Daily Egyptian

Charles Walker Band talks neo-funk, stand-up comedy and the saxophone

By Chase Myers, @chasemyers_DE

Charles Walker Band, a funky, soul-infused quintet from Milwaukee, will be energizing the crowd at 7 p.m. on Thursday outside Shryock Auditorium for the Sunset Concert Series.

The group consists of Charles Walker on saxophone and keyboard, Porsche Carmon on vocals and congas, Nasty Nate P on guitar, Brian “The Sledgehammer” Kennedy on bass and Josh Mchatten on drums.

The band mixes deep gospel inspiration and positive, uplifting lyrics to provide audiences with a high-energy performance.

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The Daily Egyptian had the opportunity to talk with Walker before his performance to discuss the band.

How did the group start?

I started the band 12 years ago at the end of this month when I moved down to Milwaukee. The current members, Porsche, who sings and does congas, has been in the band for about five years and the rhythm section has been in the band for about a half a year.

You started playing the saxophone at a young age. What drew you to the instrument?

Its actually kind of funny, I didn’t want to play saxophone. I actually remember they kind of paraded in the band students for us and had them all play their different instruments before we got the chance to select our instruments and when I saw the trombone I said, “I want to play trombone.” When it was my turn to talk to the band instructor she asked, “do you want to play trombone?” She gave me a trombone mouthpiece and I tried to blow into that.  And then she said, “You know what, let me give you a saxophone mouthpiece because I just have a feeling.” She told me that I had a good embouchure and my mouth was shaped well for it. I was like “I don’t want to play saxophone, I want to play trombone,” and she said, “No, you’ve got to play saxophone.” I’m glad she told me to do that but at the time I didn’t want to.

How long did it take you to warm up to the instrument?

It wasn’t very long. I remember within the first year, I was practicing like everyday … and pretty much as soon as I brought one home, I liked playing it.

What is the band’s writing process like?

I do most of the musical writing and the arranging. I will usually come to the band and say, “Here’s my idea.” I’ll play a bass line on keys and then I’ll kind of tell the drummer what I want him to play and the guitar player to play with that part. It’s still kind of an organic process because the bass player will hear what I play and then approach it like a bass player would, so he will kind of tweak it and the guitar and drums will be the same way.  As far as the melodies to the songs go, sometimes Porsche writes and sometimes we have other people write. I write a lot of the lyrics, but some of them are co-written between Porsche and myself.

Is it true you did stand-up comedy?

Yeah, I did stand-up comedy and comedy sports as well when I was in high school and college.

Does that help your onstage presence?

It helps in a couple of ways because I also did acting, so it helps with getting people to understand that a show is a show and not just standing there and playing instruments. There’s lots of movement. As far as improvisation goes, it helps especially when something goes wrong, like if the guitarist breaks a string or the drummer has to retune a drum or something like that, to be able to talk to the crowd so there is not a lot of dead space while the musician is fixing something that they need to fix.

How would you describe what genre the band falls into?

I think neo-funk is the best way to describe it, because it definitely has some funk influences, but it also has a lot of other influences. Melodically, there are a lot of pop influences in the melodies of the songs. Yeah, we call it neo-funk because it is kind of rooted in that funk soul thing, but there are other influences in there as well.

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