The Cactus Channel
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The Cactus Channel

Northcote, Australia | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | INDIE | AFM

Northcote, Australia | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Alternative Soul

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Feb
28
The Cactus Channel @ Funkin' The Bay

Docklands, Victoria, Australia

Docklands, Victoria, Australia

Music

Press


"The Cactus Channel featuring Chet Faker - Sleeping Alone"

Chet Faker has teamed up with Melbourne collective The Cactus Channel for a two-track collaboration, titled Kill The Doubt, and according to the press release, the songs have been in the making for two years. Below, you can listen to 50% of it, called "Sleeping Alone," a soulful melange between jazz and funk. If you like what you hear, feel free to cop Kill The Doubt here. - HYPETRAK


"The Cactus Channel - Sleeping Alone feat. Chet Faker"

What's so good?
New Chet Faker is good Chet Faker, especially when it pushes the envelope of sound a little bit.


"Sleeping Alone" comes as part of a two-track collaboration with Melbourne band The Cactus Channel. According to the press release, the songs have been in the making for two years, though entirely how that timeline played out is unclear.


What is clear, however, is that together they've crafted a wonderfully rich sound that embodies the best of contemporary jazz, funk and soul. - Indie Shuffle


"Chet Faker & The Cactus Channel team up on new music"

Chet Faker's been in Brooklyn working on a new album and about to head home to play massive send-off shows for Built On Glass.

In-between all that, he's found time to collaborate with another Melbourne artist with serious soul: funk troupe The Cactus Channel.

The 10-piece ensemble and the Hottest 100 winner have recorded a pair of songs together that will feature on a new 7'' vinyl single (out today via HopeStreet Recordings).

The A side, 'Kill The Doubt', was premiered on Good Nighs with Linda Marigliano yesterday and sees Chet giving a velvety vocal performance over some classic soul and funk backing. The flipside, 'Sleeping Alone', finds Faker giving some spoken word as his rueful words are dappled by noir guitar, jazzy touches, and later big ol' brass.

Hear both tracks in the stream below and visit HopeStreet Recordings for more info on the vinyl. - Triple J


"Chet Faker & The Cactus Channel unveil two new soulful tracks"

Spine-tingling crooner Chet Faker has teamed with Australian band The Cactus Channel for two new tracks that reignite the passion of classic live soul. The two records titled “Kill the Doubt” and “Sleeping Alone” have been reportedly two years in the making with the 10-piece band’s horns and instrumentals providing a refreshing new vibe compared to Chet’s usual electronic-inspired backing. Check out the funk-meets-folk 7 inch single release Kill the Doubt which is available now on vinyl and digital. - Dancing Astronaut


"The Cactus Channel team up with Chet Faker for two new tracks"

Australian singer Chet Faker is best known for his raw, soul-filled vocals on efforts like “Killswitch” and “1998”. However, his latest musical efforts come in the form of vocal features on both “Sleeping Alone” and “Kill The Doubt”, a 7″ release from Australian funk and soul outfit The Cactus Channel.

On “Sleeping Alone”, our particular favorite of the two tracks, Chet does his soulful thing over a lightly funk-flared instrumental provided by the act, and on “Kill The Doubt”, we hear the harmonies and ride-heavy drums of The Cactus Channel fit perfectly with Faker’s powerful voice. Both tracks are high-quality ones, and, while solidifying Chet’s already-solid reputation, they should work to grant some more buzz for the other act as well. - Hilly Dilly


"Rock city gives it up, turns it loose with The Cactus Channel"

Feel the funk
AIN’T it funky.
The Cactus Channel’s debut album Haptics is hind-bogglingly funky and must be a contender for the 2012 Coopers’ Australian Music Prize. It feels like the Melbourne 10-piece were were only Unearthed by Triple J 10 minutes ago but already they’ve turned around and released an instrumental, transcendent record that will be revered in 50 years.
No hyperbole.
No hipsters.
Just Haptics’ hipness and hits.

Haptics is a Greek word “Of or relating to the sense of touch; tactile.”

“We were having big troubles trying to name it so I typed “cool words” into my phone and that came up,” says guitarist and chilled mouthpiece for the band David Thor. “It was Google, not Siri, Siri’s s--- in Australia.”

