The keyboardist and bassist for the funk & Afrobeat 9-piece talk about their rigs and the importance of throwing things away.
Shortly before their set at Desert Daze music festival in Joshua Tree, California, we caught up with Mike Deller and Daniel Foder of The Budos Band. The Brooklyn-based Budos Band began shaking up the worlds of soul, funk and Afrobeat with its instrumental mashups in 2005 with the release of its self-titled debut album on Daptone Records. Initially influenced by the sinuous grooves of ‘60s Ethiopian pop, the band went on to weave that musical thread into a tapestry informed by Afrobeat, soul, funk and R&B grooves. The band tours internationally and has released five albums on the Daptone imprint—a label deeply sympathetic to the Budos Band’s groove-centric approach.
The HUB: Hey guys! Tell us about your rigs and how you got there.
Daniel Foder: I have two basses that I play: one is a 1967 Harmony H22 and the other’s a ‘67 Gibson EB-0. My head is a Traynor YB1A and I also have a Fender Bassman 100/50 watt that I run through an old Ampeg 610 [cabinet]. On the road, I usually rent an Ampeg SVT—whatever they can provide.
The HUB: Is that your recording rig more so than your gigging rig?
Daniel Foder: I use it for both because that’s the sound. I feel like if you’re going to record and play live you should sound like the record. When we track, we usually use that bass. We’ve used a couple of different things; a B15, old Silvertone amps. But for the most part the basses are always the same. And I either use their heads or my head. And that’s pretty much the setup across the board.
The HUB: Are you typically using a DI or miking? Or a little bit of both?
Daniel Foder: I love to mic all the time, I don’t really like the DI.
The HUB: Is it a little too dry?
Daniel Foder: Yeah, it narrows what’s coming out because I’ve also changed the capacitors in the bass itself to make them a little hotter. I get a little more feedback and distortion out of them.
The HUB: Are they strung with flatwounds?
Daniel Foder: Both of them actually have roundwounds, which I kind of hate, but I play them anyway.
The HUB: Any particular reason?
Daniel Foder: They feel great, but I’m always like, ‘Aargh, why am I playing these things?’ I just run with it and they kind of work.
The HUB: With the EB-0, though, that’s probably a pretty good combination because of the “Mudbucker”. [Ed. Note: The term “mudbucker” is used to describe the very low-heavy sound of the humbucker on the 60’s era Gibson EB basses.]
Do you use any pedals or is it straight in?
Daniel Foder: No pedals.
The HUB: As far as recording or coming out of the house mix, do you go through any specific kind of compression or anything?
Daniel Foder: Not that I know of. A lot of our house guys understand how we are as a collective and how our sound should be. Riding in the van with us for five or six hours they get an understanding of the music we’re listening to and they’re probably like, ‘Okay, I get it.’
Daniel Foder of The Budos Band on-stage at Desert Daze with his vintage Gibson EB-0 bass and a powerful Ampeg stack.
The HUB: Mike, what are you playing right now?
Mike Deller: I have a Welson Presidential organ at our home studio that I just got out of somebody’s basement. I think it’s a prototype.
The HUB: Is it a ‘60s combo organ?
Mike Deller: Yeah, actually it’s Italian.
The HUB: So it sounds like a Farfisa or a Continental?
Mike Deller: It sounds amazing actually. It’s got drawbars, a vibrato dial and percussion— it’s really got a lot of versatility.
The HUB: Is this a Craigslist find?
Mike Deller: No, it was buddy of ours who helps us with the studio. His dad was cleaning out an apartment he owns, fixing it up, and this organ was in the basement. He said, ‘Look, I’m going to throw this thing away, does anyone want it?’ I was like ‘Yeah!’ All I had to do was drive and get it.
The HUB: Did it need a lot of work?
Mike Deller: I think it does need some work. I keep meaning to do it myself, but…
The HUB: Do the key contacts and all that work?
Mike Deller: Yeah, but it could use recapping and some TLC.
Daniel Foder: It’s got some mean crunch, man.
