UK Funky to Bass + Beyond: Funkystepz (Hyperdub, Moveltraxx) Artist Profile

Dubspot contributor Mike Styels speaks with UK bass producers Funkystepz (Hyperdub, Moveltraxx) about their rise from the UK funky scene and where their sound is headed for the future.

“Brightness in a pitch black room.” That how Maxsin, the DJ for Funkystepz, describes their sound. And it’s true, there’s an abandonment in their sound. Just give yourself over to the dance and it’ll be all good – for now anyway. But the raw edge found in most of their music is a nod to another reality, one rooted in the urban experience of London.

Funkystepz came to notoriety through the UK Funky scene. All of the members (Renay, Stimpy, and Maxsin) grew up in different parts of London, but knew of each other through their work in grime music. At some point introductions were made and when they decided to make a funky crew, they formally teamed up.

Eventually the funky genre imploded like many other styles from that city. “In the UK, for some reason, we get bored of a scene and rinse it out,” Maxsin relates. Parties started getting shut down, politics got in the way of progress too often, and the quality of the beats began deteriorating, and after a while it just died out.

While a lot of artists disappeared from the international radar, Funkystepz kept it moving by diversifying their sound. They always tried to keep their beats unique, even while working within a well defined genre, and it’s paid off. You can still hear the rhythms of funky in a lot of their sounds, but their focus is broader in scope these days, with bass and urban being the keys words to describe them now.

The influence of funky still lives on in drum patterns found in bass music from the UK – which Maxsin describes as a hazily defined mix of dubstep, house, grime, and funky – so it’s no surprise they’d find a continued relevance in this new, less rigid context. And like many other producers from London right now, they make and play house as well, but continue to put their unique stamp on things.

That’s the type of range you can expect from a Funkystepz set too, regardless of setting. Whether they’re playing in Europe, London, or America, you can expect a mix of house, bass, and dance ranging from 125-142 BPM. Maxsin uses Serato with a Denon DN-HC 1000s MIDI control to access his tune selection and the occasional loop without touching the laptop.

While bass music is their primary field of reference, they’ve expanded that to include urban music from all over, whether it be US rap and R&B, Miami bass, or Nigerian dance music. All these sounds are digested and repurposed for bass parties in London.

“We like remaking popular songs from the urban side of music to be playable in a bass rave,” he explains. “We make our own versions because it can be hard to play the original in our sets.”

And the result is a clear admiration for these global sources but moved a step further, now featuring a clear individuality rooted in a distinctly British mind state.

Take their most recent track, “I Hit It First (Funkystepz Miami Bass Edit)”. The beat is primarily a grime rhythm and the rugged electronic sound palette is straight out of any bass genre. But if a DJ were to slip it into a set of US club styles, it would shine as a unique selection yet not seem out of place at all.

The UK, as influential as it is, has always paid attention to music from the US. While grime and jungle were indisputably unique homegrown genres, both were directly influenced by hip hop. And funky was basically a sub-genre of house. Funkystepz are no exception to that back-and-forth:

“We’ve grown up listening to US music all our lives. It’s hard not to like the way US artists do records. I used to be a fan of Miami bass when it was commercial in the ’90s. Anyone that listened to hip hop in the ’90s heard a bit of Miami bass.”

He also points out that vocalists from the US have flows and melodies that suit their style of music better than many UK artists. “But there’s also just a lot more artists in the US than there are here. We still love the UK sound.”

So while everyone waits for the next big thing to come from London, the personal touch of artists will prove the defining means of standing out from the crowd. Funkystepz should be fine with that.

Funkystepz have also just dropped a new single on Moveltraxx, “Amsterdam Girls Go Wild.”