“We pieced together the meaning for Haptics, it’s our first album, bringing us into the world, our greeting. I know it sounds a bit lame…” he says before Rock City corrects him: it’s not lame when you’ve got major game. Thor is on a very “funky” bus with nine bandmates and a busdriver heading to Sydney to play a two set show so it’s understandable he is a little self conscious doing an interview on behalf of all of them. They are still very new to this game, even if their sound is rooted in the freewheeling jump-up jams and ‘60s and ‘70s like Emmanuel Ciccolini.

Dirty D’s Thang is a towering number that could soundtrack Bruce Lee dismantling a small army of bad guys with rude ‘taches. “I was listening quite heavily to the Dap Kings and wanted emulate the syncopated sound of the rhythm section. I thought about the melody of the horns afterwards but I really wanted a tight groove,” says Thor. And we can assume the Dirty D is you, David? “Yeah, I’m Dirty D, dogg." He didn't actually say "dogg" but everyone loves alliteration.

One must inquire as to how a bunch of musicians barely out of high school know the ledge ie. how did they first get funky?
“Henry Jenkins (Fender bass) came to us in the middle of year nine with a compilation called New Orleans Funk Vol 1 and 2. That compilation spread around the band. It had artists like Eddie Bo and The Meters, that got us started and then we moved onto James Brown. All the bands coming out of the Daptones Record Label we got curious about and we’d look up all the YouTube clips on the internet and learn all the grooves and then we decided to start writing our own,” he recalls.

“The first song we write was called Bearded Woman, it will never surface, it was not the greatest songwriting,” he says. It’s all part of the process. In a strange way maybe the Australian music scene had to have Directions in Groove, Skunkhour and Swoop (oh yes, you can’t forget The Woxo Principle) so we could get to Saskwatch, The Bombay Royale and The Cactus Channel.

“Chris Gill (Northside Recordings) must have heard us play live and then he told Hope Street Recordings about us. He’s been a great help.”
Have you contemplated wearing wild Krusty the Clown Chris Gills wigs on stage as a Tenacious D style tribute? “Yeah, um, no. He’s the only white man I know who can rock a ‘fro like that so I think we’d be out of our depth there," says Thor.

Let’s not forget Disco Stu, Dirty D.

And now it’s time for Thor’s top five all time funk tracks. Let’s get into embedding together.

"Give It Up, Turn It Loose by James Brown is killer. The guitar line and the syncopation by all the instruments makes you wanna get up and dance.”

“Genuine by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. It’s from the compilation Soul Time which is the best of their live songs that never made it to albums. You gotta listen to it man, the groove is simple and incredible. You listen to their songwriting and say ‘Why didn’t we think of that!?””

“How Do I Let A Good Man Down? off the Naturally album. We played that as a cover for my music assessment in Year 12 so we got close to that song. It’s called Music Investigation and I had to investigate the funk soul revival that started in the ‘90s.”

“The Menahan Street Band title-track from Make The Road By Walking. That got us thinking about writing cinematic soul, not just the hard funk and soul that James Brown writes. That’s my Desert Island disc too.”

“Can I say an album, not just a song? The El Michels Affair album that’s called Walk On By: A Tribute To Isaac Hayes from the Truth and Soul label.” - Herald Sun


"Spreading the groove: Melbourne's funk scene"

The funk instrumental ‘Pepper Snake’ is an old-school dancefloor hip-shaker that has never appeared on compact disc. The original 7-inch 45 rpm vinyl single has a pre-metric 1.5-inch hole in its centre and a red-and-black label bearing the inscription “Super Nice Vibe”. Put the needle in the groove and you hear a bubbling electric bass, an itch-scratching guitar lick and an eruption of fatback drumming before the horns blast in with a staccato riff that more or less makes up the tune. Clocking in at a tight three minutes and nine seconds, ‘Pepper Snake’ has been championed by BBC Radio’s resident funk guru, Craig Charles, and a slew of other international DJs. It’s old-fashioned, gritty and down-home soul music – by a bunch of white teenagers from Melbourne.

