"If you live long enough you will have the blues, that is the way it was then and the way it is now."
Tweed Funk: Love is...a Blues Soul blender
Formed in the fall of 2010, Tweed Funk has quickly gained recognition nationally with the release of their debut CD, ‘Bringin It’. The band brings an edge to the music of their forefathers by wrapping together blues, soul, funk, and elements of hip-hop in show band style. Tweed Funk represented the Grafton Blues Association in the 2012
Fronted by Smokey's sweet, soulful vocals, audiences can quickly hear how Joseph "Smokey" Holman was a pick to hit the Billboard Soul Top 20 back in the 70’s on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom Records with the band Love’s Children. JD Optekar’s tasteful guitar lines and roots-rock vocals lend versatility to the band. Veteran musician Donnie Mac lays claim to the biggest thumb in Milwaukee with jaw-dropping bass solos and he is a triple-threat playing bass, keys, and singing at the same time. Marcus “MG” Gibbons rounds-out the line-up on the drums as one of the area's hottest session drummers who has worked and toured extensively with national acts. This 4 piece band generates a sound much fuller than you would expect all while leaving the space in the music that defines top-shelf blues bands.
When was your first desire to become involved in the music & who were your first idols?
“Smokey”: I was 12 years old, my early idols were James Brown and The Temptations.
JD: In college I was inspired by one of the guys on the track team, Bill Pike who was playing acoustic guitar at a party that got the desire going for me. Early mentors and teachers turned me onto SRV, Albert King, Freddie King, Jimmie Vaughan, and Magic Sam.
“MG”: Well my first desire to become involved in music was when I was young at the age of 8. My idols included: Morris Day and Time, Kenny G, Prince, Mint Condition, Shelia E and the list goes on.
What was the first gig you ever went to & what were the first songs you learned?
“Smokey”: The High Chapperelle in Chicago. Can’t Get Next to You (The Tempations) and My Girl (The Temptations)
JD: A local blues band Cross-Eyed Cat was one of my favorites. They had this killer rev’ed up version of the Otis Rush tune Feels So Bad. Early songs on the guitar included tunes like Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love and Albert Kings Laundromat Blues.
“MG”: My first gig I don’t really remember its been some years. I do remember having to learn many cover tunes such as songs from Stevie Wonder (Ribbon in the Sky) to Van Halens( Jump).
Tell me about the beginning of Tweed Funk. How did you choose the name and where did it start?
JD: Tweed Funk was put together at a jam where founding bass player Donnie Mac invited Smokey and MG to a jam that Donnie Mac and I hosted in early 2010. After getting the opportunity to play with them I knew that I wanted to do a future project with Smokey and MG. In the fall of 2010 that opportunity came together and away we went. The last band I started was named Hounds Tooth (like the fabric), I wanted something that tied things together band-name wise – hence the “Tweed.” Smokey and MG brought the “Funk”
What characterize the sound of “Smokey”?
Heart and soul.
What characterize the sound of JD?
Tasty single note styles that blend together jump blues with more traditional electric Chicago blues.
What characterize the sound of “MG”?
Now the sound of ''MG'' is a very unique mixture of fusion, gospel, afrocentric, funk, and big band theory/jazz twist. When I play I play with energy and feeling and it has to feel right and be heavy in the rhythm section and as I would say "DOC THAT IS FAT".
How do you describe Tweed Funk’s philosophy about the blues and soul music?
“Smokey”: Taking the blues and putting a soul-spin on it. Take the soul-spin and put the Tweed Funk spin on it.
JD: We bring together our different musical backgrounds of jazz, soul, funk, blues, and fusion – throw it together and come up with something that we feel is all our own. We want the “real” feel and dynamics of that Stax sound in our recordings.
“MG”: I would describe Tweed Funk’s philosophy as far as blues and soul a great chemistry mixed together that is unique.
Would you like to tell something about making “Love Is” album?
JD: After writing the songs we had a couple of rehearsals and were real thrilled that Greg Koch was willing to come on-board and co-produce the CD. Greg was great in the studio as our ears, motivating the band, providing suggestions and being enthusiastic.
