Megatron: Fantastic fusion of soul, funk, jazz, pop, and hip hop
By Ian Chant
(printed in What'sUp Magazine April 2006)
Megatron, the jazz/funk/soul fusion trio whose robotic moniker was coined in a moment of panic by front man and trumpet guru Paul Chandler, will be releasing its debut CD, I Believe in a Thing Called Soul: Vol. 1, this spring.
“It all started back at the Rogue Hero. I booked a show, and didn’t really have a band. Delvon and Julian were free, so we played. When Scotty, the bartender, asked us what to call the band, in about 10 seconds I came up with Megatron, inspired by the clientele of the Rogue, who are pretty metal-oriented from time to time. The name has stuck ever since.”
Delvon and Julian are Delvon Dumas and Julian MacDonough (holding down duty on the Hammond B-3 organs and drums, respectively), both veterans of the Northwest music scene boasting work alongside various area jazz musicians as well as other projects, including Bellingham’s own funk orchestra, La Push. Chandler and MacDonough had been playing and recording together prior to as the duet Melodious Thunk, a project that went into extended hibernation since the addition of Dumas and his Hammond organ to the acoustical mix.
“Delvon had started playing with LaPush at the time, as had Julian, so we were all playing funk in a really big band, so I guess we wanted to try and get the same big sound with less people, and tighter arrangements.”
After playing live shows around town at venues such as the Rogue and the Nightlight Lounge, the trio was encouraged enough to enter the studio for their first album, I Believe in a Thing Called Soul: Vol. 1. I got lucky enough to snag a few words about the band, the album and the recording process from Chandler via e-mail from Puerto Vallarta, where he is living, working and walking on stilts for the time being with Bellingham’s Dream Science Circus band.
Recording the album went off without a hitch, according to Chandler, who worked double duty on the album, doing engineering and production work as well as busting out the wicked trumpet work. “We recorded with Pat Gaye at Sleng Teng Studio, out in the Wood Hood of Bellingham. It was really casual, as opposed to some really sterile uncomfortable sessions I’ve done in big expensive studios. We knocked out six tracks in one day, and then did another day of some overdubs…All in all it was a really quick and cheap project to do.”
Thing Called Soul has a core of five studio tracks that dive headfirst into an array of musical genres, taking on disco, funk, jazz and soul with the same wild abandon. Trumpet blasts wail and swoon alongside ridiculously funky beats laid down from the drums and organ, somehow recalling Parliament Funkadelic, Herbie Hancock and the Jackson 5 on acid in the same tune. Between Chandler, Dumas and McDonough, the band’s influences are too many to mention here, but their admiration for the musicians of yesteryear is obvious; as Chandler puts it, “There are a lot of sources of inspiration…There is a whole culture of people who are constantly digging through record crates to find that one gem that nobody knows about. People are re-discovering all these great tunes and bands from the 60’s and 70’s at the same time.”
The musicians of Megatron embrace the challenge of bringing this underappreciated sound to a wider audience through their soul/funk explosion. “There’re a lot of kids that listen to these crappy bands that have no sense of history. They think of Michael Jackson as a freaky child molester, instead of one of the funkiest child performers ever, or people who say they hate disco, but if they heard the Ohio Players, they would poop their pants… I guess we kind of want to recreate the vibe and feel of some of that classic soul and funk, but add another dimension of pop or heavy metal or hip hop, so we can hook in the people who wouldn’t necessarily be listening to a band like Megatron.”
To fill out the CD, the fellas added a couple of bonus tracks along with the studio pieces, including an electro dub remix of Dumas’ original tune “Double D” and a can’tmiss live recording from the Nightlight—arguably the high point of the CD—of the coolest cover of the Sesame Street theme song you have ever heard.
Along with being the first release for Megatron, I Believe in a Thing Called Soul: Vol. 1 is the first release on Chandler’s new label, Dirt Factory Records. Established in an attempt to motivate Chandler to make more music, Dirt Factory has two more releases coming up in a party mix by DJ Masked Avenger entitled Soul Smackdown and a collection of Chandler’s electronic work as Fresh Robot called Electronation. But for right now, you’ll just have to tide yourself over with the funktacular sounds of Megatron, a band that will make you, too, believe in a thing called soul.