Farley Jackmaster Funk Interviewed
After an hour-and-a-half wait in a somewhat over-priced Manchester
bar, the first thing that strikes us about Farley when he finally arrives
is that the man is huge. I don't mean huge as in house legend. I mean
huge as in towering giant of a man, dressed in a remarkably showy blue
silk shirt with gold buttons and frilled cuffs, black pants and Karl
Kani boots. Luckily he's got a personality to match and he's extremely
easy to talk to. Or rather, he's extremely easy to get to talk to you!
We agree to do the interview in PWL studios before the photo shoot,
which is a joint affair: Jo's taking pictures not just of Farley for
us, but also of his new partner-in-crime Melanie Hughes for Farley,
for the cover of their new single 'Wait and See'. So we arrive at PWL
(where we've called in to use the dressing room for Melanie to sort
her hair out), we sit down on the couch (surrounded by various awestruck
PWL employees), and we begin the interview.
Farley, you're one of the survivors, aren't you?
"I'm one of the survivors?! Yeah..."
How does it feel?
"What, to survive or to be alive?"
To be one of the men most responsible for the domination of the world's
music scene by house over the past ten years...
"Yeah. It feels good, man, god has blessed!"
How old are you?
"That's a bad question! No, I'm just joking, I'm 34. I'm proud of my
age, I'm pleased that God's let me live 34 years."
So you're 34 years of age and you're one of the men that invented
a whole style of music. You must feel pretty at one with yourself?
"Well, all glory goes to God, I ain't got no need for glory for myself,
I'm just glad he's blessed me with being able to do music. That's good
enough for me."
You're better known in this country for your DJing rather than making
music. Is that something you're happy with or would you rather be better
known for the music you make?
"Whatever course success takes, I'm happy for it, however it goes, you
know? Because some people, they'd like to be blessed in whatever way
they can, and I'm one of those kind of people, who's happy with success
whatever that may turn out to be."
I wanted to know the background to recording with Melanie, who told
me she'd met Farley while working as a professional dancer at Sheffield's
"Well actually, when I first met her, she told me that she wanted to
sing, and she told me about other producers she'd been meeting and stuff,
and she told me about how the music industry goes, you know, and how
if you've got big boobs you're subject to getting licked on, not necessarily
to getting recorded in the studio, and when I first met her, I really
checked out her personality and she was really cool, and I just decided
that we'd try and give her a run, y'know, and see if we could come up
with something. And it's taken maybe seven or eight months for us to
get together and actually physically get together in a studio and try
to actually do it. Melanie is the artist, and the name of the song is,
'Wait and See'."
You're DJing in The Republic tonight. Do you like The Republic?
"Oh, yeah, it's a great club, a great club."
What are your favourite clubs to DJ at?
"I'd have to say, my favourite place to play is Miss Moneypenny's, Progress,
Tall Trees, and the Leadmill. Those are my favourite places over here."
And what about worldwide?
"There ain't many clubs around like there used to be! All of them are
shutting, you see, that's the thing. If I ever had to talk about my
best place to play, it was The Playground, but other than that, there
hasn't been that many other clubs to come around, but clubs are shutting
down by the moment, like you go to New York and all the clubs are shutting
down, so if I was to name my favourite place to play at, it would have
to be something retro, because it ain't many clubs opening any more,
it's all like one-offs in Chicago and stuff like that, those are really
good and big nights, but apart from that, there aren't a lot of clubs
And yet we keep hearing about Chicago having a renaissance at the
"Well actually, we are, but it's clubs like The Red Dog is still going
on in Chicago, and The Warehouse - it's a new Warehouse, not the one
of old - there's one of those open, and The Shelter; there's about four
or five clubs existing, co-existing right now, but as far as that one
club that's big enough to hold a lot of people and just take over, it's
not there. America is so much different, Chicago is so much different
because house music at the time wasn't on the radio, we had it all to
ourselves to play and to dictate what got played; the moment the radio
stations got used to it and it got sold, we no longer had that any more.
So we had no-one to dictate to the people the music which they were
going to be listening to. So it went back underground, so when it goes
underground, it gets smaller and smaller and smaller."
Now this to me raises a couple of points. First, the original scene:
why did house music come from Chicago? What was it about Chicago and
Chicago culture that made that come about?
"It wasn't about culture, it was just basically that God blessed somebody
to do it. Wherever it comes from, it's not about that particular city,
God blessed me to do it, I came from Chicago. That's the way it came
about, that's the only connection there is to it."
And then once it started to take off, you hear all these stories
about Trax and DanceMania, about people ripping each other off... "Well
we all ripped each other off, it's no secret to it. People need to tell
the truth: that's the business of music." You're talking about ripping
people off musically or financially?
"I ripped people off musically AND financially. Erm, it's nothing that
I'm proud of, but I'm a born again Christian, so I tell nothing but
the truth. Basically I ripped some people off, nothing that I'm proud
of, but growing up, growing in the business, and the one thing that
no-one should never want to be, in this business or in any other business,
is to be the number one person, or to be considered the number one person.
