When it comes to incorporating live instruments into a breakbeat composition, the Washington D.C.-based quartet Fort Knox Five (Sid Barcelona, Jon Horvath, Rob Myers and Steve Raskin) are masters of organic funk. Their amalgamation sound embodies hip-hop, reggae, funk, soul, rock, indie, Latin, world music, and of course an expansive vault of electronic music. You can hear these influences in their original music, remixes, DJ mixes and across their imprint, Fort Knox Recordings. Check their genre-jumping Funk The World series of DJ mixes for reference, which they offer up for free via their Mixcloud page.
On March 9, Fort Knox Five and their record label posse will embark on the “Rhythm & FX” tour, named after All Good Funk Alliance’s latest EP, with a few of their closest compatriots, Thunderball and All Good Funk Alliance. The tour runs through March 24 and will have the foursome entertaining dancefloors on a four-turntable set up alongside “The Ambassadors of Style” known as Thunderball. Also noteworthy is their big Ustream.TV broadcast live from Beatport HQ in Denver on Friday March 16 from 3 - 5 pm (MT) with Fort Knox Five, Thunderball and All Good Funk Alliance. If you get the chance, go to a show—these guys are responsible for an arsenal of floor-rocking output and definitely know and thing or two when it comes to making the party kids bounce.
“Rhythm & FX” EP
Home Town: Washington, DC.
Currently Living: Washington, DC.
Origin Of Name: We came up with the name Fort Knox Five because our studio has always been called Fort Knox. There are actually only four of us, but five sounds better than four…Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Jurassic 5, Jackson 5, MC5.
E-Slug: We love utilizing SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Twitter and Facebook. Also Topspin is one of our favorites.
Weapon Of Choice: Two Technics 1200 MKII turntables and a Rane TTM57 DJ mixer. Still need the feel of vinyl.
Est. Miles Traveled Per Year: Anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 miles a year. Love my Star Alliance!
Gigs Played/Nights Out Per Year: At least 100 plus gigs a year—all over the world.
Source Of Power: We cull on so many different sources for inspiration. We love hip-hop, reggae, funk, soul, rock, indie, Latin, world music, and of course a lot of forms of electronic music.
Music and design are the two ways we can truly express ourselves. Sight and sound is everything to us. We treasure our hearing and make big efforts to protect it. Hearing our music clearly is the way we want it to sound. A good affordable set of headphones can make the music sound the way it is supposed to.
What life activities are made better when listening to music? Talk about the last time you enjoyed one and the other.
Pretty much everything in life is great with music—from hiking in the woods to snowboarding on a mountaintop. Music is something that everyone in the world has access to, it makes life better.
If you could send advice via a fortune cookie to up-and-comers, it would read:
Stay true to yourself and great things will follow. Your lucky numbers are: 188.8.131.52.5.
What is a song that inspired you to create?
There are so many songs that inspire us to create. We love everything from funk and soul to hip-hop to punk rock to Latin to reggae to indie and lots of electronic music. There are lots of classic rock songs that inspire us, as well. With so many influences and inspirations it is hard to think of just one. We love to take bits of inspiration from numerous songs and create something from that.
What (type) music makes you reach for the headphones? What (type) mood makes you reach for the headphones?
After completing a song it’s great to have a listen in headphones. We always give a song the “boombox” check and the “headphone” check. If a song sounds great on a crappy boombox, then you are in pretty good shape. After that, we check it on a good pair of headphones for last minute mixing ideas. The SOL REPUBLIC line has a great bass response. If the bass feels too heavy in the headphones we can roll it back a bit. A good headphone can also be a savior on an airplane…especially if a crying baby is near.
Tell me about your most memorable night out.