The Cactus Channel – for that is the band’s name – formed at Princes Hill High School four years ago during the breaks between playing with the school jazz ensemble. Their bass player, Henry Jenkins, had just discovered The Meters, a seminal New Orleans funk band whose classic recordings were made two decades before he was born. Pretty soon the Cactus Channel were doing it to death in the band room after hours, and by Year 10 they had a deal with Hope Street Recordings, a small Melbourne label that specialises in analogue recording using one of the last four-track reel-to-reel tape machines in Australia. Their second 45, ‘Emanuel Ciccolini’ came out in March and this month they release their debut album, Haptics. According to their Facebook page, they already have fans in Greece, Belgium and France.

The Cactus Channel are part of a thriving Melbourne retro-funk scene that also includes The Bamboos, Kylie Auldist, The PutBacks, Saskwatch and Deep Street Soul, many of them releasing their music through international labels, often on vinyl 45s and LPs as well as CDs and digital downloads. That a city whose entire African-American population could fit in a small room is now the funk capital of the southern hemisphere demonstrates (as if we needed another case study) the weirdly transmutable nature of 21st-century pop culture.

It’s doubly weird when you consider that the golden age of funk – which began when James Brown recorded ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag’ one afternoon in 1965 and ended in the dark days of disco – pretty much passed Australia by. None of the classic funk bands toured here, radio rarely played them, local record companies rarely released them, and when James Brown finally visited in 1978 he played the dinner lounge of the Hilton Hotel (where he decimated the room and left office workers stomping on the tables). It wasn’t until hip-hop DJs began plundering the funk canon for their backbeats in the late 1980s that the genre was exhumed for a new generation. Today its entire history is accessible via myriad exhaustive CD reissues, deluxe specialist magazines like the extraordinary Wax Poetics, thousands of blogs and, of course, the instant gratification of iTunes, Spotify and illegal file-sharing services. Never in history has so much funk been available to so many.

Given that availability – and the fact that hip-hop itself is such a reliably dreadful concert experience – it was inevitable that someone would hit on the idea of reanimating funk’s glory days on stage. That someone was Gabriel Roth, the producer/writer/bass player behind the New York label Daptone Records, a man whose dedication to 1970s black music probably qualifies as a diagnosable disorder. A Gen-Xer with a funk fixation that began in college, Roth built an analogue studio in Brooklyn ten years ago, then gathered together a stable of unknown soul singers and musicians to record old-school soul and funk LPs that uncannily resembled vintage releases. (I once bought an exotic-looking album called Soul Explosion which featured a cover shot of lions and vultures on the African savannah and was credited to The Daktaris, an Afrobeat band from Lagos, Nigeria. It was actually a bunch of white guys from Brooklyn recording for Roth under fake African names.) Roth’s grand dream of reviving funk’s glorious past was sailing close to bankruptcy in 2006, when a relatively unknown British singer called Amy Winehouse recorded half her second album, Back to Black, in the Daptone studio with his musicians. The album’s massive success put the label on the map.

At the heart of Roth’s aesthetic is a fetishistic love of tape and vinyl, the old-fashioned media of analogue recording. His ardour has come to be shared by superstar allies like the Black Keys, the Akron rock band whose oeuvre mimics the overdriven distortion of old blues records, and Jack White, whose Third Man studio/retail complex in Nashville is a shrine to the pre-digital age. For these auteurs it’s not just the sound of analogue recording that sets it apart but the whole lightning-in-a-bottle process of capturing musical alchemy on tape as it happens, without resort to the endless manipulations of digital multi-tracking. Jack White still edits his master tapes with a razor blade, and Roth regards the 12-inch vinyl LP as a case study in perfection: it sounds good, looks good, smells good and feels good and, unlike an mp3, you can roll a joint on it.

Of course, Beyoncé’s last digital single probably outgrossed the entire Daptone Records back catalogue, but the revivalist impulse Roth and White have helped kickstart is heading off on intriguing tangents. Melbourne now boasts a 17-piece band, the Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, which re-creates the clamorous Nigerian funk sound of the legendary Fela Kuti, right down to recording on analogue tape (the band’s trumpeter, Tristan Ludowyk, also co-manages Hope Street Recordings, the label which promises that “super nice vibe”). In Sydney, the expatriate Ethiopian singer Dereb Desalegn (who performs as Dereb the Ambassador) recently recorded an album using vintage microphones and tape machines deployed by producer Tony Buchen to replicate the saturated analogue sound of Ethiopia’s crudely recorded 1970s popular music.