Do you remember anything funny or interesting from recording time?
“Smokey”: Greg Koch’s choice of vocabulary.
JD: Greg would say something like let’s back that off a “skee-noodle” while mixing. And then turn around to us and say “that is a technical term!”
“MG”: My funniest moment in the studio recording was when I was reviewing a cd mix and mixing and went to sleep and then woke up and said yeah that sound good when they had went through about 2 songs lol!!!
“Smokey”, are there any memories from Domestic 4, and Marvelous Mack & the Pressure Release Band, which you’d like to share with us?
The Domestic 4 became Love’s Children and we once had the Ohio Players in Columbus, Ohio open up for us. Working with Willie Mitchell, Rufus Thomas, and Curtis Mayfield. Marvelous Mack helped me get back on the music track.
JD, are there any memories from Hounds Tooth, which you’d like to share with us?
Opening for Kenny Wayne Shepherd and playing the Big Bull Falls Blues Festival with Hounds Tooth. Close to 1,500 and 2,500+ fans at each event passionate for the blues.
“MG”, are there any memories from BB King's House Band in Memphis, which you’d like to share with us?
Playing and doing gigs with great different musicians a BB Kings as part of the house band was great.
What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had?
“Smokey”: House of Blues in Chicago. The open blues jam at the Painted Parrot.
JD: Tweed Funk playing the after-hours jams in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge. At one point we had the 2011 Solo/Duo Winner on-stage with us and two of this year’s solo/duo winners along with acts from Germany, Israel, and Canada leading them through an extended version of Sly Stone’s Thank You! People said that jam was the highlight of their time in Memphis!
“MG”: Some of my most memorable gigs was playing a concert getting on stage at 2am in the morning and it was packed. I was playing at a convention. My most memorable jam sessions were two: one was for a benefit for a good friend name Larry the Legend; and the other was one that Tweed Funk did at the New Daisy Theater on Beale Street in Memphis, TN at the International Blues Challenge, it was about 14 musicians on stage just jammin.
From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
“Smokey”: Curtis Mayfield
JD: My guitar teachers have taught me a lot. Perry Roper taught me to listen, music is 90% listening. Misha Siegfried talked a lot about feel – relax the shoulders, the blues is like sex. The blues is not about mechanics but listening to others and feel.
“MG”: I have learned a lot of secrets from a few things of blues through listening to Buddy Miles, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles - they all had different things I could learn, and the blues and soul is always with us
Some music styles can be fads but the blues and soul is always with us. Why do think that is?
“Smokey”: Because it comes from true feelings and Blues is The Truth.
JD: I think the message and the story is universal, because when we strip away the McMansions, fancy cars, clothes, jobs, and all that socio-economic stuff – well at the core we are just people who feel joy, pain, fear, and heartache. To me soul and blues captures those emotions and puts them in a musical form. At the same time I believe that blues needs to continue to evolve to carry the message forward. It has gone through many changes from country blues, to electric blues, to British blues-rock, to guitar driven SRV style blues – lets keep the story alive by innovating while keeping the core of the music intact!
“Smokey”, is there any similarity between the soul blues nowadays and the “SOUL BLUES OF THE OLD DAYS”?
If you live long enough you will have the blues, that is the way it was then and the way it is now.
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?
“MG”: The advice I would give to a musician pursuing the career in music is stay humble, also study different music and practice and educate and learn the business.
Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
“Smokey”: The best moment was being signed by CurTom Records. The worst was leaving Love’s Children because of personality conflicts.
JD: My favorite moments are when we are playing an original tune and I see someone in the crowd singing along with it, either because they know the tune or it is catchy enough they can just pick it up. The International Blues Challenge in Memphis was great, leading a 14 piece all-star band through Sly Stone’s Thank You at an after-hours jam was awesome!
“MG”: The best moments in my career were when I started getting multiple calls for gigs of different styles of music. My worst gig in my life was playing with a bunch of boring musicians that I met and committed myself to for some fill-in gigs.
“Smokey”, how has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?
It is more regulated now which is a good thing.
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