Todd Irving of Funk Plastic live from Free Radio Santa Cruz

Photo of Todd Irving from Funk Plastic’s Myspace.

Todd Irving and I met one beautiful day in Santa Cruz; we were both hanging out and having fun on Pacific Ave. Todd, a street performer from the Portland area, went on a tour from Seattle to Santa Cruz. He is working on a book of guidelines for street performers. It was May 31, 2004, Food Not Bombs was serving up a top notch vegan stir-fry, soup, salad and mixed fruits, while Todd was getting down right funky, really tearing it up on his buckets. Later in the evening we met up at the Free Radio Santa Cruz studio.

Interview with Todd Irving of Funk Plastic (12 minutes)

You have your own personality and so do the buckets.
– Todd, Funk Plastic

FunkPlastic Interview on

1. How did you first get started?
One day while riding the Max in downtown Portland, I had seen a guy playing the buckets (David Brown a.k.a. “The Flamtapulous”). A couple weeks later, I showed up at one of his playing spots with a few cat litter buckets. We started playing together and meeting under the Hawthorne Bridge to practice. Eventually, I realized that the cat litter buckets were limited in sound and I picked up the 3 and 5 gallon buckets.

2. How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been playing the buckets since January 03, 2003.

3. How did you get connected with the Blazers?
We were at Saturday Market early in the fall and after one of our sets, Todd Bosma walked up to us and asked if we would be interested in playing at Blazer games. He didn’t have a regular business card on him so I wondered if he was for real. Someone in the crowd verified who he was and we jumped up slapping him hi-fives. There were quite a few in the crowd that day and many that knew us from playing downtown applauded the gesture. It was a great feeling!!

4. Where else do you perform?
We perform in a lot of different venues and street corners. I love playing on Market Street in San Francisco at the cable car turnaround. Locally, we’ve played the Roseland Theatre opening up for Erykah Badu. OMSI for the Pulse Promotion and lately a string of school assemblies. You can find Funk Plastic on any given day playing around Pioneer Square or Saturday Market.

5. How often do you practice/how long did it take you to get this art form down?
Initially, I would play for about six hours a day and still work out routines or chops for about an hour a day. After a few months of just playing to eat, I started practicing and studying the buckets for about three hours a day. It took about nine months to really get a handle on my style and the art form. Currently, we are working on 3 different modified buckets that we will display on our web site and eventually market them.

6. How many people perform with you? (Just your Son?)
There are about six really good bucket drummers that I’ve met in Portland. And from time to time we get together and play downtown. Tristan and I formed Funk Plastic as a father/son project. But on various occasions when booked to play a club or bar, I will call another Bucket Head and we will play together.

7. Do you have other musical training?
I was trained in the Pentecostal church as a drummer. Our gift is natural. My grandfather prayed for my Dad when he was 11. My Dad has been playing the piano ever since. I have three brothers that are musicians. My Dad prayed for us and we picked up our designated instruments and we’ve been playing ever since. That mantle has fallen on Tristan as well. Tristan takes drum lessons currently at Self-Enhancement Incorporated.

8. Who/What was your inspiration?
Mel Brown, Ron Steen and Bruce Carter heavily influenced me. They are all great drummers. But my inspiration as a musician came from Danny Wilson who was the bassist for Jeff Lorber Fusion in the 70’s and 80’s.

9. How long have you been a Blazers fan?
Since they beat the 76ers for the NBA title. Prior to that time, all of my favorite players were on the 76ers and I had the last name of Irving, so I thought I was little Julius. That year gave me a lot of pride as a Portlander and Blazer Fan.

10. Who is your favorite current Blazer?
Tristan and I would both say Derek Anderson. His demeanor as a man and values, seem to speak for him in big ways outside of Basketball. Tristan likes his cars too!!!

11. Who is your favorite former Blazers?
My favorite former Blazer would be Maurice Lucas. He was a mentor to me and many others when I was Tristans age. I attended his basketball camps at Grant High and was very impressed by his outreach to the community. Tristans favorite former Blazer is Jeff McInnis. Jeff was very personable to Tristan and they talked after the games.

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Crossposted at Santa Cruz Indymedia and Portland Indymedia.