Father Funk embraces your guilty pleasures 

The U.K. DJ makes his Whistler debut on Wednesday, March 14

click to enlarge Funked up Will Williamson, a.k.a. Father Funk, is set to play an eclectic mix at Tommy Africa's. PHOTO submitted
  • Funked up Will Williamson, a.k.a. Father Funk, is set to play an eclectic mix at Tommy Africa's. PHOTO submitted

Will Williamson might just be the least pretentious music fan on this planet.

The 24-year-old Bristol DJ, who's better known as Father Funk, has built a career over the last five years by remixing songs that others might view as guilty pleasures. But by giving those underestimated tracks an electronic spin, it gives people permission to embrace them, he explains over the phone from a Winnipeg hotel room.

"I don't mind taking risks," he says. "A lot of people are too trendy about music. I'm not afraid to go, 'Tom Jones is rad.' Or George Michael. It's stuff people think is questionable, but it's not, really. People just don't want to admit it because they think it's cheesy. Really, it's timeless... It's almost a social experiment in a way. Once it's been dancified, it's cool again. It was always cool."

The ultimate coup: Years ago, Williamson remixed "Under the Sea" — that's right, the same version sung by a cartoon crab in The Little Mermaid — during the Shambhala Music Festival to an amazing reaction.

"People who hadn't even been (there) heard about it," he says. "It's just a great song. It's a film everyone has seen and it's a feel-good track."

Williamson has always had eclectic taste in music. When he was a kid growing up in rural England he played guitar, bass and trombone in everything from punk groups to Samba bands. "I started making electronic music when I was 14, starting taking it more seriously at 16 and started DJing at 17," he says. "When I first heard soulful drum and bass with a jazz mix — basically when I heard electronic music that's soulful and sexy, I got into it."

But it wasn't until a friend first showed him the Shambhala mix from Kelowna-based Stickybuds that the Father Funk moniker was born. "To play on that same stage (at Shambhala) four years later is pretty mind blowing," he says. "It has been quite crazy. I haven't had a moment to take it in. I've just been working my tits off since I was 17, but I'm not complaining."

While his taste might seem all over the map, all those songs have one thing in common. "Music that's made for money is soulless," he says. "Anything people make because they love and believe it, I'll enjoy."

To that end, he's open to remixing "anything I think is a jam," he says. "Some people might not agree, but if I put it in context, it works. (I play) tunes you could never play together in a club. That's what's exciting about it."

While Williamson has played in Canada several times before, it's usually been as part of the festival circuit in the summer. Currently, he's on a full-blown Canadian tour, hitting up towns and cities he's never been to — like Whistler. He's set to play Tommy Africa's on Wednesday, March 14.

"This is maybe the third time I've come (to Canada) this year, but not to Whistler," he says. "It's always from people's interest. Whoever wants to bring me somewhere, if it's feasible, I'll go. I've gotten lucky the way shows are routed."

Over the phone, Williamson speaks in a serious tone about his art, the inspiration behind it, and the nature of his business, but one glimpse at social media — or at a bio that paints his origin as a "happy soul, breast fed and reared by a family of disco Llamas" — and it tells a different story.

He offers a glimpse at his on-stage persona with an anecdote about a head injury. He says he likes to get on stage, have fun and go a little crazy.

"Last year, I smashed my head open on a mixer when I was head banging," he says. "I finished my set and had to go to the hospital the next day. They told me not to go to sleep, but I was at a festival so I wasn't going to sleep anyway."

Catch Father Funk at Tommy Africa's on Wednesday, March 14. Tickets are $10 in advance at tommyafricas.com, myshowpass.com or at coat check.

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