Yes, you can be famous in less than 24 hours, and we’ll show you how! In one day a YouTube video of a piano-playing, Santa hat-clad man went from 0 to 40,000 hits. By the time this story went to print it was up to 130,000 plays. And unlike most of today’s insta-fame formulas, Davos T. Funk had no gimmicks, no flash-in-the-pan cheap tricks that garnered him this instant notoriety. It was authentic, bona fide talent that simply blew everyone away.
Ok so I run into this video of you playing the bejesus out of House classics at what looks like a friend’s Christmas party. Can you explain to me just what magic was happening that night?
My mate Ash and I run old skool revival nights called The Northern Project in Lancashire, and the crew in the video run old skool revival nights called Rejuvenation in Leeds. A few weeks ago me and Ash went to Rejuvenation to say hi and have a bit of a party with ’em, and we hit it off so well we didn’t go home for a couple of days. Now we party with that crew whenever we can, and what you see in the video is us all getting together for our mate Vicky’s birthday party!
How long had you been working on all those songs and is this something you’ve always done?
When the Rejuve Crew invited me up for Vicky’s birthday, I couldn’t really afford a present, or some booze or anything. I’ve been proper skint lately. I like to pay my way, especially as they were driving down to pick me up, so I offered to play a bit of piano instead. That was the Monday before.
Then I realized I had to think of something to play. Me and Ash had been loosely discussing an old skool piano mash-up, and with all the attendees being old skoolers, I thought it would be ideal. I already knew a couple of tracks, like Baby D, Electric Choc, Soft House Co, but needed a lot more to fill a decent set, so over the week I dug out all my favorite classics and started to try and figure out how to play ’em. At the end of the week, I put a basic drum track together, jammed through it about 20 or 30 times till I felt I had the order right, and the rest is what you see in the video.
I was looking at your bio and you don’t really talk much about your music. What exactly is your musical background, how long have you been playing and has it been your main focus?
I’ve been playing for about 33 years. Had my first piano lesson when I was 10 and my last when I was 13 (they were expensive and we were very poor), but had access to a grand piano every day for the 7 years I was at school. My mum had died just as I started school, I didn’t have a dad or many friends there, so piano was something I could throw myself into, and I did.
At 18 I left school, and I didn’t do much music for a while. Laid down a couple of tracks for techno warlord Michael Forshaw, then releasing under the name Ippii Tombei. Some time in the early ’90s, in between going to the Blackburn Raves and dealing with homelessness I got bitten again, thanks to my mate Lee Garitty letting me get involved with some production he was doing… That’s where I first used Cubase and I’ve never looked back.
Mid-’90s, I got my hands on some equipment and joined an indie rock band in Preston called Tin Gods while simultaneously getting involved with some studio and production work with Zone founder, legendary house DJ and organiser of the Jenks old skool reunions Barrie Jay. I did 7 years gigging with Tin Gods, and for a time we were locally celebrated, but towards the end the urge to get back to my House and Soul roots was too strong and I left the band to pursue my own production career.
I started my solo career under the name BigWheel, doing electronica, DnB, instrumentals, downtempo, chillout. Lately I’ve been recording and releasing under the name Triggerfunk, doing Soulful House and Disco influenced grooves. Had a couple of original releases on Edit Records UK/Editlife, based in Blackpool, and I’ve got a couple of interesting remixes coming out in the New Year, if all goes well. A remix of Sterling Void’s new track “Dancing for My Life” going out on Sterling’s label, and a Soulful House take on the rave classic “Runaway Girl” going out on Edit. I don’t want people to think that all I do is bang out Warehouse classics on a piano.
I’ve never spoken to an internet sensation before. Describe to me what happened to Davos in those 24 hours…
I’ve never been an internet sensation before. It’s unreal. To be honest the whole last week is a big, colorful, shiny, emotional blur. It really has taken my back legs out. I didn’t think anything of it at the party, and was actually a bit reluctant for them to put the video up because I knew I’d fluffed the performance in a couple of places, but I thought I’d be being a bit uptight so I let it ride. Then I started getting whispers saying the video was going to go viral, and I was like “Yeah? Cool…”, not really realizing the implications of that. So I went to bed one night and the video had a few hundred plays and I thought, Wow, that’s ace – that’s the most response I’ve had to anything I’ve ever posted anywhere before. When I got up the next day I can’t remember what the numbers were, but my inbox was full of messages and my life was suddenly different. After that I can’t tell you what order anything happened in.
