Interview by Scott Preston
A new funk phenomenon from Asheville, NC is perking up eyebrows and ear holes as they spread their festive, exciting and unpredictable stage show throughout the US and even as far south as Negril, Jamaica. They’ve taken a slightly less than subtle approach to naming the band, producing a moniker which at once describes the sound, the fury, the philosophy of the band. They are Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band. Their horn, guitar and percussion-based sound is designed to make feet flood the dance floor, and they succeed with alarming proficiency. Adding elements of hip hop, reggae, ska, and latin to the mix, funk is merely the base from which their endless exploits refuel. The band is excited about bonding these genres of music together into a style they call “Bounce Music.”
Cincy Groove: I guess I’ll ask the most obvious question first. Where did the band name come from?
John-Paul Miller: We were in Las Vegas and were trying our luck at these slot machines. There was this old slot machine over in the corner that had this big clown face on it. It wasn’t even plugged in, so we plugged it in and it started right up. It was more of a fortune teller machine I guess, it picked out really strange band names. We went through a few of them, and when Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band came up, we decided to try that one out for a while.
Cincy Groove: How did the band get together?
John-Paul Miller: We all met in Boone, NC. It started with 3 or 4 of us just jamming in my basement. We were just messing around, playing some Santana songs. It really just started from jam sessions and open mics in Boone. We realized we could get free beer out of the deal, so we started playing clubs. Honestly it started out as a big party and we were the party band. All the college kids would come out to the shows and nearly everyone one of them was close to sold out. People would come up on stage with us, it was a really good time.
In the last couple years we really have started focusing more on the music, really tightening it up. I would say we do about 50 percent less of the stupid stuff on stage (laughing) than we used to and the music has gotten a lot better. We also have gone through some member changes, so that always changes the music as well. One of our singers, Josh Phillips, recently left the band and now does his own side project call the Josh Phillips Folk Festival. He started writing more folk oriented songs, like Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan. He realized one day he wasn’t putting out the funk anymore, so we decided to go our own separate ways. Its still cool we are all still friends with him. At the same time it kind of took the pop out of the music. He was our catchy song writer guy. The rest of us are more into more instrumental music. So most of the stuff we have written lately has been more instrumentals. We also have been writing some more heavy funk songs, kind of like the old P Funk. Kind of aggressive, almost to the point of Rage Against The Machine at times. I actually just added a keyboard rig to my guitar setup, its a MOG synthesizer, they are out of Asheville, NC so they hooked us up. Our drummer just got some electronic drum triggers as well. So who knows maybe we will work in some electronic music into the funk. No Matter what the music is always going to be funky.
Cincy Groove: I know your last record came out a few years ago, are there plans to get back into the studio?
John-Paul Miller: Well, actually we are mixing down right now something we have been working on. We had an engineer from New York do a couple tours with us and he multi tracked all the shows. He recorded shows from upstate New York all the way down to New Orleans. Its a really great collection of our live shows. It shows where we were in the last year and what we are doing now. We have always been a high energy band, so one of the questions was, How would be transfer that energy into the studio? The studio album that came out was totally different, we are very proud of it. But it doesn’t really show the feeling you get from coming out to one of our shows. This live album really captures the energy of our shows. Its going to be called “Greatest Hips Vol II” and will hopefully be ready by early Spring.
Cincy Groove: I work with a funk band here in Cincinnati, Freekbass, that did the same thing last year put out a live and a studio album.
John-Paul Miller: Oh yeah, we know Freekbass. He is actually in one of our podcast videos. Our van had broken down in Ithaca, NY. We had just played a show there and Freekbass was playing there the next day. So we were hanging out and went to the show and ended up getting on stage and jamming with them. We are trying to set up some shows with him, but we always seem to be a week off. It will happen eventually.
Cincy Groove: How did it feel to win the 2 Home Grown Music Network awards this past year?
John-Paul Miller: It felt great. They are our main distributor and a great bunch of people. I think we practically know everyone that works there now. I really like all the bands that are in the network. They voted us #1 band and #1 album. That was a pretty cool day, we all woke up and got text messages.
Cincy Groove: I see that you also have been getting some local recognition in Asheville.
John-Paul Miller: We were named the #1 hip hop band here in Asheville, NC. Even though we only do a couple hip hop songs, its still pretty cool. They don’t have a funk category so I guess they fit us into the hip hop category. We have won three years in a row.
Cincy Groove: So tell me about the song you wrote “Naked”. I understand there have been many interesting experiences performing it live.
John-Paul Miller: Well, its funny, because we have gone through about 8-9 drummers. The guy we have now, we had to put him through band boot camp. He just turned 21, so he is the young one of the group. We weren’t sure if he was going to make it, but he did (laughing). He is turning into a really good drummer. He has been taking lessons from Stanton Moore and learning tricks from all kinds of drummers.
With the song Naked, we haven’t attempted to teach it to any of the drummers we have had because we didn’t really know who was going to work out. After this last drummer played with us for about a year we decided to initiate him into the band and brought back the song for NYE this past year. We hadn’t played it for over a year. As usual the boobs came out, which makes it a great event (laughing). The song really just lets people cut loose and have fun. The funny thing about that song is that my girlfriend and I went to Hawaii and backpacked around for about 6 weeks when the band was just about a year old. My guitar was stolen while we were there and I ended up running into this really cool guy who let me use his guitar. I actually wrote that song butt-ass naked sitting on the beach in Hawaii. Its funny it started out me playing it on this acoustic guitar and its turned into this high energy electric song that causes women to come up on stage and take their clothes off. I had no idea that was going to happen when I wrote it sitting on the beach in Hawaii. We also used to travel around with a dance pole, but it needs some repair work. Just about everybody gets on it. This is actually our second one, we broke the first one.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any side projects?
John-Paul Miller: Actually yes, my friend John and I started out working on this record and have at this point included the whole Booty Band. We also have George Clinton, Gary Shider, Belida Woods, Kendra Foster, Rico Lewis, have helped out with the album. We also have the entire Dirty Dozen Brass Band, bass player from Galactic. Its cool because this project has given us a chance to work with P Funk.
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band:
Al Ingram – Bass, Vocals
John Paul Miller – Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Derrick Johnson – Trombone, Vocals
Greg Hollowell – Saxophones, Vocals
Grady Gilbert – Guitar
Dave Partin – Drums
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band at Day Glo Music Festival
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band “Flea Bite” at Taboot Music & Arts Festival 6-7-08
Upcoming Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band tour dates:
for show details visit http://www.bootyband.com
Wednesday 2/4/09 – Zydeco / Birmingham, AL
Thursday 2/5/09 – Martin’s / Jackson, MS
Friday 2/6/09 – Chelsea’s / Baton Rouge, LA
Saturday 2/7/09 – The Bottling Company / Hattiesburg, MS
Friday 2/13/09 – Lincoln Theatre / Raleigh, NC
Saturday 2/14/09 – The Millenium Center / Winston-Salem, NC
Friday 2/20/09 – Blue 5 / Roanoke, VA
Saturday 2/21/09 – Toad’s Place / Richmond, VA
Tuesday 2/24/09 – V Club / Huntington, WV
Thursday 2/26/09 – Barley’s / Knoxville, TN
Saturday 2/28/09 – The Gramaphone / St. Louis, MO
Wednesday 3/4/09 – Bud Light Street Beat / Vail, CO
Friday 3/6/09 – Owsley’s Golden Road / Denver, CO
Saturday 3/7/09 – Bud Light Rocks the Boat / Steamboat Springs, CO