Among those pushing an international movement of funk forward is Canadian musician and activist Tyler Martens aka Stickybuds. With his latest EP Take A Stand, Stickybuds exemplifies that dance music is a medium for sparking real-world change with themes as bold and diverse as the album's musical nature.
The promising trajectory of Stickybuds we've seen the past years shows an equally promising omen for the funky dance space. Forging relationships with musicians, vocalists, fans and fellow producers from all over the world, Stickybuds continues to amass an army fighting for worthy internal and external causes. Discover more by giving Take A Stand a listen in the stream, while you read our exclusive brain-picking session with him about the album and more below.
Hey Tyler, great to have you for an interview. To start things off: how’s your year been so far?
It’s been great , thanks for the interview. I finished a really fun Australia / New Zealand tour in January / February then went straight into writing and finishing this album. It was quite the haul managing that with other gigs and life, but I really enjoyed the process.
Take A Stand embodies many real-world themes jam-packed with a lot of groovy music. Could you highlight some of the themes you placed in this release and how you chose them?
I think the overall theme with Take a Stand is addressing the problems going on in the world now, mostly corruption and inequality. I’ve been passionately learning about these topics for years, and wanted to make some music about that instead of just talking or posting about it.
"Crooked Politicians" was the first song that I wrote for the album. The corruption of our political class through big money donors and corporations is the #1 problem that stems into every other facet of our lives. The song has a blatant message; that pretty much all politicians are funded by donors who expect and demand returns for their contributions. This is done through government lobbying and it’s completely out of control. All of the supposed government “watch dogs” are corrupt and no one is looking out for the average citizen anymore. Money talks. I worked with a really amazing artist named "Think" for the music video, we are both super proud of it and I hope people check it out.
“The Firestarter” is about the UN Security Council, NATO and the main superpowers of the world on their never ending war conquests for world domination. We are producing the music video for it right now and one of the main highlights I want to put forth in that is the unbelievable amounts of money that is made from war and conflict. Millions of innocent people have died so that a small handful of corporations can continue to enrich themselves and their shareholders. Blackout JA and i have worked together many times, he's a passionate lyricist and was perfect for this song.
"99%" is about the inequality between the "elite" class and the rest of the world. Rubi Dan did an amazing job on the lyrics and really encompassed the messages I wanted that song to be about, he goes quite deep and esoteric on a lot of the subject matter, it’s worth a few listens!
“Heavy Load” is a song from the heart of Prince Alla about the struggles of the young growing up in poverty and the immense weight of trying to come up in the world we currently live in.
“In Your System” is about the work we have to do to change the systems that rule us, the importance of our water and natural resources, and the dangers of societal collapse after taking mother nature for granted. Frase did a fantastic job on this.
“Take A Stand” by Burro Banton is calling on the youth to hold our politicians accountable in how they represent us, and for us to take control of our own lives and have our own plans, work hard and create our own success. He also shouts out Wikileaks, which is one of the best groups on the planet working hard to expose the immense crimes behind the scenes.
“All On You” is putting forth the message that no one is going to change the world for you, it’s all on you. Everyone is accountable for their own life, decisions and how they act on this planet. Everyone is powerful in their own way and can make their own changes. Too Many T's came super correct helping to bring this message to life, and I produced the song with my epicly talented friend Mr. Bill.
“Send it” is a good funk song, because sometimes you just need to dance, let loose and enjoy the moment.
“Lovin’ Easy” is a love song, and I wanted to end the album with that because love conquers all and is so important. There is a lot of hardships going on in the world, but we can all find and embrace love to help us balance and thrive in these times of challenges. Sacha really brought this to life, and with the help of Bridgehill we made some beautiful music to finish it all off.
This album is quite diverse in musical nature. Tell me a bit about the creative process behind this album. How did you match themes with musicality for this album? What did creating a song for this album typically look like?
I’d start writing the main body / skeleton the songs, write the bassline and figure out the main verse and chorus structures, then get that to my vocalists to work on with direction for the lyrics. Then once I had the vocals done I’d get my various session musicians to work on it, then finish the track. Every song was different, but early on in the album I linked up with this great band from Kelowna, BC called BridgeHill. They played the horns on pretty much every track and did the piano on “Lovin Easy”… I would send them ideas for horns on different tracks and they would play them for me, and always elaborate on them and send me these amazing solos. Super talented guys!
Basement Freaks from Greece did the guitars on most of the songs. Marcus O’ Dwyer from Kelowna, did some of the real bass on Crooked Politicians and super producer Jake Savona did some of they keys on “Heavy Load” and helped with the direction and writing of a couple songs. I also hired a variety of other session musicians and the backup singers off the freelance site Fiverr.com.
Mostly I wanted to challenge myself to do a lot of different genres on this record and to work with as many people as possible. There are 11 vocalists and 9 different musicians (not including myself) recorded in 7 different countries on this record. I feel my project management skills have epically leveled up.
