Introducing The Funk-filled Group FSQ
FSQ is an acronym for Funk, Style, Quality, and that’s exactly what they deliver. This is what happens when you mix a legendary D.J. and producer from The Funk Mob / nephew of George “Dr.Funkenstein” Clinton with Matt Coogan, aka One Era, Boston boy Chas Bronz and G Koop: producer, session musician and replay artist for the likes of Nelly, Drake and Ice Cube amongst others.. We caught up with the guys to find out more about their productions and celebrate their latest release “Better than Alright (Remixes)”.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your music, who or what are your main influences?
Funk, Style, Quality are the words behind the acronym of our group, FSQ.
Funk: we start with funk music as our main influence. Sa’d “The Hourchild” Ali is George Clinton’s nephew. I love George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic (P-Funk) so much, that in 1995, I declared that I would join the band by any means necessary. And I made it happen and wound up touring full time with the group until 1995. Because I was so young, Sa’d Ali was assigned to drive with me on tour and basically be my minder. So funk was the seed planted in 1995 that later formed our group officially in 2013.
We have multi-instrumentalists in the group like One Era (Matt Coogan), Chas Bronz (Tate Masimore), and G Koop (Rob Mandell) who can play anything funky and beyond. They all joined us at formation of FSQ in 2013. What is really great about any FSQ production is that you wind up with a lush sound when you stack up their individual musical contributions.
Style is the second word in our name and is important to mention. FSQ is versatile across styles. Today we primarily produce music in three styles. One of our big signatures is reggae tinged funk, which we label “Caribbean Disco”. We produce very much in the style of Sly and Robbie, when they were on a real monster grind in the mid eighties. Sly and Robbie had a big impact on new wave music and dance music overall during this period. They produced Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, Tom Tom Club, Gwen Guthrie, James Brown during this period.
Another style we go for is northern soul, the stomping 60’s soul music style of Motown and other Detroit labels. This is a really lush style of music and involves hiring lots of musicians, adding live drummers, horn and string sections.
Our third style is disco-funk. Which is related to the third word in our name, Quality, a huge principal for us.
We think to make a great disco record, you have to be really precise about quality and layer in the right elements from percussion, to interlocking guitars, pianos, the right vintage analog synths, and full orchestral sections. Sometimes it takes a long time to arrange the many musicians to produce a quality disco record like this.
For instance, it took us a year to put together “Ex Smokers”, a 12 minute long disco suite that stiches together many tracks from Soul Clap’s new album.
Another production like this is the rare FSQ disco remix of Nick Monaco’s “Babyface” which clocks in at over 10 minutes; we also produced a reggae dub version of that same track.
How did you first get into DJing / production? When did you know you wanted to be a DJ?
When I first got hooked on music it was 1983 and it was time when everything had a heavy dab of dance on it. Disco gave way to new wave, punk funk, hip hop, and everything was mixed up and fun. Duran Duran was the big first inspiration for me, and I didn’t not know yet that they got a lot of their sound from Nile Rodgers’ Chic and also from Motown / James Jamerson basslines. I was mesmerized by Duran’s underlying funk and because of it, I felt I had to get to work on making my own music.
My other favorites around this time were Cabaret Voltaire, Shriekback, Yello, Blancmange, Art of Noise – these artists heavily influenced me. So in 1984, for my Bar Mitzvah I got a Roland Juno-6 and the entire Yamaha Portasound home producer series including the CS-01 synth, also a Mattel Synsonics drum. My first production was called “Sick of It” and was made on this exact rig. From there, I never stopped producing.
Sa’d “The Hourchild” Ali is the DJ’s DJ of FSQ. He grew up in Newark, New Jersey and was friends with Louie Vega from childhood on. Sa’d took to DJing when he was 12 and was part of the famous Club Zanzibar scene. Eventually Sa’d moved to Atlanta where adopted the moniker Kool DJ Me and wound up working for Tommy Boy Records. He went on to work with a lot of other house music artists, including managing Larry Heard / Mr. Fingers. I only knew of Sa’d‘s work in P-Funk and I didn’t know he had such a deep history in house music, and hip-hop until we linked up again many years later.
Tell us about your local scene and what makes it special
We cover a lot of US scenes – Philly, Bay Area, Boston, Atlanta, and New York.
After years of producing, eventually the music I was making turned towards jazz-funk, pretty straight ahead, all instruments and recorded straight to analog tape. I found myself in Philadelphia working with jazz legends like Byard Lancaster and many other John Coltrane acolytes. But it was about 2003, and Diplo’s Hollertronix project was hitting in the Philly scene. Hollertronix reminded me of the eighties where all kinds of styles music were up in the mix. I knew I had to break out of the straight ahead jazz-funk thing. Philly and Hollertronix was really the inspiration behind transforming my group Fonksquish into the more dance oriented FSQ outfit. There was even a Hollertronix message board where I met many other producers, including our Soul Clap Records label mate, the Philly based Michael The Lion. He was known as DJ Apt One then and he pushed me to move my music forward. One Era was at many of these Hollertronix parties but we wouldn’t meet until years later via remix contest for local group Work Drugs.
