Welcome to Sui Generis!
Nikke Stiletto: We’re here with Mike Hicks of Mike Hicks and the Funk Punc’s! Mike Hicks is revered as one of the best in the diverse Funk and Soul music scene and international touring has lent him years of maturity that most young artists never get to experience. He has become “the” artist to watch in Nashville.
So you KNOW I’m going to ask you about how you came up with the name the “Funk Punc’s”? It stands for Funktional Punctuation, but how did you come up with that name?
Mike Hicks: For me, when I create music, I’m a lyrics first [kind of] writer. I started as a poet and I started writing songs. And the reason I started playing was because it was hard for me to communicate to musicians what I was hearing inside my head. So the heart of my music is lyric-based and when it comes to the band that I formed, they serve as, for me, the Punctuation to my phrases. So its like the musical aspect denotes the connotation of whatever the phrase is…it’s really just a statement of purpose. The band, they are the punctuation to the sentence, to the lyric.
[The term] ‘Funktional’ is speaking to just being purposeful in what we do. It’s not enough to just play and make noise and be loud. We really do try to serve a purpose through the music that we create and perform.
NS: I see there are a lot of members in your band! I remember reading that you sometimes have up to 18 members in the band, is that right?
MH: Actually, it’s up to 30.
NS: Wow! That’s a lot.
MH: Yeah, they most we’ve played with, as of yet, is I think 23, but [we have] the core of the Funk Puncs and then we have an extension of it called the Life Music Funkestra. It’s a 15-piece string section, horn section…we have steel drums, guitar, sometimes african drums. We’re typically anywhere from seven to 30.
NS: Wow! You guys just do it all!
MH: Yeah! [Laughter]
NS: [Laughter] Alright! Well, since it seems like you all can pretty much cover any genre of music, how do you feel about being bottlenecked into one genre of music?
MH: It frustrating. It’s very frustrating because what we do is “Life Music”. And I know [that] term gets thrown around now but we really do, as far as subject matter, cover everything from spirituality to relationships to friendships to student loan debt, to cell phone minutes.
MH: [laughter] I mean whatever life entails! We deal with life. And for me it’s frustrating to be bottled up because the genre’s that we normally are put into, the music doesn’t encompass the whole of life. I mean most people know that I’m a christian artist off top. And it’s not hard to hear gospel influence.
MH: But, you can’t be a gospel artist if you talk about relationships. And in the R&B world, a lot of R&B is mainly sex. And that’s not really what we do. So we find ourselves always being bounced around, back and forth. We just deal with life from a christian perspective.
NS: And it’s important to you to have a moral message in your music.
NS: With that said, how do you feel about mainstream artists and music?
MH: Whoooo! [Laughter]
MH: Ahhhh! Um…I will say this. I don’t feel like music as a whole is in the negative space that everybody says it is. I think we’re in the best time, ever, musically. There’s so much music, so many artists, so much great music that’s made, so much great music that’s out there. But with that being said, mainstream music is very frustrating because there is a very strong imbalance of what’s available and what’s presented. I don’t knock the artists who are over the top, but I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t party. That stuff doesn’t appeal to me. But it appeals to a number of people who do so it’s whatever. It’s just very frustrating to know that the things that I would relate to are typically not given that platform. And it’s very frustrating to know that the stuff that is presented for the masses, from a child to a senior citizen, all falls into the same box, really. And especially with, and I hate to make it [about] this, but especially with black music.
NS: Right. I can definitely understand where you are coming from with that.
So as far as indie artists and mainstream artists, do you feel there’s more representation of stuff you prefer to hear on the indie scene or do you feel that there’s just not enough people like Mike Hicks and the Funk Punc’s?
MH: [Laughter] I feel like the indie scene….well, a lot of my inspiration and a lot of who I am has come from the influence of independent artists. I love, the indie scene. To me the music is more daring, [it] takes risks, and it’s not always about the trend. I don’t listen to a lot of mainstream stuff, but then again I don’t listen to a whole lot of music at least not as much as you would expect from a musician. But I do love indie artists and the direction [in which] independent music, to me, is carrying music as a whole.
NS: What do you feel needs to or should happen in the music industry for there to be a change from what’s currently represented on the radio? Because, obviously, the radio only plays a certain type and a certain amount of whats out there. It’s a very small percentage. So what do you feel needs to happen?
MH: I think we need better outlets and platforms for a greater variety of music to be heard. There was one day where I was listening to the radio and within the span of an hour and a half I heard one song three times. No knock to the artist, but there’s so much [more] music out [there]! And I think that the people who make decisions about music should be people who DO music or it should be in conjunction with people who do music. Like, for instance, the head of Blue Note records right now is Don Was who is a phenomenal musician and producer and it’s because you have someone who loves music and does music that he’s able to take Blue Note and put out a Robert Glasper and a Derrick Hodge record and that type of stuff that’s not typical of what else is out right now. So it would be great to have more music minded people making decisions about music. I’m not mad at the business heads and the marketing guru’s and everything else, because we need, but it would be nice to see the focal point be music and progression and growth…you know. But it’s also a reflection of the culture as well.
