You have reached the Official website of Arizona’s Hip Hop Pioneers, The Phunk Junkeez.
Kirk Reznik (K-Tel Disco) and Joe Valiente (Soulman) had paid their dues in their immediate teen-years performing at one-off car shows and community event centers with their white-boy riddled rhetoric of Bum Rap. A two man show emulating their influences ranging from RUN DMC and other YO MTV RAPS highlights. Years later, after some changes in format, direction, and behind-the-scenes personel, Bum Rap became The Phunk Junkeez, and the Phunk Junkeez became one of the largest underground music movements in the southwest region.
James Woodling (Jumbo Jim) and Dan Mueller (Disko Danny D, DK Mueller) were a dynamic rhythm secion who had been through four bands from 1989-1991 prior to dedicating their talents to the formation of their own concept group: a hyper-speed, punk-funk onslaught fusing traditional funk and disco, with hints of a current rap/ industrial metal sound. Bands like Suicidal Tendencies, 24-7 Spyz out of New York, Urban Dance Squad from Holland, Faith No More, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction set the tone as their competition and also their motivation. Mike Kramer was recruited to play the guitar along with a local sound technician filling in on the lyrical content resulting in a four piece conglomeration called Freaksquad. They were a red-hot rhythm section but lacked any vocal presence, or lyricrical content. The crowds loved their grooves, but there was nothing to sing along to. No serious lyricists in the operation, nothing entertaining to watch.
Freaksquad was the opening act for The Phunk Junkeez very first show. It was a round-a-bout room-mate type of favor deal of one band hauling a PA, and the other providing a guaranteed 200 people in attendance. Together they promoted the event at the now non-existant Sub-Cultural Arts Center in downtown Phoenix. The night was a success. The attendance reached 300. Higher than most national touring bands could pull from the wasteland desert. The Phunk Junkeez had two energetic frontmen performing to a tape. Freaksquad had a red-hot rhythm section kicking out the relentless dance vamps and mechanical-styled fist-pumping jams, but lacked any front-man image, or anything to watch while the rhythm section dove into their deep grooves.
Things were about to change.
The Phunk Junkeez needed a live band. Freaksquad needed a frontman, or two for that matter. The very next day, in September of 1991 – the meeting was called, and the brotherhood began. The Phunk Junkeez became a real band. No tape decks, and no synch tracks. A real five piece rock and roll band. Six months later, DJ Roachclip joined the group making the operation one of the very first goups to integrate a DJ with a live band. The unique sound and style was an instant stand-out from the current metal scene, the glam scene, and the developing grunge sound out of Seattle. Around this time, the “Tempe Sound” was developing as well producing groups like the Gin Blossoms and The Refreshments, eventually becoming Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers.
The band was not interested in duplicating the “Tempe Sound” as many other bands in neighboring Tempe, AZ. It was commercial, popular, but just not in the members DNA. The Phunk Junkeez were on the cusp of fusing their beloved punk rock attitude and funk rhythm style with the rather new “RAP” music. A music hybrid which would eventually land them a cult following in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. The band would push this sound into neighboring Tucson through the avenues of University of Arizona fraternities (SAE), Northern Arizona University bars, San Diego nightclubs and the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The first year of the band was dedicated to performing, writing, performing and traveling. Non stop. Many people began to think the band lived in San Diego being that they were performing in Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Imperial Beach almost every weekend.
The Phunk Junkeez began performing underground warehouse parties, and local venues that could hold an unbelievable (at the time) 1500 person draw. The band began venturing out into new territory on a consistent basis. Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, El Paso; anywhere within reach and within budget. The regional exposure created a buzz, and landed the Phunk Junkeez a recording contract with Ichiban Records out of Atlanta, Georgia.
The First Album
Ichiban Records was known in the industry as a rhythm and blues label which featured primarily “black” blues artists such as Dayton Ohio funk band Slave, legendary marimba player Roy Ayers, Clarence Carter, Millie Jackson, The Three Degress, Barbara Lynn, Matt Kendrick and a slew of other more traditional artists. Ichiban Records was launching its newest venture, an “alternative” label subsidiary called Naked Language. Along with the Phunk Junkeez, Naked Language would sign Deadeye Dick, The Fleshtones, Dash Rip Rock and include hip hop acts Insane Poetry, MC Breed, Sir Mix-a-lot, Ghetto Mafia, Success-n-Effect and even the minister of rap success, Vanilla Ice.
