Funk forward

Orchestra pulls together some of city's best

From left: Drake Bates, Kimball Glaspie, Jason Westerman, Dave Latchaw, Will Brown, Aaron King and, in front, Tony Didier. Not pictured: Dave “Catfish” Pagan, photography by Ellie Bogue

From left: Drake Bates, Kimball Glaspie, Jason Westerman, Dave Latchaw, Will Brown, Aaron King and, in front, Tony Didier. Not pictured: Dave “Catfish” Pagan, photography by Ellie Bogue

There may not be a hotter group in the city than the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra. Having clinched the 2014 Battle of the Bands and played on the Embassy stage as part of this year’s Down the Line, covering the music of Earth, Wind & Fire, the Funk Orchestra is a gathering of some of the area’s finest and best known musicians – Aaron King, Tony Didier, Dave “Catfish” Pagan, Will Brown, Drake Bates, Kimball Glaspie, Dave Latchaw, Jason Westerman – who have each found success in the eclectic music scene Northeast Indiana offers.

The large lineup was brought together when the group’s leader, Aaron King, was in another band but was ready to stretch his wings a bit.

“I wanted to start my own band for years, but I was so dedicated to a band I was in that I didn’t think having two groups was possible. The band I was in had many members I considered lifelong friends, but there were some suspect politics going on behind closed doors so I left and started a band I could be excited about being part of. That was a difficult transition because I was used to being in a group that was established and successful and starting a new band after I had been in the other one for seven years seemed a little daunting.  But I am just super-tenacious almost to the point of being aggressive in my pursuit of success and musical greatness,” he said.

Although known for their spot-on funk covers, including Ohio Players, Parliament Funkadelic, Chicago, Stevie Wonder and Rick James, along with hip-hop covers like Biggie, Snoop Dogg, Slick Rick, Nate Dogg, Dr. Dre and Warren G., King says he prefers the new music the Funk Orchestra plays regularly.

“My favorite songs we play are our originals. Our originals are very unique, and they are very hip-hop inspired but with a funk-oriented feel. For me, I grew up in the hip-hop generation and that music has been very influential to me. I am fully aware a lot of people don’t understand or appreciate my affinity for the hip-hop culture, but that music has helped mold me into the musician and person I am.”

Conquering last year’s Battle of the Bands was “stressful,” King said, since he wasn’t entirely sure a funk group could topple the rock-heavy lineup. Winning “proved to me that Fort Wayne doesn’t care if it is rock ‘n roll. They just care if it is good.”

While the Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra continues to be in demand, booking dates months ahead, a GoFundMe campaign is under way to finance their debut album, something King is anxious to share with their growing legion of fans.

“We also find a lot of joy in writing and recording our own music. When you record something, that is eternal, which to me means that piece of art lives forever,” he said. “Recorded music is also a snapshot of our current times, so when we play it later we remember the struggles we went through and the good times we had making music.”

First appeared in the July 2015 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.

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