As part of the new Rare Sounds Funk & Soul Revival box set #2 out on Color Red (The inaugural box set “The Essentials” included Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, The New Mastersounds, and Greyboy AllStars), this month set includes a first time on vinyl treat: Breakestra’s Live Mix Part 1. We sat down with Miles Tackett from Breakestra to tell us how the band came about, how the funk and soul scene evolved at that time and his thoughts on the vinyl release of this very important recording.
Tell us about how Breakestera came about, how the scene grew organically globally?
I had been the guitarist, singer in a funk-rock trio called- Inclined – that I had started with high school friends in the mid-eighties and during that time I eventually fell in love with the true-school hip hop music I heard playing on KDAY here in L.A.. while I had inadvertently been exposed to some funk music growing up hearing my pops playing New Orleans music in a local party band & him playing records like Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew & even the fundamental funk rhythms in much of Hendrix’s music, hip hop’s sampling of funk, soul & jazz records in the late eighties that truly exposed me to that sound & those artists. Eventually, I incorporated some of the funk & soul-jazz sample loops I heard in hop hop tracks into the inclined’s live sets sometimes playing some of the fundamental grooves in jam/guitar solo sections. From being out and about in L.A. in the late eighties /early nineties era clubs & record stores promoting the Inclined’s gigs I eventually found out about underground hip hop & funky soul DJ parties. It expanded my love for all that music & culture tenfold & many of the local DJs I heard like Cut Chemist, Mixmaster Wolf & countless more exposed me to records that had not even been sampled. I was exposed to the b-boying culture to some extent and though I hadn’t learned the story of how hip hop and that dance culture evolved in the South Bronx it became apparent that the musical & dance side of hip hop was a natural fundamental for that culture from the beginning & I loved it.
Around 1992 my trio the Inclined got signed, released a record, and spent a few years touring. After a few years & some disappointment we disbanded and I again had the time to adventure around L.A. and reunite with the hip hop & funky rare groove DJ community I had lost touch with. Again I adventured out to whatever hip hop/funk parties I could find but it was surprisingly a little less active than years earlier. One night a friend brought me over to a small coffee shop where a couple record collector heads were spinning records sitting on a couch; spinning mostly obscure jazz & rare grooves for anyone who dropped in. After my second visit, I asked one if the DJs (MC Hymnal of hip hop group Dark Leaf who Mixmaster Wolf was also a member ) if they would be interested in me bringing in some musicians to play in between sets in the raised loft area. After the green light, I called up a variety of musicians I knew from over the years and asked if they were interested in coming to a freestyle funk jam session. I had in mind to base the jams around grooves/bass lines that I had picked up over the years sampled on hip hop records like “Give It Up” by Kool and the Gang. The first night at least five cats (Carlos Guaico, Josh Cohen, Geoff Gallegos, Todd Simon & Dave Chegwidden) who would become part of the initial incarnation of Breakestra showed up, and we had a great instrumental funk/loop freestyle session with sections where MCs would step up and we would create a musical space for them to do their thing. Eventually, a few more cats like Dan Ubick (you know his immense list of credits I’m sure) joined in. The night drew & grew over a few weeks to the point we had to find a larger location and give the party a name. Naturally, it was The Breaks & I named the house band the…..
How were the choices for what actually made it on the original recording? Were you doing a grip of songs and these were the best of the best? Give us an insight on that and what breaks you chose. Was there room for improv during the live show, or no?
The first couple of jams, I was pretty much the only one who knew the sample grooves. I’d give the drummer josh a tempo and maybe a pattern. But soon I started making Breakestra source cassettes for them to learn the groove and the horns to learn the head melodies. I would eventually just call out a song title going from one groove and we would go for it. Sometimes we were all ready, sometimes not, but it was always all good grooves. The only improvising was done in the way of soloists over those loops though I’m sure I would occasionally play an improvised bass line here and there. Around a year after developing the repertoire and by then fairly choreographed medley sets, I decided I wanted to capture it on tape. There were plenty more tunes in the arsenal, but it was the first time I was attempting to capture a nonstop live recording and I was limited on analog tape run time. I’m not entirely sure why I picked those particular tunes, but likely they were ones that I felt we sounded the best playing. I should also note Mixmaster Wolf, who had early on become one of the many resident DJs, had by that time been brought in to sing on a few times, and of course, MC in the more traditional sense as you hear on the mix. We had been a purely instrumental performance, but one of the party co-founders of the Breaks (MC Hymnal) had suggested that I bring Wolf in to try a Bobby Byrd or JB tune since he had a raw gruff sounding voice and knew all that catalog as a DJ damn deep.
Where was the best place you toured with Breakestra and could you share a tour story?
Too many places I loved playing on tour. But we did have an incident in Stockholm Sweden where the promoter tried to cancel the gig the night of and get out of paying the guarantee. We showed up to the venue in force and got that sorted out quick. One overzealous member had a blade behind his back ready to scalp! Who shall remain nameless (but he did start a great hip hop orchestra here in L.A.)
What are your feelings in regards to this being released by Color Red/ Rare Sounds to the next generation of listeners, diggers, and fans? Do you think it will inspire them to dig deeper? (We hope they do!)
Well, I have immense respect for Eddie Roberts on many levels, so I am very happy having this Breakestra recording come out on vinyl for the first time on his label. Yes, I do hope it inspires the new generation of diggers & listeners.
How does it feel to know that Breakestra has influenced creators/ musicians all over the world?
I don’t know to what extent Breakestra has influenced musicians and creators around the world but It is high on the list of rewards if any are.
Some may not familiar with the bonus track “No Matter Where You Go”. Can you talk a bit about that and how it came to be?
Pretty straightforward man. I had seen this lineage of funky soul bands from back in the nineties and around the planet up to the 2000s and wanted to pay homage and connect the dots to them.
Can you give us your best break on this record? One you’ll always get excited to hear/ play.
Easy… the bridge section of “Chameleon” by Herbie Hancock which I first heard sampled by Organized Konfusion on their first record and it always got me hyped! Carlos “Loslito” Guaico really came through on the keys with the string synth /Rhodes two-handed trick! Definitely my favorite section of the live mix part one.
Do you think there will ever be a time again like the period when Breakestera was doing the live mixtape? A sense of community that rose out of the common grounds and appreciation of the original music (records) and the funk/soul/jazz hip hop artists that collaborated together to build this influential movement.
I’d like to think so but I’m a little skeptical my friend.
Best memory from those early years.
Too many good memories.
Any words to those who have just discovered this record for the first time?
I hope anyone hearing this mix recording for the first time gets even a fraction of the excitement and pleasure that I felt when I first heard the sampled loops and original recordings played at a party by a funk DJ.