The Phunk Junkeez self-titled first album put the band in the Billboard Charts for club tracks (I Am a Junkee) and into national television campaigns for World Cup Soccer with a world-wide marketing campaign by Adidas Athletic Wear. The commercial was a pleasant surprise to the band, and immediately put a cash flow into the bands bank account.
The album was recorded in West Hollywood on Doheny just north of Santa Monica Boulevard in a small two bedroom, detached garage house. Clark Stiles was a small producer who had access to one piece of ground-breaking machinery that the Phunk Junkeez wanted to utilize… The Synclavier. It was a revolutionary machine that enabled “tapeless” recording and a computer interface equipped with a “sample-based” drum machine similar to a Roger Lynn drum machine (MPC 3000). The Lynn Drum Machine was an industry standard tool that many Rap and Hip Hop producers were utilizing to create the HIP HOP SOUND. The Synclavier allowed samples, and multi-tracking to come together. Similar to today’s computer-based DAW systems that albums are currently made on. It was one step ahead of every other hip-hop studio on the west coast. The time was booked and the producers were brought in. This is the only album to feature Marlon McClain of the world famous DAZZ Band. Marlon played the super-funky guitar lines on “Swing ‘O Things.” One of the producers on the album was Michael Mavrolas, who went on to produce many movies and albums in Hollywood, and continues to produce to this day.
The Phunk Junkeez picked up a couple of gigs here and there in California during this time which helped to spread the Phunk Junkeez word around the local Sunset Strip scene and the surrounding industry. The touring and weekend gigs continued, and the fan-base reached impressive proportions. It was around after the release of the album, The Phunk Junkeez went on their first National Tour with Information Society and recent success story Cause and Effect. It was the completely wrong tour for each of the acts. After four shows, the band was kicked off the road. Every show The Phunk Junkeez performed at, they gained 80% of the crowd. Nobody had ever seen such a display of complete chaos on stage with fist-fighting lead singers, hyper-speed punk rock riffs, choreographed dance moves, rap breakbeats, drum interludes, on-stage antics and full-on “disco-funk” music to keep the ladies in the house entertained. It was unheard of.
The tour manager of Information Society booted the band after an altercation between The Phunk Junkeez Jeff Holmes LD and K-Tel demanding to get a longer opening time slot turned into the destruction of the in-house production room and eventually fists flying and enough foul language to make a sailor cringe. The Information Society tour manager pulled the plug, contacted management, and the Junkeez were thrown off the tour.
Unfortunately, just as the band was really starting to take off, guitarist Mike Kramer decided to leave the operation due to finances and family obligations. After a brief stint with a few local replacement players, Jeff O’Rourke (Rourkie) auditioned for the band in front of a live audience, and was immediately accepted into the group. Jeff’s punk-rock background and natural songwriting ability added to the all ready success-hungry group. The band immediately hit the road for more regional shows and concerts. Jeff’s approach to the band’s material elevated the intensity level and brought the music to an even higher energy than before, thus pumping more “blood” into the live stage show. The Phunk Junkeez were becoming a house-hold name around the southwest region, and it finally reached the offices in Los Angeles, where record companies began to take notice.
It was around this time that the Phunk Junkeez were introduced to a new band out of Omaha, Nebraska. 311 was a band with an extremely similar style. The Junkeez liked their sound, and mentioned it to their booking agent. They eventually did a one-off engagement with 311 at a run-down bar on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The Phunk Junkeez performed first, and turned on the rowdy natives. 311 came then came in and showed everyone what they were capable of doing. Not a lot of handshaking or hugging, but an introduction and some foreshadowing into what would become a great friendship between the bands that would last for years to come. They both liked each others sound and attitudes. 311 was a well-oiled machine. The Phunk Junkeez were red-hot on stage, but sometimes couldn’t keep their cool on stage and off stage. The perfect recipe for unpredictability and instability.
Injected was recorded in Atlanta, Georgia in the Summer of 1994. Intended for Ichiban Records, but the majors were ready to step in after hearing the rough mixes of the recording sessions. During a recent event, the band performed with the legendary Fishbone. The Phunk Junkeez were huge Fishbone fans. And they made sure that Angelo knew that. They even offered the job of producer to him while out and about in Hollywood. Angelo agreed and packed up and headed to Atlanta to meet the band to help it record its greatest work. Angelo’s energy in the studio, ideas, signing, and his fantastic horn playing contributed to the album immensely.
