“Sock it to ‘em Dr. Tackett!” Mixmaster Wolf exclaims in the opening track of Breakestra’s Live Mixtape Part One. Dr. Tackett is the musical golden child “Music Man ” Miles Tackett and he plays the real deal raw funk bass & soulful vocals as well as guitar, cello, some drums, percussion & some keys in his New Tilt Studio . Mixmaster Wolf sings and fronts the eight piece funk band Breakestra along with newest vocalist Afrodyete. The Los Angeles based ensemble is based in deep funk, good ol’ hip hop breaks & psychedelic soul – jazz fever. A Breakestra show is about dancing & getting your wig flipped back by a non stop throwdown of eight folks on stage getting loose & flexing some soulful skills over some serious funk grooves both original and deeper covers drawn from the vault of Miles music’s vast vault of funk . Think James Brown, the Meters, early Kool & the gang, funkadelic & Sly & the family Stone mixed in a gumbo pot of non stop funk. Watching the Breakestra live is a tour de force. As Miles says, “What are the first three letters of FUNK?”
The Breakestra began as the house band for the legendary club called the Breaks. Egon from Stonesthrow Records further explains the etymology of their name: “Break. As in “breakbeat.” That ten second slice of percussive magic in the middle of a funk song that, when looped together by progressive South Bronx DJs in the 1970s, became the basis of the hip-hop movement. Arkestra. Out-there jazzer Sun Ra’s funkafied concept of the stuffy classical orchestra.” When we combine the two concepts, you have the Breakestra or in other words an orchestra that plays breaks. Back in 1999, Stonesthrow first introduced the world to the Breakestra with a few 12” releases and soon after the full-length album Live Mixtape Part Two.
“The Breakestra should become a class or a 4-year graduate program for funk musicians. Playing with the Breakestra is a great way to get a degree in funk,” says former longtime keyboardist Carlos Guaico. Indeed it is a way to get your degree in funk because the Breakestra have played an A to Z of funk classics. James Brown, Jimmy Smith, all the way to the endless breaks sampled by Gangstarr and A Tribe Called Quest. The Breakestra have played so many covers of the aforementioned grooves that the only way a musician could be in the group is if they really knew how to play.
If we were to construct a family tree of LA bands, Breakestra would be mentioned in the same breath as Weapon of Choice, Very Be Careful. Jurassic 5, Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and Ozomatli. These bands began in backyard jam sessions and random open mics held throughout the city from Echo Park to Venice, Highland Park to Topanga Canyon. Those early days were just after the ’92 Riots. Musicians from all over the city became tighter and many experimental jam sessions occurred fusing genres like funk, hip-hop, rock and acoustic soul resulting in truly innovative, multiculturaL music. Musical friendships between cats like Miles, Mixmaster Wolf, Cut Chemist, Peaunut Butter Wolf, Carlos Guaico and many others became the seeds for landmark clubs and two indie record labels that still flourish to this day. Original members of the Breakestra have gone on to either play or write songs for/with the Black Eyed Peas, Macy Gray, The Rebirth, Dakah, the list goes on.
Miles’ inspiration to form the Breakestra began when he fell in love with hip-hop after hearing groups like the Jungle Brothers and historic records like the Ultramagnetic MC’s’ Critical Beatdown in the late 1980s – the era in which tons of dusty drum breaks and funky samples first saw the light of day. These samples hit closer to home for Miles because his father Freddie Tackett is in the seminal band Little Feat and wrote the song “Fool Yourself.” This epic song was later drum sampled by A Tribe called Quest for their “Bonita Applebaum” (though Miles claims he sampled it first). Funk is in his blood. For Miles the hip-hop of the late ‘80’s is sacred. He adds, “Like all longtime Angelino hip-hop lovers, I heard these records on KDAY.” As a lifelong musician, Miles was never the same.
Miles greatly enjoyed watching dj’s like Cut Chemist and Mixmaster Wolf mix breaks from rare funk and soul records so he got the idea to create a live band that could simulate the blending of breaks only with live music rather than mixing on turntables. Somewhere around 1996 Miles organized weekly jams at a local coffeehouse called The Breaks and it quickly caught on. Not only was it live players, but there were dj’s, beatboxers, breakdancers and emcees. These jam sessions with his favorite players spawned the Breakestra. Noted singer-songwriter Damon Aaron was the original guitarist that night. Josh Cohen brought the drum kit.
Through the course of their nearly decade-long existence the only two members that have remained constant are bassist/guitarist/upright cellist/producer/vocalist “Music Man” Miles Tackett and vocalist Mixmaster Wolf. When asked about the rotating members of the band, Miles responds, “The Breakestra has always featured a rotating cast of L.A. guest supporting musicians.” Critical players over the years include: Pete “the funky buzzard ” Mcneal, Josh “Wallet” Cohen, Jake Najor, Jason Pipkin on drums, Geoff “Double G” Gallegos, James “the funky penguin” King, David Moyer, David Ralike, Nate Ketner on saxes and flute, Todd Simon, Paul Vargas, Devin Williams on trumpet, Carlos Guaico, Dan Hastie, Chris Joyner, Jeremy Ruzumna, Marshall Thompson, Chuck Boogie on Fender rhodes & organ, Davey Chegwidden , Chuck Prada on percussion, Dan Ubick, Sergio Rios, Pat “the snake” Bailey, Jud Mcdaniel on guitar, and Mixmaster Wolf, Afrodyete & Miles Tackett on vocals.
