An acronym for Funk, Style, Quality, FSQ is a production team with deep roots in the funk and dance worlds and releases on labels like Midnight Riot, Wolf + Lamb, and Soul Clap records.
Ahead of their dj set during Soul Clap’s House of EFUNK, Soul Clap interviewed FSQ, and FSQ took the time to contribute a stellar mix.
FSQ stands for Funk Style and Quality, you know that game Marry, Sex, Kill? What would you do and why with those elements?
Ahhh what would we do? That’s an easy question because Funk Style Quality is a statement of our music production ethos.
FUNK: Make it Funky! We always start with our music creation with funk at the core, which means musically – a pocketed live drum beat, a simple melodic bass line, 2 to 3 interlocking funk guitar parts, simple synth chords and maybe some Fender Rhodes or organ. That’s our core funk sound, as close to James Brown (without the horns) as possible..
STYLE: We don’t want to be basic, we really believe that unique musical genres, or “styles” are our palette to create a sonic painting, a real “tune”. For remix production work that means we apply a specific musical style on top of that initial funk. So we will take a real defined style and apply it to the core work. For instance, FSQ recently remixed Lonely C’s “True” from his album “Charles & Tribulations” album and our work resulted in two remixes, both coming together with very different styles.
For the “True” remix production, Morgan Wiley (of Midnight Magic, and FSQ) and I got in the studio with Caito Sanchez (also of Midnight Magic). Caito put down some guitar at my direction and Andrew Marsh who is the drummer for our FSQ live band The SQ’s hit the skins with a disco beat. P-Funk legend Billy Bass Nelson, well he did his bass thing based on some new parts I had written.
We put that core funk down, but then G Koop, who is in FSQ and a 7 time Grammy nominated producer (mainly for his work in hip hop) took the initial recording we had for the Lonely C remix, and put a style shine on the track that is very reminiscent of early Funkadelic albums. So we called G Koop’s finished effort “True (The Funkadelic Touch Remix)”. It’s bluesy and brooding. 5 Magazine recently called this remix a “thick syrupy jam”.
Myself and FSQ’s One Era took the same initial remix recording session and slapped on some percussions like clave and bongos, plus some slippery 80s synths, plucked guitars, and reggae pianos. The result is our “True (FSQ Caribbean Disco Remix”). This remix comes at you with more of a dancefloor angle and builds towards a sunset vibe.
So with “True” we took the same song, and wound up with two different remixes with distinct styles. FSQ can produce styles upon styles! We did the same thing for Nick Monaco a few years ago with his hit “Babyface” where we produced both a disco remix and reggae dub remix of the tune.
QUALITY: With quality, that’s an element that G Koop instilled in us. G Koop is adamant – don’t ever let people hear your demos – “finish your work first”. Put your best foot forward at the first opportunity, don’t blow it on something half done. So I’m crazy diligent on this point. No one in FSQ should ever play someone one of our songs or remix productions until it’s total quality: 1000% finished, properly mixed, and mastered. Have you ever tried to play an unmastered song in the club? It just won’t sound right!
FSQ’s Chas Bronz, god bless his heart, he likes to receive feedback during the production process, so I had to reign him and be like, we just don’t do that, let people listen to unfinished product. With “quality”, everything coming from FSQ sounds super shiny, hi definition, totally crisp. Soul Clap recently sent us to see Joe Lambert, a true audio engineering professional, to have our new FSQ album “Reprise Tonight” mastered. I was a little hesitant to make the extra expense with some superstar mastering guy, but you could hear “the quality” Joe applied to our mixes instantly. Lambert further brought out that trademark quality FSQ, that slick sound.
Chuck you are a monster of a producer, how do you know when a project is truly completed?
You also need to apply all three of those elements to finish a FSQ production: Funk, Style and Quality. Get that initial FUNK rhythm section recorded, make sure you do a live session, meaning that, we don’t just dribble around on Ableton drawing on a graph. No knock on electronic music producers here, that’s just not our method. We will usually bring in live drums, bass and guitars to record. To us a remix isn’t done until there’s been some additional music writing done on top of the original. We usually deconstruct the riffs of the original song and build on top of those. As far as completing an original FSQ song production, that’s really just dependent on what’s in my head. For the song “The Infinite Reprise” on our upcoming album “Reprise Tonight” I wanted a full marching band and orchestra. That’s what I was hearing in my head!! So G Koop and his partner O-Man did about 10 extra recording sessions to get stuff on the track like: a full string section, sousaphone and tuba, marching band drums, flutes, baritone and alto saxes, etc. There’s no limit on how far we will take it. It’s about can we make it happen, and we MUST make it happen. I wear out the other members of FSQ with this production approach, it’s exhausting but worth it.