The Injected Days
Mueller, Woodling and O’Rourke began re-arranging songs on the spot to accommodate more “music” and room for Angelo’s singing and his fantastic horn skills. “Me and Yer Girl” contains 7 and a half minutes of classic free-style Phunk Junkeez that was never rehearsed and is considered one of the best improvs ever captured on a PJ album. “Flippin’ My Wig” was an idea on a drum machine. Mueller and Woodling revamped the beat and laid the foundation; O’Rourke sealed up the melodies to create one the albums highlighted tracks featuring classic Soulman and K-Tels “Bum Rap Days” style delivery. It was pure recording studio magic. Liquid Aggression was recorded in one take with overdubs of the entire band signing and partying in the background with the crew, engineer and other friends of the studio. The band was firing on all cylinders creatively and was allowing each other to explore new sounds, delivery and arrangements.
Staying true to their love of cult movies, underground movies and 80’s pop culture, the First Album features cuts from the movies: River’s Edge with Crispin Glover, and Dalyla contains the famous Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The second album contained a song named “White Boy Day” from the movie “True Romance.” The song featured impromptu performances by DJ Roachclip and Soulman. Always trying to keep the audience guessing, and using pop culture references was part of the fun for the band while creating their sound.
The Interscope subsidiary Trauma Records picked up the album, and signed the band to a two album deal. Injected was released, videos were shot, promotions began. The Junkeez remake of the classic Kiss song “I Love It Loud” was gaining ground and putting the band into the spotlight. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley stated that they loved the song rendition, and helped their marketing move forward. The movie “Tommy Boy” paid for the promotional video of the band performing with legend Chris Farley, and local Scottsdale neighbor David Spade to be the title track and promo video for the movie.
The band admitted they were nervous as all hell when the two superstars showed up to be included in a live performance. There was no script and everyone’s impromptu performance hit the spot. Farley and K-Tel were stage diving together, David Spade was dancing with the hired “model” extras, the director loved the location. It was a full-on, Hollywood production. It put The Phunk Junkeez front and center for the movie, and allowed a great relationship to grow between Trauma Records and Paramount Pictures. They loved the band so much, they gave them the other options for other movie soundtracks including the followup “Black Sheep” starring Spade and Farley and other 90’s releases.
The band was in full swing. National promotional tours with label mates Bush and No Doubt lasted for an entire summer. Independent tours with new found friends 311 out of Omaha, The Urge out of St. Louis, 2 Skinny J’s out of Brooklyn, Sublime, Shrinky Dinks (Sugar Ray), Sprung Monkey, Slightly Stoopid, and thousands of others all kept the Phunk Junkeez busy on the road for a full year and a half. The Junkeez existence had become a suitcase, cases full of equipment, sold-out shows, tour buses, unlimited alcohol supplies, and thousands of eager fans all across the country.
It was on one of these summer tours when the band had the opportunity to party with some of the industries elite artists: drinking with Sheryl Crow in Chicago, partying all night with Simon LeBon from Duran Duran. He wouldn’t leave. They literally had to kick good ‘ol Simon off the bus. But he loved the band, and he would call to check on them periodically. Partying with Marissa Tomei in Salt Lake, posing for the New Orleans Newspaper at the Harrah’s Casino downtown, living large for the day with long distance fan Vanilla Ice in Miami. The Junkeez were headed for the mainstream.
The Phunk Junkeez were reaching their maximum potential. They had videos on MTV, and were featured on countless compilation albums, soundtracks, promotional pieces, television commercials, along with national radio play. The hard work was paying off, and the band was selling units all over the world. The band’s stage antics were one of the most talked about live shows in America. An onslaught of aggressive behavior with a turbo-charged “rap/rock” sound to back it up. Not only was the stage show an uncontrollable spitfire of mayhem, the musicianship involved was dead-on, and tight. A unit that utilized the inner-city workings of rap, suburban punk, disco, hip-hop and a gung-ho team attitude of “take no prisoners,” was slowly earning the respect of their peers.
