Guest columnist Virginia Glaze gives us a look into Future Funk through the journey of DUCAT's musical career.
Future Funk — Feelgood music for a new generation
“Beats from the present and funk from the future.” This is the mantra of Future Funk artist DUCAT, a Netherlands-based producer who is one of a few notable names in the burgeoning music genre. Spawning from a mix of 70’s - 80’s nostalgia and retro aesthetic, Future Funk takes the classic sounds of disco and funk and pairs them with a fast-paced beat pattern, alongside sound effects and other additions taken from pop culture sources like video games and anime.
The Future Funk genre, alongside similar types as the pre-existing City Pop, Vaporwave, and Retrowave, took the internet by storm nearly three years ago, after notable artist Night Tempo remixed Maria Takeuchi’s 1984 hit “Plastic Love.” Since then, Night Tempo's YouTube video of the remix has garnered over 10 million views and is hailed worldwide as one of the many reasons why Japan’s top 80’s hits have experienced a rebirth (second to Takeuchi’s original song, of course, which received a music video 35 years after its initial release due to its unexpected popularity).
Future Funk itself is arguably one the of biggest juggernauts for recent interest in the retro-inspired electronic music scene, boasting an array of artists who continue to make headway into the greater industry, at large. Among names like Yung Bae, Flamingosis, and Saint Pepsi stands DUCAT, who has contributed to the genre with such viral hits as “Capri-Sun,” “Yoshi’s Island,” and his new release, “Feels So Good.” Hailing from the Netherlands, it comes as little surprise that the country has once again turned out a deeply inspired electronic music artist — this time, with a different feel from its usual hard-hitting EDM beats.
An average guy with an eclectic sound
DUCAT’s creative journey began in his early life, with the artist claiming he was “always interested in music” from a young age. In fact, one of his childhood pastimes included “jamming out” to a cassette deck with an arsenal of dance music. Later on, he was gifted a DJ set from his mother, which effectively “planted a seed” for his future musical passion. However, his biggest inspiration stemmed from watching local EDM festivals on television; seeing the DJs and their fans moving to the beat of the music sparked a creative fire that continues to burn into his adulthood.
“I was like, ‘Yo, this is awesome,’” he said of these televised performances. “All the people vibing to the music, having a good time... I think that like, kind of inspired me to maybe do music now, because it seemed pretty cool to be the DJ on the stage and help the people have a good time.”
Years later, DUCAT has become one of the biggest names in Future Funk, even scoring a seat at the upcoming (and now postponed) Aessential Music Festival in Toronto, Canada, alongside artists like Skylar Spence and Tsundere Alley. However, this success comes at a harsh contrast to his daily life; the artist works three days a week at his local television station creating videos and animation designs as part of its production team. With his huge passion for music as a side hustle, he continues to climb the ladder of success rung by rung — but thanks to his talents, he’s hopeful to score a full-time career in industry in the near future.
Despite his online popularity, to this budding musical star, his contribution to the future funk genre isn’t anything particularly special; the artist describes himself as a "pretty average guy with a passion for music,” with an “eclectic sound” in comparison to his peers. “It’s eclectic, but dancing music that makes you wanna feel good,” he says describing his style. “It’s more punchy, a bit more power to the kick drums, the percussion — something that sets me apart. Combining the other elements, combining hip-hop and trap breaks, mixing it up. Good vibes and stuff. I just really like music.”
Dance music or sound therapy?
To DUCAT, future funk is more than just a music genre; the Dutch artist describes it as a kind of sound therapy, due in part to its upbeat nature and tempo of 120 BPM, on average. “The biggest factor is mainly, it’s like feel-good music,” he explained. “It’s for happy vibes, happy moods. You can listen to it when you’re working out. It’s also very danceable. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
In fact, this “feel-good” mood is a huge part of DUCAT’s creative process, and largely what he feels sets Future Funk apart from other branches of the EDM spectrum. “I go in myself, listening to the genre... happy feelings and stuff,” he mused. “It feels like, you know when you’re a bit down or something, it really helps… it’s feel-good music. Basically, that’s what Future Funk does for me. You know how you have these EDM records, they get you hyped up or maybe a bit aggressive? At the end of the day, with music to me, it’s like audible feelings in a way. You can use music to accompany you with a certain feeling, to distract you. With Future Funk, it’s always feel-good stuff. I want to make the people feel good. That’s the main thing."
A quick listen to DUCAT’s music proves this point with ease; “Yoshi’s Island,” one of his viral hits on SoundCloud and YouTube, does just that. It’s impossible to listen to the track without feeling the rhythm, without tapping one’s toe or bobbing one’s head to the beat. It’s infectious, it’s fun — it’s future funk, a genre splice between new and old that’s got the whole internet busting a move on the discotheque dance floor.
“Mostly it’s like, a lighthearted playful kind of vibe that goes along with it,” he said of the track. “In Yoshi’s Island, I just messed around with some video game samples. Mostly, it was Kirby samples and some bits. Later on it was Yoshi samples, it fit.”
Where the “feel-good vibe” is the glue that holds DUCAT’s music together, the raw ingredients of his songs begin with a bassline, or bits and pieces taken from classic disco songs. “Sometimes, I take my phone and hum the melody into my phone and put it in my DAW,” DUCAT admitted with a laugh. “Sometimes, I go on a deep dive and listen to a lot of older disco and funk tracks and take inspiration from that. How they do a break, a certain piece of the bassline. There’s no real huge process. Sometimes, it’s just me playing around with synths and sounds until I get that inspiration trigger.”
More than just a genre
Strictly speaking, Future Funk truly is more than music; it’s also an aesthetic, borne from nostalgia for the 80’s and 90’s that is often accompanied by anime and video games from the time period. An underground fashion scene has likewise spawned from this aesthetic in tandem with the Vaporwave music community, which entails repeated patterns from such classic tech as Windows ‘95, Grecian statues, and bright colors. Often, these images will accompany songs uploaded to YouTube, as evidenced by Artzie Musics’s rhythmic graphic of Lum Invader in time to DUCAT’s “Feels So Good.”
“It’s a big part of it in terms of aesthetic, how it’s being displayed and shown,” DUCAT said of Future Funk’s visual aspect. “The bright colors and the retro and the imagery, it works well with the music itself. I think it really helps each other in that sense.”
The Future of Future Funk
While DUCAT likes to “experiment with a lot of electronic stuff” and began by creating “hip hop beats,” his biggest passion is future funk, a label he proudly places himself under as the genre continues to grow in popularity in online spaces.
“Future Funk is growing,” DUCAT predicted for the community. “It’s becoming bigger. I’ve been in this for a couple of years now. Seeing it get some more attention, that’s pretty sweet. Looking back like a year or something ago, it was kind of bubbling up. Now with America, people like Yung Bae getting a Coachella placement and Night Tempo traveling out of the country — it’s been only moving upwards. It’s a real positive thing. I’m hoping now the States are picking it up, it will have a similar effect on Europe.”
Although he feels Europe has yet to catch up to the future funk hype train, his own work in the genre places a unique mark on an already unique music scene — one that continues to dance its way into the hearts and playlists of listeners across the web, bringing with it an aching nostalgia for a not-so-distant past.