You’ll Never Forget Your First: The Cactus Channel

Fresh out of high school, Melbourne nu-funk outfit The Cactus Channel talk us through the inspiration behind their debut album Haptics – from The Daptones to The Menahan Street Band.

In the beginning…

At around 14, or 15 years old we were introduced to a compilation (rather two compilations) called New Orleans Funk Vol. 1 & 2 by bass player Henry Jenkins. Some of us were already into some reggae and jazz, artists like Toots & the Maytals, and King Curtis, so that kind of afro/horn-driven vibe was sort of there. But it was tracks like ‘Check Your Bucket’ by Eddie Bo and ‘Handclapping Song’ by The Meters, and many more on that compilation that made us want to get together and figure them out, and eventually have a crack at making our own stuff. Initially this was with about six members of the band, but over the course of the next year or two it had blossomed into the 10-piece you see today.

Our sound

Two guitars well-versed in the double axe mentality honed by the James Brown band in the ‘60s and ‘70s, stupidly big horns, cookin’ drums, bass straight from the school of James Jamerson and funky organ taking inspiration from many a genre but refining it all down into four-minute dance floor tunes.

Our heroes

Back in Year 9, we started listening to artists like James Brown, Eddie Bo, Marva Whitney and The Meters. We used to watch videos of the JBs playing live and were always amazed by how tight they played, so we decided we wanted to play like that. These were the staples of our influence in the beginning. Then later on we started getting into the Daptone Label with people like Gabriel Roth and Tommy Brenneck. Their quality of sound and songwriting is what influences us most now.

Our debut

Haptics was basically made up of a bunch of tracks we had written over a couple of years. Although we thought a lot about what tracks we wanted to have on the album, none of the songs were written with an album specifically in mind (something we will do for the next one). It was really the idea of HopeStreet [the band’s label] for us to do an LP, which we jumped at. So we picked tracks we thought would sound strongest on the LP, and recorded the rhythm section parts for about 14 tracks over two days, then the horns over a few more. This was eventually cut down to 10 in the mixing/mastering/production process which took almost a year to finally complete. HopeStreet did a great job with the sound and we were very satisfied with how it all came out.

Our favourite track off the album

‘Hot Teeth’: A funny little number that Noriagar the Fist kicked off on the tub, only to have Big Bank Hank take it from there, all the while Handsome Campbell throwing little sultry bombs from the bell of his saxophone creating a piece of music enviable to even the most accomplished composers. What tops it off is the screaming at the end of the song…

Our artwork

The colour and style was inspired by a lot of those ‘60s/’70s screen-printed style jazz records, that used a only a few colours and geometric shapes. The Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings record, naturally, was also quite an influence on the drawn cover/big double photo gatefold look on the LP. “Haptics” relates to sense of touch, or greeting customs in different cultures (like a handshake, or a kiss on the cheek) so that was kind of the idea with the hands; kind of a musical greeting from us. We initially had our trumpeter Daniel doing the artwork, so it went through a few design ideas before the final work.

Our favourite debut of all time

Make The Road by Walking by The Menahan Street Band. One on frequent repeat among the band members; a really unique sound and feel about it, and it grooves like crazy but so subtly sometimes. It’s a staple for our learnings. If we had to choose one album to be isolated with, it would be this one.

The one artist we hope likes it…

Tommy Brenneck from Menahan Street Band, Budos Band and The Dap-Kings. We had the privilege of meeting and supporting Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires whom Tommy was part of, and he did seem to like us.

Haptics is out now on HopeStreet Recordings/Fuse Music Group.

Tour dates:

Friday, October 12 – Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne

Saturday, October 13 – Rocket Bar, Adelaide