In 2007, I moved to the Bay Area (SF / Oakland) and I was really excited by the mix of dance music and hip-hop I was hearing there. There was a local hip-hop duo, Foreign Legion, that had a really thick sample based sound. I found out GKoop was the producer behind the beats. I asked GKoop to work together with me to transform the sound towards the disco-funk you hear as the main strain of FSQ today. There’s so much funk in San Francisco and people like J Boogie, DJ B Cause, King Most, and Ozgood continue to hold it down. It is such a welcoming scene. I would frequent venues like Som Bar, Underground SF, 1015 Folsom, Monarch, Public Works, and many of the Burning Man related house parties in SOMA. Elbo Room is still going but is threatened by technology industry related housing development. Legendary party there is Afrolicious which was every Thursday night. I was always there!
New York is where it seems to all go down now for me. I moved here in 2013, yet I was reluctant to leave the Bay Area’s vibrant scene and be apart from GKoop. Once here in NYC, a friend, Chris Tarantino, introduced me to Soul Clap. Because they love George Clinton so much and we had the relationship to be able to put them with P-Funk, we did so. Also through Soul Clap we found guitar hero and disco wunderkind Chas Bronz who represents the Boston scene.
Soul Clap is now based in New York and I love that they are big supporters of local venues and co-founders of a really intimate club called Black Flamingo. In NYC, I can walk from club to club and rack up the miles and see all my friends play. It feels really familial. One night I started at The Lot Radio, then bopped down a few doors to Output to see Francois K at Deep Space, moved across 11th street to Kinfolk to see Darker Than Wax’s Mawkus, and finally over to Black Flamingo to hear our label mate David Marston. You can walk right across from Flamingo and wind up at the amazing Chinese restaurant Wei’s World. My friend ProjectMatt was holding down a crazy set that night I enjoyed over chicken dumplings. Lots of DJs go to eat and play at Wei’s.
There’s always too much to choose from in New York, whether it’s a European import or your local brethren, you really feel accepted here and there’s music just for your tastes.
My favorite NYC record labels here beyond Soul Clap are Razor N Tape and Bastard Jazz which can always be relied on for quality releases.
Talk to us about your upcoming / current release
We have several FSQ Caribbean Disco remixes coming up that we are excited about. One is for UK based Black Magic Disco featuring Lisa Cork Twiss, out via Pole Position Recordings very shortly; it’s called “Better Than Alright”.
We also put Caribbean style spin on Balearic legends, Afterlife, and our “How Does It Feel” remix for them is out now via Secret Life Music.
Recently we got with Jamaican David Marston and slicked out Kraak & Smaak’s “Smile” with that island vibe, that will be out via Jalapeno Records on the duo’s remix album in late June.
We are currently finishing a full length original FSQ album for Soul Clap Records – it’s called “Reprise Tonight”. It’s a concept album about going to a party – from the beginning of the night all the way through to the next day.
It features original Funkadelic bass player Billy Bass Nelson, George Clinton and his son Trey Lewd on a track called “Dancefloor Democracy”. Nona Hendryx takes a turn on “Peel Back” which is about when your mates spin out of the party at different parts of the night. Fonda Rae guests on a song called “11 AM” ; well you can guess what that is about.
You can also expect a compilation of our best FSQ remixes in the early Fall, while “Reprise Tonight” will be out near the end of the year, both available on Soul Clap Records.
What’s your greatest career high to date?
We recently had the pleasure of having vocalist Dolette McDonald perform with us at Soul Clap’s House of EFunk at Miami Music Week 2017 – that was certainly a career high. Dolette’s contributions to 80s music are limitless; she was part of Sting’s “Bring On The Night” band and movie, The Police, The Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson, and Juan Gabriel – and that’s just to name a few. She was the lead vocalist on an original FSQ track called “Shaking My Damn Head”, out now on Midnight Riot Records. There will soon be a remix EP of this single along with Yam Who remixes and a deeply funky Talking Heads cover, “I Zimbra”. She gave it all and brought down the Electric Pickle with our FSQ original cut, and other jams like “Burning Down The House”.
DJing at Ibiza’s Hostal La Torre recently was a pretty close 2nd to that party. The sun doesn’t set until 9:15 and there’s dusk for an hour after that. In front of the DJ booth there’s the setting sun over the Mediterranean. Epic!
This is an introducing piece, tell us something everyone knows and
something no-one knows.
I think everyone knows that Sa’d “The Hourchild” Ali and myself are associated with P-Funk and that we collaborated with Soul Clap to bring P-Funk and Nona Hendryx to their last two albums. Beyond that obvious fact, I really hope people learn more about the huge catalog of work from individual FSQ members One Era, Chas Bronz and GKoop.
For instance, GKoop – the first original member of FSQ beyond myself – is behind many of today’s hip-hop mega hits as a producer and co-writer.
This year GKoop co-wrote and produced Migos’ big Billboard 100 hit, “Bad and Boujee”, and a new one from 2 Chainz called “It’s a Vibe” that just was released.
In 2016, GKoop was on DJ Khaled’s “I Got The Keys”. GKoop was a part of 3 Grammy nominations in early 2017. He also co-wrote George Clinton’s “Ain’t That Funkin’ Kind of Hard On You” which Louie Vega featured on his album, “Louie Vega Starring… XXVIII” GKoop’s Wikipedia is THICK.
Chas Bronz has several projects that span disco labels like Nang (Transatlantic Disco Alliance) and he’s played bass and guitar on many records by DFA Records (Walter Jones).
If you could have made any dance record in history, what would it be and why?
Tough question. I’m a huge fan of Yello. Their first several albums I would have loved to been along side Boris Blank and Dieter Meier to helm production. Because we love them so much, we made an homage to them, called “Shades of Yello” available exclusively via the Crew Love promo. We even paid respect to Ernst Gamper’s cover artwork for Yello in this FSQ release.