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




Scott Goldfine

As a fervid lifelong music & film enthusiast / student, I grew up in and around the Los Angeles entertainment industry. I have worked and held many positions in various media realms, since 1998 serving as Editor-in-Chief and now Associate Publisher for Security Sales & Integration, a trade publication serving the electronic security industry. I love several genres of music & film. The former includes funk (Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, Ohio Players, etc.); blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Guy, Eric Gales, etc.); rock (Jack White, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Young, etc.); hard rock (AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, etc.); jazz (Herbie Hancock, Bob James, Crusaders, etc.); R&B (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, Gil Scott-Heron, etc.); and more. I was a club disc jockey and ran a mobile DJ company (Musical Moods) for more than 15 years, which is where the name Dr. GX originates (Doctor Good Times). Fave film genres include horror (Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.); science fiction (Aliens, Terminator, 2001, etc.); action (Warriors, Road Warrior, Die Hard); westerns (Outlaw Josey Wales, Showdown at OK Corral; Wild Bunch, etc.); suspense (Jaws, Inception, Silence of the Lambs, etc.); drama (Apocalypse Now, Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, etc.); and comedies (Life of Brian, Superbad, Ruthless People, etc.). I have attended many hundreds of concerts and movies (in theaters or screenings). I may as well also throw in a few favorite TV shows to give an even broader taste of my sensibilities. A handful would be Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, Lost, Justified, Fargo, Seinfeld, Sopranos, South Park, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Key & Peele, Monty Python, Inside Amy Schumer, Louie, Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Last Man on Earth, Bob Newhart Show, All in the Family and The Office. Fave authors are Stephen King, Clive Barker and Michael Crichton. I am also a big sports fan and lifelong supporter of the Dallas Cowboys (NFL), Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Pittsburgh Pirates (MLB). Also enjoy my family of course, electronics/computers/AV gear, and animals, nature and outdoor activities. Graduate of Santa Monica High School, Santa Monica College and California State University Northridge (Radio-TV-Film, Psychology minor). Also studied at UCLA for kinesiology/psychology and earned post-grad Certificate in Accounting from Santa Monica College. Present main occupation is as Associate Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Security Sales & Integration (SSI), which I joined in 1998. I am responsible for overseeing all editorial content in print. online, electronic, in-person and any other media or products for the electronic security industry's leading business-to-business trade publication. SSI is part of Framingham, Mass.-based Emerald Expositions.