The ’96 Tapes
They had nothing to lose, and plenty to gain. But not everyone was hip to The Phunk Junkeez game. In an industry where bands are primed to befriend the industry associates, the Junkeez mocked their corporate machine positions, and made jokes about radio disc jockeys, label promotional ideas, radio interns, and promoters nation-wide. The Phunk Junkeez were ruthless. Other bands didn’t enjoy their backstage antics and off-stage comedy. Many shows would have fights break out in the crowd. Sometimes the promoter would fight with the band over casualties that occurred during a live performance. In many occurrences, the band would annoy a radio station program director during an interview or promotional concert, thereby banning them from any future radio play. The song “Radio Sucks” deemed the nail in the coffin for many courtships between the Junkeez and much needed radio markets. On other nights, the band was taunting each other, and fighting in the dressing room prior to shows, or after their performance. The Phunk Junkeez had a very hard time maintaining their composure on and off the stage. Eventually they began to turn on each other.
After five years of touring and promotions for both the self-titled album, and Injected, The Phunk Junkeez returned home in the early spring/summer of 1996 for a much needed break. During this time, the writing process began for a follow-up album to Injected. Tension was high due to the high expectations from the label, and from themselves as well. Label mates Bush and No Doubt were multi-platinum artists, and had the industry in their back pockets. They were selling out 10,000 seat arenas, and headlining large outdoor festivals. The Phunk Junkeez wanted to elevate the operation to the next level.
During this time, the band locked themselves up in the now defunct Phase Four Studios in Tempe, Arizona with a half-inch Reel-to-Reel 8-Track Machine, some microphones and some various song ideas to be thrown into the new song mix. The direction of the music was the number one concern, followed by the consequences of their self-absorbed “fuck you” attitude that they applied to almost every aspect of their lives, including their relationships with each other. It was a cut-throat environment, and any resistance to the majority rule could land a member on the hot seat. Band direction was up in the air. With the oncoming success of Kid Rock and Limp Biskit, The Phunk Junkeez felt as though they were losing their grip on the genre that they created, and becoming irrelevant in the new world of “Rap Rock.”
Later that summer, after an embarrassing and freak altercation between K-Tel Disco and several of the members friends and girlfriends, the behavior led to the removal of K-Tel Disco from the Phunk Junkeez. The pressure cooker had finally exploded, and all angers and resentments began to pour out into the pointing of the finger at one member. K-Tel was told to stay home. Several of the members refused to work together anymore from this point on. Jeff O’Rourke had to rally the troops to keep the band together and continue on without K-Tel Disco. There were 15 songs sketched out on tape that summer and the material had been previously released back in 2004, but was removed from iTunes due to copyrights and ownership disputes.
Fear of a Wack Planet
The Phunk Junkeez continued on without K-Tel Disco releasing their follow-up album Fear of A Wack Planet which contained some leftovers from the ’96 Summer Sessions, but failed to make an impact on radio. The music scene was now saturated with Phunk Junkeez take-off bands like Limp Bizkit, Korn, Kid Rock, and the upcoming Linkin Park. The style that the Phunk Junkeez had pioneered was now their biggest fault. It was no longer cutting-edge or anything that could compete with bands with larger recording budgets and proper radio payola. The album was produced by legendary Chicago punk innovator Lee Popa who has worked with Tool, Living Colour, Ministry, The Rolling Stones, Macey Gray, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, just to name a few.
Popa pushed the band to work on its timing and its songwriting skills. But the magic that kept the band rolling for the first six years or so had fallen flat.
Fear of a Wack planet did produce a couple of chart ranking tracks in other countries. “Hazee” charted in Australia, Germany and the Netherlands. “Adrenaline” got some American radio airplay for a short time in America, but never to the levels of the previous singles on the first two albums. After touring for 18 months promoting the record, Jeff O’Rourke left the Phunk Junkeez in 1998 to pursue other musical endeavors in Hollywood, CA where he resides to this day.
Sex, Drugs, Rap & Roll
Two years after the release of Fear, long-time guitarist and post K-Tel era songwriter Jeff O’Rourke exited the operation. He was replaced by local Phoenix guitarist Danny “P” Patterson. He and the Phunk Junkeez then recorded the album Sex, Drugs, Rap & Roll in the Summer of 1999, and released it later early 2000. Once again album sales fell flat, and radio was no longer interested in the now “common” sound. In 2001 founding drummer and the driving force of the Phunk Junkeez rhythm section “Disko” Dan Mueller left the operation to pursue other musical projects.
A New Decade
The Phunk Junkeez were now considered a “veteran” group, having now been touring and recording for over 10 years. By this time, there were many knock-off Phunk Junkeez bands, and they even found other bands covering their songs? That was unheard of. Had it been a full decade of PJ material? The Junkeez would go on and release two more original albums and a live album of the past catalog.