J A Z Z M O P O L I T A N M A G A Z I N E
NOTE: The following article appeared in the Fall '96 issue of On The One Magazine.
New Orleans' phat funksters Galactic have recently released their first CD, enhanced for your Mac or PC, on San Francisco's Fog City Records. Coolin Off, a comprehensive audio and video collection, features their diverse musical talents, everything you ever wanted to know about the band, a brilliant series of illustrations by hometown artist Tom Lanaux, and even a special issue of OTO about the sounds of the Crescent City. Since the majority of the band was raised in the historically musical city, their sound is very much a part of that.
"We’re rooted in the tradition of James Brown and the Meters and that kind of thing - ensemble funk," says drummer Stanton Moore. "You know, old school ensemble funk, and then trying to take it to another level from that. We like to go far deep into the roots, and then come out of it."
"The key to New Orleans music is improvisation and spontaneity, and we try to keep that as live as possible without being repetitive and copying," says singer Theryl deClouet. "Mainly we try to get in here and hash out something that’s similar but very different. We just try to emulate, in some way, to pay tribute. When we're doing Galactic, we try to make it a hodge-podge of eclecticity."
"Coolin' Off" does a good job of exhibiting the spontaneity and "eclecticity" of Galactic. The entire album was recorded in the band’s house over a period of five days with producer Dan Prothero. It features everything from their well-known funk songs to blues and excerpts with a more rock-ish feel. Four of the tracks were done improvisationally. "One of them, ‘Doo Rag’, was our second day in the studio," says bassist Robert Mercurio. "We just walked in. I started playing the bassline, Stanton started playing the drums. Everybody just kinda picked it up. We were jamming for about five minutes on that. And then the horn players walked in and just started whipping it out. And it came out really nice."
"That's the best thing about the band," adds deClouet. "When we get together it’s just kinda like telepathy. We call it a mutual admiration thing. But everybody just has this kind of basic instinct. I’ve never had to tell them 'break it down'; they instinctively know when to break down, when to rise, when to feel."
Needless to say, their live shows are a good time. Since their first gig during Mardi Gras '93, Galactic has played in the funkiest venues New Orleans has to offer; they also took part in this year’s Jazz Festival. The band opened for Johnny "Guitar" Watson about a month before he passed away. "We lost a great talent," laments deClouet. "I’ve been knowing Johnny for like twenty-something years. Johnny spent a lot of time in this town. I met him through Art Neville, and they were the rhythm section for Larry Williams when he had ‘Boney Maroney’ in the ‘50s. People come up to me and they still remember that show we did with him at the House of Blues, because we were real hot that night. The energy was real high, and then Johnny came on. We set ‘em up and he mowed ‘em down. He said we were real funky and that’s kinda like a compliment from the guy who was there when funk was invented."
Funk fanatics throughout the country will be able to catch Galactic on their tour late this summer. If you can’t wait until then, do the next best thing: stick "Coolin' Off" in your CD-ROM.
Copyright © 1995 Fog City Productions. Design by Fog City Graphics.