That's what makes you do all those things that you do, that old evil
thing that the Devil has you doing. From being number one, you want
to stay number one; from staying number one, you find yourself always
trying to be so far ahead of everybody else, to either rip their stuff
off or you make something like it, or you're looking for new ideas,
so wherever they come from you want to be the first one to steal those
ideas or come out with it yourself. So I never want to feel that pressure
of being number one again, I'm blessed, I know I'm blessed, and I'm
hanging about and God is letting me provide for myself and my family,
and I'm a happy man. I have my identity back."
So what about the new wave of Chicago labels, like Cajual, Relief?
"Cajual, I've got a lot of respect for them. And then I've got a lot
of not respect for them, they just throw out tracks with a 4/4 kick
on them, you know, it's getting to that point where when it first came
out, it was so creative, and the stuff came out was like, 'We gotta
have it!' But when you start releasing like, ten records a week or whatever,
all of them can't be good. It's like Strictly Rhythm, when they first
came out with their first couple, it was Aaah! It was phat! But you
know, five years later, they're still releasing twenty tracks a week.
How many of them are gonna stick, you know? And sometimes none of them
Releasing a lot of records isn't exactly something Farley himself
is known for - exactly how many records has he put out?
"In the last ten years, maybe 25 that came out, something like that.I'm
not as interested in releasing multitudes of records, as I am in trying
to release multitudes of quality records." Going back to Cajual a moment
- and grinding a personal axe - I wondered if Farley found some of their
more recent stuff a little soulless? "Well, that's because everything
is a beat track. Y'know, we gotta get beyond beat tracks at this point
right now, everything is just boom boom boom and that little weird sound,
and if we don't ever get past that, we won'tt ever get back to the realisation
about real music again."
So who do you really respect that's making music at the moment?
"Hmmm... I think I really like Masters At Work, simply because they
try to keep the real feel of the music IN their music, as opposed to
electronics and stuff like that; everybody, including myself, respects
real music. Masters At Work I really respect."
We talk a bit about the stronger soul influence on American house,
how a lot of British (and definitely European) dance music has yet to
overcome the hardcore/rave legacy:
"I think the soul part of it, for British music is, they didn't have
the church element, the gospel element, where the singers grew up singing
in choir since kids. That's where the soul part of it was really missing,
that's why the music here was always based on a sample, from Loleatta
Holloway or First Choice or whoever."
So do Americans do it better?
"I wouldn't say that, no. I would say it's a trade now. I just worked
with a keyboard player in Derby, outstanding. And nobody knows nothing
about the kid. There's so many people just can make music now, it's
not really just like black, American, or British, it's coming from everywhere."
If there was a special quality to US house, or your house music in particular,
how would you describe it?
"Well, basically, I'm always going to give it my feel, that's what makes
it special, cos no-one else can be me!"
Indeed they can't. Nonetheless, to a lot of people Farley 'Jackmaster'
Funk is still simply the man who made 'Love Can't Turn Around' - and
half of them don't know that he's not actually the big fat bloke on
the video singing (Daryl Pandy)! Has living that record down been difficult?
"No, I don't wanna live it down! It was the first British number one
house record, and if god blesses you with success like that you don't
want to run away from that success, and if that success becomes part
of like, pop culture now, then so what, it's pop. I never made the record
to do anything but to meet women, to be ahead of the next DJ that was
next to me and the competition, I never made the record to come overseas
or whatever. It was one of those things where, God bless, I made the
track, and no-one can ever really say they know how big their track's
gonna be... of course I was surprised by the success. You never know."
I asked Farley to describe being 24 and doing this record, and it
suddenly going massive and launching the birth of a whole new worldwide
music phenomenon... could he describe how he felt?
"Stupid, big-headed... to do it again would be to appreciate it and
to not let it blow my head up like I let it do in the past, and learn
that you know, everyone walks on the same planet, all men take their
pants down the same way. I went through a real ego state thing, which
I had to really learn about and focus on, you know, so what? You've
made a hit record. Big deal."
What's Daryl Pandy doing now?
"Daryl? Me and Daryl are separate entities. Daryl is doing his thing,
I'm doing mine." Do you keep in touch at all? "We keep in contact. We
would like to, you know, work together again, but in the circumstances,
via attitudes, it doesn't always come off! Daryl's a God-sent child,
but sometimes some things ain't as smooth as they could be."
All this Christian business was becoming a bit of a recurring motif,
so I wanted to know when the Christian thing had come about?
"This happened in 1990, when I was glad to have five dollars in my pocket!
And that humbling experience came real quick. Basically, I got tired
of house music. You try being in the forefront of anything: by the time
everyone else catches on, you're tired of it. And if I had to turn my
machine on one more time and put a 4/4 kick drum on it, in them days
I'd rather have jumped out of the window. I didn't want it, I didn't
want to do it. It was too much, you're trying to be creative and I tried
to put a different beat with things and when it came out people didn't
accept it, they were like 'He's lost it.' So I took to doing rap music."
