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He's got the blues

Kent’s hottest new musical property, Funke and the Two Tone Baby, is off on his first UK tour. The one-man blues rock revelation gave Chris Price an exclusive sneak peek at the album which is going to put the county’s music scene on the map.

Awkwardly walking up to the mic, Dan Turnbull changes completely when he starts to perform.

“Whenever I pick up an instrument, the blues is what I play,” said Dan, better known by his alter ego, Funke and the Two Tone Baby.

“I try and play other stuff but it never flows as easily. I must have the blues in my fingers,” said the one-man band who lives in Rochester, shortly after playing Bella’s Kiss, his signature live track which will become the first on his debut album.

“I gig to eat really,” said the 24-year-old former Canterbury Christ Church University student, who graduated with a degree in commercial music.

The story of Funke and the Two Tone Baby began at open mic nights run at the Broadstairs campus, where the Essex boy studied for three years before making Kent his home. He realised he could make a living out of his passion and began gigging in Thanet, then Canterbury, then Medway before taking bookings all over Kent.

“I was chatting to some gig musicians and they said ‘we do an hour and a half set and get paid £150 for it’ – I thought what an amazing way to make money. I phoned around every venue in Kent and 139 gigs later, here I am.”

And where Dan is, is on the verge of something big. He has just finished recording his as-yet-untitled first record at Rochester’s Ranscombe Studios, conveniently next door to his flat on Star Hill.

Funke and the Two Tone Baby is going on his first UK tour.

Doing a day on and a day off over the past week or so, he has been trying to make the best of the 36 hours he had to record 10 tracks. Next is his first UK tour, starting in Whitstable and Canterbury before heading to Coventry, Oxford, Bristol, London and beyond. It is a lot to take on one man’s shoulders but going it alone is Dan’s style.

“I never really thought about it,” he said when asked why he does not perform with a band.

“I picked up a loop pedal and realised I could be a band on my own and it never even occurred to me to get in another guy to play something.

“I jump in my car of an evening and go to various pubs where no one knows who I am but then after the first set, people come up to you. It is a good life. I’m incredibly fortunate to be doing what I am doing. It has its ups and its downs.

“Sometimes, when it really goes wrong, I would kill to have a band behind me. When you are on your own, all eyes are on you and if you mess it up, you are the only one to blame.

“But mainly people are stunned at the sound I can make. They say ‘I’ve never heard anything like that before’ and often say ‘I thought it was a four-piece band when I was standing outside’. That is a nice feeling.”

On stage, charisma oozes from Funke. Although his audience banter makes him appear like a dandy version of the Hitcher from the Mighty Boosh, his vocals are Dylan-esque and his stage manner echoes Jack White.

The White Stripes frontman’s exploits are also present on Funke’s debut album. Much like the Detroit band’s seminal record, Elephant, Funke’s efforts will be recorded entirely in analogue, a practice which distinguishes Ranscombe Studios from almost all others in the country.

“It is an incredible place,” said Dan. “It really is striking and Jim Riley, the owner and producer is completely legendary in the analogue recording studio field.

“My last EP, Injustice and Queen, was digital but analogue gives a track a new life. I get to keep the massive reel tapes, which is incredible. It is such a more physical thing rather than just getting an MP3 pinged off to you.

“I haven’t really experimented with it before but when you put the headphones on, you hear a crackle, which is amazing and so much better than hearing a dead digital sound. It’s going to be a great experience. I can’t wait.”

Funke and the Two Tone Baby kicks off his first UK tour at Whitstable’s Duke of Cumberland on Sunday, November 25. Admission free. Call 01227 280617. He is also at the Cherry Tree, Canterbury, on Tuesday, November 27. Admission free. Call 01227 451266.

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