King Britt 'Re-Members' The '80s

Four years after its release, King Britt Presents Sylk 130's debut, "When the Funk Hits The Fan" (Ovum/RuffHouse/Columbia), remains one of those musically solid discs that we find ourselves

Four years after its release, King Britt Presents Sylk 130's debut, "When the Funk Hits The Fan" (Ovum/RuffHouse/Columbia), remains one of those musically solid discs that we find ourselves revisiting quite often. As the faux soundtrack to a '70s film -- Britt dubbed it "The Emotion Picture Soundtrack" -- the 19-track set meshed old-school rhythms and beats with a contemporary attitude.

"I wanted my first album to showcase the musical vibes that helped to form the foundation of my life," explains Britt, who first garnered national attention as Sylkworm, the DJ for Digable Planets, and who also records (together with Vikter Duplaix) under the Scuba moniker. "I wanted it to be a showcase for the musical styles I was raised on: funk, jazz, soul, and disco. Those were my conditioning years. I have much respect and appreciation for such music from the '70s."

"When The Funk Hits the Fan" was Britt's first segment of his "autobiographical trilogy, my musical life." On March 13, San Francisco-based/Ryko-distributed Six Degrees Records will issue the second part of the series, "Re-Members Only," in North America. The label has worldwide rights for the album, except in Japan (where the album will be released by Sony Japan), and is scheduling releases in various markets for late March/early April, says Six Degrees director of marketing Jennifer Matthews.

The album was preceded by the Alma Horton-fueled single "Happiness," Jan. 30. The CD-5 and 12-inch vinyl, with remixes by Soul Dhamma and Critical Point, were issued by Six Degrees and Ovum (the label founded by Britt and Josh Wink), respectively.

"The songs [on the album] reflect the music I discovered through radio and my high school friends in the 1980s," says Philadelphia native Britt of "Re-Members Only." He continues, "Radio was so eclectic then; it was great, the way college radio is today. You'd have a DJ like Frankie Crocker [of WBLS New York] playing the Clash alongside Chaka Khan alongside Elvis Costello alongside Yaz alongside Gladys Knight."

Encompassing electro, rap, synth pop, post disco, and freestyle -- as well as live and synthetic instrumentation - "Re-Members Only" finds the artist re-tweaking the past to fit into the here and now. On the sterling set, Britt partners with several iconic vocalists, including Alison Moyet (the stirring "Skipping Stones"), Martin Fry (the Strafe-esque "One and Only"), and Kathy Sledge (the Mantronix-leaning "Rising," which will be the set's second single, due April 24, with remixes by 95 North, Joshua IZ, and Britt).

"Such artists have been teaching me to sing since high school, which was one of the happiest times of my life," Britt acknowledges. "Those were years of enlightenment."

Also contributing to the album are Mark Bell (the sensual "Romeo's Fate"), Duplaix (the sultry "I'll Do it For You"), Capitol A (the Funky 4 Plus 1 freshness of "All the Way Live"), and Grover Washington Jr. ("For Love"), among others. Except for a funk-fortified cover of Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait," all tracks were penned or co-penned by Britt.

"This was Grover's last recording," notes Britt, who adds that the legendary sax player passed away three weeks after recording the track. "I met Grover after the release of my first album, and one of the first things he said to me was, 'I should've been on that album.' So, when it came time to record the new album, I invited him to the studio. He flipped over this track."

Leading up to the album's release, Britt has kept a busy DJ schedule (which includes a bi-monthly residency at London's AKA bar), playing around the globe. In late April/early May, Matthews says Britt will embark on a 10-city, '80s-embellished tour. In addition to having Britt behind the wheels of steel, each date will feature a live performance by at least one of the album's guest artists. The show makes its debut March 27 during the Winter Music Conference in Miami. Prior to this, on March 12, the label will host the album's official release party at the Shampoo club in Philadelphia. Confirmed guests include Duplaix, Sledge, Capitol A, and Horton. "We're also discussing the possibility of a completely live show for the future," Matthews adds.

While it's been several years since his last album, members of the club community know that Britt never went away. In addition to his globetrotting DJ schedule, he has remixed tracks for the likes of Macy Gray, Tori Amos, and Jazzanova. He recently completed mixes of Bebel Gilberto's "August Day Song," Duplaix's "City Spirits," Attica Blues' "What Do You Want," and "Stop the Love" for Japanese act H+H.

In the production department, Britt is currently working with newcomer Rose (from Amsterdam) and Reprise artist Michelle Shaprow. His silky touch will also be present on the debut album from Ursula Rucker, a bona fide member of the free-floating Sylk 130 collective. And, says Britt, "you can expect lots of Scuba stuff in the near future." First in line is the single "Give it all You Got" featuring the soulful stylings of Horton. On the back burner is Britt's "Beat Generation" disc for BBE Records U.K.

What about the third and final installment in Britt's musical trilogy? "Oh, I've been giving that much thought," he says with a smile. "It will focus on the future, the year 3000 or so. The voices of artists like BjÖrk, Beth Orton, Amos, and Tricky would lend themselves beautifully to this concept. I guess you could say I've already started forming my dream list of artists I'd like to collaborate with.