ALONGSIDE James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone, The Meters played an integral role in the genesis of funk music.
Signed up as the house backing band to New Orleans’ label Sansu Enterprises, on a slow day in 1968 the band hit the studio to record an LP of gritty stripped-back, fat-packed instrumentals which changed the course of music for ever.
A string of hit LPs and a decade later the group split, but today Meters’ grooves continue to infect the airwaves. Greedily plundered by the next generation of musicians, the quartet’s riffs have been widely sampled by the likes of Run DMC, Ice Cube, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy and Beastie Boys, while every funk-rock band owes them a hat tip.
As original Meters’ drummer Zigaboo Modeliste prepares for his only UK date this year, Rob Garratt chatted to a genuine funk legend.
What can we expect from your show in the UK next week?
I’m going to be bringing funk over to Croydon, we’re ready to come over and blow your mind. I’ll be playing some tunes off my new CD, New Life, I’ll be picking up a beautiful band over there, The Coalminers, and they’re going to assist me in trying to relate this funky message. And I’m going to be doing a lot of Meters songs…
I’m sure the audience will be pleased to hear that – how do you feel looking back on The Meters?
For the most part it was a successful affair. We had quite a cult following, all over the world, that aspect of it was a success and I’m happy to have been a part of it.
Did you realise how important those records would be in developing the music?
At the time I had no idea how it was going to affect anybody. We never knew, I was quite surprised to see that a lot of people got what we were actually trying to say. We were really making statements that people can understand.
What inspires you to keep playing and touring after more than four decades?
I gotta eat! This is what I do. I stayed with the music, it’s all about expression of ideas and I want to continue to do that.
How was it playing with Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richards?
He is a beautiful musician with a lot of history. He’s an icon, but more than that he’s a beautiful person. I got along with him. Ronnie Wood recorded a solo album but Charlie Watts didn’t want to tour, so I went out with him – the band was (Rolling Stones members) him, Keith Richards, Ian McLagan, Bobby Keys… it was good, I had a good time – I didn’t know how much I liked rock n’ roll.
There’s been lot of one-off shows together – any chance of a full-on Meters reunion?
A few days ago I did an interview, and this cat caught me on the moment, and I said I didn’t think so. I wouldn’t say this wasn’t possible – you never know what the future holds – but we never really discuss it any more. Right now everyone’s doing their own thing, all of these factions, and I don’t think it’s a good idea – it’s got to be 100 per cent Meters.
Lastly – where did you get the name Zigaboo from?
It came from a deranged friend I grew up with – his name was William but we used to call him Bubba, Bubbs – we were about 12 or 12, everybody had to have some kind of a nickname and it stuck until today. I prefer to be called Joseph – it’s just something that’s been following myself around.
Zigaboo plays at Croydon’s Fairfield Hall on July 13