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The B in b-boy stands for break. To get to the root of understanding the music we get down to I sat down with the Soul Investigators, the Finnish funk and soul sensation that’s behind b-boy classics such as “Holdin’ On”.
We had a great talk with Jukka and Sami, the drummer and the basist of band who also have groups like Cold Diamond & Mink and the High Society Brothers. They also run the notorious and highly internationally recognized record label Timmion based in Helsinki Finland. We recommend you’ll read all the way to the end to catch their latest single as well ;).
How did the Soul Investigators get started?
Jukka: During our college time we were on the same music classes with Sami. We had a few projects first but in 98 we did our first things as the Soul Investigators. Pete Toikkanen with a metal and garage rock background got involved. He was putting together a surf band, which somehow turned into a ruff funk band. Antti Määttänen played organs as well.
What about your record label Timmion?
Sami: We did a few singles as an imaginary label Jive but in 2000 we started releasing material as Timmion. For a long time it was just private releases, for the past 10 years it’s been a bit more professional and especially the last three years we’ve started to have a more steady pace in releases. We’ve also started to play a lot more than ever before. Our studio is now on point so we sit there a lot of nights, play and put songs together.
Jukka: The name Soul Investigators is used when the original line up with Pete and Antti are there as well. Cold Diamond & Mink is with me, Sami and our guitarist Seppo. The High Society Brothers is like my little brother’s band, which has been playing for artists such as Willie West. We have a bunch of other vague ones as well.
Sami: Maybe it’s even a little intentional confusion. Everything is made so marketable and branded nowadays that we like to create a little mystery behind our releases. More fun that way.
Who are your inspirations?
Sami: We started collecting records pretty early so different kind of music has always played a big role. Previously it was foundational funk bands like the JB’s and the Meters and so on. Nowadays our influences might come a little more from different weird 45s with something crooked and off going on. It’s more private presses and rare stuff. Our mission is not to make the biggest commercial hits but to make records that are respected by people who love that sound, different sub cultures such as record collectors or even the b-boys.
What kind of a process is making a funk song? Where does it start from and how does it get pressed all the way to a record?
Sami: Everything starts with a great beat, a groovy baseline and good chords. It has to have a good flow or otherwise it won’t work. The bass and drums have to be in harmony, that’s maybe the most important. After that spice it up, add a break or two and put it on tape.
Jukka: Our new album with Ernie Hawks is a great example. We came to the studio and started jamming. After the time was right we started recording. Basically as a genre of music funk is pretty simple but it can be done in very different ways. If you think about James Brown’s approach it was all about rhythm. Then again bands like Tower of Power with more of a jazz background approached funk very differently. Funk can easily get pretty cheesy so it’s very important to have your own style.
Sami: Our way of making music is pretty time consuming. But it always adds more feeling to the actual records than if it was all pre composed and just played from the notes. Every member of the band brings something to the song, making a song is a collective event.
What’s the difference between the new funk vs old funk? Do you think there’s a difference in the sound?
Jukka: I think the best music of all times was done in the 60’s and 70’s. That era had the best studios, producers and labels. At least for our type of sound the music industry flourished. I don’t really think we’re doing old music. For me funk and soul music is supposed to sound like this. In classical music they play the same way it’s been played for like 500 years.
Sami: To be honest as far as funk music produced with the modern technology, I haven’t heard too many that I liked. Of course that’s a personal opinion and my problem completely.
What’s your definition of funk? Does one exist?
Jukka: Soul is easier, it’s self explanatory. Funk has to have some dirt to it. A huge barrel of fish heads. But there’s no restrictions and limitations to funk, it can be very free and open. So more than the technical playing ability it’s more of a feeling.
Holdin’ On is a definite b-boy classic. Tell the story behind the song?
Jukka: It was also a time we were just jamming at the studio. Once the album came out it took a little time for us to realise it started making noise in the b-boy scene too. It wasn’t really made for any particular scene, we don’t really work like that. Suddenly we just realised dj’s had started to play it in battles.
Sami: We started to notice it on our gigs pretty fast. Suddenly b-boys started to break during our shows. Nicole started inviting them on stage too. We might jam the tune for like 15 minutes while b-boys rocked the stage.
The Soul Investigators in Montreal with b-boys on stage. In case the video don't work you see it here: https://youtu.be/VSyF22j1Nzc
Tell us about the Ernie Hawks & The Soul Investigators album that’s about to come out.
Sami: It’s now been done and it’s coming out during this year. A lot of percussions, flute and breaks on it too. Pretty much the same core group, one song at a time sessioning at the studio. We have ten songs for it now and let’s see how many will end up on the final album. We’ll also have to see which songs we’ll put out on 7” after the Scorpio Man. Maybe you can help with this too hahaha.
Where can the readers find more on your stuff?
You can check our social media, Facebook and instagram, we update them pretty randomly though. Our bandcamp site is where you can order a lot of our material.
Check the links to learn more on what Timmion is about:
Here's the latest single by the Soul Investigators: Give It Back
-Focus / bboydojo.com