Dâm-Funk’s Rolodex weighs a ton. The man born Damon G. Riddick is set to release Invite the Light, his triple-LP follow-up to 2009’s five-LP Toeachizown, and the key word in the title is “invite.” Dâm (pronounced “dame”) reached out to a few friends to help him finish the album some six years in the making. While in the past he’s collaborated with Eighties funk folk ranging from Steve Arrington and Aurra to more recent beatheads like Peanut Butter Wolf and James Pants, not to mention hooking up with the Doggfather himself, Snoop Dogg, for 2012’s collaborative joint, 7 Days of Funk.
On Invite the Light, in addition to a return from Snoop, the roll call has expanded to include: Flea, Q-Tip, Jodi Watley, Ariel Pink and former Ohio Player and “One Nation Under a Groove” writer Junie Morrison, to name a just few guests. The album is nothing if not epic and ambitious in scope: It takes the listener on a sonic journey from the early days of funk (think Mothership Connection or Ohio Players’ “Funky Worm”) to the boogie and modern-soul era of the Eighties before moving into some intergalactic freakiness. And at the center of it all is the chameleonic Dâm-Funk. Calling from Ladera Heights, also known as “the black Beverley Hills,” Dâm discussed the importance of working a day job, how hip-hop’s sampling woes got him work as a session player during the G-funk era and what his reaction was the first time he heard Ariel Pink on the radio.
What was the first record you bought?
To be fair, I came up in an album and 12-inch era in the late Seventies. What I bought with my allowance was Rick James’ You and I with “Mary Jane” on it and the Giorgio Moroder 12-inch of “The Chase” from Midnight Express. I grew up in a musical household. My dad was into all types of sounds: Iron Butterfly to Curtis Mayfield. I was checking out the album covers, from that Barry White album where he’s holding all these women in the palms of his hand [I’ve Got So Much to Give] to Sly and the Family Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, with that American flag all weirded out. It was all in the house.
What was your first instrument?
My pop brought me a drum kit when I was six years old. I moved onto keyboards on my own. There was an organ at the house like those kinds of organs you saw for sale at the mall. But I bought my own analog keyboards. I learned how to play drums and read notes in junior high, but on keyboards, I was self-taught. I was afraid to unlearn what I learned. It was good I didn’t, as I created my own type of chords without a teacher. Maybe one day I’ll go learn how to read Bach, but it hasn’t hurt me yet.
You started off doing session work?