On one level these records are acts of homage which reflect a nostalgia for pre-digital imperfection, much like the craze for Mad Men, vintage bicycles and Instagram. Vinyl record sales have been steadily increasing for six years, which suggests that even the iPod generation needs to affirm that music is something more than just a bunch of data in the cloud. On the other hand, all this retro-vintage revisionism would surely be impossible in a non-digital world. It was the compact disc that finally made Fela Kuti’s music available in Australia, and it’s the internet that has enabled many of these old-school funk bands to do their thing.

Take the case of Deep Street Soul, formed in Melbourne six years ago by the bass player Warren Hunter and drummer Agostino Soldati. Working as DJs, the pair absorbed the funk genre so completely that turning their hand to playing it proved no massive stretch. More importantly, they understood that funk aficionados around the world worship the punchy sound of the 7-inch vinyl 45 (the high rotation speed spreads the groove across more plastic, deepening the bottom end and smoothing out the highs). Their first two instrumental 45s under the Deep Street Soul moniker got them instant airplay in Britain and Europe, but it was the digital downloads from their MySpace page that got them a deal with Freestyle Records in the UK.

In 2008, Agostino hatched the genius idea of recording a funk version of ‘Kick Out The Jams’, the raucous call to arms of Detroit’s premier 1960s noise merchants, the MC5. Deep Street Soul recorded it as a driving syncopated instrumental (on four-track tape, naturally) but they realised the tune was begging for a throat-shredding vocal performance by a black soul shouter. Through a musician friend, they heard about a young American R&B singer, Tia Hunter, who played on cruise ships; after tracking her down on MySpace, they sent the instrumental to her in Brooklyn via the internet with instructions to “sing it like Marva Whitney in James Brown’s band, circa 1969”. Hunter took the digital file to a New York studio, nailed the vocal in two hours, and uploaded the finished track back to Melbourne.

The resulting single left European and British funk DJs agog; it sounds like the wildest Detroit funk record never made. Completing the circle, the MC5’s former guitarist Wayne Kramer recently sent a wildly enthusiastic email to Hunter and Agostino – a download of the song had found its way to him via Bruce Springsteen’s manager, and he pronounced it the best version he’d ever heard. Deep Street Soul have since hitched up with local singers, released two albums internationally on Freestyle Records and toured Europe, but to this day they’ve never actually met Tia Hunter. “It would be cool to hear her singing it,” muses Hunter.

So maybe it’s not so crazy to think that a bunch of teenagers from Princes Hill High School could be the latest torchbearers of “raw, loose and nasty funk”. The Cactus Channel are not without humour about their own novelty value: “It’s just like the old days,” says their website, “but so new it’s sporting a badass teenage moustache.” But less than a year after finishing Year 12, they’ve already played the Melbourne Jazz Festival, released their second 45 and supported the veteran American soul singers Syl Johnson and Charles Walker. Walker happens to be signed to the Daptone label, and when he gave them his blessing it was almost a religious moment. Pretty soon they might have to remove the message on their MySpace page that says, “See you at school tomorrow.” - The Monthly


"Prickly Situations"

THEY completed their VCE just last year but, thankfully, they're all of age now. Before that, Melbourne deep-funk teenagers the Cactus Channel would have to run the gauntlet of confused bouncers and venue managers as under-age performers at licensed venues.
''The amount of times we rocked up with our guitars to places that we were playing,'' Cactus Channel bassist Henry Jenkins sighs, ''only to have the bouncer say, 'Do you guys have ID?' And we'd have to say, 'No, but we're playing.' 'So you don't have ID?' 'No.' He'd stand there confused, as he'd never encountered this and he wouldn't know what to do. The worst ones were when we'd get questioned on our ages at the afternoon's soundcheck, leave, then come back and get asked for ID all over again.''
Purveying gritty, instrumental funk and soul music inspired by contemporaries such as the Daptones, Truth & Soul Records and Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band, as well as past masters such as James Brown, Eddie Bo and Fela Kuti, it's extraordinary that the 10-piece, who formed in year 8 at Carlton North's Princes Hill Secondary Collage, could all have this appetite for vintage music styles at such a young age.
''It wasn't like, 'Hey, wow, you're into funk and soul?' 'Yeah, me too!' 'Oh my god, me too!' 'Oh my god, me too!' 'Oh my god, that's 10 of us!''' says Jenkins, the son of highly respected Melbourne singer-songwriter Charles Jenkins (Icecream Hands, the Zhivagos).
''A few of us were into hip-hop, especially hip-hop that sampled funk and soul stuff, and the keyboardist was really into jazz. I think the first soul singers I got into were Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, as that's the kind of stuff that my dad's really into. So it was like an extension of what we were already really into.''
Jenkins' bass teacher was the PutBacks bassist Mick Meagher, who encouraged his band's label,
HopeStreet Recordings, to check out the Cactus Channel. Since then, they have released two vinyl
seven-inch singles (Emanuel Ciccolini/Budokan in March and Pepper Snake/The Dap last year) and were finalists in the Triple J Unearthed High competition.
Their debut album, Haptics, was recorded towards the end of their VCE last year. Presenting raw soul, rambling deep-funk jams and organ-driven party mash-ups, Haptics also sounds authentically vintage.
''That's just HopeStreet,'' Jenkins says. ''There's tape machines and old microphones. As much as it is a vintage sound ... we really like that particular sound where the drums are big and the horns are that close to distorting.'' - The Age