What I can tell you is how I’ve been feeling these last few days. It’s like the diametric opposite of grief. I keep sort of coming-to, and re-realising what’s going on, and then it smacks me in the head again. I keep filling up, but choke em back because I’m a Northerner [laughs]. It’s barmy, but I love it. The offers I’ve had this week have been out of this world.
Arthur Baker even contacted you? Who were some of the people and what were some of the offers that were thrown at you based on that video?
Yeah, there was definitely a comment from Arthur Baker on YouTube saying he wanted me to come play his party, and later on someone else posted ARTHUR BAKER WANTS TO BOOK YOU. Obviously I got excited, and I’ve dropped him a line, but there’s been no response yet. You know what? He’s Arthur Baker, so he can do whatever the hell he wants. Since then I’ve had big-ups from Stanton Warriors, Freestylers, Mike Pickering, Sister Bliss has complimented me twice. These are some of my biggest heroes, so you can imagine I feel a bit like wow, pinch me.
The best thing by far though has been the thousands of people who have written to tell me about the smile it put on their faces. That is the important bit, and the main reason I love to play live – you get people right down in their boots sometimes, and that’s what I’m really buzzing off at the moment.
So now that all this has transpired, what exactly are your next steps and do you already have an agent?
There’s been a lot of offers of work, but I’m hanging fire before I commit to anything. I was completely unprepared for all this, so I’ve put everyone off till early February so I can take advice and get organized first. I’ve got meetings with management agencies in Jan, and a list of festival and venue offers, some of them incredible. I’ve committed to RetroTrax in Leicestershire in May, and Rejuvenation in Leeds March 16th. And I’ve agreed to appear in a Nokia viral advert filming in January because it sounded like a lot of fun. Aside from that, next year is open. I’ve had initial contact from T in the Park, and Rob da Bank wants me at Bestival, but nothing is confirmed yet. My favorite so far is that I’ve been invited to The Argonaughty boat party in Croatia. Having that!
I’m happy to perform this mash-up while it’s popular, and we’re working up the set as we speak to something slightly slicker for stage performances, but I’m also keen to push my productions and get good remixes and session work from this. I don’t want to just be playing other people’s riffs for eternity, as much as I love making this live tribute to some of my formative musical influences, but I think I have a lot more to offer.
I think the thing that really resonated with people about the video is the sheer talent behind it. No one seems to play an instrument anymore and that’s such a shame. Did you get any comments from people saying they wanted to take up the piano now? What is your take on less and less people studying an instrument?
I don’t think there are less and less, just not many in dance music – because so few in dance music actually perform live, and when they do it’s usually a vocalist to a backing track. There are still some amazing live bands around still, Jamiroquai being a personal favourite but you rarely see a House act performing as a band. There are notable exceptions, like Peven Everett who is incredible. I’m hoping to do something similar to him eventually. Or soon. I have the bassist, I just need the right vocalist.
That said, I have had a number of people say they want to start playing again, which is hugely gratifying. I’ve been playing piano for 33 years, on and off and the thing about learning an instrument is that it’s something you have to make part of your life, something you do every single day no matter what. What I hear a lot of is: “I wish I’d kept on with it.” When I started learning piano at 10 there were no XBoxes or Playstations, there were 3 television channels which were only good on a Saturday morning, no internet, no mobile phones. A lot less distractions. So it was no trial to spend an hour, two hours pootling around at a piano. I think kids would have a much harder time sticking with it these days. They’re too data saturated, and stimulus hungry.
To me, that doesn’t mean we should give up. I just think the way that we teach music needs to be more in-line with the data-interactivity people are so used to now. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are proof of this. If learning piano were a PlayStation game, albeit a complex one, a lot of kids would learn piano, and one or two would become really really good. Maybe. I don’t know. I doubt they would agree with me at a music conservatory, but there’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat. I’m thinking about putting tutorials up online later in the year, riff by riff so people can join in quicker.
Essentials: You can reach Davos on SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/bigwheel.