with Harry Connick Jr., he played with Trey (Anastasio), he
played with Dave Matthews solo project, he played with Emmy Lou Harris, you know what I’m saying?.  I’ve played with the Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Robbie Robertson, and the Neville brothers to name a few.   You know what I’m saying?  You got a guy that—Nick Daniels has played with Etta James, Boz Scaggs, the Neville Brothers, Wild Magnolias.  Nikki Glaspie, she played with Beyonce and with the Jennifer Hartswick Band, and Cee Lo (Green) to name a few.  We’ve all played in, and enjoyed many different styles of music.  That’s why the name of our new record is, we’re gonna call this record Dirty Word—because we look at funk as a dirty word.  Not only in the literal sense, “it’s funk, it’s dirty”; just when you name your band Dumpstaphunk you tend to either assume you play funk music or they say, “What’s the name of your band?”  “Oh, the name of our band is Dumpstaphunk.”  “Oh, what kind of music do you play?”  Wow, it’s kind of funny.  And when you go to register a song, there is no genre called funk.  There’s other—there’s rock, there’s R&B, there’s pop, but there’s no genre that’s funk.  So, we want to call this record Dirty Word.  It’s funk being a dirty word and it’s funk being maybe a typecasting thing.  This record, there is some funk stuff on there, it’s gonna be some funk shit, all that.  But, you know, there’s also some other styles of music that we gonna incorporate into this new record, so that’s why we gonna call it Dirty Word.

So, between Katrina, the oil spill, and now Hurricane Isaac, things have been kinda rough for New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana over the past few years.  How do you think voting and civic engagement in general can benefit the people of that region?

Well, voting can only help.  Like I said earlier, you got a voice, you have to use it.  And you can see them talk about things and how bad things are.  And sometimes have been worse than other times.  We’ve had tragedies, natural disasters, and some manmade things going on.  So, as a people, you must use your vote.  If you’re not voting, if you’re not registered to vote, you’re not using your voice.  Basically, that’s the only way you get—if we all said what we felt, and it was heard, maybe something would be done about it.  That’s just my feeling—you got a voice, you got to use it.

What influence do you think that New Orleans music has had on today’s jam bands and just modern music in general?

The Meters were pretty much a jam band a long time ago, when they were doing their thing, when they were in their hay day.  They were jamming out, you know?  And the whole idea of New Orleans music, as far as what it is.  And you know, the vibe—the street vibe; it’s like a party waiting to happen.  You look at the brass bands, you grow up hearing these sounds in the streets, and you want to just pick up your instrument and play.  And a brass band music typifies that, because it’s just like a bunch of horns sometimes playing a actual part, but a lot of times all doing different stuff at the same time and it’s all working together.  I mean, they’re jamming out.  That stuff comes from probably from back in the day, you know with the Dixie Land thing.  So obviously, The Meters has influenced pretty much anybody I know that’s of a certain age through either hearing it second hand or hearing it on a sample or whatever.  I mean, everybody is influenced by something New Orleans.  I’m blessed to have been born here.  To continue to try to spread that New Orleans thing around.  We got the best food and the best music in the world.

That we do.

And we got some good people as well, you know?

On a lighter note, what’s wrong with the Saints right now?  Is there anything we can do to make the playoffs this year?

(Laughs) We need our coach man.

I know.

We need our coach.  Our guys got to step up obviously, they gotta step up.  We don’t have our coach.  We don’t have our true leader.  We don’t have the guy that led us to the Super Bowl.  The guy that gave us the last 3 seasons that we won with 12 games or more—the last 3 seasons.  That guy was important, and it was a shame that they suspended our coach for the entire season.  I don’t think that was right—I think he cheated a whole city, a whole fan base out of a fair shot by doing that.  They could’ve fined that guy some money or some games, but not a whole season.  You don’t do that to the whole franchise—people that’s putting money into the pockets of the league.  You know?  C’mon man.  It doesn’t make any sense to me.

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