Sean Doyle: I want the funk

Give up the funk. I want the funk. I want the f-f-f-f-u-n-k.

Recent export to Aussie shores is Sean Doyle, ex-pat from Portsmouth in the south of England. Settling in Sydney, Doyle brings a truckload of experience with him. With a bass strapped to his shoulder, Doyle has accompanied a ridiculous amount of DJs, adding funk and live flavour to sterile vinyl sets. The beginnings of this idea are fundamentally grounded in the Kindergarten Klub in Portsmouth, but the live accompaniment has grown organically from there, leading him to play for such party luminaries as Pacha, Hed Kandi, Ministry of Sound and Café Mambo.

Doyle is also a house DJ, focussing on deep and funky house. As far as productions are concerned, Doyle is establishing himself as a sought-after session bass player and has contributed on such tracks as Emma Warren’s ‘She Wants You Back’ on Universal and Amma’s ‘Keep Hoping’ on Beard. ITM’s Marquee Moon tossed a few questions past Doyle in order to see into the mind of a funkster.

ITM – Stemming originally from England, what was the transition like moving to Australia?  How was the music scene different when you arrived?  Haveyou been impacted musically here in a way you wouldn’t have been had you stayed home?
Sean Doyle – The transition was pretty hard to be honest and still one that I struggle with! The scenes are totally different and cannot be compared really. The scene that I was into back at home doesn’t really happen here. Back home there are a multitude of different scenes that get a lot of support. Whereas I have to see a Soulful House scene over here to be honest, which is interesting because I think it leaves an area for development. I guess I have found out here hat the ‘house’ you hear about tends to be much the same, I can only really comment on which places I have been to and what I have heard but would really say it tends to be the more commercial or harder house. But have been impacted yes. In that I would be playing pretty much every weekend if I were back home, just waiting for things to ramp up over here, as it has seemed a lot harder to get started. But am fortunate because of the net that I am still able to talk to a lot of producers and work with them over the net.

ITM – Being a bass player and focussing your songs on bass lines, does this mean you tend to tone down the melodies or have simpler progressions in order to have everything be based on the bass?  Or are you writing tracks where the bass line is a factor among many?
Sean Doyle – Yeah most of my musical orientation since playing the bass has been around how good the bass lines are! Because I always love to hear it! And being around house music there are a lot of talented bass players that are on tracks. But I wouldn’t say that necessarily impairs what tunes I would be playing. When it comes to playing live I have to work with the dj to come up with tracks that I could get involved in…For example I wouldn’t be playing on something like Soulsearcher – Feeling Love because the bass is so prominent. However some other tracks where there is a dubbier bass line would work. When it comes to writing, I think there’s nothing better than a live bass, however it doesn’t always fit each and every tune sometimes tracks need that deeper, dubbier sound. But to me the beats and the bass are the foundations of a track, its what hooks a lot of people in, but that’s got to be followed by the rest of the composition of keys, vocals, etc.

ITM – What is the general setting when playing bass live with a DJ?  Does the DJ drop beats without basslines?
Sean Doyle – That works well when you can do that and get the dj to drop beats then I can improvise and come up with something on the spot and if you are working with a enthusiastic dj then sometimes in the past they have dropped accapellas over the tracks for example. But I would only play every 4 or 5 tracks maybe. I think a lot of the musicians that accompany Dj’s dont really understand that they are there to add value every now and again and sometimes get too carried away! Also I think the crowd recognises this too. If they hear you all the time it doesn’t add any highs or lows to the music and almost gets quite monotonous. So I tend to stick to play every 4th or 5th tune. But the time that has been most successful is when I have played over tracks where the bass line hasn’t been so prominent, or where the dj has picked up that I am playing the bass and cut between the two! But now pretty much all the tracks that I have played on I have got copies of those without the bassline so play those out.

ITM – What is your main focus and/or goal with DJing?  Where would you like to see it take you from here?
Sean Doyle
My focus this year is to start doing both at once. When I was playing in Thailand I was getting quite fed up of sometimes not getting the acknowledgement from the dj’s. So now am going to look at doing both at once so I can set it all up properly and it can be appreciated a bit better. I think things are really starting to evolve in the house scene with more and more live elements coming into the equation. I know when i was at the WMC last year Tortured Soul were just leagues ahead of anything I had seen live, although must admit PTY were pretty good over here, and Sneaky! So hopefully this leaves an area for me to explore, would like to hook up with some more musicians and see if I could replicate the same as what I saw in Miami. The dj’ing side of things when I play on my own guess like any other dj would just like to get put in front of a good crowd and watching folks going off but on a beach in Ibiza or Thailand would be preferable! Damn why haven’t they got a Cottesloe in Sydney?

ITM What is your most common set up for composing, i.e. studio set up?
Sean Doyle – Well have to say over here have been very fortunate to be working with producers who are assisting me in recording. Jack McCord and Richard Masters have both got great studios that I have been using, just until I get on my feet and until my set-up from the UK gets here. But when it does I will be using Cubase running on a pc! But in the meantime thanks to Jack and Rich!

ITM – Software vs. Analogue?  Why?
Sean Doyle –
Well if we are talking about basslines or instruments over Software would have to say instruments. I have set a few challenges here and there to see if anyone can match some of the things I can do on the bass with a program…still waiting ha! But I know there are a lot of sounds that you cant always get from instruments which obviously need to come from a program, and of course also not everyone can afford to get session musicians in to do the music, so I can appreciate why they are using software!

