ATTENTION, VANCOUVERITES! Prepare yourselves for the funkiest Friday to hit your streets since winter finally thawed its icy grip. Don your dancing shoes, set a course for FIVESIXTY nightclub, and get ready for the funkalicious stylings of FORT KNOX 5, SPILTMILK, and HOOLA. This Really Good Friday is coming to you via Twisted Productions, The Living Room Stage, and Danio Management.
One thing we at Betty + Kora know is that we will be shaking our booties on FK5 dance floors all summer long. We decided to sit down with your evening’s entertainers, Steve Raskin (Fort Knox 5), Mike Hoola (Living Room stage director and resident DJ), and Trevor Wyatt (Spiltmilk) to chat about the history of FK5, the Shambhala Effect, and how this delectable trio of funk wizards came together to present you with one phantasmic evening!
Let’s take it back to the beginning: FK5 and its record label, Fort Knox Recordings, emerged in 2003. The name was inspired by the moniker they’d given their studio, dubbed Fort Knox because it housed the most valuable thing the artists owned: the music.
Prior to FK5’s first incarnation, Steve Raskin was participating in two distinct projects. Thunderball — with Rob Myers and Sid Barcelona — was a downtempo, funky drum and bass project (the sound, as Steve describes it, was “kind of like soundtracks to 70’s kung-fu films”). Steve was approached by Eric Hilton of Thievery Corporation to do record cover design, Eric took an interest in Thunderball, and they became the first artists signed to 18th Street lounge. Simultaneously, Steve and Jon Horvath had been making tech-house and breaks music for the underground rave scene as “Jon H and Rascal.” From that conjunction of chill down-tempo and upbeat dance music, something beautiful was born.
“Thus became Fort Knox 5,” Steve says. “We decided we were gonna put it out on our own label, with no genres and no rules.” That free-form concept is a natural fit for Steve (who, in our interview, casually mentioned that he has 42 DAYS of music in his iTunes library). The idea of blending aspects of different genres highlights an essential element of the FK5 ethos: a healthy obsession with collaboration.
Things have shifted over the years, but at its original conception, the group consisted of Steve, Jon, Rob and Sid. Jon and Steve represented FK5 on tour, performing their signature 4-deck sets. Rob plays guitar for the group while also touring with Thievery Corporation as their guitarist and sitarist. Sid is FK5’s keyboardist in addition to running a design firm. The elusive fifth member consists of the vocalist or other artist they are collaborating with on any given track.
The project allowed them to be “musical chameleons,” constantly bringing in different friends and artists to add their personal flavors into the mix. That is how Fort Knox 5 has continued to evolve and stay at the top of their game.
In it’s early days, Fort Knox Recordings was only producing music on vinyl, and independent Canadian record stores were carrying their records. In 2004, FK5 did their first Canadian tour and met all the artists and friends they still work with today, including Hoola.
Hoola recalls listening to FK5’s first vinyl records.
“At that time, that was the shit! I thought their music was so dope when they put out those first records, that we made sure to bring them to Shambhala.”
“We were adopted by the Canadian family,” Steve says. That was 2004, and it was Trevor Wyatt aka Spiltmilk’s first year performing at Shams as well. Trevor was a long-time fan of FK5 at that point.
“Steve’s the kind of guy you think is gonna have an attitude because he makes such good music, and then you realize he’s gonna be your friend,” Trevor says, “And it makes you so happy!”
Hoola tells me about an impromptu Ableton session where he asked Steve to give him some production tips, and in a half-hour they threw down an edit of Def Leppard’s “Rock of Ages.” I was eager to give this edit a listen, so you can imagine my excitement when I found out it was the first track on the mix of FK5 classics Hoola whipped up in honor of their upcoming show!
Steve, Hoola, and Trevor all cite the community surrounding Shambhala as the catalyst for bringing them all together.
“Everybody who’s at Shambhala goes back to their respective communities and scenes, and then that sparks a creative cascade,” Steve says. That creative cascade is the direct product of a music scene that is based on family, community, and collaboration.
After a plethora of remints, original productions, and albums under the belt of Fort Knox Recordings, FK5 has officially moved into the heavyweight class. Their successful mix series, “Funk the World,” has over 30 installations. Their New Gold Standard compilations showcase the full spectrum of what Fort Knox Recordings has to offer (including Steve’s family band, Speedy Consuela!).
FK5’s debut album, Radio Free DC, paid homage to the group’s roots by sourcing Washington DC-based talent. I told Steve that I thought the way he celebrates his local community through music was commendable.
“I think it’s important, because that was one of the things about growing up in the punk rock scene in DC: it was always really clear to me that you supported each other and you create the scene by collaborating, and so we always applied the same ethos to how we do music.”
With Jason Brown aka Qdup stepping into collaborative and performance roles after the passing of Jon Horvath in 2015, Fort Knox 5 moves into the future the way they have always done: with a deep love for music and creative collaboration.
Which brings us to the here and now! Or at any rate, the here and Really Good FRIDAY! Spiltmilk is going all vinyl on us, so you can expect some sweet disco and hip-hop. He’ll also be selling vinyl copies of his new single with Toffa from MSLX Recordings, “On the Dot,” remixed by Stéphane Deschezeaux. Hoola is keeping it mellow and funky for his opening set. Steve is just plain stoked: “It more than tickles me that I have really good friends and that the scene in Vancouver is so supportive that I can go and throw a party with friends… and it’s Spiltmilk’s birthday!”
This show was put together in an organic way: just a group of friends putting on a proper party complete with good vibes and even better tunes. We’ll see you on the dancefloor!
PS. In the event that you somehow miss this one, there will be a few other opportunities to catch FK5 this April! Check the dates, below!
PPS. Head on over to our facebook page LIKE, SHARE, & COMMENT (something real FUNKY) for your chance to WIN 2 GUEST LIST SPOTS to this Fridays show at FIVESIXTY. BONUS POINTS for mentioning your FAV Fort Knox Five track
Words by Lauren DeGaine | Photos by Roco Newson & Xavier Photography