STYLE: Then once you’ve done that stuff, apply a specific style to the tune. For FSQ that’s usually Caribbean Disco, Northern Soul, Disco Funk, or it could be even something more outside the world of dance music like Reggae dub, or Jazz. For example, on the FSQ Caribbean stuff, I usually bring in a guy – Rudy Crichlow of the Casplash Band in Brooklyn – to do steel drums, african percussions, or whatever it will take to get that sound. A FSQ production isn’t complete until you have that specific sound that harkens to an identifiable style.
QUALITY: Once you’ve gotten this far, and yeah it feels far, like maybe months and you’re done, right? No you’re not! FSQ obsesses over song arrangement, mixing, and mastering. Again it can’t come out the door, until it’s quality sounding. A good example: It took us a year to produce the FSQ mega-medley “Ex Smokers” which combines several songs from Soul Clap’s self titled 2016 album and the Crew Love album “Based on a True Story”.
People who know the story, know you are the connector between the worlds of Soul Clap and Parliament-Funkadelic, so can you give us 5-10 P-Family related diggers cuts?
Charlie Lonely C recently drove from Miami to New York, so for his journey, I made him an 18 hour Spotify playlist of the best songs of the main canon of Parliament-Funkadelic. This playlist isn’t even done yet, it will keep growing, but it gives you an idea of how extensive the catalog is.
What most people do not realize is how many records that aren’t really P-Funk productions, that have the main P-Funk members leading them. So there’s a lot of non P-Funk P-Funk out there, if that makes sense.
So for this question, I’ll focus on Billy Bass Nelson who is a frequent collaborator with FSQ and Soul Clap. Billy is also the guy who came up with the word “Funkadelic” and was a founding member of the group.
5 quintessential Billy Bass Nelson deep cuts, as he was a session player all over the place, bringing that Funkadelic sound to all these records
#1 – Lenny Williams – Running
Many of you disco heads will recognize this tune, as there’s a legendary Danny Krivit edit of it. “Running” is led by Billy Bass’ thumping signature bass sound.
#2 – Temptations – Miss Busy Body
Billy Bass was on most of the mid 70s albums by the Temptations, but producer Norman Whitfield brought Billy back in 1983 for this blistering funk number by the Tempts. Billy handles both slap bass and a bunch of guitar parts. “Miss Busy Body” is totally his signature sound!
#3 – Jermaine Jackson – Who’s That Lady
This slower tempoed soulful funk number is led by Billy Bass, even though Jermaine himself was shown on the cover of this album with his bass guitar. Remember, Billy was the in house bass player at Motown Los Angeles during this period of the 1970s
#4 – Commodores – I Feel Sanctified
Of all of Billy Bass’ Motown session work, this is probably his most famous and biggest hit record. Even though the Commodores had their own bass player, the producers opted for Billy here. You can hear his trademark tremolo pull on the bass strings at the start of the tune.
#5 – Smokey Robinson – In My Corner
If you’re exhausted from all of Billy’s bass thumpin’ and pluckin’ then hear him it slow it down as his melodic bass line leads legend Smokey through this ballad.
If you want to hear him in a modern context with the Crew – two great Billy Bass Nelson appearances are on Soul Clap’s Future 4 Love and FSQ’s Life on Planets “Cold Front” remix.
Your time on the road with PFunk must have had some great moments that led to timeless stories, care to share one?
This was the mid 1990s. My parents put George Clinton on notice that I was to not get in any trouble on the road and I also had this in my head when I was out with P-Funk, so I was pretty conservative. To make sure that I didn’t get in trouble, Sa’d The Hourchild Ali (rest in power), was assigned to watch over me, and we drove the sag wagon across the country together. I don’t think either of us liked the arrangement – I was no fun at all for Sa’d, and to me Sa’d was some silent gangster type who I really shouldn’t mess with. But Sa’d was going to ride in my SUV no matter what, whether I liked it or not, it was on George’s orders.