Mike Deller: Before that, though, forever and ever, I’ve played a Farfisa. But on the road, it’s not so easy to get them. I’ve traveled with one a lot, but it doesn’t always work out so well. On the road a lot I’ll end up taking a Korg CX-3. I’ll try to get the oldest one they have, like from the ‘80s without the screen on it—I hate that.
Mike Deller of The Budos Band on-stage at Desert Daze with the new VOX Continental combo organ and keyboard.
The HUB: How did you guys get to those rigs? Was there an early sonic imprint in your head that “this is the sound I’m chasing” or a player you heard and said “That’s the sound I want”?
Daniel Foder: My brother really influenced me and taught me how to play music. The Traynor I have now was actually his—it’s the one I still repair and use and love. The thing is a beast, man. I totally love that head. So all that gear, and just growing up with him, and getting whatever the hell we could is what I still have. I still have an old Marshall head that I play guitar through. That stuff just works and does what it does. I loved that sound from when I was a kid till now. It still resonates with me and doesn’t change.
The HUB: It’s nice when you inherit gear from family members.
Daniel Foder: Absolutely. It was down in the basement. I got it fixed, the tubes, everything redone, and I just love it .
The HUB: So your rig was gotten through osmosis and a little luck?
Daniel Foder: Yeah, it just stayed where it is.
The HUB: Do you find yourself trying the shape the sound of it toward something or do you shape your playing toward the sound of the gear?
Daniel Foder: Well, with that bass and head, there’s really not much I can do. It’s either blown out or it’s [set] lower and has less tonality. The more we play, the more we get up in sound volume. So, for me, it’s good. I can just put it on 10 and roll the treble back a little bit and play as loud as we want. It’s a good thing man. That's a good little setup I’ve got, I like it. Wouldn’t change it for the world.
The HUB: How about you, Mike?
Mike Deller: I found a Farfisa in the garbage. This guy I knew was playing in a band with a keyboard player who threw out this organ. And I was broke and had no organ.
The HUB: Was there any particular reason he threw it out?
Mike Deller: I think it was because he couldn’t find anyone to fix it at the time.
The HUB: What had you been playing before that?
Mike Deller: A whole crazy list of gear. I had this Yamaha house organ from the late ‘80s. We would literally get a hand truck and carry it around. I think just before I got the Farfisa, I was playing on an Oberheim.
The HUB: A little bit different from a Farfisa.
Mike Deller: Oh man, the Farfisa was way different. But it’s got the treble boost knob thing and it’s a really cool effect. It won me over. I’ve had all different phases, playing it. Like cranking it all the way up and taping it at that highest level.
The HUB: Do you run any pedals after your keyboards?
Mike Deller: A volume pedal.
The HUB: Are you going into an amp or straight into the PA?
Mike Deller: A tube amp.
The HUB: What are you playing through usually?
Mike Deller: I really like the (vintage) Ampeg VT-40 with four 10-inch speakers. But lately I’ve been into the big vibe of 12-inch speakers.
Mike on-stage at Desert Daze music festival in Joshua Tree, CA.
The HUB: Do you guys have preferred mics for your amps?
Daniel Foder: No, we just let the sound guys do their thing. You know, we have our list of what should be where, but we don’t really put mics on it. If we’re running with a front-of-house [engineer], they generally know what sound we’re looking for and bring their own mics.
The HUB: What about in the studio?
Daniel Foder: We’ve got some old Altecs that I’ve been totally digging. They have a nice low, really warm.
The HUB: As an instrumental band, is it liberating not working with a vocalist?
Mike Deller: We’ve never had one to not know what that’s like with this band.
The HUB: So, no lead-singer syndrome to deal with?
Daniel Foder: With us, we’re real simple; we’ve all been friends for years, and if there’s a crappy idea we just kind of shoot it down and go on to the next one. There might be a little friction, but it’s over before you know it and we move on to the next thing. A lot of times we just go and have fun. We don’t see each other all the time, so when you go and hang out, just start playing and have a couple of beers, it just happens and it’ll be ‘That’s a cool riff’ when we need to get serious. Then we’ll work on that structure from where we had it by just hanging out as a collective.
