When the Revivalist caught legendary funk vocalist Steve Arrington at Southpaw on Friday February 18th, 2011 awaiting his stage debut after 25 years, he was sitting inconspicuously on a lone stool in the corner of the club, feeling out both his own emotions and those of the growing crowd who came out early to warm up in the funky beats DJ Spinna so aptly stewed up.
We hardly wanted to disturb him, but the thick anticipation emanating from that particular corner of the venue was speaking too strongly to ignore. He was scatting along with the deep bass groove, swaying when the music moved him, and simply observing as he anxiously waited out the last few minutes before the show. Suddenly we were summoned by his manager to follow him downstairs for our interview with him.
Arrington, the former lead vocalist from Slave, left the music world after being called on by a higher power to actualize a life in the church. Prior to that he studied Latin percussion, playing with The Young Mystics as a drummer before being absorbed as first a background vocalist for Slave, and then fronting the band. Arrington’s religious/spiritual life for the next several decades was not a complete departure from funk music, but rather, textured his sound even further by layering on jazz, gospel, and hip-hop.
The next chapter of Steve’s career began as a yearning and took a leap forward with a Facebook message from DaM-FunK starting a process which shortly took shape into a record deal with Stones Throw Records and the upcoming release of a joint album. What is remarkable and distinct about Arrington today is his deep understanding of the new underground scene that combines soul, hip-hop, and electronica music, especially that which is burgeoning on the West Coast, including Ras G, Madlib, and Flying Lotus, whom he references frequently as being some of his biggest inspirations. Moreover, it became evident as we spoke that Mr. Arrington reverted back to his love of jazz as a means of defining his comeback.
Check out our interview below as we discuss cats like Sun-Ra and Coltrane in the same phrasing as Lotus and Ras G while also giving mad love to DaM-FunK for his part in bringing back the funk. Included in the interview are rare clips of Steve in his Slave days as well as the first new concert footage in 25 years. Moreover, courtesy of Mr. Steve Arrington and Stones Throw Records we are exclusively streaming “Blow Your Mind!!!” from Steve and Dam’s upcoming record entitled Love, Peace, and Funky Beats which is due out late summer or early fall 2011. Check out this brand spankin’ new track for a taste of what’s to come!
Words & Media by Eric Sandler and Boyuan Gao