ITM – How much hand do you have in writing the lyrics featured in your tracks?  What sort of message do you intend to project with your lyrics and music?
Sean Doyle –
None, leave that to the folks that know what they are doing. It’s just a matter of finding the right talent too. I would only get involved if it sounded cheesy or didn’t sit right! But it’s all about the love!

ITM – Do you delve into other genres of music besides house when producing?  Are there other styles you’d want to work with?
Sean Doyle –
Well the production stuff is just starting to ramp up. I think I will stick to what I know best for the meantime and that’s house, however can’t speak for the future and where that will lead me. I guess in the future would like to work with hip-hop as that was my background before playing bass so would like to delve into that a little deeper and they got some phat beats too.

ITM – Your bio states that you’re very funk based and influenced.  Who are some of your primary influences, i.e. who brings the funk for you?
Sean Doyle –
Well once I started playing the bass then hearing bass lines in tracks, then that led me off down that path. Typically the funkier bass lines are the harder ones to play. I was in a lot of rock bands to begin with but just got bored of it cos they just wanted to hear the root note of every chord. But then started to get into the funkier rock like Chilli Peppers, Greenday, Primus to name a few. But then I got into the real funk stuff, the old school stuff like Sly & the family Stone, Chic, James Brown, P-Funk who all have great bass players and the bass is a real prominent part of the tune. But then the ‘Acid Jazz’ period came about which was a really exciting time for me as it brought about bands like Jamiroquai, Incognito, James Taylor Quartet, Mother Earth, Raw Stylus. But there was only one that really brings the funk for me and that’s Jamiroquai, their early bass player Stuart Zender was just the Mecca of all bass players for me! In house you can’t beat Masters at Works bass player! But I really like some of the others that are floating about not too sure who your ozzie boy Simon Grey is using, but damn he can rip it up! In terms of tunes though, some of the productions from Grant Nelson and Brian Tappert’s Jazz N Groove stuff is real funky and up-beat! Dj’ing definitely again Grant Nelson and Brian Tappert!! Those two together at Majik Session Miami was unmissable!

ITM – Are you into sampling at all, or is everything original?  What is your take on sampling?  Pros/cons?
Sean Doyle –
No I don’t knock it all one of my favourite tracks has a sampled bassline on it (Audiowhores & Groove Assassin – Lifts Me Up) If its done well it really works. Just it seems to be that a lot of the same samples are getting used, time and time again now. Think if you are going to do it you have to do your research! Like Shapeshifters for example on Lola’s Theme most folks wouldn’t know that the strings arrangement, vocals are all samples, those boys have dug deep to get hold of those and good on them for getting as far as they did with it. But I believe some of the best composition and production comes from working with musicians on original ideas! But most of the time you will find even if musicians have been used that they will loop one sample.

ITM – Do you hold any current residencies?  When and where?
Sean Doyle –
Not as yet but more on that to come…my lips are sealed for the meantime!

ITM – What are the hottest spots for house music in Sydney?
Sean Doyle
Well can only really comment on where I have been, don’t profess to be the expert! But seems Tank are getting some of the best acts in. I know Antonio has had the likes of Frankie Knuckles, Ron Carroll, and Paul Farris etc in there. But also the SHE night seems to be getting some good folks in and also playing some good stuff! Those are some that stick out but I know of others too like Peppermint Lounge, Bob Frisky’s nights at The World Bar, Soho etc et. Must admit though missing the Terrace sets at home as really enjoyed the likes of Illya and Jackster there!

ITM Where’s the best place to eat in Sydney?
Sean Doyle – My place when my mums cooking a Spag Bol! Ha! Nah like a few places the Ribs Burgers place in Manly I really like. The Horizons restaurant at the top of the Shangri-La, also the Rengaya restaurant in North Sydney is pretty good….but think I need to do some more research on that front too!

ITM – What do you have planned for the next couple months?  Touring, production, releases, etc?
Sean Doyle – I have been real busy what with the Winter Music Conference in Miami coming up next month. So spent a lot of time in the studio working on tracks for that with the Audiowhores, JJK, David Harness, Redsoul and Nik Moss. So things have been real busy there and have about 6 tracks to get through! I have just got back from a big tour of Thailand with all the Ibiza crew from DC10’s and Bora Bora, so think on the travelling front things will be calm for a while. I have some dates back in the UK around May time so between now and then i am going to get these tracks out of the way whilst trying to focus on playing out a bit more, in talks with some folks about residencies at the minute. But the next release with me on will be a Dawn Tallman remix which is wicked and I think will do really well at the WMC as will the Audiowhores thing!

ITM – What’s the best way ‘to bring the funk!’?
Sean Doyle – Live bass, haha!

ITM – What would you say has been your best gig yet ?
Sean Doyle –
Tough one! But would have to say Ministry for bass playing! There were just some times I know that stick out there where I haven’t experienced buzz like it before! I remember just one point I had got into a groove and the dj dropped out the track and i was just playing riff with this mad wah effect on my bass and everyone going nuts when they realised it was me!

If you’re in Sydney you can catch Sean at ontopoftheworld this Saturday, March 5th, at The World in Kings Cross. For more info check out ITM Whatson.