NS: Yes that is true….
On your album “This Is Life” what inspired the track “Where Have Our Songs gone?”
MH: I love the music of the 70’s.
NS: Same here!
MH: And when I listen to music I usually start with Stevie Wonder, Al Green, Donnie Hathaway, even Walter Hawkins…everything from a certain time period. Their subject matter and content was so much richer and more meaningful to me. When I listen to [music] now, it’s appalling to know that it’s lacking the way that it is [now] when it comes to subject matter. ANd not to say that everything in the 70’s and the 60’s was deep and profound. There was foolishness back then as well. But there’s such an imbalance now. And I put it to you like this: Thirty years from now, when my grandkids listen to the music of this era, what is it that they will get [from our music] or think was going on with the culture at this time? So when I listen to stuff from the 60’s and the 70’s it gives me a more complete picture of what was happening during those times. Sure you had references to going out and enjoying your life, but there was also a really strong sense of community in the music. There was a strong sense of spirituality. I could tell listening to music of that era that the focal point was not always on self as it was the bigger picture and the whole. It’s just sad to me that we’re in the place we’re in as a culture and a society and our music doesn’t really speak to it as much.
NS: Right, I think that definitely goes back to what you said earlier and there’s so much more to talk about than sex drugs, and rock and roll.
NS: I think we need more artists and musicians and even record labels that are not afraid to go out and get that instead of saying ‘This is the norm’ or ‘This is what’s cool right now’…
NS: I notice that you had said, previously, that you were going to make a web series about the “This Is Life” album! Should we be looking forward to seeing that?
MH: Yeah, yeah, I just need to do it! [Laughter]
MH: I have so much footage and its something I want to do because, to me, it brings a different sense of appreciation for the record and the process. It was an expensive and long process but the way the record came about and the interaction between the musicians and the community of musicians I am blessed to be a part of in Nashville, it’s just a phenomenal thing. And then there’s certain things within the writing [and] the lyricism that I would love to be able to share with [the people]. There are some references, musically, throughout the record that are subtle odes to my heroes and I also like to tell where the songs came from and how they evolved. It’s just a matter of doing it! It will come soon!
NS: Well I’m definitely looking forward to it! I think it would be great. I think a lot of up and coming artists need to see that side of the music industry so they understand that it’s not just someone going into the studio and ‘making a record’ and that’s it. They need to see the other side of the business.
So my favorites on your album are Running, Debt/Sallie, and This Is Life!
MH: Wow, well thank you!
NS: And I’ve been thinking since you said this earlier..you have up to 30 band members…how do you all make it work? I mean there are bands with only 3 people and they just cant keep it together and they end up splitting up. How do you guys make that work?
MH: Number one, it’s bigger than the music. We enjoy the music, we love the music, the music is fun and the experience of a show is so much different. The record is one thing, I’m grateful for it, but the show is whole different animal. And it’s never the same show. But, it works for us because we really are friends and family. We hurt together and we rejoice together. I remember when we dealt with deaths of family members and a lot of stuff. It’s really a family thing. But even with that being said, my band members understand that family looks out [for one another]. So they know that I will do any and everything that I can to make it happen. It’s not always the most financially feasible thing to accomplish, but we work hard and we try hard. And the community of people in Nashville who support us are just phenomenal! They keep us going and we keep each other going as well. It’s not just my situation where I’m calling like ‘hey y’all I need you to come play this thing with me’. I get calls all the time now for recommendations on a bass player or a drummer or guitar player or a string section or a sax player, anything! And I always reach to my crew first.
NS: That’s great to hear! We always hear so many horror stories of bands “behind the scenes” and all that so I’m glad you all are more of a family rather than being just a band.
NS: So do you have anything you want to leave for the fans?
MH: On twitter its @FunkPunc. On Facebook its Michael B Hicks and Mike Hicks and the Funk Puncs. Instagram its Michael B Hicks.
Continue to support those that you feel. We do a great job of talking about the stuff that’s ignorant or the stuff we’re not feeling. Like, we make a lot of noise saying I can’t believe Miley Cyrus did this or did that, but we don’t talk as much about the stuff that we really do like. So I would just encourage people that if there’s something you’re not feeling then don’t give it the press!
And I tell people, if you dig what we do, it’s only because of the influence of those who make it what it is. Like my bass player, Eric. He’s got a band [called] the 911 Reporters. They’re incredible. So I tell people to check them out. Chantae Cann. She’s incredible. Snarky Puppy. I mean there’s so much good music that’s out there. So…search for it. Support what you like and there it is!
MH: Yup Yup!
*This interview is courtesy of Nikke Stiletto, LLC and is for entertainment purposes only.*