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Coffee Talk With Michael Duffy

Interview By Jamison Harvey

Name, Location, What You Do:

Michael Duffy, Studio City, CA, Drummer-Band Leader.

Tell us about your history as a musician and your current projects.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Started drumming at 10 years old. Did my first gig at 15 years old with my High School Ska band, called the hullabaloos. Then after High School, I got into a youth activity called Drum and Bugle Corp. I started with a group out of Orange County called, The Velvet Knights playing in theIr drumline. I was heavy into the drum line thang, it was all I was doing at this point, teaching it to younger kids to make money and then doing the competition with the drum corps. After a couple years I moved up to a top drum corps out of the Bay Area call The Blue Devils, this was were I grew the most away from home and in a highly competitive situation. I stay with them for two seasons until I aged out, which you do at the age of 21. I got offered a scholarship to attend. The University of N. Texas, outside of Dallas TX, their drum line was a highly competitive situation as well, they were back to back college champs 10 years in a row. I ended up winning 12 and 13 with them before I moved on to other things in the school. The music school was an amazing place and very intimidating at first, so for the first year, I laid back and just watched before I dove into what the school had to offer. Once year two started I started playing in all kinds of ensemble, Steel Drum band, African ensemble, Big Band and outside of school playing in Salsa and Funk bands. I eventually got better and better gigs in the Dallas metroplex area and decided to move to Austin TX. Their music scene was crazy and SXSW was still small but big at the same time, but nothing like it is now. The town was buzzing and I was able to get involved in a lot of music with a lot of great musicians. Most of my circle of musicians would go on to form Brown Out and The Black Pumas. I decided to head back west after a couple of years in Austin, I missed LA and I knew I needed to go home to see where I could stand being a musician. I came back to  luckily find a good amount of work. I started my first good touring gig with an African singer by the name of Ricardo Lemvo, he was mixing African soukous with Cuban son and for me as a drummer it was a wildly fun mix. I stayed with him until I heard Ozomatli was looking for a drummer, it was my first cattle call experience. I was a little nervous cause I loved their band and that was the first time I had wanted to be in an already existing band. I got the gig and ended up touring the world with them for 2 1/2 year before their drummer decided to come back, I was the first time I was crushed and it was a great learning experience about being let go from a gig, not because you were not good enough but because the artist just wants some old and familiar, or just wants new shoes so to speak. Once my ego recovered I went on to play with a bunch of different folks until I met Joey Renia of The Rugged Nuggets. He had heard me practicing timbales in my practice space, getting ready to back a salsa singer from NYC and asked me to come down the hall and hang with his crew. This would be the beginning of Jungle Fire. From there he and I filled in the right pieces to get the band up and running and it was magic and I can't say enough how it shaped where I am now. I left the band at the top of 2019 to focus my efforts into my current bands.  Currently I have three projects:

  1. The White Blinds, Soul Jazz Organ Trio.

  1. The Bombillas, Ethio/Anatolian inspired groove ensemble.

  1. Whiteboymambo my solo project I would say electro synths meets rugged drums and percussion. (Malcolm Cato or early J-Zone)

Tell us about your relationship with coffee.  How do you make it, what do you do you drink, what's your go to coffee shop?

I'm going to bum everyone out here, I’m not a huge coffee guy, but I’ve got some major coffee snobs in my life through music, so through them I’ve enjoyed good coffee. I like it Black if it’s really good quality, my spot is a roster in Pasadena CA, called Jones coffee. They host musicians playing a variety of styles on Friday mornings. I played there twice a month for two years and got a lot of good coffee out of the experience. my preferred way is iced with a little monk fruit sweetener, I know coffee fans, your like fuck this LA hipster shit, but it my truth y’all.

How did the White Blinds come about?

I have loved organ trio for a long time and there came a time in 2015 where LA had 4 young Organists willing to carry around a B-3 with bass pedals, or an electronic version again with bass pedals. I’m stressing the bass pedals cause it makes a real difference to my ears. Anyhow, once I saw this I decided to take some time to organize my idea of what I wanted an organ trio to sound like. I’m not a jazz drummer as much as I am a jazzy funk drummer, if ya dig. So I built the band around classic soul jazz ideas but slightly updated. More about songs than heads and solos. Found two like minded musicians and headed into the studio to start the process of what would become Get to Steppin’, our first album. Now, the project is just me with different Organist and Guitarist Coming in and out of the band. I’ve basically got my crews of cats scattered up and down the west coast.

What records have you been listening to lately?

Always the classic Organist

Big John Patton

Shirley Scott

Jimmy McGriff

Anything Idris Muhammad he’s my favorite drummer.

Beyond that, Lately I’ve been digging 2 groups, a group out of Holland called Altün Gün. Also a group out of Puerto Rico called IFÉ.

Both are killing me, I love them.

Have you been doing any activities besides music during the pandemic?

Well as much as I can, it’s mostly hiking in remote areas where I don’t see people, luckily drumming is some good physical activity, I’ve been getting more shedding time and going back to the drum pad and rediscovering my love of classic drum rudiments.

New releases/ projects upcoming ?

Well The White Blinds just dropped a new 45 on F-Spot records, this is the 2nd of three 45 for the labels Homage series with a cover on side A and an original on side B.

My other group The Bombillas is dropping it’s first full length album in Nov and I’m very excited about that. We currently have a 45 for sale and it's available from F-Spot Records.

Last words. Anything you want. 

Well, first off thanks for having me. I would like to say to your audience, thanks in advance if you took the time to check any one of my bands. Support it key especially in these weird times. I love hearing from the fans, I always try to write back and express my gratitude for their support.


F Spot Records: