Amp Fiddler: He's a soul man

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Having played keys for Funkadelic from 1985 to 1996, and shared stages with the likes of Prince, George Clinton, Jamiroquai and Moodyman, we finally heard the debut solo album from Joseph “Amp” Fiddler in 2004. It was followed by the equally well received Afro Strut in 2006, and more recently his first album in the German record label Strut’s Inspiration Information series, which saw him collaborating with legendary Jamaican musicians Sly and Robbie.

Returning to Australia over the New Year period to play as part of the Days Like This! and Pyramid Rock festivals in January, he talks all things soul music and a bit more besides with ITM’s DuncanM.

You’ve played with a veritable who’s who of soul and funk over the years, but I was intrigued to see that you’re also credited with introducing the J Dilla to the MPC. True?

True it is! Dilla came to my house in Conant Gardens when he was just a teenager. He and T3 needed help with producing their demo because Dilla was “beatlooping” at the time with cassette to cassette. We had a group called Ghostown which was the first beat Dilla and I produced for the group of about 6 kids. Years later I introduced JD and T3 to Q-Tip and his career took off.

You’ve been playing in bands since the mid 80’s, but it wasn’t until 2002 that you released your first solo single. Was there a reason you didn’t strike out on your own earlier?

I had a solo record in 1990 called Mr Fiddler with my brother Bubz, so that was my first real record on Elektra Records. I was constantly writing and looking for new ventures because Elektra did not promote that record so I came to realize with “no Stress” that everything works in a divine order.

Presumably there’s more pressure on you working as a solo artist?

I love music too much to let pressure and or stress throw me off course. I have always been challenged when it comes to music rather it be a new session or taking on a new gig. I work well under pressure for some reason and I have been blessed to win.

Although you clearly take influences from a number of places, your music is most often described as soul music. Fair description?

Coming from Motown I would say yes, yes indeed. I like to sing in a soulful way over just about any kind of music and that I find challenging. So I look for new ways to create soul music whether it be funk influenced, jazz, hip hop, reggae, afrobeat or electronic.

With fellow Michigander Mayer Hawthorne blowing up so massively recently, where do you see the future of soul music?

I see an endless possibility for Detroit and Michigan for soul music and Mayer only helps in the equation to keep music from the Midwest alive. We are the future and I don’t see it stopping any time soon.

What is it about Michigan, and Detroit in particular, that has led to the production of so many talented and influential musicians?

It must be the water or women! Or the Winter freeze. Or the economy. Or… the politicians we’ve had lately, or unemployment. Or being in our basements all the time practicing. Could be collard greens and cornbread or fly cars with chrome wheels. Whatever it is, it sure is “funky”.

What albums are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations you can give us?

Basement Jaxx Scars, Elizabeth & the Catapult, Robert Glasper Double Booked, Mayer Hawthorne.

Last year you released the first album in Strut Records’ Inspiration Information series in collaboration with the legendary riddim twins, Sly and Robbie. How did that come about?

My manager ‘Tinku’ had a relationship with folks at Strut who offered an idea about the collaboration and of course I was excited about it being that I admire the work ethic and creative flow of the duo and we moved forward to create the sessions in Kingston which happened in about four days total, in finishing the tracks after which I went back to my basement for a week or so and finished vocals and overdubs.

You’re obviously no stranger to working with big name artists, but how was it working with two such amazing musicians?

I felt like I was back in the studio with parliament or prince. They were so on it and about the music. The kind of work ethic that was missing for me for a while. Bad ass fo’ sho. Total professional and irie mon.

10. Given the chance to do a similar project again, who would you most like to collaborate with?

Andre 2000.

When can we expect a new Amp Fiddler album?

I should be releasing some new joints beginning of the New Year followed by a new album.

Catch Amp Fiddler at the Days Like This! festival in January, as well as the following shows over summer:

Wed 30th Dec – Pyramid Rock, Victoria
Sat 9th Jan – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Sun 10th Jan – Days Like This!, Sydney

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