"The Age"

“Tightly raw soul, rambling deep-funk jams and organ-driven party mash-ups” - The Age


"triple j"

“Infectiously funky sounds… a horn-fuelled, butt-shaking affair” - triple j HOME & HOSED


"The Monthly"

“It’s old-fashioned, gritty and down-home soul music – by a bunch of white teenagers from Melbourne” - THE MONTHLY


"Beat"

“Brilliant… The Cactus Channel are poised to take over the world with their sweaty, nasty, funky sounds” - BEAT


"Drum Media"

“Haptics is quite simply a near-perfect funk album… A rich cluster of solid, compelling instrumental pieces” - DRUM MEDIA


"Craig Charles"

“Once again Cactus Channel have provided the goods for what is one very dark but compelling 7”. Well done, you have certainly kept the flag of quality running high" - Craig Charles, The Craig Charles Funk And Soul Show, BBC 6Music


Discography

Pepper Snake / The Dap 7" (2010 HopeStreet Recordings)

Emanuel Ciccolini / Budokan 7" (2011 HopeStreet Recordings)

Haptics LP (2012 HopeStreet Recordings)

Wooden Boy LP (2013 HopeStreet Recordings)

Animaux - Alaska (Cactus Channel Sp00ky Remix)

Cobaw / Fool's Gold 7" (2015 HopeStreet Recordings)

Kill The Doubt / Sleeping Alone feat. Chet Faker (2015 HopeStreet Recordings)

Sorry Hills w/ Sam Cromack (2017 HopeStreet Recordings)

Do It For Nothing EP w/ Sam Cromack (2017 HopeStreet Recordings)

Photos

Bio

Three is the magic number for The Cactus Channel. The ever-evolving Melbourne collective’s third album represents a new consciousness and a decisive turning point. Unloosed from their earlier incarnation as an instrumental soul and funk band into something wilder, a little darker and heavier, the new album sees The Cactus Channel diving in deep to dreamlike soundtracks, electrifying wig-outs and woozy meditations.

There were signifiers along the road; a boundary-splintering EP with Ball Park Music singer Sam Cromack last year, following a 7” single collab with Nick Murphy, released as The Cactus Channel feat. Chet Faker. These outings were a glimpse of the alchemy of adding vocals to the band’s typically intuitive, instrumental arrangements. And now with the band’s own Lewis Coleman stepping up to the mic, a vocal dimension has become part of The Cactus Channel’s fully formed, signature sound.

This new embodiment of The Cactus Channel is of the cultural moment, akin to the vibrational path-crossing of fellow travellers such as Badbadnotgood, Unknown Mortal Orchestra & Menahan Street Band. The band flexes their classic soul and funk influences whilst expanding their own songwriting along psychedelic paths, adding weight and substance to their melodic and rhythmic axis.

Looking back to when The Cactus Channel formed in high school, united by shared interests and a shared sense of humour, they were always set to walk this new path. A love of soul music and the kind of hip hop, jazz, and alternative releases that spring from it, meant that from the beginning The Cactus Channel have prided themselves not just on eclecticism, but on the constant sharing of influences among their members; exploring new influences and sonic territories. 

Band Members