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The Funk Hunters aren’t just DJs—they’re empire builders

Between their globe-spanning touring career, eye-popping visuals, music label and agency, the celebrated DJ duo prove they are anything but a one-trick pony 
E-Arts1 Funk Hunters 29.27 SUBMITTED
Between their globe-spanning touring career, eye-popping visuals, music label and agency, The Funk Hunters prove they are anything but a one-trick pony.

Like so much of the Shambhala faithful, Nick Middleton and Duncan Smith returned from their first trip together to the iconic EDM festival in the heart of the Kootenays like they had just been granted entry to a whole new world. 

In a way, they had, mesmerized by the distinct, all-senses experience offered at  what DJ Mag has called North America’s best music festival. They decided, right then and there, that it was high time to buy some turntables and learn the tools of the trade together. They had no experience making music, DJing, or even buying records, but didn’t let that slow them down. 

“When we started out, it was about buying and collecting records,” says Middleton. “Today you have infinite number of songs at your disposal and the technology is even easier. I guess in a way it puts less of a focus on your technical ability and more on what you bring to the party. That’s kind of an interesting way to look at it. Ultimately, you’re a tastemaker.” 

Like they have their entire career, Middleton and Smith carved their own path, and today, as the celebrated, globe-trotting Vancouver DJ duo The Funk Hunters, they are among the most significant tastemakers in North America’s EDM scene. 

Amassing more than 30 million streams across their catalogue of original productions, remixes and collaborations, The Funk Hunters have brought their dynamic stage show to some of the world’s biggest stages, including Coachella, Burning Man and Electric Forest. 

Having met in film school on Galiano Island, the duo’s background was more than just a common interest, but a way to set their stage show apart from the rest of the crowd in The Funk Hunters’ early days. 

“We both worked in film a bit so years ago we decided to tackle the idea of not travelling with a third person but just truly making and running our own visuals live during our sets,” Middleton says. “I don’t think that’s something we would have tried to accomplish had we both not had experience in film and video editing.” 

As the duo was picking up steam in the early aughts, they struggled to land a record label. So, like they did when they were first starting out, they simply built their own. Launched by Middleton in 2013, Westwood Recordings began as an outlet to release The Funk Hunters’ music, but grew to include dozens of other independent artists and has since expanded into three different sub-labels. 

“It’s very much like a full-time job for me,” Middleton says. 

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Middleton added another feather to his music exec cap in the pandemic by starting the music talent agency, Midnight Agency. As music agencies across the country folded without the revenue generated from live touring, Middleton spent the time assembling the right team and, just like his label, took a decidedly artist-first approach. 

“For so long, all these different roles were run by people who aren’t artists. Sometimes that’s great. Having experts who work in one field is always welcome and should be part of the team, but at the end of the day, we’re talking about an artist’s life and not many people can totally relate to what it feels like to be out on tour for two months straight on the road,” explains Middleton. “We just carry the burden of being an independent entrepreneur and running your own project and feeling like there’s always a million things to do, so as artists ourselves, we’re uniquely positioned to help guide new artists.” 

Now the DJ duo bring their hip-hop, soul and funk-influenced sound to Olympic Plaza for the July 7 edition of the Whistler Summer Concert Series. The free show starts at 6:30 p.m. with a set from local house DJs, Case of the Mondays, followed by The Funk Hunters at 7:30 p.m. 

“It really feels like we’re kicking off the summer on Thursday in Whistler, so we’re really excited,” Middleton adds.