Under The Street Light - Liam McDermott (Funzo)
Here we are once again with another edition of Under The Street Light with Dave McMahon. This time I talk to multi talented musician and all round nice guy, Liam McDermott, better known as Funzo.
When did you first realise that you wanted to be a musician?
I've always thought it was the coolest thing in the world but it became a more realistic ambition when I started writing, around the age of 15.
How did you get started?
When I was a teenager, I saved up and bought drums, keys, and a four-track digital recorder and began writing, playing and recording at home.
Who did you listen to when you were growing up?
60's bands like The Kinks, The Beach Boys, The Turtles, 70's soul as well. Ska and hip-hop became big influences then as I got older.
When and where did you play your first gig?
I didn't gig for years, but would send my tapes in to songwriting contests; one of the ones I won involved performing in Vicar Street hosted by Gerry Ryan and 2fm, when I was 18.
What has been your favourite venue to play?
The Twisted Pepper when it's packed has a lovely atmosphere, and the benches at the side allow people to climb up and go mad, that's probably my favourite place at the moment! Lots to choose from in Ireland though.
How much does playing a gig differ to playing at festivals?
There is more control at a gig. You can promote your night, keep an eye on how many people came in etc. Festivals are a brilliant opportunity but it can be more of a pot luck as to who shows up at the right time. For example, at Oxegen one year we got lucky, we played the Vodafone tent and it started lashing rain so hundreds of people crammed in!
What was your favourite concert that you went to see?
Maybe The Wailers at Electric Picnic last year - it was sunny and they blasted out Bob Marley tunes, need I say more!
How did Funzo (the band) form?
Funzo began with me writing songs and putting out EPs. Then after a couple of years of that, it evolved in to more of a band setup. But in the last few years, it has become essentially a solo venture again. Even though I collaborate with a lot of other artists, Funzo is just me.
How did it feel to finally release The Great Lonesome?
Brilliant! One year on and I can still stand over all those tracks - nothing was rushed and no filler was used so I'm very proud of it. The album launch was a very happy night.
Were you happy with how it was received?
Yeh, I sold loads of physicals and downloads, as well as people enjoying it for free on Spotify. It was fascinating to me hearing what different tracks jumped out as people's favourites.
Have you begun working on the second album?
My next album, 'Artificial High' is out this June. It is a collaboration album with producer Alan Newman, and I think it's great!
You seem to feature on tracks from almost everybody on the Irish hip hop scene, how does that come about?
I was following Nucentz / Siyo / Lethal Dialect / Collie / Class A'z etc. for a long time. I followed their work and would go to their gigs. Terawrizt put up a status looking for a singer. I emailed him Funzo's latest tracks and straight away we made plans to write/record/gig together and it just took off from there. Through him I met a lot of the bigger names and it's been an honour working with them. I'm still heavily-involved in Irish hip-hop and for me, it's the most exciting scene in music right now.
How much do other musicians influence your music?
The biggest influence my peers have on me these days is having a good attitude. It's easy to fall in to negativity but surrounding yourself with positive, forward-thinking people is the best influence for me. People who stay busy have less time to sit around moaning!
Your Facebook status jokes have become legendary, do you ever fear that people will recognise you for that more than your music?
Haha, well I think an artist's online persona is extremely important. If people find you amusing and you chat to people and get back to messages on Facebook, they're more likely to support your music in the end. Even back in my MySpace days, I kept a humorous blog that had a good following, and it keeps people interested in what you're up to, rather than if you just spam them every three months with a new video!
Who do you currently listen to?
Of people who are active right now, it would be Irish hip-hop artists like Lethal Dialect, Rapthor, Jambo - the beautiful thing about the scene is that the movement is still relatively new but growing rapidly - I admire artists who try to push music forward, instead of just imitating their favourite band.
What are your top 5 albums of all time?
Stevie Wonder - Music Of My Mind
Outkast - Aquemini
The Beatles - Magical Mystery Tour
The Streets - Original Pirate Material
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Each one of these albums had a big impact on my sound / writing.
What do you have lined up for the future?
'Artificial High' album and single by Funzo X Alan Newman coming this summer!
'Lazy Bones' - Collie feat. Funzo video out this month!
'Happy Face' - Leanne Cooney & Funzo video coming soon!
Shouts out to all the legends at Street Ceol TV.