Metropolis All Areas
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
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 The
"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
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
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
And yet we keep hearing about Chicago having a renaissance at the moment...
"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
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
"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
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 don't stick."
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
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
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
"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 normal people."
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
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 here."
Trainspotting time. I asked Farley what would he be playing tonight?
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?
is. Praising the Lord, making music that gives God the credit he's due.
That's what's the beginning and end."