Producer and multi-instrumentalist Joe F Newman cut his teeth in an eclectic range of bands and musical projects – not to mention absorbing a mind-boggling array of influences, from The Clash to De La Soul to Snarky Puppy – before deciding the time had come to zoom in on his own sound. He was right to take the plunge; stepping out under his solo moniker, J-Felix, with just a few demos to his name, he found his woozy, heart-on-sleeve, P-funk laced songs being quickly snapped up by Tru Thoughts.
Now based in Brighton, but originally from Bristol, Newman’s approach to music was originally inspired by those he saw taking the DIY route back home where he grew up on a diet of d&b, hip hop and dubwise music. After discovering the original sources of so many of the samples found in early d&b, trip hop and US hip hop, he fell in love with all things funk, jazz and soul, later developing a particular taste for the P-funk and boogie sounds which now come through heavily in his music.
Eager to create his own sonic stamp, J-Felix decided to steer away from samples in his own work, instead often layering up recordings of his own vocal and instrumental performances. Self-taught on a range of instruments including drums, guitar, bass, keys and synths, he has a pretty impressive selection of sounds to choose from at his fingertips.
As well as tinkering away in his funk factory, Newman also teaches music production and holds youth workshops, which ensures he is always on his toes and pushing himself towards new skills and tricks – in his words, “keeping one step ahead of the young ‘uns is no easy task.”
When he himself was just a kid, hearing the music of A Tribe Called Quest for the first time was Newman’s cue to become obsessed with pursuing a life as a producer, musician and singer. He then spent all his time soaking up as much knowledge as possible, “shadowing sound engineers around Brighton, quizzing anyone who knew anything about production, and getting into every band I could”. His determination and burgeoning talent saw him recognized early on, and he has toured internationally as Alice Russell’s guitarist as well as having his work licensed to various compilations alongside the likes of DJ Vadim, Ta Ku and Opolopo, to name just a few.
J-Felix’s first single, “101 Reasons”, is a collection of three uplifting tracks with a heavy ’80s funk lilt and a dubby rhythmic driving force, set to drop on Tru Thoughts on 19th January 2015 – the first release of many. As a fan of the label from way back, Newman feels the stars are aligning. “It feels amazing to sign to Tru Thoughts and to be acknowledged as an artist. To have my music supported by such a reputable (and friendly) label is brilliant. Considering my influences and my favourite music, both on TT and elsewhere, and especially after touring with Alice Russell, it feels like a natural home. And”, he tantalisingly suggests, “I look forward to collaborating with other artists on the label, a ball which has already started rolling…”
His wide-ranging appreciation of music makes J-Felix a killer DJ, too, and you can catch him at Tru Thoughts’ London label night at The Forum in February, as well as many more shows – both as a DJ and a live act – to be announced.