We have had so many memorable nights performing. It is like a dream come true to perform to a big receptive crowd. Our favorite place to play, and always a truly memorable experience, is Shambhala Music Festival in early August. It is a magical festival that focuses heavily on DJ culture. All of the big dogs play there and everyone hangs with each other. The gig itself is as good as it gets. We have played six out of the last seven years, and look forward to getting back to the Salmo River Ranch where it is held in beautiful British Columbia. We also love Burning Man. Burning Man is pure magic! Amazing gigs and art that is out of this world. It is a life changing experience for all that go.
Tell us about a specific event or period in your life that is linked in your mind to a song/album.
When we were finishing our debut album, Radio Free DC, it was right in the middle of the ‘08 election campaign. The country was involved in several wars with no end in sight. We made our song “Funk 4 Peace”as a protest song for all of the senseless conflicts that were happening around the world. We made a viral video as well. It is a song that truly represents Fort Knox Five, and what we are all about.
Is there a band whose album covers you love?
Three out of four of us are from a graphic design background. We feel the design aesthetic of Fort Knox Recordings is just as important as the music. We want all of our albums, singles, EPs, tour posters and brand imagery to have an amazing design that is tied into each individual project. Album covers circa the ‘60s and ‘70s have always inspired us. The Beatles have some of the most amazing album covers of all time.
Talk about some of your “classic” memories of touring?
One of the greatest perks of our job is traveling the global. We have been fortunate enough to perform in over 30-different countries on five continents. Experiencing other cultures is great. Seeing what goes off in different places has really helped us with our musical process. Some of our favorite places to perform are Western Canada, Australia, Europe and, of course, the USA. We have had the opportunity to perform at many festivals as well. One of our favorite touring memories was “Good Vibrations” ‘07. The tour spanned several major cities in Australia. The lineup was sick: The Beastie Boys, Snoop Dogg, Jurassic 5, London Electricity, Ursula 1000, Timo Maas, Kraak & Smaak, DJ Dan, Deejay Yoda and many others. We all pretty much did everything together—from hanging at the festival to hitting up the Taronga Zoo and Sydney Opera House. We made some amazing friends on that run.
Do you remember the first time you had a live audience’s complete attention?
In the early years of electronic music, DC was a rave mecca with parties like Buzz happening consistently every Friday for over a decade. We honed our DJ skills at parties like Buzz, Fever, and various regional raves. I remember playing the Moonshine Over America Tour in 2000. At that time I was rocking a lot of funky breaks and funky house. I know Cirrus “Back On A Mission”(DJ Dan remix)would have definitely been dropped, as well Dan’s track “Needle Damage.”
What has changed in the realm of headphones since your first pair?
Headphones have come leaps and bound since our early days of DJing. We used to rock Sony, Pioneers, or Technics to our gigs. As durable as these headphones appeared, they would often break. Plus they were way too loud and often hurt your hearing. Nowadays, headphones are much stronger and the sound quality is better. You don’t have to turn the volume up to get a good monitor level. Nice lightweight headphones like the SOL REPUBLIC Tracks are extremely durable and have excellent sound quality without being too loud.
Soundtrack Of Life:
This is our playlist of songs we enjoy listening to after returning home from a grueling tour. After being away from home for up to several weeks at a time, it is nice to come home and unwind. These are definitely tunes that are easy on the ears and mind.
The Easy Star Allstars did an amazing cover version of Pink Floyd’s album, Dark Side Of The Moon. Listen to this record all the through after returning from a trip. You will not regret it.
This is the epitome of a beautiful song. Our partner Rob Myers laid down the sitar in this song. The vocals are by Pam Bricker. This is Thievery Corporation at their finest. A truly epic song.
This is just an amazing song. What a Wonderful World gives you hope for the human race. We wish everyone would listen to this song…and give it some serious thought.
Another amazing piece of music. This was one of the first ska tunes to become an International hit. It is definitely inspirational and is a great song to relax to.
Quintessential Queen and David Bowie. After spending weeks on the road under pressure, this is the jam to come home to.
Bob Marley “Soul Shakedown Party” (Fort Knox Five Remix)
“Dazz in the House” (DC’s Finest Remint)