The many musicians that have comprised the Breakestra live show over the last 10 years comprise a who’s who of L.A.’s funk/soul/hip-hop underground. It’s no surprise that many of the Breakestra’s original players have started their own projects such as Carlos Guaico with The Rebirth, Geoff “Double G” Gallegos with Dakah hip hop orchestra, Dan Hastie with Orgone. Former guitarist Dan Ubick now leads roots reggae masters, the Lions & the psychedelic funky Connie Price and the Keystones.
The current Breakestra live show line-up for 2011 is:
Miles Tackett, bassist/cellist & vocalist
Mix Master Wolf -soul shoutin’, sangin’ & percussion
Afrodyete the african goddess of funky soul & love-vocals & percussion
Jud Mcdaniel of (Simple Citizens)-guitar & bass
Pat “The Snake” Bailey – guitar (also the guitarist for The Rebirth)
Chuck Boogie-Fender Rhodes, organ & percussion
Nate Ketner & David Moyer- Saxophones & flute
Jason Pipkin, John Montgomery & Miles Senzaki- drums
Josh Welchez,Mike Rocha & Eitan Avineri-trumpet
Over the years, The Breaks evolved into the Thursday night extravaganza called the Root Down, in reverence to organist Jimmy Smith’s classic. Miles and The Breakestra perform regularly to capacity crowds along side luminaries such as Jurassic 5, Dilated Peoples, Black Eyed Peas, Freestyle Fellowship, CrownCity rockers, Visionaries, Cut Chemist, Nu-Mark and DJ Shadow. Meanwhile Miles has transformed from a hip hop fan into a respected hip hop producer. His production credits include T-Love’s acclaimed “Return of the B-girl” EP, tracks for Cut Chemist and Rakka of Dilated Peoples, songs for Macy Gray’s debut LP and his now legendary remake of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” on the Ubiquity Rewind Series.
Miles has also become a dedicated funk vinyl dj. “I’ve been around so many great funky Dj’s over the years that inevitably the spirit rubbed off on me.” He’s been djing now for 10 years. “Djing is an addictive hobby, I’m in a 12” step program.” His mix cd “Funky Sole Vol. 1” has become a favorite in indie record stores coast-to-coast where it quickly sold out. DJ Jeremy Sole describes it:” This continuous set of heavy-footed funk breaks is seamlessly executed, showing his understated smoothness on the tables. The overall arrangement of the CD unfurls with the stamina of James Brown’s “Live at the Apollo”, and is testament of Miles’ undying love for a groove. He could easily have gone for the rarer-then-thou selections throughout, but instead Miles runs the gamut from the funk aficionado’s most coveted artists like Eugene Blacknell and Third Guitar, to sure shots like The Meters, Steely Dan and the godfather himself. Of the 49 bumpin’ tracks, there’s even slices of Jamaican funk and moments when our man finds the common shuffle between Jimi’s “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” and the JB’s “Doin’ it to Death”.
The Breakestra move with the same fluid spirit of Miles mix CD. Through the course of their hour long sets, they never stop playing. They employ funky transitions and what Miles calls “arrangement experimentation.” Miles continues, “DJing has a tremendous influence on the breaks and transitions of the Breakestra.” Mixmaster Wolf says on their first recording, “Here’s a live mix tape, you don’t need a cassette.”
After a few years of Breakestra touring & performing mostly deep funk covers & breaks live mixtape style he decided to explore writing & recording more original tracks similar to his very first recording experiment “Getcho soul togetha” & that began the creation of the all originals “Hit The Floor” record on ubiquity records released in 2006.He had just moved out of Topanga Canyon & had set up a new home studio in northeast L.A. where he then began writing new songs along with Mixmaster Wolf on lyrics.He returned to the original homestyle overdubbing technique of building tracks, playing many of the rhythm section tracks himself as well as singing much more than on the previous Breakestra record.since the new tracks were all originals it allowed a missing creative outlet.It also allowed for him to expand bringing in some deeper soulful songs, funky disco rap & abstract fusion sounds in addition to the raw, funky, soul-jazz foundation.Most of the tracks intentionally include open drum breaks & instrumental sections for djs to cut up or producers to sample, some have been since it’s release in 2006.
in 2006 Miles & Mixmaster wolf’s good friend, DJ Dusk was tragically killed by a drunk driver.Miles & Dusk had worked on some hip hop beat productions before & Dusk had a cameo appearance on “family Rap” from “Hit the Floor”.After awhile of touring and reflecting in 2007 tackett started working on new material & the first seed to grow was a dedication to Dusk called “set the sun” which closes the new record, “Dusk till Dawn” which was released in October of 2009.it was not intended to be a Breakestra track but moreso something for a future side project so it was set aside while he started recording “Lowdown Stank”, a downtempo raw funk track inspired from a Dance that Wolf would do naturally during Breakestra sets and would usually be imitated by the fun folks in front.the new tracks were recorded with the same apporoach as “hit the floor” with Tackett doing many rhythm tracks
himself along with the help of great local horn players, a few other drummers & a new guest vocalist Afrodyete.
The 8 years previous of collecting & djing a variety of funk sounds contributed greatly to the expanded production sounds of Soulful string arrangements,afro latin & psychedelic funk rock.As the resident Dj at Rootdown, Dusk exposed Miles to sounds like cumbia & funky afro cuban salsa.His 7 years doing Funky Sole with world psychedelic funk djs Egon & cut chemist also greatly expanced his palatte.The last track “posed to be” began as cumbia, afro latin style riff that might normally have been played on baritone sax but now was played on guitar with a fuzzy distortion sound over a west african rhythm pattern that soon gets picked up like a wave by a hard funk back beat.Mixmaster Wolf & guest mc Chali 2na then bless the track with some rapid fire lyricism & courtesy of technology Dj Dusk drops a dope verse letting folks know by example what’s greatly missing in hip hop in 2011, FUNK!