But now he's back to doing house again - the new single is very much
a house thang.
"This thing here is another separate entity, it was a project that I
took on with Melanie. You see I meet so many people that are trying
to do different things, and they don't really have any avenue to do
it. They're really reaching out to do something and you know, they're
working in HMV, they're working in the petrol station, so when I saw
her and I met her, she was ambitious enough to say, I want to sing,
and as far as being vocally trained, she's not a vocally trained singer,
but she's someone who is ambitious enough to keep trying, to keep bugging
me when are we gonna do this, when are we gonna do this? And we've finally
gotten in the studio and gotten something done and it's really good."
Would you rather do it like that, than get in the studio with some famous
diva like Jocelyn Brown, Loleatta Holloway, etc?
"Well I've had Loleatta Holloway in the studio! Actually what I do enjoy
doing is whatever the Lord blesses me to do, whether it's working with
Loleatta or working with someone who's not trained or whatever, but
I do get more gratification in giving the God the glory when you work
with someone like this who's had no vocal training, someone who I met
in a club that she dances at, and I get a chance to show that I have
one as well. When she walks up to me, I'm supposed to be like some God
of house music, I'm supposed to be like get away, you can't touch me,
but instead we sat down and had a conversation, you know, just everyday
So that's what it's like working with Melanie - but we had to know
what it was like working with Loleatta Holloway?
"Oh God, that's a whole other story. That was like pulling teeth. Basically,
she smoked too much in those days, when we met in the eighties, and
she just didn't have it like she used to."
Had Farley himself been at all star-struck?
"Oh man! To work with Loleatta Holloway, that's what it was all about
for me, I mean, 'I'm working with Loleatta Holloway?!'. And I mean,
oh man, it was just one of them things, but you see that's when I woke
up, and I looked at the situation and thought, no-one's a star, the
only stars are up in the sky. And there's only one star that shines
out brighter than the rest of them. So I don't even look at that situation
any more. If I was to work with George Michael or anybody, he's just
like I am, he ain't no different. You can be blessed and you can be
talented in what you're doing, but it's no difference, it's no reason
why we should go goo-goo over no-one."
So who had Farley most enjoyed working with?
"I'd say everybody, because everybody brings their own personal thing
into the business, and you have to really sift through it to find, you
know, don't take that person personally, but come in to work, because
this is business, you're not coming in to make friends with this person,
you're coming in to work."
What about other DJs that youu've worked with? How do young British
DJs deal with meeting Farley 'Jackmaster' Funk, the legend - and how
do you deal with them?
"The biggest influence I've had in England was from this guy, he wasn't
known to anyone as a DJ, and this was right here in Manchester, I played
at this club one Wednesday, Thursday night at a LuvDup party. I came
in and I had my records and I still had the ego thing, and I came in
like, I'm the headliner, I'm going to throw down, and everyone's going
to accept what I do, right? So I played, it was rammed, and the people
were on this level right here, and I'm thinking they're really into
me. So this kid, who's just a warm-up DJ, comes on, he ain't been DJing
nothing more than a year, and he puts on the first record and everybody
in the place takes their shirts off and goes crazy! After that man,
I said, you gotta study, you're bringing your feel to them, but you've
got to find out what makes these people tick as well. You're coming
in and doing your thing, but you gotta find out what they tick to, and
if you can add something to that, you got a good night. If these people
come and dictate a whole set of their music and inflict it on people,
and they ain't moving to it, it ain't good. Because the punters pay
their money to come in, you supposed to make them enjoy themselves!
You wanna educate them, but at the same time you want them to have a
good time. And to educate them, sometimes you just gotta give them a
little bit of yours, and a lot of theirs, because that way they go,
oh, what was that one record he played? And that way they notice it.
But if everything you play is all yours, they go, that was rubbish.
So I've learnt a lot here, from people like Smokin Jo, Angel... I've
learnt so much from just being here and learning stuff from other people
Trainspotting time. I asked Farley what would he be playing tonight?
"In my bag I got a hundred percent bag, and I got 25% of each sort of
music, so if the crowd's going that way, I can go that way, and then
I can go a little bit back my way. I have to protect myself, to make
sure that I see people having a good time. I want to hear someone whistle!"
We talk some more about house music for a while, in particular, people's
allegations that it all sounds the same, that it lacks originality,
to which Farley rebutts,
"There ain't nothing original at this time. There ain't one chord you
can play that ain't been played before. Whatever sounds you use, subliminally,
they've been used before, and you've heard them before. So yeah, house
music takes elsewhere. But so does anything else. You could be a jazz
player and hear a chord, you think yeah, I know what I could do with
that. So you put a seventh on it, put a ninth on it, make it sound different.
But the original sound, it comes from somewhere else."
What about jazz? Everything seems to be going back to jazz at the
moment, from techno to deep house to drum'n'bass, even indiepop, everything's
going back to jazz. Is jazz the ultimate end of the millennium music?
"No. Gospel is. Praising the Lord, making music that gives God the credit
he's due. That's what's the beginning and end."
Jackmaster Funk Biography
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