As flamboyant front-man for the James Brown Revue, the “Godfather of Soul” reportedly shed up to 7 pounds in sweat per night as he whirled around stage, theatrically donning and doffing his cape and feigning the occasional heart attack just for effect. He was dubbed the Elvis Presley of R&B by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, racking up an astonishing 114 entries on Billboard’s R&B singles chart and amassing a total of 800 songs in his repertoire – and almost as many honorific titles.
James “Sex Machine” Brown’s transformation of gospel fervour into the explosive intensity of rhythm & blues was to determine musical destiny. Inspired by his golden era of 1965-73, three years ago a group of Bangkok-based expats set about recreating Brown’s revolutionary sound.
“This is a body of work that inspired hip-hop, rap, and funk as we know it today,” says Supabad founder and bass player Mark Bourgeois, the New Zealand-born heart of the band’s rousing rhythm section. “His is certainly a lasting legacy: Prince, Michael Jackson, etc, all trace their roots to James Brown.”
The roots of Supabad, in turn, can be traced back to Bourgeois’ father. “When I was a kid, my dad had one of their records which we used to thrash – Live in Europe, I think it was. The vibe of that record was infectious. “Funky Drummer” and “I Got the Feelin’” are standout tracks. “I Got the Feelin’” was the crossover track from R&B and blues to funk: the first time a band had done this kind of playing.
“Funk is a fusion of many styles: jazz, soul and R&B mixed into danceable rhythms that crossover and interact but can be on completely different paths. Funk is definitely about ‘feel,’ and as white boys we have to work a bit harder at it, but we have a great rhythm section that lays down an excellent platform for our horn section and soloists.”
Work hard they most certainly have. “Funk is kind of an obsession, I guess, and reproducing this act in an authentic way has been a challenge, especially the music for the horn parts. That just isn’t available on the internet or anything. It all had to be scored out from the original recordings.”
Making his debut when Supabad perform at The FCC in June will be new frontman Mike Humble, (former frontman Craig is “hanging up his wig this summer because he’s pulled the splits a few too many times”). “Mike is a respected blues and soul singer here in Bangkok and also plays a mean blues harp. He’s British but has lived and played music in Beijing, the Philippines and Indonesia and has a classic soul voice. Mike has played many gigs in a variety of bad, brightly coloured suits, so he has the wardrobe and the attitude to fill the shoes of James Brown.”
Supabad will also be unveiling a new tenor sax player, Anton Fenech. “Both are part of the Famous Blues Brothers Review Band here, so they’re used to performing in character.”
On the night, fans can expect a mixture of James Brown standards such as “I Got You,” “Sex Machine,” and “Get on the Goodfoot,” as well as some of the more obscure tracks such as “My Thang,” from the “Hell” album, and “Ain’t it Funky Now” from “Jungle Groove.” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” from 1965 will be dedicated, of course, to the purists.
“Fans can expect a high-energy funk show, and they better come ready to shake it…”