Keyboard extraordinaire Tony Gallicchio was minding his own business, playing the funk with his band Funknut, when an opportunity arose. The Rochester-based reggae super group Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad was looking for a replacement keyboard player. Gallicchio took a shot and landed the gig.
The thick, funkified sound that he brought got tempered with the band's deep-dish one-drop. Now the keyboard wizard is stretched thin between two bands with Funknut taking a back burner to GPGDS. But you can't take the funk out of the boy. Funknut is a deadly ensemble when it's in the groove: It's fun-kaay. And whereas it shines on bombastic moments, it knows how to refrain from funk clichés.
With two CDs on the shelves — "Hit It" and "Don't Say Goodnight" — Funknut finally released its third record, "Juicy," after recording it between GPGDS's multiple sojourns on the endless black ribbon. And where Gallicchio is a perfect fit for the Pandas, the boy still needs to get his funk on. Just back from an East Coast run, he stopped by City Newspaper to explain how it's done. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: Gimme a little background on Funknut.
Tony Gallicchio: I started it with some dudes from college [FLCC] about 7 years ago. It started as Tristan Greene on drums and me on keys. We were doing the duo thing. I was playing left hand bass. We did some shows and thought it would be cool to get more people involved. Kurt Johnson was in the band for a while, then we got our bass player Sean McLay. Then we got Paul McArdle on guitar and he's just phenomenal.
What was your mission?
We just wanted to be funky and play some funk and jazz for the people; stuff we love.
What's your background or influence, the stuff you love?
I'm a huge old school funk guy — Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, he's the dude, and then things like Medeski Martin & Wood and Soulive.
When you started out, was anyone else doing what you were doing?
Funk was definitely around, but I think we put more emphasis on the funk. There needs to be more funk. So we said, "Let's get funky."
And you've obviously been embraced by the jam band community.
Yeah, you can kind of incorporate those sounds in the whole jam band market. We jam on some of the funk grooves.
How did Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad scoop you up?
I read on the Internet that Aaron Lipp was leaving to join Robert Randolph. I had played a couple gigs with Dan Keller before. And I like a challenge. So I sent them a random message that I'd like a shot. And they sent me like four or five tunes. I learned them all. I showed up and we didn't play any of the songs they sent me.
But you got the gig, though.
I wouldn't go home I guess. I guess I'm a member until I hear otherwise.
So you hit the ground running.
My third show was a festival in Florida with the Allman Brothers, Tower of Power, Widespread Panic, Maceo Parker. It was a pretty awesome gig.
The Funknut crew is cool with you being gone?
They're pretty cool with it. I mean, they're still here.
You always refer to the bands as "They" instead of "We" — que pasa?
For the longest time it was their band and I was just this dude playing keyboard. I guess it's "We" when you're with them and "They" when you're not.
How much of you do you bring to GPGDS.
Playing music is playing your role and serving the purpose of the song and the situation. You're always gonna be you and you want to bring your flavor. I want to bring the funk but there's a place for that.
Yeah, it's called Funknut.
Well there are funk elements to reggae and there are times they'll look at me and say, "Ok, get funky, do what you do."
What else have you learned from GPGDS?
The Pandas have a show with good transitions: bam, bam, bam. I'd like to incorporate some of that into Funknut. I'm still learning.
If Funknut were a movie, what would it be?
Well, we like to get funky and dirty, so a "Boogie Nights" type thing.
And The Pandas?
I don't know? "The Goonies"?