The HUB: Do you work on songs collectively or individually?
Daniel Foder: Now it’s more of a group. When we first started, it was more like, ‘I’ve got this idea…’ and we’d work on it and bust our hump. I think we’re a little past that now, where we just have fun and not worry about anything and just enjoy our friendship. That’s why I think we’ll last as a group. We have a great comradery. All these dudes are like my brothers. We talk to each other almost every day and that’s a great thing to have when you’re in a band. It’s why people shouldn’t have singers, I think.
The HUB: A bigger question: Speaking to your studio sound, was that conscious? Were you always going for a vintage sound or was there ever any consideration of doing it a little differently?
Daniel Foder: I think it’s just the music we listen to and the way it was done. In a sense, we’re old relative to where music is today. We’re so far behind how most people record today.
Mike Deller: As a kid growing up, the four track tape machines seemed so comfortable.
Daniel Foder: Endless tracks, that’s a mess if you ask me. There’s tons of advantages with it, but it’s just not us.
The HUB: Your last record was in 2014 and you’re doing some one-off shows like this. What’s coming up for you guys?
Daniel Foder: The next record’s done. Our guitar player, Tommy, just moved out here to LA and he’s working at a studio with Mark Ronson. And in a couple of months he’s going to meet up with Gabe [Roth] from Daptone [Records] and master the next record and put it out. So hopefully it’ll be out in the summer.
The HUB: Will the tour cycle start up after that?
Daniel Foder: We’re not so much touring-crazy these days, which is nice for all of us. We have a lot of guys who have kids now. That’s a good thing about all being friends. You can go, ‘Eh, I don’t want to do that date’ or’ It’s a great gig, we should do it.’ You get to pick and choose a little bit. I don’t foresee us going on the road for five months; we’ve never done that as a band. Brian [Profilio] and Andrew [Greene] were schoolteachers, so we always had our summers when we toured a lot. Then we’d go back home—we all had real jobs—go to your job, then go on the road a little bit, then write and record.
The HUB: You can certainly play gigs around New York to sustain yourself.
Daniel Foder: We don’t burn ourselves out with that. New York is a weird town these days. It’s not what it was.
The HUB: I liked what you were saying about friendship coming first. But with so many band members, how does it all fit together?
Daniel Foder: Alcohol. [laughter]
The HUB: In a lot of bands, somebody needs to be the leader and somebody else needs to be dragged along a bit. How does that dynamic work with you guys in the music sense?
Mike Deller: Those roles change with every song.
Daniel Foder: And again, it’s good to throw things away and not worry about them. Like if I just pick up the bass and start playing something then he comes in, the drums come in and that keeps the momentum going. If it sucks, who cares? You just throw it out. You’re not recording, you’re just having fun—that’s the important thing.
The HUB: Not having a vocalist, how do you figure out what instrument is the lead?
Daniel Foder: Well, for us, we have the horns. The horns can have a head, a melody and a solo. Mike or Tommy [Brenneck] can take a solo. So that kind of represent where the vocal would be in a sense.
Mike Deller: I can’t speak for everybody, but I’m never feeling like I want to be in the lead. I’m more interested in coming up with a structure and be able to say, ‘Man, that’s a cool part!’
The HUB: When I listen to you guys it almost feels like you float in and out rather than demanding attention. It’s the ebb and flow of different musicians.
Mike Deller: When we listen to that stuff from the ‘60s and ‘70s and you exclude the singer, you see how the bands would do that. Where they’ll put this over here and this comes here. So I think a lot of that comes…not naturally, but you work with it and you almost know what it should sound like, in a sense. You get that vibe, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ Not having a singer gives you an easier path to having an individual sound.
Daniel Foder: You have more freedom because you’re not tied down to a verse/chorus thing with this guy crying about his girlfriend.
Mike Deller: You have to find a way to compensate, to make up for it.
The Budos Band will be performing two shows to close out 2017 at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory on 12/30 and 12/31.