You’ve been involved in scenes all over the world. You’re releasing Take A Stand on Canadian label Westwood Recordings. How did you get involved with Westwood and how is it for you to work with them?
Could you tell us some stories behind the making of this album? Any quirky memories from the whole journey?
Westwood Recordings is my friend Nick Middleton’s label from the Funk Hunters. We have been friends for years and I think he’s done a really amazing job in running it. K+Lab and I released “Clap Ya Hands Now” on Westwood last year and track did really well. Nick and Alex, his label manager have a really great business sense, drive and love for the music, I think it’s going to continue doing huge things and I’m really happy to be a part of the family.
Richard Kim who sang on “Crooked Politicians” was someone I had wanted to work with for close to a decade. He did this song called “Funk The Rich” with Malente years and years ago and I wanted to work with him ever since. My friends CMC + Silenta in Germany know him, and after years of trying, finally got him on the song when he had some time to sing, they recorded him for me in Germany. It was just a long and satisfying process in making it happen.
I don’t think there is really too many quirky stories, really it was just a lot of hard work with so many different artists all over the world.
Going with the “Take A Stand” idea… In a world filled with issues where making an impact seems so daunting, what actions could we take right now or what mindsets could we adopt to take a stand, in your eyes?
Building a strong community of friends and peers is really important. There has been a huge divide and conquer strategy from the media and governments to put you against everyone else. Those at the top want you to blame your neighbors for your strife, and not those who are really responsible. 99% of the world's population just wants to be free, happy, and have equal opportunities to thrive on this planet. Unfortunately the global corporatocracy have so much influence in government policies and mandates that every single penny is being fleeced and stretched from the middle and lower income brackets in every situation possible. Building our own decentralized solutions away from the state and big business is one of the solutions forward, there are way too many monopolies.
Having some financial literacy is also really important, living within your means, and not stressing yourself out can greatly improve your life. So many people have chosen to live out of their means and go super heavy into debt. Fancy cars, clothes, huge houses and status items have been shoved down everyone's throats and way too many people value that sort of lifestyle.
Having lots of nice things doesn’t bring any lasting happiness, but doing work that you can be proud of, helping others and bringing joy to people’s lives certainly does. When you aren't up to your neck in debt, you are have more freedom to pursue the life that you want to live.
We need to band together, and take a stand against those who consider us cattle for their consumption, exploitation and manipulation.
What convictions do you hold in this life? What fuels the Stickybuds blaze?
I want people to thrive and be happy, and I want those who stand in the way of that to be held accountable for it. I’ve been blessed to live this life where I can do what I love every day, making music, and playing at shows bringing people together to dance and enjoy life. It’s not for everyone, but I think everyone has a calling and should be able to explore their unique talents. I like bringing people together, and I hope this album can contribute to that.
How would you describe your live shows? What’s a Stickybuds party like?
My sets are funky, fun, heavy, very musical and pretty much a non stop party. I take pride in how much work I put into figuring out the optimal blends of vocals, music, genres and interesting sounds for a unique set. I love mixing in conscious lyrics over party beats… It may not be apparent right away, but I always hope some of the messages stick in people's brains after the show. I don’t want to force things down people’s throats either as everyone can make their own decisions, but I like sprinkling the nuggets throughout the sets, mixed with funky and fun messages as well. I've had the pleasure to DJ in 25 different countries, and everyone on the planet shares the same desire to have some fun, and enjoy life.
What kind of electronic trends or artists have caught your ear recently? Anything worth sharing that you’re into?
I’m always impressed at how far electronic sound design is being pushed, and that’s still a huge area of my own personal musicianship that I’d like to make better. This album focused on a lot of organic sound, and I’m going to be taking a lot of time in the future to work on my synthesis and design skills for creating unique music. Guys like Skope, Kursa, Seppa, Opiuo, Koan Sound, Culprate, Mefjus, Noisia and Vorso are really inspiring me with their insane skills, this record isn’t like their music at all really, but they are inspiring me a lot right now.
Finding a hybrid of electronic and organic music has also always appealed to me. Over the last decade I've developed a massive love for positive Reggae and chill music, and Thievery Corporation had a lot to do with that. They have been pushing socially conscious, anti establishment songs as well as messages of unity and peace for over two decades. My friend
Jake Savona "Mista Savona" has also had a huge influence on me with the amazing music he makes, and the artists he works with. I'll definitely be writing more reggae influenced music over the coming year.
What’s the next move for Mr. Stickybuds?
I’d like to take a lot of time to grow more skills and write more interesting and unique records. Now that I’ve gotten this album off my chest I feel free to do whatever I want. I learned so much working with so many artists on “Take A Stand” and I’ve grown a lot as an artist and producer. I don’t really see any restrictions in doing anything now, it just takes work, focus and a desired outcome or goal to pretty much make anything happen.
Stream Take A Stand on all platforms here!