About a decade later, years upon years, Sa’d and I became close friends. A few years after building a bond, in 2012, the two of us formed FSQ along with G Koop, right about the time we were all together experimenting by putting George Clinton with Soul Clap. By this time, I was more open to party and boy have Sa’d and I had a ball in the early years of FSQ. So here’s a story …
When I first moved to New York City in 2013, Soul Clap invited myself, Sa’d and Lady Miss Kier to come catch them at a Crew Love Halloween warehouse party way out in Ridgewood Queens. I wasn’t really prepared for what the New York City party scene had to offer. I had no idea the party would end at 6am at the Warehouse and that Ahmed Hashim would host an after party with all of the Crew and a hundred friends. There were so many awesome creative artists to meet, both musicians and visual artists and I just relished in it. After the sun had come up, I realized we had to leave out but I’m not sure I had much sense to Uber it home. The L Train wasn’t running so we had to shuttle bus it back towards Manhattan. Sa’d and I were disheveled and really with no sense of New York City geography I didn’t realize it would be a 2 hour journey home.
I wrote a song about this experience on the FSQ album “Reprise Tonight”; it’s titled “11AM” which is a nod to the time we finally made it back to my West Village apartment. It was Sa’d vision to have legend Fonda Rae appear on our album, so we recently had her come sing the song which is totally based on this story.
Whats the secret to an A+ Mai Thai?
Ok, first it’s a Mai Tai – a lot of people get the name wrong. “Mai Tai” in Tahitian basically means “World’s Best” and indeed this signature FSQ cocktail is exactly that for drinking! I wish I could find Mai Tai’s in the club, but alas it’s not an easy drink to make quickly and most venues shy away from it.
A Mai Tai recipe can combine as many different rums as the creator calls for, and of course rums have their own distinct flavor profiles like wines. Rums can really change the taste of the cocktail, and bring out different funky notes. Donna, a cocktail bar in Williamsburg, combines four different rums from across the Caribbean to create their unique Mai Tai which is one of the best in New York City. Also Orgeat, the almond syrup used in the drink, is a handcrafted syrup so if you get a Mai Tai with a really great Orgeat, you’ll taste it. Maison Premiere, a New Orleans themed restaurant in Williamsburg, I swear has the best Orgeat I’ve ever tasted and they can make a mean Mai Tai too.
Because of the complexity of the cocktail, creating a Mai Tai won’t be light on your pocketbook or easy on your patience in terms of getting it right. For instance, I am reading Shannon Mustipher’s new cocktail book “Tiki” and ugh learned that my recipe had the ratio of the rums all wrong!! If you feel you want to follow in the path of FSQ and make your own Mai Tai, I suggest reading the recipe in Shannon’s book. She is the beverage director at the Crown Heights based Caribbean restaurant Gladys so you could always stop in for a Mai Tai there.
Get ready for FSQ DJ set with Chuck Da Fonk and Chas Bronz at House of EFunk with deep mix: 1 hour of FSQ’s latest funky productions, some never heard before, including cuts from FSQ’s upcoming full length Soul Clap Records album, “Reprise Tonight”.
Plus a few friends in the mix like FSQ’s Chas Bronx, and one of Detroit’s hardest working producers, Javonntte.
Plus keep this mix going to hear FSQ’s new Caribbean disco remix for Lonely C and disco don Birdee’s rework of FSQ’s Dancefloor Democracy featuring George Clinton and his son, TreyLewd.
Planetself – High Tide – FSQ Caribbean Disco Remix Instrumental
Dejavilla – Running Away – FSQ Caribbean Disco Remix
FSQ featuring Dolette McDonald – I Zimbra – Wild & Free Remix
FSQ featuring Dolette McDonald – Shaking My Damn Head – Yam Who? Remix
FSQ featuring George Clinton, Trey Lewd, and Billy Bass Nelson – Dancefloor Democracy – Birdee Remix
Lonely C – Hold Up – Javonntte Mix 2
GMGN and Chas Bronz – Just Won’t Do
Lonely C – True – FSQ Caribbean Disco Remix
Michael The Lion – The Changer – FSQ 9 Minutes to Manhattan Remix
FSQ – Reprise Tonight – FSQ Disco Remix
FSQ featuring Dolette McDonald, Skeet Curtis, One Era and Michael The Lion – What They Don’t Know