“Soul Brother Number One”
“Original Disco Man”
“The Godfather of Soul”
James Brown, the “hardest working man in show business,” inspired almost as many honorific titles as he did devotees.
From his first hit “Please Please Please” in 1956, “The King of Funk” and his high-octane transformation of gospel fervor into the explosive intensity of rhythm & blues redefined the destiny of black music in America.
A child of the Great Depression, Brown picked cotton, shined shoes and spent three and a half years in a Toccoa, Georgia, reform school. It was there he first met Bobby Byrd, band leader of the Gospel Starlighters, a group that Brown would later join before being lured to the secular scene by the slamming live sound of rock ‘n’ roll legend Fats Domino.
As flamboyant front man for the James Brown Revue, Brown reportedly shed up to seven pounds a night in sweat as he whirled around stage, theatrically donning and doffing his cape and feigning the occasional heart attack.
The Elvis Presley of R&B
The Elvis Presley of R&B, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Brown racked up an astonishing 114 entries on Billboard’s R&B singles chart and amassed a total of 800 songs in his repertoire.
Also like Elvis, he’s inspired a legion of tribute ensembles — among them Supabad, a Bangkok-based ménage of mostly music teachers dedicated to the “super heavy, gritty funk” sound now synonymous with the ultimate Sex Machine. Supabad plays the FCC Phnom Penh on Nov 4 and 5.
A Big Band For a Big Man
A big band for a big man, the touring ten-piece’s horn-rich homage to a musical and cultural revolutionary cuts it with the best of them.
“James Brown completely revolutionized the world of modern music,” said guitarist, percussionist and vocalist David “DJ Kermie” Cameron. “We’re just starting to see that. Michael Jackson wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for JB. So many dance moves, beats and riffs have been lifted off JB that it’s just impossible to imagine what any kind of modern music would sound like without his influence.”
What would JB make of today’s R&B?
“He’d dig the more underground stuff no one hears, such as Goodie Mob, but he’d be appalled with all the processing and artificiality of much of today’s music. James liked it loud, hard and dirty – not too neat and clean, if you know what I mean.”
Loud, Hard and Dirty
Loud, hard and dirty are precisely the JB elements that Supabad embodies.
“We’re really focused on the ‘larger than life’ aspect,” said Cameron (who by his own admission likes to jump around a lot and pinch bums). “The sequined suits, jump suits, hairy chest, big hair — JB’s time in the ’70s, when he was truly becoming the Number One Soul Brother, that seems to work best for us. And the hairy chest and tight suits seem to work best for Craig.”
British-born Craig “James Brown” Chambers, trained classical singer and fellow music teacher, is “calm and quiet at school,” but he “transforms into a lewd, crude funk machine on stage,” according to Cameron. “Craig’s dancing is a sight, that’s all I can say.”
As for the rest of the band, the semi-unofficial official history reads with similar outlandish verve.
Founder Mark Bourgeouis, from New Zealand, has toured Eastern Europe with a pop group. Fellow Kiwi Paul “Pablo” Romaine, guitarist and songwriter, is known for “looking cool when he plays (you’ll know when you see him).”
“Tama from another Mama”‘ Karena moonlights in global competitions playing the organ to silent films in old movie houses. Laidback “Tricky Dicky” Trurer (just don’t touch his gear) takes drums. On trumpet is “Moi Cowboy” Litchfield, the only woman in the band (“I don’t know how she puts up with us”). Supong “T-Bone” Soravit brings in the trombone. Saxophone is Ralf “Saxmeister” Gabriel, a German who “doesn’t allow for any tomfoolery at rehearsals.” And an extra dash of class comes courtesy of US-born tenor sax “Big Mac” Tony.
Supabad – a “good bunch of guys that are mature enough players to cut through all the crap and just make good music; at the same time, we’re immature enough to… well, you’ll see when Mr James Brown starts to do My Thang” – plays live at the FCC on Tuesday March 25th and 26th.
The band intends to “start getting nasty right from the get-go, so people should get their asses down there early!”