TIR 56: Jara Harris on Why SlapBak Still Comes to Jam


Brought to you by FUNKNSTUFF.NET and hosted by Scott Goldfine — musicologist and author of “Everything Is on THE ONE: The First Guide of Funk” ― “TRUTH IN RHYTHM” is the interview show that gets DEEP into the pocket with contemporary music’s foremost masters of the groove.

Featured in TIR Episode 56 (two segments): Jara Harris, multi-instrumentalist founder of West Coast-based funk band SlapBak. Coming from a musical family, playing instruments and performing came naturally to Harris at an early age. As he grew up he drew from several influences that included not just funk but also New Wave, rock and more. That sonic fusion would later inform SlapBak’s lively brand of fiery funk.

After gigging locally for a few years as Jarasound, he logged his first professional recordings as a member of Randy Jackson’s 1989 album Randy & the Gypsys. Basically a one-man band in the studio, Harris recruited a group of musicians that in 1990 were dubbed SlapBak. Signed to Warner Brothers, the act’s first album arrived in stores in 1992. Fast Food Funkateers was fortified by funk giants Larry Blackmon of Cameo and P-Funk luminaries including George Clinton and Bootsy Collins.

Unfortunately, that was to be SlapBak’s only major label release and although the group continued to release several albums and lots of first-rate funk through the ensuing years Harris’ act was victimized by the industry’s fickle times and record company shenanigans. Although Harris went on to work with other artists such as En Vogue, Cameo, the Time, Stevie Salas and Bernard Fowler, and Europeans funkers Dodge and OctavePussy, he still kept SlapBak alive and maintained a loyal following via somewhat of an underground-style existence. All told, nine albums have been made available to the public, although some are compilations.

One such compilation, 2014’s The Best of Funk Mayhem, has the lion’s share of great SlapBak throwdowns like “Kickin the Do,” “Sway,” “We Come to Jam,” “The Key,” “It’s Time to Go,” “Pure Funk” and “You Get in My Mind.” If you dig that set, it is still worth digging deeper into the band’s catalog. Perhaps the best way to describe SlapBak’s sound is Cameo run through hip hop sensibility, colored with P-Funk, strokes of New Wave, and of course a heavy helping of Harris’ infectious sense of adventure and zaniness. Harris also unleashed his first solo album, Only, in 2012, which is a terrific showcase for his versatility.

Here, Harris recounts the ups and downs of his career in music and life in general; talks about the amazing talents he has been able to work with; discusses his own creative muses and instrumental facility; and what’s yet to come both musically and cinematically.

Recorded May 2018