Article Archive

  Big Peter talks to Marco Cafolla and Mike Berrich

federation of the disco pimp

On a damp and miserable Saturday afternoon, a weary Bluesbunny hopped flat-footed to Macsorleys and was joined by Marco Cafolla and Mike Berrich of the esteemed Glasgow jazz-funk collective known as Federation of the Disco Pimp. Despite a peculiar absence of alcohol, which may or may not have contributed to Bluesbunny’s scrambled head, some well-humoured conversation went down.
PM: I guess I’ll start with an obvious question. Where did the name come from?

MC: Believe it or not, it actually came from a band name generator! We were called Funkology, but we weren’t that keen on it, and we had a couple of words like ‘pimp’ and ‘disco’ that we wanted so-

MB: Did you do it?

MC: I think it was Ross, our bass player. It was an amalgamation of some words that we wanted!

MB: It works for us!

PM: How long has the band been together?

MC: We started off as a funk covers band, but we’ve been with this line-up for about a year-and-a-half now, so we’re pushing the original material in the seven-piece set-up.
PM: As a seven-piece, can democracy be applied in the group?

MC: We do try to keep it as open as possible. We’ll all have our say and if we don’t like something, we’ll discuss it. Starting off, somebody will have an idea and we’ll bring in majority rules.

PM: You will be playing a few shows across Britain in the next couple of months, including one show at the Glasgow Jazz Festival on July 1st. What can those who have never seen you before expect from your show?

MC: It’s going to be a very high-energy, funk-fuelled night. Obviously, we’re supporting Craig Charles and he’s got the Radio 6 Funk & Soul Show. We supported him in Manchester about two months ago and it was a great experience. We play our own material, but we also play a lot of classics – James Brown, Herbie Hancock, Quincy Jones – so the energy is up and pumping!
PM: You have also recorded the “Pinball Number Count” from Sesame Street.
MB: A guy that used to be in the band suggested it. Really, it’s just a great track with odd rhythms and time signatures – and the video is great! It was one of my favourites when growing up and I always remembered that tune. You would sit there, bopping away, without ever really understanding that tune.

PM: I never thought that I’d hear it again!

MC: You forget about it, don’t you? It’s a definite favourite. A lot of people comment on it and it’d proven to be a great singalong!
PM: I suppose it’s true as well to the diversity of musical interests shared in the group, right?

MC: Definitely. I’m a big Zappa fan and he’s always doing that sort of thing. I think our main aim, though, is to keep people dancing and keep the floor busy. It is more than just a dance band, though. We would rather have people dancing than clapping. At the end of a song, if we see everybody up and dancing, it’s a sign that we’re doing it right.
MB: I think there’s something in it for everybody, in that anyone can get up and dance to it, but there’s also a high level of musicianship.
PM: I guess it’s difficult, though, to push that style into the popular scene when others can form three-chord tribute acts and find it easier to get booked on a Saturday night?

MC: Yes, and it it can be hard as well when we’re of the general ethos of “work hard, work as part of a band”. We have some really talented musicians in the band, we make sure nobody is overplaying, we all play for the team. That’s the best way to do it. If everyone’s going crazy, the rhythm is going to get lost and there’s not going to be a beat to dance to. We just want to make sure that everyone is playing well.
Despite the interview continuing, Big Peter continued to stumble over his own words. Thankfully, his company were of the patient sort.
PM: It isn’t seen as particularly “cool” to be thought of as a “muso”. Is this something that you’d be looking to address?

MC: Well, we’re trying to offer something for everyone. For those who want to dance, we are effectively a dance band, but we also get the chance to show off and we do a lot of hits and stops while remaining tight as a band. We do hope there’s something for everyone at different levels.
PM: Is much else planned for 2011?

MC: We’re actually opening for Craig Charles again in October. That’s just been confirmed in the last week as well. We’ve got material now to record a full album, so everything is in place; we just have to get the funding. Besides that, we’re playing at the Hi-Fi Club in Leeds in July. We have targeted all the funk and soul scenes throughout the UK. Craig Charles has been pushing us so much on his show and it has really helped us to secure dates in these great clubs.
PM: Thank you for your time!

Federation of the Disco Pimp play the Old Fruitmarket (supporting Craig Charles) on Friday 1 July 2011. Tickets are priced £10 and available from Glasgow Concert Halls.

Author: Peter McGee